Ways to Communicate without Anger

In 2014 I wrote this post based around a client of mine going through a holiday get-together that most of us are all too familiar with experiencing.

I was recently was asked to re-publish this post and as I went through it I thought about how relevant this particular issue is today more so due to the presidential election coming up and the emotional state of  our country as a whole. So now I wonder…

If there was truly a way to work through  this post issue, anger, how would you want to learn to manage it and use what you learn in your small corner of the world? Maybe this will spark some ideas…..

Key West

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.” M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

What I’m learning is that the light is in the asking of the questions and the heart of every human being. The answering is the communication where peace can begin. But I think it matters to go back a little step and start by asking:

Why do people get angry?

Why does anger live so long within us?

Are anger and communication based only on defending, judging, criticizing and/or withdrawing?

Are there rules to communication so that anger can be lessened?

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

On a coaching call this week my client talked about wanting to better understand and get control of her anger toward her in-laws each and every time they all get together. She started out our session absolutely dreading the upcoming holiday. Her dilemma revolved around the criticism and judgments thrown at her by her in-laws and her own sensitivity to it all. She did not grow up with this kind of self-centeredness and judgment. Logically she knows that people bring their own pasts and life experiences to the table (no pun intended) but she just felt helpless to look at their way of communicating in a non-judgmental way. The overall feeling of anger toward her in-laws was coupled with the knowledge that this was driving a wedge between her and her husband and creating more problems than they both knew what to do with.

So why do people get angry?

Ryan Martin, Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today about the scientific study of anger. In his article he references Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher’s 1996 model of anger by defining what Dr. Deffenbacher calls the trigger event; the event that happens right before someone gets angry for example, perceiving an insult or being cut off in traffic.

“The implication is that those kinds of events caused the person to get angry directly. If that were true then we would all react the same way to such situations.”

There are more than trigger events at play when anger sets in. Individual characteristics such as personality traits and the individual’s pre-anger state are 2 things that matter.

“Competitiveness and low-frustration tolerance are some ways in which a person’s personality characteristics play into anger. As for the pre-anger state of a person just before the trigger event, physiological and psychological situations play heavily into this arena. Feelings of being tired, anxious, stressed out, nervous are considered to be pre-anger triggers. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so he/she doesn’t have far to go to become angry.”

Ryan goes on to explain:

“Dr. Deffenbacher’s model of anger is mainly based on the appraisal of the situation by the person on the receiving end. When a person appraises a situation as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, etc. it pushes buttons with in that person to react with anger. If the person interpreted the situation a little differently he/she wouldn’t have become so angry. The important thing to remember about appraisal isn’t necessarily that the person’s reaction is inaccurate but there are always 2 sides to every story.”

The next question then is how do we communicate effectively so that anger doesn’t show up or take over?

In his outstanding and amazingly insightful book, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D and author tells of his preoccupation with 2 questions and his attempt to find the answers:

“What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively and what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?”

“When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

While getting deeper into the coaching session my client started to become aware of her own compassionate nature and how she deeply desired to live on that plane and not engage in anger and despair. She is by nature a giving, loving, and curious person and realized that she always wanted her marriage to be one of love out loud and as an example to others of what real love looks like. That realization turned the whole session around. But how to get through the inevitable anger she will feel at some point during the holiday visit?

Dr. Rosenberg says:

“There are 4 steps to express anger: (1) Stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs. The key to all of the anger is empathy. Empathize with the other person so that he/she will be better able to hear us when we express ourselves.”

The coaching session concluded with awareness that although my client can’t change how other people behave and communicate she can change how she behaves and communicates. By showing up fully for her husband and not giving in to her personal feelings she will be able to create an ally in her husband. More than anything she wants him to know how much he means to her and how much she understands that the holiday get together is equally difficult for him. “Living out loud the loving, caring and supportive marriage I always imagined having is so much more powerful than giving in to the anger and judgments of others.” She now has a plan of action and tools to help her achieve her ultimate goal of making this family holiday one in which she will cherish and not regret. My client says:

“I can’t believe how I am feeling at this moment realizing that it is so much easier to love not only myself but my husband and our child. It feels freeing to know that I can choose love rather than defensiveness and anger toward difficult people. I don’t know for sure if love will bring about a more positive atmosphere all around us but it will bring about more connectedness and compassion in my marriage and therefore to my child.”

Whether we are face to face or in communication through email or text messages or any other social media venue we are always in a position to respond with empathy and heart.

I often find myself wondering when I read the comments section of other blog posts or I read text messages or I witness a negative conversation what was going on in the responder’s mind at the time of a negative comment. What life circumstances pushed that person over the edge?

All of this leads me to take a stronger, more open-minded approach to reader responses whether it be to a blog post, a comment to someone else’s writing or a face to face exchange.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Communicating needs and feelings without creating defensiveness and anger can be successfully accomplished by using “I” messages. For example: “I feel taken for granted when the laundry isn’t put away” or “I am having trouble managing my worry around our finances and as a result I am not sleeping very well.” These messages are to the point and simple; they are not blaming or accusing.

“Reflect your thoughts and watch others mirror them back to you.” Stephen Richards

Don’t respond immediately to the comment or letter. Take a deep breath, re-read the response or think through the exchange and think about how it truly applies to what was originally said. Time can be your ally. Take your time to respond. Be thoughtful.

“In quiet places, reason abounds.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

People are not bad inherently. Sometimes their life circumstances have caused them to form habits that are difficult to deal with. It’s not personal.

“The sound of the words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside”David Levithan, Every Day

A really great coaching tool that has worked for many of my clients is when I have them do an exercise called purging. In the case of an email or text or letter, sit in a quiet space and hand write every single feeling you are experiencing and use every single word that will make you feel justified if you were going to be utterly, no-holds-barred honest. DO NOT SEND THE WRITTEN RESPONSE. Save it. Wait a few days and re-read your own response. Be aware of how you are feeling as you re-read. Are you still so enraged? Has your own anger or shock lessened? How would you like to communicate now? The point is to not meet on the impulse level of the reader. Rise above by getting out of your system all that you are feeling and let those feelings go. As a final step, rip your letter to pieces or stomp on it or just throw it away.

