Remembering Self…

“They would think she was savoring the taste (blueberries, cinnamon, cream-excellent), but she was actually savoring the whole morning, trying to catch it, pin it down, keep it safe before all those precious moments became yet another memory.”
Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

I remember times throughout motherhood when I just knew I was in a moment I wished could go on forever. I tried with all my might to hold on to each millisecond that was flowing by, like leaves falling from the trees on a brisk autumn day, wanting so badly to catch time and make it stop in its tracks so that I could savor and expand the absolute joy of being a mom, of seeing these precious gifts I was given flow and grow. All the while I knew that just like any other 24 hour day this too will come to an end and we would head forward toward another memory to be made and another day in which I would want to hold on forever.

The other day I was reflecting on just what it means to celebrate Memorial Day as my son leaves home and embarks on taking the reins of his life. I’m blessed and grateful that I am not remembering him through tragedy but I am remembering him nonetheless for how fast the time has come and gone from his conception to birth to twenty years later. I can’t help but wonder, did I teach enough, did I love enough, did I connect enough, was there joy enough, laughter enough, or support enough? How does a parent measure success as a parent?

“If that’s what joy is, connection, then to fully experience it requires something terrifying as well as exalting: opening oneself up to the possibility of loss.” – Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

The real question for me is what is loss? Is loss the history of time? Is loss missed opportunities? Is loss something had but now gone? If you have ever really, truly loved another human being then you have opened yourself up to the possibility of loss.  Sometimes I feel like I have lost the chance to influence my children differently than I already have; I feel like I have lost the chance to say the things I now know how to say; I feel like I have lost the chance to enjoy their youth more than I already did; I feel like I have lost the chance to connect with them deeper than I already have connected. I am feeling the loss of time.

Or have I lost the chance at all? Even if heaven forbid my children were taken from me and never to return was the chance to see them grow up ever really part of the package of being their parent in the first place or was I only meant to take their souls just so far and then let them go? Was I meant to teach them what I now know or was I meant to teach them what I did know at the moment I was their young mother? Have I really lost the chance to influence my children or will they be willing to hear all the lessons I have learned since being their young mother? Did I lose the chance to connect with my children deeper or is that still possible as they get older? It will still always be a battle for time.

The joy of connection with my children still exists if they want it to exist. It’s up to them now. The loss I feel can stay a loss if I don’t learn how to capitalize on the new order of the relationships.

I might have lost them before I was ready but then again, is a mother ever ready to let go of her children? We would be a case study in perfectionism, all of us, if we got ourselves mired in the reality of knowing that we only have this one moment right here, right now, to get “it” right and well in order to have our children grow up whole, happy, productive, contributing, sane human beings. Alas, thankfully, there is no such thing as perfect and somehow the children manage to grow up despite our imperfections. We each can only do the best we can with what we know right this moment and let love be our guide.

 “There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.” – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

He left. He took the reins of his life, like I taught him to do, and he left home. He was so comfortable and so well taken care of that he became lazy and unmotivated and passionless and complacent and entitled and he knew it and he felt it and he wanted to change it all. I didn’t teach him that, although maybe I did, by loving him and taking care of him when he was tired and feeding him when he was hungry and talking to him when he clearly needed a talking to and washed his clothes when he had nothing to wear that was clean and pointing out to him the life lessons he should pay attention to. It would seem that all of the love has empowered him to say through his act of leaving, “Mom, don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

Psychologist and Nobel laureate Dr. Daniel Kahneman has made the distinction of how we remember events that take place in our lives. He talks about the remembering self and the experiencing self. The experiencing self is the self that moves through the world and in theory should be more likely to control our daily life choices. For example, Dr. Kahneman points out that if you are going in to have a colonoscopy and the procedure lasts even 10 seconds longer than originally scheduled and ends with a bit of discomfort, it is the ending that the experiencing self will attach to not the overall painless, not so bad procedure in the immediate aftermath of the procedure. Given time and space the remembering self will kick in and the overall memory of the procedure will not be as bad as it was just following the experience.

However, it is the remembering self that plays a more influential role in our lives especially when making plans for our future. For example, even by choosing to create the reality of my son virtually saying he is ready to take on his own life I am employing my remembering self simply because this milestone and significant change is more vividly alive and emotional to my whole being than anything mundane that I would do during my daily life with frequency. There are painful moments leading up to my son leaving but my remembering self will only choose all the good points. The things we do over and over whether for good reason or habit we tend to take for granted. There is very little of the mundane that stands out as a worthwhile memory. It all just gets lumped together. Although I have said good-bye to my son a dozen times throughout his life I always knew, if all goes well, he would be coming home.  Not this time.

The emotional toll surrounding his leaving is heavy and my experiencing self will always be left with the pain of the last hug and the heartbreaking send- off BUT, I choose to employ my remembering self, long before it is a memory. My son’s happiness, which as a parent is always the highest aim for their child, is what is most important. To this end I can see that perhaps I actually did achieve parental success by somehow instilling in him a sense of wonder, and courage and curiosity and love that is strong enough to see him through life’s challenges whether those challenges are of his own doing or fate based.

