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grief

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5 Things to Do Before We Skip Town-Cleaning out the Mental Cobwebs

We hit the six-months-to go mark yesterday. Whoa, yikes!..I just caught my breath when I wrote that. That means about 180 days to ready, steady, go. In my whirling life I realize I have a lot of loose threads I am constantly picking at. Some are reasonable and others are just plain, annoying time sucks. So, while I am trying to ‘clean house’ literally I also need to do it figuratively.

These are the things I am working on.

Kicking Toxic Relationships to the Curb! I am a human, non-sociopath (thank goodness) but, that also means I am a deeply feeling person. While this is not a bad thing, I find that I invest in relationships that are clearly not helpful, kind, symbiotic or healthy for me.kristopher-roller-188180

I spend a lot of time trying to craft a response from someone I care about and ache for them to like me back. I spend too much time, energy and, quite frankly, pieces of my soul in the output of others without receiving a balanced, authentic connection in return.
I am practicing turning towards the ones that have shown up and have earned the right to hear my story.

Say No When I Feel I Should say ‘Yes’. How many times a DAY do I mumble out an ‘okay’ or squeak a ‘yes’ when I know, in my heart of hearts, this request is not what truly aligns with my value much less, even have time for. It feels like a must but, at what cost?
dikaseva-34987Now, I don’t mean shirking my responsibilities but, rather saying yes to a time commitment that ever shrinks my sliver of ‘me time’ that have on my calendar. No one is making me do this. I do it. And I need to cut it out. Now.

 

Paying attention to the ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’ that rattle in my head.  Or otherwise said, stop ‘shoulding’ on myself. I say this to my clients all to time and like other  psychotherapists, I don’t always practice what I suggest (shock!). I think of these words as threads from someone else’s rule book, goals and they hijack my own dreams, hopes and intentions.

jared-erondu-15318I find myself surveying the room to find the ‘best’ choice or solution for all involved and meanwhile my voice, and often, my values get muffled.

Pushing others agendas to the front of the line will get me nowhere and often, it is not reciprocated

Resetting my Expectations of Others. Also, something I talk a lot about with clients. I am trying to do this more in my own relationships and, luckily, I have a very supportive and intuitive husband that often takes me by the shoulders and tries to redirect me to the more realistic path.

When we have an event, gathering or interaction coming useemi-samuel-15564p, my husband and I will talk about what the minimum expectations are (seriously shooting as low as possible), what is reasonable and achievable and then, the dream scenario.
All the while, becoming abundantly aware that I can only control myself as I am hoping for some crazy, magic, Jedi mind trick to get others into knowing and doing what I want. Often without saying it out loud.

Minimum : Low, low, bottom of barrel e.g. I show up at an event, I have a coffee
Reasonable and Achievable: e.g. I see the person, have a couple of connectingwords. 
Dream Scenario, aka, Lottery, Bonus, Gravy: The names says it all, expecting the best!  

unknown
I am setting simpler expectations. Dream Scenario will not likely happen but, if it does, what a pleasant surprise! It’s a lot shorter fall from high expectations and landing splat in a pile of disappointment and resentment to saying ‘that was unexpectedly awesome’.

 

Slow down and Look People in the Eye. In our technologically focused society we are often bumbling around the streets, coffee lines and even traffic lanes with our eyes angling down at a device. We are missing connections around us that are as authentic as anything we desire from those we are following on social media. jon-tyson-77013Simple eye contact is a deeply personal, human experience.

Now, I am not saying I am trying to see into stranger’s souls. No, I am merely saying we often feel so alone while surrounded by dozens of people. And a simple head nod and eye connection can boost our serotonin and release a few healthy hormones in blood stream to battle the anxiety and cortisol spikes we get while scanning click bait online.

 

Whew…so, what are you working on? Is this helpful to you?  These are not going to be accomplished immediately. These are all practices that are like pulling the car alignment into place. It takes attention and management. Saying them out loud makes me more accountable for them as well. So, how about you? No high expectations, just the minimum please.

Brene' Brown Disappointment elections Expectations Fitting in Grief and Loss minimalism mom blog Parenting vulnerability worry

Here’s Your Notification: Turn off Your Notifications!

As I write this in the middle of the night, I am not struck by the irony of my thought or suggestion. I was tossing and turning tonight as I churned thoughts after attending at talk by Michael Lewis. He is known for his works The Big Short, Moneyball, The Blind Side among others.

In his varying topics last night, his talk included the new Trump Presidency.  I was really struck by his discussion with Hanna Rosin about what is going on in our country. Hanna asked, ‘Are we going to be dumber in four years? He said it’s like Patton standing in front of the American flag in movie theaters in the 1940s with the statement.

“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’” ― General George S. Patton, Jr. to his troops on June 5, 1944

Then WWII. Now, 2017, our new reality. Get involved. And make it count. And we’ve seen this over the weekend.qc6vnbe4jqs-jerry-kiesewetter Millions out walking, marching, speaking out for a multitude of reasons.