“Transferring my anger and pain onto paper turns it into something tangible, something that can be shredded or burned, or at the very least, sealed shut in a box. ~Call Me Tuesday”Leigh Byrne

If you were seeing the anger from face to face interaction how would you respond in that moment? Would you want to also be seen as someone losing his cool? Think about your own tone of voice and how you would like to sound or how you would like someone to talk to you about their concerns.

“We do not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we chose to respond.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life    

If it is important that the other person hear from you right away simply send a follow-up email or text or comment right in that face to face moment by stating that you will respond more fully when you are in a better frame of mind.

Your life mainly consists of 3 things! What you think,  What you say and  What you do! So always be very conscious of what you are co-creating!”
Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge    

If your response is only in the form of writing then before your response goes out to anyone have someone you trust, someone who knows your heart and intentions, read your response before you send it out. The objective person will be able to stay out of the emotional end of this negative situation.

Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London

Here is where curiosity comes into play: If you sense that your colleague is angry or accusatory ask that person if you are interpreting their response correctly. Don’t assume to know for sure what you are reading or hearing.

“Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.” Richard Wright, The Outsider

Whenever possible don’t write but talk, face to face, person to person. Effective communication is most achievable when we are in the present moment. Stay clear of bringing up the past. Stick to what is happening right now.

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

There is no substitute for real, live interaction. Your body uses every emoticon there is. Effective communication keeps anger at bay when we remain as calm as possible. Body language can have the same anger inducing affects as something we write. Create breathing space between the parties speaking, reframe when possible for better understanding, keeping advice and opinions to ourselves unless asked to offer that input. These steps all aid in a successful communication process.

We never can completely know what is going on in someone’s life to help us fully understand why they react the way they do. Everyone has something going on that feels overwhelming. Whenever possible put yourself in their shoes and summon a more compassionate you.

Call to Action

How can you begin to speak with your heart so that anger is kept at bay?

Words Are Windows

(or They’re Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I’ve got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

 

Before I rise to my defense,

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

 

Words are windows, or they’re walls,

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

 

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

 

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

–Ruth Bebermeyer

Who Told you That?

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“Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.”

― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

When I was little my dad used to play at rough-housing with me and my siblings. There was a game he called “King of the Mountain” and the object of the game was to knock off whoever tried to get to the top of the pillow mountain first. We loved this game because first we got to play with dad, always a great time, then we got to make a huge mess of all the pillows we could find in the house and then make a humungous mountain as tall as we could possibly reach. I have to say that to 3, 4, and 5-year-old eyes this was the tallest structure ever created. We then would clear away all manner of hurtful hard objects and proceed to strategize as to just how to climb this monumental structure without getting caught and tackled to the ground. There was a hysterical amount of tickling involved in this game designed specifically to weaken our little bodies enough that we couldn’t find the strength to climb anything at all, all while trying to prevent dad from reaching the top of the mountain and declare himself King.

One could argue that this was a life lesson in how to overcome impossible obstacles that life will inevitably throw at us; how to overcome those demons that are designed and determined to keep us down physically and mentally, philosophically and psychologically whether in words or deeds and life lessons in how to get creative in problem solving all while laughing out loud. Blah, blah, blah; we just thought it was so fun to spend undivided time with dad. But wait, now I’m curious…..

What keeps you feeling down? What mountains are in front of you that need to be climbed? What motivates you to climb those mountains?

There are many important questions that come along in our lifetime. Questions that create angst, change, upheaval, awareness, peace, etc. Of all the questions that I have come across as a life coach, the one question that seems to have the most impact is the one question that attacks the essence of who my client is at any given moment. This question seems to evolve and keeps evolving as we learn and grow and become. This question has the potential of becoming habit forming; a reminder to always check my sources and resources in order to keep fear at bay and inner strength at the ready.

The questions I ask myself on a daily basis are, for the most part, always in helpful surrender to aid in making me the best possible version of who I strive to become. Who I am today is in no way who I will be later in life and although who I was yesterday may carry over into who I am right this moment, my “yesterday” self always has the ability to be better tomorrow. What is this incredible question?

Who told you that?

This question falls under the auspices of false beliefs or limiting beliefs and carries a tremendous amount of weight inside our heads and hearts. Most of us allow that the things we choose to believe, whether we realize it as our choice or not, are the things that hold us back from a fulfilling, productive, purposeful life. For a lot of people, believing the limiting beliefs we cling to holds a lot of fear in preventing us from exploring all kinds of fearless possibilities.

This question has been a constant companion for me for many years. It takes on many faces such as, who told you that you are not worthy of a better life, a better job, or a better outcome? Who told you that you have to compromise on what means the most to you? Who told you that if you experience happiness of any kind you are only allowed that one-time experience and then doomed to misery thereafter? Who told you that the love you have in your life is all you are allotted in one lifetime? Who told you that brown and pink don’t go well together? Who told you that if your children are not successful in their own right that means that you are not a successful parent?

More importantly when did you start believing all of this?

For as long as we live there will be life moments that test our inner strength; that make life feel as if this one time experience is the most impossible mountain to climb. Questions like this one help to keep us grounded and present and focused on being and becoming our best selves. The fear factor here might be, “what if I can’t answer this question or what if I stay stuck in my limiting beliefs?” I suggest taking time to unpack the question step by slow moving step until you come to understand how you got here.

Family therapist, author, marathon runner and professor Cami Ostman teaches an incredible workshop on how to successfully put the “Who told you that” question to the test and how to successfully answer it and use the question and answer to your advantage. When we feel stuck in our fear of not being enough and believing that we are truly not enough Ms. Ostman says that “we are not aligning with our true nature; we are not aligning with our core selves.” She goes on to say, “Our true nature, our core selves, are calm, joyful and centered. Most of our limiting beliefs start in childhood based on what we perceived as a need to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or hurt or shameful or weak. Our true nature thrives on genuine support from others and uses 4 qualities to help us thrive.” Those 4 qualities are:

*Clarity of purpose: Who does it benefit to take the road less traveled? Who does it benefit to follow the leader?

“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

*Faith: Enjoy each step along the way and know that whatever choice you make; all will be okay.

“Realize that if a door closed, it’s because what was behind it wasn’t meant for you.” Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

*Commitment to ourselves and our purposes: What is one tiny step you can take each morning to bring you closer to where you want to be?