My experiencing self is not very happy about the fact that he left but the story has not ended yet, it is still ongoing so right now my experiencing self is sad not to have him in my everyday but my remembering self has been working overtime thinking back to when he was born all the way through the hard times of his late teenage years. “We enshrine things in memory very differently from how we experience them in real time”, says Jennifer Senior.

So on this particular Memorial holiday I choose to employ my remembering self as this being when my son launched his life on his terms and started to become the man he wanted to be and at the same time launched his mom to take a good hard look at her own life and emulate her son by becoming the woman she always wanted to be.

To all those finding themselves in the unique and wonderful position of being in their remembering self I say remember on……

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“Fake it ’til you make it…”

fake it 001Whispers from my Wallpaper

 

          Fake it ‘til you make it….

Have you ever heard this phrase? What does it mean to you? I think it takes on different meanings depending on who is applying it. For me it calls to something deep inside, confidence and attitude. It asks me to challenge myself and dare to live “as if…”.

My oldest son is leaving home next month to test his independence and his self-confidence by moving far away from home, away from his safety net, his foundation, his comfort zone. As his mom it is hard for me to come to terms with his decision, but if I step back and put myself in his shoes I can almost taste the excitement of the adventure and feel the energy of ownership of making his own decisions, his own space, and his own time. Who among us doesn’t remember the feeling of wanting to take life into their own hands? He always imagined himself a leader, a doer. He is now faced with faking it ‘til he makes it; to dare and live “as if”; putting on the mask of the person he wants to one day become.

“The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Anna Quindlen

And boy oh boy is it ever hard work to become yourself. Are you even there yet? Can you remember when you were little and dressing up for Halloween? The costume you chose, whether to be a superhero or a princess? Each costume came with a mask or make-up that allowed you to transform into the idea of who you wanted to be. Can you remember what you felt like once the mask and costume were in place? There was a sort of empowerment, ownership of this imagined you. Maybe grown-ups didn’t really believe who you were imagining yourself to be but you felt encouraged to go on and be your Batman self or your Little Mermaid self. You would never know that the grown-ups could see right through because they always greeted you as if you were the superhero or the princess. You were emotionally invested in the persona. Faking it at a young age gave you the freedom of your imagination and creativity to keep on putting on masks and trying them out as you got older. What stuck? What did you ultimately believe about yourself?

Emotions play a big role in all of our life pursuits. Emotions are our fuel. In his book, Happier, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar writes, “Emotions cause motion; they provide a motive that drives our actions; emotion, motion, motivation are intimately linked.” It is absolutely emotion that is driving my son to seek his independence and declare his abilities to himself and the world. Whenever I try to talk to him about this big step he gets emotional just trying to talk to me. It is emotion that drives the idea of “fake it ‘til you make it.” It is with emotion that we chose the costumes that we did when we were little. Emotion feeds our determination to conquer whatever we choose to do in life.

I have to wonder what his personal questions were:

1)      What motivates me to consider this move?

2)      What is the opportunity?

3)      Who do I need to be in order to become who I want to be?

The philosopher and founder of American Psychology, William James believed that  ”acting a certain way could make you feel that way.” In the thought processes of “fake it ‘til you make it” that is exactly the case. Hundreds of experiments have proved this theory correct. For example, a Clark University study showed that smiling, whether on purpose or naturally induced, made people feel happier. Try this experiment when you don’t really feel like smiling, smile wide and hold for 20 seconds. Take notice of how you feel during the experiment and at the end. Keep trying it and you will start to believe in the emotional effects of smiling.

Perhaps you are not taking a leap of faith and going out to conquer the world in the way my son has decided to do. Perhaps you are or will be a new college graduate and wondering what now? We live in tough economic times and finding a job in your field of study is not easy. You may and probably will have to take a job way outside of your degree in order to start paying back those student loans. Will you fake it ‘til you make it? Will you have the self-confidence and positive attitude to push forward no matter what? What mask will you choose to wear so that people outwardly will believe in who you are trying to become inwardly, but more so that you will start to believe in who you are trying to become? In every job experience you will have you will always need to ask yourself these questions:

1)      What gives my life a sense of purpose?

2)      What do I enjoy doing?

3)      What am I good at?

Answering these questions might guide you toward a calling or help you get through each phase of your life in general. Staying true to who you are and how you answer these questions will always lead you to doing good work. You might not yet know the answers to these questions because you are about to test them all out in the real world. Fake it ‘til you make it. Try on different masks and costumes until you find what fits.

DO smile always. People are attracted to smiling people.

DO stand up straight and tall and proud whether you feel like it or not. People will believe in your inner strength if they see it outwardly.

DO contribute where and when you can. Talk to people and be part of conversations. Make an effort to believe that you have something to say because you know what, you do have something to say, you do have worth and substance; you are enough.

DO know that you are not alone. There is a world full of people faking it until they make it; practicing to become the person they want to be.