Yes, it is good (I know, there are plenty of competing thoughts on this) however, your involvement has got to be balanced or your going to end up in my office. This week, I found the tone of many sessions came back to and unpacked angst, fear, anxiety, worry, anger and grief.

In only a week and how many times have I been bounced around the blogosphere, social networking sites with topics and events from inauguration, women’s march to minute by minute updates of what is being done or said in Washington and, therefore, bouncing around the world)?

My clients and I discussed this and pondered, maybe we are not only online too much but, we are being ‘pinged’ too much.otedkfse3j0-anete-lusina My work is hearing about what is taking up space and interrupting people’s lives and making it not work as well – it frequently comes back to – too many notifications.

This week I have been talking with clients about a media diet and that delicate balance between FOMO and awareness. During sessions, my clients are aware that my office is one of the few places where they don’t look at their phone for 50 minutes. I see them carefully put their phone at the other end of the couch or hesitate in their handling of their devices as they settle in.

I had to take deliberate steps to reduce my access to information and I am doing this imperfectly. My morning routine, for nearly 30 years, has been listen to NPR. It is as much a part of my day as my coffee, and getting dressed. This news cycle is ruining my everyday experience. I used to find it grounding. Now, I find my own levels of agitation are raised before I leave the house. Then I may take it out on my kids, or in my driving or my stress eating. I can’t do this. Not every day. Not for the foreseeable future.

I think of Stephen Colbert’s Election Night speech. Before the outcome was fully decided, Stephen encouraged us to get back to our lives and reminisced about when he was a kid and politics was a once in a while topic at the dinner table. Now, it can be several times a minute depending on how many notifications you have on.

I am also drawn to work by minimalist parent advocate, Asha Dornfest, who has been trying to help us be better parents and humans with her blog and podcast. that-horrifying-moment-when-youre-looking-for-an-adult-but-then-realize-you-are-an-adult-so-you-look-for-an-older-adult-someone-successfully-adulating-an-adultier-adult-fcb44She said in 2015 at the World Domination Summit that sometimes we are searching for someone else to be in charge.

So, given this. What do I recommend? Who am I to recommend anything? Well, I am a struggling  woman, mom, business owner, therapist, friend and human. I have to figure out how to balance it myself or I won’t be able to see you and I don’t want to be in the fetle position in the corner of my bedroom. But, like Brene’ Brown says, we need to embrace our imperfections. Well, excellent I can do that!

Some suggestions include; screen free days or, a at minimum, screen free pockets of time in our days. zajstp1nb88-alex-holyoakeThat is a start. I also recommend a couple of apps Calm and Mindshift that help us distract or rather, be in the moment.

Okay, enough for now. Excuse me while I go crawl back into bed and hope my hot water bottle has a little love left to give. And I will resist the urge to flip over the phone to see what’s happened in the last 20 minutes.

Disappointment elections Expectations Fitting in Grief and Loss mom blog politics Uncategorized worry

An Experience of Grief-Elections

All over the world we still are talking about this election. It took me until today to feel like I could write something down. I wondered about why it has taken me so many days to write as I have a lot buzzing in my head and then, I realized, this is because I am still going through stages of grief. Several stages a day even.

In my work, my clients and I frequently talk about grief. We discuss that grief can be not just the loss of a person but, the loss of an experience, an opportunity, a thing or an idea. images-3The example I use is by looking at your dead car battery.

Say you wake up in the morning and get ready for school or work, go out to your car to get to work and the car battery is dead. The first thing you do is to try to start it again. You are in denial that it won’t start. ‘Of course, it is going to start”, you think to yourself. It hasn’t passed your mind that anything is wrong. You think, the car is starting and you’re going to do whatever it was what you were expecting to do. It would function. You shake your head, ‘huh?’ you think. You try to start it over and over. You don’t really believe that it won’t start.

Then you move into bargaining. You plead with the car to start, you beg and you coax. You may say that you will take the car to get high-octane gas, go to church next Sunday, anything to get the car to start. You may even fiddle with the air, music or other levers in the car to see if that will change the outcome and help it spring to life.

But the battery doesn’t start and then you move into anger. You are hitting the dashboard and yelling at the inert engine to start. You are pissed. You use choice words either under your breath or loud enough for the neighbors to hear and yet, the battery is still dead.

Sadness comes next. You moan, collapsing in your worries about how the day has gone to pot and if you don’t get to work or school on time everything else is also is going to fall apart.

Then, acceptance. You pull out your phone to get AAA, a Uber or race off to catch a Trimet bus to get going. You get it and understand the battery is not going to come to life and fire up the engine.

This week millions of people of all diversities and majorities have been progressing through these stages. I kept refreshing my screen to the 538 website which I had been using as my barometer to help balance my stomach clenches over the last couple weeks. Tuesday morning, I thought that a 70.2% certainly of a Hillary win was pretty good. Then when the numbers fell and the states were too close to call I was definitely in denial. I couldn’t compute in my head that this could actually be happening.images-2 As I cuddled with my boys on Tuesday night, as per our ritual, I cozied up to my seven-year old’s sleepy form while hoping against hope that the next time I refreshed my screen it would show better numbers. It did not. As I lay in the dark talking to myself in my head, I really thought that it was just a bad moment, denying that anything could really go wrong.