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” John Mayer

*Sovereignty: The unshakable knowledge that we are the supreme rulers of our own minds and choices and decisions. Who has given you permission to question your own self- worth, in other words, who told you that and why are you believing it? When we truly believe that we are sovereign over our hearts, minds and bodies then we are free to come and go, to explore and choose wisely and be impactful in all we do.

“Peggy is a sovereign nation. She governs herself and those around her by her own laws.” Katlyn Charlesworth, The Patriot’s Daughter

According to Ms. Ostman, bringing forth your true nature is a practice of letting go of fear; letting go of limiting beliefs, letting go of those things that were told to you whether to protect you or to scare you to stand still. Ms. Ostman suggests respectfully thanking all the parts of us that tried to protect us from the fears that are holding us back, wishing those parts well and firmly telling those parts that it is now time to take the reins and face the fears and the adventure that awaits.

As If….

A great way to begin your journey of shedding those limiting beliefs, of shedding fear is to take these 4 qualities and start with the end in mind. Let’s play….

Kari always wanted to be an artist. Her talents have been recognized by the obvious people in her life, her art teachers, her friends, her classmates, etc. but for some reason Kari has not taken all of those accolades and turned it into the art studio/gallery that she has always imagined. Kari doesn’t believe within herself that her art work is good enough to sell or that strangers would want to buy what she is creating. She is beginning to feel like doing art of any kind is a waste of time and that she needs to start getting serious about her life and start to make a living. “It feels like there is just too much wasted time in art and I need to pay my bills and just get on with my life at this point.” Who told Kari that art is too much of wasted time? Who told Kari that being an artist isn’t a serious pursuit of making a life? Who told Kari that she isn’t good enough to make art her career? When did those limiting beliefs start to take deep roots in her heart and mind?

There are a few choices Kari can make: She can give up her art completely and get a “real” job, she can only do her artwork for her own pleasure and joy, she can give her artwork away to friends and colleagues as gifts so that at least her art will be “out there” even if it hangs in someone else’s house or office or she can imagine one last time what it would be like to have the art studio/gallery she always dreamed about.

Kari chooses to imagine one last time about her art studio. Kari chose the “as if” option and she lets her imagination run wild with the end in mind, “as if” she made her dream come true and opened her art studio and became the successful artist she always dreamed of becoming. Out loud Kari imagines it is opening night at her art studio and the walls are full of her artwork in every medium. There are lots of people at the opening tonight including people that came as guests of those that received an invitation and the biggest surprise of all is that the media are here tonight to interview Kari and get her story. Kari imagines the gorgeous outfit she is wearing and imagines that her parents are there and feel so proud of her for sticking with her dream and making it come true. Kari imagines the food and drinks being passed around, she imagines the pockets of conversation going on around her studio, she imagines the music playing in the background and how great everyone looks tonight because they came to this special event. At the end of the night Kari imagines her most sacred piece of art being sold to an art collector and Kari being commissioned to do work for businesses in and around her art studio.

The greatest take away for Kari in playing the “as if” game is that she just thought about even more ideas on how to make her studio/gallery a great success. By opening herself up to the possibilities and by letting herself feel the happiness in her core-self, by freeing her mind and heart from limiting beliefs, Kari has experienced more joy in these few minutes than in the past year of struggling to be “practical” about her future.

Call to Action

Find a friend, mentor, coach, or use your own reflection in the mirror and play the “as if” game with your dreams. No limiting beliefs allowed. Dress the part, play the music, set the scene and have at it. Notice everything, the way you look, the way you feel, the way your thoughts expand. Who told you that you can’t make this vision your reality?

One of Ms. Ostman’s most successful practices is to interview fear and listen to what comes up in that discussion. If you are interested in trying this interview with fear, please give me a call. You will be changed from this experience.

On a piece of paper make a list down one side of the paper of all the things that you believe today. On the other side of the paper make a list of how you came to have each belief; in other words, who told you that? On a new piece of paper make a list of all the new things you are now going to believe that will help move you toward the person you want to be. Keep in mind on this new list, that YOU are giving yourself permission to believe these new things, act on these new things, dream these new things and become these new things.

Write a good-bye letter to your old self letting go of the fearful things that you have told to yourself or have been told to you that you are currently believing; letting go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from becoming your true self. Before you end the good-bye to old self letter start to write about all the new things your new, free self will be experiencing from now on. What successful, happy, expansive experiences will you be adding to your new life? How much can you honestly feel inside of your core-self that you believe you honestly, courageously, and wholeheartedly will experience in all the amazing life moments that are destined to come to you?

How Can Life Get Better Than This

Key West

“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.” Leo Babauta

Many of us are very conditioned to complain or vent our days’ events. Many of us are very conditioned to point out the problems, worries, stressors, heartaches and disappointments of our daily lives. How can it be so easy to say what is so wrong in our days instead of what is right?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she was telling me about all of the many ways she had realized how many of God’s blessings have been playing out in her life lately. What she really was struck by was that although she never thought to let God into her life as much as she has been this year she realized that God has been guiding her and blessing her with opportunities to make choices through events that have been designed to help her grow and become the person she is today. What was blaringly obvious to me was that she had made a perception shift in how she views life and the ways in which life plays out. . I don’t think she heard herself, when at the end of her story she said, “Lisa, how does life get better than this?” She asked the most beautiful question.

Boy oh boy did that stick with me. Indeed, how does life get better than this? This is a question with no answer. This is a question that is so subjective the answers either do not exist at all or are so endless as to travel into infinity. This question is so full of gratitude and hope that I started asking it every morning before my day gets started.

By bringing more hopeful questions out in the open, more hopeful events can have room to grow and develop and manifest. It’s a bit mindless to cast our cares into the ring of despair and complaints. Instead, why not give a great question a try?

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” Shannon L. Alder

There is a great book by author and scientist Warren Berger called A More Beautiful Question. It is in the asking and daring of questioning that life begins to grow and expand and become fun; dare I say hopeful. Having the courage to ask a question we are afraid to learn the answer to or own the part of the answer that only each of us can contribute to answering is scary but what else is life supposed to be? Scary isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Scary is challenging, scary is thrilling, scary leads to learning how not to be scared.

The yin and yang of a beautiful question can change perception and can change a heart from feeling scared to find the answer into a heart that is challenged and determined to find an answer. For example:

What if I start my day not knowing what to do? What does an open day look like and mean for me?

What if I fail in every way today? What can I learn if I fail today?

Why should I trust you? What can I trust about you?

How can I contribute to the world today? In what small way can my existence make a difference today?

Why do I have to work? Why do I do the work I do? What do I really want to do for work?

What is another way of looking at this? If I turn this over and over what might come of a new perspective?

What if I took my time through this? When I step back and take a better look, what do I see?

Why do I ask why? What can come from not asking why? What am I afraid to learn the answer to?

Why am I not happy? How can I be happy? What does happiness look like in this moment?

It’s in the way a question is asked that prompts answers to arrive. By turning around a day full of complaints and vents we can find the beauty and mystery and lessons that each day in the life of each of us has in its essence.

Many of us spend exhaustive amounts of time trying to find our purpose to our existence. What if our existence has the only purpose of whatever the day asks of us? For Paul Bennett of the company IDEO, Mr. Berger learned what sparks Mr. Bennett most of all, everyday….

“The question I constantly ask myself is ‘”How do I stay inspired?”’ For many of us, the beautiful question that calls to us is some variation of, ‘”How do we continually find inspiration so that we can inspire others?”’ There is no definitive answer to this question. It is constantly evolving and becoming something else.”

Mr. Berger puts it to the reader like this,

“When you find your beautiful question, stay with it. If it is a question worth pursuing, it will likely also be confounding, frustrating, and exhausting. If you find yourself stuck, follow the advice of Acumen’s Novogratz, “’Just try to get to the next question.’” Break your big question into smaller ones and work on those. Keep cycling through the why’s, what if’s, and how’s including your being stuck and get to the next question.”

For me it has become a survival mentality to break free of the atmosphere that surrounds me in negativity. This mindless complaining has challenged me to purposefully find a way to be as opposite as possible in the positive. I have noticed a great deal of physical changes and mental changes that have taken place within my soul due to asking a more beautiful question. Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Life gets better than this if I:

Love more sincerely

Listen with more presence

Express gratitude for my endless blessings

Eat to savor and not devour

Choose my words when I use my words

Admit I don’t know and then ask for help

Ask, “What is my next small step?”

Forgive with my whole heart

Let go

“Walk by faith, not by sight”

How can life get better than this?

In the Jewish faith there is a song called Dayanu that is sung during the Passover Seder and it starts off naming how grateful the people are for being delivered from slavery in Egypt. Then the song goes on to list how it would have been enough if the blessings ended there but God went on to provide food and water while thousands traveled for 40 years in the desert. Again, it would have been enough if God had stopped there but then HE provided even more miracles.

Songwriter and artist Kenny Chesney sings a song titled, Never wanted Nothing More in which he sings about how great life became when he got his first truck and how he couldn’t imagine ever wanting anything more than that. Then life took another great turn when he met his girlfriend and he couldn’t imagine wanting anything more and then it became great again when he got to spend time with her, etc.

The point being that in our everyday lives there is always something, one plain or ordinary thing that went right or well or happily that we can be thankful for. By asking the question the way my friend did it opened up space for more things to go right. All you have to do is sincerely ask the question. In the asking you become subconsciously disposed to seeking the answers. Your mind will try to see all the possibilities in finding the answer.

“How would your life be different if…You were conscious about the food you ate, the people you surround yourself with, and the media you watch, listen to, or read? Let today be the day…You pay attention to what you feed your mind, your body, and your life. Create a nourishing environment conducive to your growth and well-being today.” Steve Maraboli, The Power of One

My friend has presented me with a question that will never find an answer yet will allow for answers to be found every day. How, indeed, can life get better than this?

Call to Action

I dare you to NOT find one simple thing that goes right today, tomorrow or the next day.

Be grateful for that one right thing and build on it. How can life get better than that? Dare yourself to find something even better the next day.

What beautiful questions grow from seeing what was once too hard or too scary to see? Do not be afraid to count your blessings. Your happiness and gratitude are infectious and THAT is a great life purpose and makes for life being better than one minute ago.

 

You Are Becoming

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“We all wind up drawn to what we’re afraid of, drawn to try to find a way to make ourselves safe from a thing by crawling inside of it, by loving it, by becoming it.” Holly Black, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Ever since beginning my journey to become a great life coach there has been one word that keeps swirling around me. I had not ever heard this word and my name spoken in the same sentence before my journey but I hear this word quite often since embarking on my journey. One word that I never in all my life would associate with describing who I am; one word that sounds so empowering and makes everything so possible and yet it has been a word I have been afraid of my whole life. I heard it yet again a day ago in relationship to me and I had to just sit very still and really think about all the times where this word has shown itself in my life and wonder why I just haven’t made the connection. Why does this word strike such fear inside of me?

Before I reveal the word let me ask you this question:

In your lifetime in what circumstance have you ever wished you could see yourself the way other people see you?

This could be in a good light or a not so good light. This could be on your “best foot forward” day or your “I wish I stayed in bed today” day. This could be in a spiritual way meaning wanting to see yourself as God sees you but not being able to do so.

Many times I have wished I could see in me what other people see in me. I absolutely believe that if I had the “knowing” of what other people believe I can be or what they think I already am then I could conquer the world. I believe this because of the one thing I know about myself most of all and that is that I hate to let people down.

It’s not really a people pleasing knowing that I have about who I am it’s more of a challenge I adopt within my heart that pushes me to do and become simply because someone I trust and admire has a knowing about me, an insight about me that I never allowed or truly saw in my own self. There is a becoming about me that other people see whether it is in the form of who I am becoming or that I am becoming in appearance or in a spiritual sense.

“Sight is one of the most easily deceived senses. I could make a coin disappear and your eyes would believe it gone, even if it were merely up my sleeve.” Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

I find this quote so universal and so important. What does someone see in each of us that we hide from our own selves? What disappears from within us that we believe is gone or never existed yet another person can see as if it were part of our face or skin or clothing? Something someone else sees but knows that we don’t so it appears to have disappeared but is not truly gone. It’s kind of a version of faith; to walk in the trust of what is unseen.