That night, I stayed up holding my phone, listening to NPR and watching CNN until I heard that Clinton had called Trump. As I kept switching sources, I felt I was truly watching a horrible crash that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. I willed the outcome to be different. I went through bargaining, anger and a lot of sadness. I woke up my husband to tell him the news and we held each other, we talked and I cried for the better part of two hours. images-1We scrambled our approach to tell our boys the outcome in the morning. The night had started out with us having a civics lesson on coloring in a map of America was the states were called out for the electoral college numbers. Those red states are still stained on our dry erase place mat as a reminder of a bad night.

I went back to hanging out in bargaining for a while on Wednesday since all the votes had not yet been tallied and was trying to convince myself that maybe, just maybe the electoral map could change. I have a problem with chronic optimism when faced with bad odds. Later I sunk back down into sadness with smatterings of anger and, I suppose, acceptance. I know what has happened is true but, I really can’t stomach processing it all.

The rest of the week I was the witness of several client’s experiences of grief in the process. Emotionally washed up at night, I took to baking, listening to musicals and treating the radio like a hot potato. imagesI would turn it on for a bit and then suddenly flick it off.

So, here we are five days later and we are all still processing. I think if Hillary had won there would be another 50 million or so going through their own experience of grief. We are a nation in conflict and grief. It will take more than a support group to help us get through this. I want to be hopeful but, my well is a bit dry. Today was #WorldKindnessDay and I checked in with a couple of friends who had big events in their lives and that felt good.

Over the weekend, we watched Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof. I explained to my children the grief of those stories and it helped me to see them confused by such horrid behavior, racism and anti-Semite rhetoric in the story lines. They, who have grown up with the only president they have known being a man of color, were shocked to learn that pogroms existed for decades and not too long ago. I felt I took a little of their innocence in explaining these stories, however, I also loved that they instinctly knew that it was not okay to act like this as a human today. This gives me hope.

In my grief, and this week they have seen me process a lot of it, my boys have supported my new acceptance in ways they don’t know yet. Yes, this has happened but, the story does not end here. We have work to do to continue to teach, learn and practice empathy. They don’t know it but, my boys are already guiding me in this process.

Expectations Grief and Loss Parenting Pregnancy loss

The Heartbeat That Lasts for a 100 Years

Nearly every night, my husband and I snuggle with our two boys as they drift off to sleep. Our nightly rituals include each of us saying ‘no bad dreams’ a certain number of times of our choosing and listing things we have gratitude for that day. Simple things that happened, we saw or experienced that gave us a little smile or a moments pause and remind us that there is a little good every day everywhere, even on the really crappy days.

As I am listening to the breaths of my youngest son stretch out as he succumbs to sleep, I have my arm across his small chest. In that position, I feel his heartbeat steadily thumping through his Batman pajama top. Sometimes, while we cuddle I think of the things I need to get done (dishes, work, laundry) and then I bring myself back and focus on that heartbeat. I am reminded of the time when we first heard our first living child’s heartbeat.

Over the course of a couple of years, we had experienced three miscarriages and in our awareness of this new pregnancy we were so worried that this pregnancy would be another that didn’t ‘progress’. Such a perfunctory word to hope for while experiencing our anguish and trepidation. I remember the mix of joy, worry, excitement, terror, love, fear, and hope pinged around in me like a quad shot latte. I  was truly scared. Almost every moment of the day that I remembered that I was pregnant and had a growing baby inside me I would then plunge into worry in the pit of my stomach.

Then, that day, 10 weeks in, we heard the heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump, thump…rapid like a rabbit hopping. images-5We had gotten to the stage of heartbeats before but, something about this heartbeat struck me and held me in such an odd moment of time. The thought of this heart beating for a long time stretched out in front of my mind. I imagined that this heart would beat for over a 100 years. The thought wasn’t just hope, that was there too but, it felt like it was fact, a truism, the future. Almost like pictures on a screen.

That baby did grow and was born nearly nine years ago. As I scurry around in my everyday busy-ness I to try to slow myself to appreciate the moments of snuggling with the growing babes, now really young boys, and listen to their breaths and heartbeats. It gives me hope and it helps ground me, reminding me that no matter how far behind I get on my to-do list, these breaths and heartbeats are still going. Those moments that I take the time pause in that mindfulness is so peaceful for me.

I still count out the years of the babes whose hearts stopped beating, wondering what they would be like at this age or what pajamas they would be wearing tonight. images-2I send a silent kiss to wherever they are and hold a tiny piece of their souls in my heart.

This experience touched me today as I think about my own expectations of motherhood that are constantly shifting and being redefined. The gift of reflection, acknowledgment of loss, change and growth help me adjust my bigger, unwieldy expectations back into bite size pieces. And, hopefully, that continues to ground me.

Resources for Pregnancy Loss include:

Brief Encounters – Resource for Pregnancy/Infant Loss

MISS Foundation – Support for Grieving Families

 

 

 

 

 

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