What holds each of us back from becoming who we are meant to be or who we want to be?

The dictionary defines the word becoming as:

  • Flattering a person’s appearance
  • The process of coming to be something or of passing into a state or any change from the lower level of potentiality to the higher level of actuality

We are all in such a rush to “get there” wherever there is that we forget or choose not to stop and listen and see that in order to become we must slow down and be the word that has been swirling around me….courageous. Using the word courage is how people have been describing me for the past 3-1/2 years and it comes up so often that I can’t ignore it anymore. I still don’t see it when looking through my own eyes but I absolutely must see what other people see if I am to become what they believe me to be; what their faith in me speaks to them.

Where does courage show up for me? Courage shows up when I am vulnerable, when I admit I don’t know something and can open my heart to receiving help and guidance, when I am asked to face a fear and work through it in the truth of not wanting to face the person inside of me who is saying, “Walk away from this. You don’t have to face this.” Courage shows up when life gets really, raw-ly emotional for me and I have to stand and face that painful dragon and slay it. Courage shows up when someone hears a piece of my story and their take away is the courage they heard in my voice and in my words when I never felt courageous at all while going through it.

What has happened inside of my heart is that by hearing the word courageous associated with me the person and me the spirit I have created a trail behind me that I want to always remain and lead me home. I am starting to believe in this crazy word. I may not yet fully associate courage with who I am but I like what other people are seeing in my becoming and I don’t want to let them or myself down. I want to keep exploring this empowering feeling and word and see what I can see as I go along creating my truth and building self-trust.

In her book Daring Greatly, author and scientist Dr. Brene` Brown said this when describing herself through vulnerability, courage and allowing herself to see what other people see in her:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” I had no idea that in each life moment where I stood up and plowed through a fear I was courageous and vulnerable and revealing a truth about who I am deep inside, yet other people could see it in me all along.

Dr. Brown goes on to say:

“All the love and support I received allowed me to slowly begin to take more risks, to show up at work and at home in new ways. I took more chances and tried new things.” Because of each conquest I had made that lay behind me I was unknowingly building strength and empowerment toward the next big thing. And each time I was in a situation to tell my story there came that word again, courage.

What I’ve ultimately learned is that by sharing my stories where I unknowingly showed courage I have been able to allow those listeners to imagine themselves facing the same fears and making it through on their own way toward becoming their best selves.

Here is what I’ve learned so far about the incredible walk I’ve been taking toward my own becoming….

Trust: Trust your heart, trust your gut, and trust your sincerity and integrity. Trust that although the process might take a lifetime, each step is for and toward a purpose. There is no rush toward becoming whatever you want to become or whoever you want to become because each level you reach is a level you needed to obtain in order to keep going forward. It may not be for you in the end, it may be for someone else entirely, keep going.

“Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story. (from ‘Instructions’)” Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Believe in your value: For me the word courage is truly a value in action. I’ve shared with you before about how our values show up in our lives whether intentionally or magically. Knowing what your values are is a very strong and empowering step in your becoming. When I first took the test to determine my top 5 values out of the 24 values we all carry within us, courage was somewhere in the middle. Recently I was asked to take the test again and surprisingly courage appeared in my top five. I just shake my head. I had no idea how strongly courage has played a role in my life until I decided to dedicate myself to finding my life.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi

Sight: This is a tough one. It is far easier to hide from the truth of what we see in our own soul than to admit the vulnerability and the blessing in bringing it to light. I can recall many times in my life when I hid from my own self in order to not face my own truth. What I’ve learned is that life does not exist in the places we choose not to see. Life can only exist in bringing forward all the messy, mixed up, odd, weirdness’s that make up who we are. I have taken action steps with the utmost of integrity and seen first-hand the power those steps have created. Take what you see from within your own soul, the person you see that you want to be and take that first step with integrity toward that unique and wondrous person. The people in your world will thank you for it and your heart will grow and your eyes will see what can’t be seen because your heart will grow.

“The wise do not buy into other people’s perceptions of who they are and what they are capable of. Instead, they bypass a person’s public persona and see who they are in their highest expression. When you see actions taken with integrity, instead of words only, you will then know a soul’s worth.” Shannon L. Alder

Courage: I can’t think of a better word than this. To have courage means to exercise your will to accomplish goals you set for yourself in the face of opposition, whether it is an external opposition or internal opposition. Another way to look at this is in the word bravery. According to professors and authors, the late Christopher Peterson and current University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, their book Character Strengths and Virtues talks about bravery as the “ability to do what needs to be done despite fear. Beyond the domain of battle on a battlefield, bravery allows for this character strength to be applied by not only saying or doing the unpopular but correct thing but in also facing terminal illness with equanimity and to resisting peer pressure regarding a morally questionable shortcut.” To this I would add that it also takes meaning in any act large or small where we are running through our own internal fears of whatever we have chosen to face head on.

For example: When I was tasked at my temp job to create an excel chart and maintenance form I panicked. I don’t do excel well at all. The challenge before me was to get the task done and done very well. I enlisted the help of a colleague to teach me some basic things and then I took it from there. I refused to leave for the day until the bulk of the work was done. That was my internal opposition. It took all kinds of crazy courage to meet the challenge of fear that excel symbolizes for me but I did it. Did I feel courageous? No. Did I feel successful in the end? Yes. Would I choose to take on another excel project? Oh hell No. Did I prove I could do it and so I could do it again? Yes. Ultimately what stayed inside of me, what I see now, is that when courage is needed I enlist, without thought. When my kids would get hurt and cry in pain I surprised myself every time by not panicking. I stayed even tempered, quiet, calm and loving for them and later when they were back to their playful, happy, bouncy selves I let out a deep breath and cried a little.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

Take some time to really, deeply think about your own character strengths and values; listen to how often a particular value comes up in your life; allow yourself to see where you are being an example day after day of this character strength and value. Believe what can’t be seen by you alone. That is faith, and that is having a knowing that you are indeed becoming as you walk through your purposes in life.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

 ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Call to Action

What are some of your core values often hidden but revealed in patterns of your behavior?

What would it take to acknowledge, out loud, in every way of your everyday those hidden core values?

When do you find yourself becoming your most “real” self?

In what ways have you been seen by others as real, as honest, as courageous, as vulnerable but did not allow yourself to see those truths within you?

Activity Challenge

In an effort to practice seeing those things we choose not to see or just can’t see, ask yourself just one of these questions every day and really dive into your day and all its glory. Then in whatever fashion helps you to express your answer use it. It could be journaling, praying, talking to a friend, coach or partner. The questions are:

What went right today?

What left you filled with awe today?

Where did your heart lead you today?

Where or in whom did I find inspiration today?

The Difference Between a Scar and a Tattoo

 

 

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Out of the pain of growth comes beauty and uniqueness.

“Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” –Chris Cleave, Little Bee

How much of life have you survived so far?

Are any of the survival moments scars on your skin or on your heart or do you wear them proudly as a tattoo, a story your body doesn’t hesitate to tell?

One night at dinner my son brought home a friend from school. We had amazing food and amazing conversation and as it is when lots of boys get together we got to talking about injuries and scars. The boy stood up and said, “Oh have I got scars to show you.” For the next 20 minutes he proceeded to show us all of his scars, the ones that were allowable to show, and we were all riveted to hear the stories and see the proof. He smiled proudly through it all and he just as proudly knew that life wasn’t finished with him yet, that there would be a lot more scars to talk about as he got older.

Listening to the boy’s stories I couldn’t help but think what a busy, treacherous, boyish, adventurous life he had lived so far and I thought these weren’t scars he was showing us, these were proud tattoos of a life well lived; he was only 13 years old.

“Tattoos are a right of passage. They’re a marker of bravery, of maturity, of cultural acceptance. The tattoo represents not only a willingness to accept pain – to endure it – but a need to actively embrace it. Because life is painful – beautiful but painful…….” Nicola Barker, The Yips

There are lessons we learn in school and there are lessons we learn in life. I’ve come to believe that when those 2 distinct paths cross, that is when we wear our story. When I become aware and present in my life moments I am, in a way, choosing the tattoos I want to brand who I am and who I want to be.

When something doesn’t go the way I want it to it is in the choices I make as to who I then become. When someone hurts me physically or emotionally I can choose to become and remain a victim of the hurt or I can grow from it and own it and wear it like a tattoo of honor or shame and either way I can then create teachable moments to share along my life’s journey. It’s hard though to step back in an emotional moment and realize that there is always a choice to make.

A Scar that Purposefully Became a Tattoo

My daughter faced this very crossroads when the person she considered her best friend did things that proved the girl wasn’t a good friend at all much less a best friend. It sent my daughter into a tail spin and for quite a few years my daughter tried to manipulate her mind to stop fighting a battle within herself to change the friend but rather to accept what was happening. To make a very long story short, the choice she made in the end was to find a way to accept the girl for who she was and to also accept herself for who she was becoming. Not an easy thing to do at all but with lots of patience and practice and self-love she has truly managed to step over to the other side of the pain and wear her lessons learned like a tattoo on her heart. She feels more empowered, more right minded and stronger within her heart than she has ever felt. I see it in her eyes and I hear it in her voice in the way she speaks. She believes what she is working through and how she is working through it and there is a whole bunch of reasons to respect her process. But the question is, how is she doing it? How is she accepting herself and the person that turned out to be nothing like the friend she thought she had? Here are some steps she took to get to where she is right now:

Seek help. The minute my daughter felt the disillusionment of the friendship she talked with me about it. She also casually talked with her other friends. She enlisted the people she felt most comfortable with and asked their opinion, asked their advice, and asked if they had ever been through something like this. She even confronted her friend in order to get a better understanding of where this friendship had gotten so off the rails.

By being vulnerable to the pain she allowed light to penetrate the cracks that were forming in her heart. The light acted like a laser tattooing her heart with the tools she would need for wisdom and compassion.

“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.” Lori Goodwin

Listen. No matter what stories were being told to her she had enough respect for herself to just listen to what was being said and not said. She took a mental inventory of all the information and let it sit inside her heart for however long it needed to so she could pick and choose the points of information that fit her best.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Talk it out. There were 3 distinct times where my daughter met with the “best friend” and tried to let her know how she was feeling. It took a lot more than 3 times to get the friend to understand and to this day the understanding is still not completely there but forgiveness has taken root on both sides of the friendship and THAT means a positive change has happened. The part that is most important is in the trying to keep communication open and honest.

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”Shannon L. Alder

Take a step back. Step away from the situation long enough to allow the silence and the physical space to work it’s magic. Clarity has a chance to surface when distance is allowed in. Constantly working on the pain and the situation at hand can cause more pain and less clarity. Step back, breathe, take a time out and let the dust settle a bit.

“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.” Jeanette Winterson, The World and Other Places: Stories

Know when to let go. As painful as it has been for my daughter to admit, she had to get to a place in her heart where she realized it was more painful to deny who she is right now in her own growth toward adulthood than to compromise any more of who she has already become in order to save the friendship. She had to let go of what she wanted the relationship to be in order for the relationship to become what it was meant to become all along. Sometimes we can only see what we want to see instead of what is really right in front of us. Releasing control over the pain allows us to let go and let each person be who they are right now.

“Distance sometimes lets you know who is worth keeping, and who is worth letting go.”Lana Del Rey

Find gratitude. What was my daughter most grateful for in having this person as her friend in the first place? When she was able to truly list from her heart all the reasons she liked having this person in her life she was able to settle down the pain. People change; life changes us on the inside and the outside. Her friend’s life story isn’t pretty and unless you have walked in her shoes you cannot know the scars she wears and how deep they cut. Those scars have a chance to become tattoos of pride when her friend is ready to stop being a victim to the pain and the past. When my daughter came to understand her own gratitude toward the friendship the friendship had a chance at a new life and a new breath.

“Once you start recognizing the truth of your story, finish the story. It happened but you’re still here, you’re still capable, powerful, you’re not your circumstance. It happened and you made it through. You’re still fully equipped with every single tool you need to fulfill your purpose.”Steve Maraboli

In the end, the two friends are trying to re-invent their relationship and from my humble perspective it looks to be a beautiful tattoo rather than an ugly scar.

Call to Action

What lessons are you learning, experiencing, creating, in your life moments that will become a permanent part of who you are?

Will those lessons be a tattoo or a scar?

The Relevancy of Being Irrelevant

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Like leaves that thrive, explode with glory and wait patiently for its purpose again so is our relevancy throughout our lives; growing, glowing, transforming year after year.

I have a job; I feel relevant. I don’t have a job; I feel irrelevant. My children are healthy and making good choices; I feel relevant and significant in their lives as a good role model. My children are making poor choices again and again, exercising their free will; I feel irrelevant and insignificant asking myself where did I go wrong…and so it goes. Up and down like a rollercoaster, constantly. I think it’s called LIFE.

The dictionary defines the word irrelevant as unrelated to the matter being discussed or considered; not important; not applicable or pertinent; having no meaning or connection with the subject or issue.

Just reading those words makes me feel frumpy and broken and I don’t want to live in these words but sometimes I just feel impertinent and unimportant and like I’m not connected to anything or anyone.

Let’s turn it around.

What does it mean to be relevant? The dictionary defines the word relevant as the state of being closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand; meaningful or purposeful in current society or culture; a connection to the matter being discussed; having practical value or applicability.

I don’t think anyone who lives past age 2 can escape feeling irrelevant at one time or another. However, there is relevance to feeling irrelevant. In a nutshell irrelevancy has the power to allow space for pondering, changing, adaptability and transformation.

I am a mom. I was relevant to my children until they hit 2 years old and they discovered their autonomy by powerfully exercising their use of the word “no”. Oh what fun times we had as a family when the kids would say no to something. It is said in those lovely guide books about raising children that what you see from them at 2 or 3 or 9 years old will manifest itself again in more dangerous and powerful ways when they turn 12, 13 or 19 years old. I am here to attest to the fact that yup, all true.

I became irrelevant in a more powerful way when the kids became teenagers. They no longer needed or wanted to hear from me about anything. They knew everything and if they didn’t they would figure it out on their own. I went through a time of deep despair and depression when every word out of my mouth was ignored, seemed meaningless, disconnected from their perceived reality, not applicable to their situation because “things were different since I was a teenager”. You get the picture?

It’s a tough reality to wrap my head around when, whether with purposeful intent or random circumstance I find myself having to deal with transformation or change of any kind, in this case my children growing up, and asking the ultimate question, “what now”?

Transformation happens when we graduate from college or get married or become parents or change careers or retire. Sometimes transformations are wanted and happily accepted but most transformations take place by being forced on us or we are coerced into the changes that are taking place. At times transformations just happen. By natural design we are creatures of habit and we do not like when things change. Even if we are unhappy with the things we are doing we at least know how to manage our emotions within the unhappiness and tasks rather than throw it all out the window by choice and embrace the attitude of “Yippee !! Come what may”.

I started trying to turn my own mindset around when I got a job outside of the house and could no longer cater to the children’s needs, emotions and quirks full time. In my job I became relevant to the needs of the company and to the needs of strangers. I started to value my ability to learn, my ability to form relationships and to communicate and my ability to own my piece of the tasks at hand. When I started to apply my work mindset toward parenting, my children started to change too. (Shhh — Without their knowledge or permission).

In pondering the life moments when I feel my own irrelevancy, I take the down time to realize the many ways I strive to feel relevant and this list might help you too….

I stay true to who I am deep inside. I believed for so long that if someone would just teach me what they want me to know in order to do the job or task they need done then I could rise to their need and get it done. After all, I had years and years of experience doing just that as a parent. I stayed authentic to who I believed myself to be. If you are struggling with doubt about your own authenticity call me. Let’s get you coached around that because it is the key that unlocks many doors.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”  ― May Sarton

I give. I give my time, my talents, my heart to whatever it is I am doing whether it be volunteering, baking, cooking, gardening, writing, conversing, listening, praying, playing, taking pictures or learning something new. I am “all in” everything I do. I achieve a sense of mastery for each time I practice giving. I become a master at kindness, compassion, empathy, relevance and become more and more authentic in the process.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  ― Charles Dickens

I am action oriented. I absolutely hate sitting still for too long. I feel most productive and relevant if I am physically moving around getting things done or mentally stimulated when learning something new. Being an action oriented person also means facing fears I keep deep inside. My goal is to practice facing my fears and get to the end of my day with a list in my heart of all the things I gratefully accomplished and to feel exhaustively satisfied enough to sleep well.

“The best thing you can do is just do it, just face the fear and get it over with. How do you get the courage? You create your courage by just taking action…”  ― James A. Murphy, The Waves of Life Quotes and Daily Meditations

I consider my antonyms. It is a natural human defense trait that thoughts will first drift toward negativity before we seek to purposefully rein them in and kick negativity to the curb. Coaching has taught me a tremendous amount about my own inner power of turning things around in my own head. In this case, when I start feeling irrelevant I consider the opposite of my negative thoughts. I think about all the ways in which I am significant, relevant, necessary, valuable, useful, needed and worthwhile. On the chance that I still find irrelevancy within these words I think about and put into action all the ways in which I want to be all of these antonyms and where I can start.

“We each carry with us unique gifts, recognized and unrecognized. We long to harness those gifts in a way that gives life significance and helps us to matter more in the lives of others.”  ― Tom Hayes

I try to keep a child’s mindset or in other words I try to keep a simple sense of curiosity at the forefront of everything I do. Whether I am learning something new to be able to get a task done at work or asking questions to my clients to help open doors on their life’s journey or to my children to help them think about something more deeply, I am always curious on a child’s level as to the how or why that is at the heart of what is happening.

“If we are to use the words ‘childish’ and ‘infantile’ as terms of disapproval, we must make sure that they refer only to those characteristics of childhood which we become better and happier by outgrowing. Who in his sense would not keep, if he could, that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination, that facility of suspending disbelief that unspoiled appetite, that readiness to wonder, to pity, and to admire?”  ― C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

As my children get older I have to face the reality that I too am getting older and I think about what will my relevance be once my children are on their own and no longer living in my home? For one thing I am taking back my own life and constantly seeking to create me. It matters to me that even though I no longer need to be physically relevant to teach my children I can be spiritually relevant as an example of how life goes on for me when they are not around.

No matter what stage of life I am in I am always, in one way or another, in transformation mode. I choose the word transformation over the word change because change can be such an ugly word and puts up red flags in my gut. I prefer transformation because that is a more accurate word to describe the big and small ways in which life re-creates, re-invents and re-generates itself constantly. The objective to winning in transformation is to go with the flow. A great example of this is my grandmother. By God’s grace she will be turning 100 years old this August. The normal thoughts when you hear about someone turning an unbelievable age like 100 is what keeps them going and feeling the pull to live?

We don’t live near each other and so we can’t physically see each other on a regular basis but I know through conversations with her or my mom that she never sits still. She still lives on her own, not in a nursing facility, she still drives a car, she still flies on airplanes to visit family at least 3 times a year, she still cooks and bakes, she still meets with friends on a weekly basis, and she still does her own grocery shopping. Three characteristics that keep her relevant is her optimistic attitude toward life, her faith and her curiosity toward life and transformation. She is about to downsize her living and will be moving to a new area, making new friends and forming new life habits. She is not afraid and knows exactly what she wants and how she wants to live in her new space. She is a shining example of relevance in my humble opinion.

If you are going through life moments where you find yourself questioning your relevance please consider that in each phase of transformation we become a clean page in the story of our own lives and have the incredible opportunity to start a new chapter and choose what goes onto our new pages. I hope these “call to action” questions will help you. Let’s open up a dialog about helping each other feel more relevant in every stage of life.

Call to Action

Where in your life right this moment do you feel irrelevant?

In what ways are you believing you are irrelevant?

What makes you feel relevant?

How can you approach your next transformation with a child’s curiosity?

What can you do with the life skills you have learned so far to help someone else and thereby inject relevance into your life and the life of someone else?

What are some new activities, skills or wisdom you would like to include on the new pages of your next chapter?

The Seeds We Sow

 

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Sowing seeds and blossoming has never had a more poetic meaning than when I became a mom. According to the calendar I am now entering into the harvest time of parenting. The time when all the seeds have been sown and all the lessons I can teach my young fledglings has come to bear fruit and to see just what took root inside of them. In hindsight it took no time at all for these many seasons to pass and yet it has taken a long, long time of hope, nurture, love, sunshine, feeding and faith to get to this point. Sowing seeds in our children doesn’t always mean that everything will come up roses and I don’t always like what I see in the blossoming which has led me to ask myself….

How do I know I was a good gardener?

As a parent this question has been embedded in my soul from the moment I held my child for the first time. It became more specifically a question of how do I or will I know I did the right thing or did right by my children? The answer is, I won’t know. How can that be? Free will.

The idea behind free will in my children is that although they are a combination of 2 really great and loving human beings they have the God given right to develop their own set of values and life rules, opinions, choices and decisions, just like we did before they existed. In the harvesting time, like what I am going through right now, where the seeds are blooming in a crazy wild manner in every which way, it feels like weeds have taken root. They try to defy gravity and nature and it gets really scary and feels hopeless at times. As a parent I absolutely will not always agree with their decisions and choices and values, oh my, but above all, I know I must have faith that the seeds I have sown will yield a beautiful crop to be proud of.

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh, don’t misunderstand. There have been and there are glimpses of good manners because that is one of the seeds I planted inside of them, there are snapshots of seeing me in the things they do or say because like it or not that is also one of the seeds I planted inside of them and there are moments of joy and love because above all else that is the seed I wanted to grow most of all.

It’s those times when all seems to be coming up weeds and those weeds threaten to choke the life out of the beautiful flowers I am hoping will bloom, that it all starts to fall apart for me and I over nurture and over water and over feed my seedlings. They are searching for their own growth space and I am trying to stand them up tall and proud. But they are not ready for that because they have not decided to stand up tall and proud for themselves yet.

“Parents can only give good advice or put their children on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank

I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to wanting a full bloom in my children. All I can do as a gardener/parent is love them and be there if and when they need me and hope like crazy that whatever seeds I planted along the way of their growth will yield beauty of spirit and mind.

For all of those times when I realize that perhaps I didn’t always plant a good seed and for all of those times when I think that the weed that is growing right now is what will always be truth, I am learning that in order to ensure that the seed doesn’t turn into a permanent weed is to plant faith. Faith is a very needy seed. Faith needs constant nurturing, constant attention and constant awareness. Faith also needs a sense of humor and an ability to see life backwards. In the spirit of seeing life as backwards here is my short list for all those times when it all should make some kind of sense and doesn’t but in the end still has a chance…..

I might be a good gardener/parent if:

I make all kinds of mistakes from a horrible tasting dinner to turning a white shirt pink in the laundry. It means that although I may not be perfect as a parent, gardener, or human being I am always willing to learn and grow within myself for my children.

I have acted selfish or self-centered. It means that I am vulnerable and human just like my children are. It means that letting them see my true colors makes me more down to earth for them.

I feel deep inside of my soul I have failed. It only means that I have tried something and it didn’t quite work out the way I hoped it would but I am still standing and able to try again another day. “I’m sorry” is the same as Miracle Grow.

I find myself feeling scared and helpless. It means that my heart is so invested and striving for goodness. It is okay to experience every possible emotion that exists and still create beauty and love in my children. Living by example gives them comfort and room to bloom.

I know that without meaning to I have said the absolute wrong thing. It means that I was communicating and trying to find a way to break through verbal barriers with people who speak a different language from mine. Parent talk is very different from kid talk.

In any situation, being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes not only connects me to their point of view but it also grows empathy. In each instance I am becoming a more valuable seed within myself.

So……

What kind of gardener are you?

If you plant honesty, you will grow trust

If you plant goodness, you will grow heart

If you plant humility, you will grow connectedness

If you plant perseverance, you will grow courage

If you plant hard work, you will grow success

If you plant forgiveness, you will grow reconciliation

If you plant love, you will grow the world.

Call to Action

When you take a moment to see the world as your personal garden, what would you like to plant there?

How do you see your garden influencing the garden next to you?

If your garden seems to be growing weeds, what kind of nourishment does your garden need?

From your perspective, what are the signs of a great garden?