DO know your own strengths. Take time to discover all the great success characteristics about yourself. It will empower you to smile more, stand taller and contribute endlessly.

DON’T hide in corners or find distractions like using your cell phone too often in social situations. Make people see that they matter to you and you will matter to them. People like to feel validated (and so do you).

DON’T gossip. Don’t tell tall tales and don’t talk about others behind their backs.

Dr. Ben-Shahar writes, “Happiness at whatever level, does not require a constant experience of ecstasy nor does it require an unbroken chain of positive emotions. To be happy, we have to feel that, on the whole, whatever sorrow, trials, and tribulations we may encounter, we still experience the joy of being alive.” There was pure joy in wearing those costumes so long ago. There can be joy in allowing life to be the teacher now. Putting on the fake it ‘til you make it mask has a more positive impact on the overall experience.  Despite feeling frustrated or let down by not getting that all important job in your field of study right away, smiling anyway, choosing to take each experience for all it’s worth goes a long way to help you and everyone around you believe that you are right where you should be. I know that my son will have no choice but to fake it ‘til he makes it because as far as the real world is concerned he is a newbie and at the same time doesn’t want his inexperience to shine brighter than his determination.

At the University of Rochester, researchers gave subjects an unsolvable problem. Those people that folded their arms in a stubborn pose persevered twice as long as the people that did not display any body language. A study in Singapore revealed that clenching your fist powers your willpower. Try some experiments to see if you can empower yourself to get through some tough moments.  Turn your have-to situations into want-to situations by readjusting your confidence and your attitude. Live “as if” this is exactly where you want to be, “as if” you are experiencing exactly what you hoped to experience. How we perceive the work we do, how we perceive the situations we are in matters more than the work or the situation. My son perceives his life’s journey to be in a different location from where he grew up, with different people surrounding him and influencing his perspective. He is approaching this with zest and humor and courage. What more could a mom ask for?

“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

What thoughts will you produce? What actions will you take to make your moments uniquely you? Will you smile anyway, will you laugh anyway, and will you allow for gain in the experience? What words will you say to start living “as if…?” What about you will you allow to bear your signature? Fake it ‘til you make it and enjoy the ecstatic experience. Journey On…

 

If you would like to explore how coaching can help move your life forward powerfully and purposefully, email Lisa for a complimentary 30 minute coaching consultation at: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com

Journey On Coaching Services would like to extend condolences to the victims and their families of the tragic Boston Marathon Bombing. I encourage all my clients to give to the American Red Cross or any charity in support of a stronger, happier, healthier America.

Are you really ready for the new year?

When December 1st hits I feel like every tick of the clock is amplified because with the end of the month comes the end of the year, perhaps the end of a decade or a century. Every day ends, every month ends but the end of December is somehow more significant. Conversely the monumental end of the month of December also brings the enormous beginning of a fresh and hopeful new year, a renewed commitment to old and new goals and old and new resolutions.

Resolutions are in the air. What are resolutions anyway? Promises we try to make to ourselves to do something different or better than ever before. Isn’t that the premise of change?

Whether graduating from school, going off to college, switching career paths, dieting or turning a new age, the word “change” is the main ingredient. For most of us change is very scary and hard to start; goals are hard to set. If we are lucky enough to get started on a change, on obtaining an elusive goal, it is even harder to continue and see it through. For some of us change is exciting, exhilarating. The path toward success with any type of change is our perspective about the change and our attitude throughout the change. The idea of “different” has most of us envious of those who accomplish their changes, meeting their goals and/or running for the hills when thought about in terms of ourselves.

Amy Wrzesniewski, a researcher at Yale University, came up with the term “job crafting” for individuals who completely enjoyed their jobs but they were also making little changes that made their job more enjoyable. In terms of life changes at this time of year I suggest “life crafting”. To put it simply, doing small things, taking baby steps to make your life more rewarding. People can change but at what cost? Change is a shift in identity. We can play with our identities and imagine many possibilities for our lives. Think about someone you know who has made a change, big or small. How did that person seem to behave through the change and as a result of changing? How did you feel in your reaction to that persons change? Now, think about yourself as you are today and in one year from today. If everything about the changes you want to make has gone as well as could be hoped for…

1-      What would the person you hoped to become look like?

2-      What would the changed life feel like?

3-      What is something small that you can do right now to take steps toward that better, resolute, changed life?

Making resolutions, promises to ourselves to change what we don’t like or increase power to what is already working is vital to our well-being. In support for our natural desire to change Robert –Biswas Diener says, “Goals are future-oriented benchmarks that help us organize our behavior. By establishing goals, both large and small, we establish a gauge for success, a guide for making decisions, and a target to move toward. In the absence of goals we tend to flounder.”

According to Jeremy McCarthy of psychologyofwellbeing.com, there are 10 strategies for accomplishing change, goals, and greatness.

1-      Know that change is possible.

2-      Know that change is not easy.

3-      Keep your eye on the prize BUT know that there will be hurdles to overcome.

4-      Don’t focus only on the goal, the change or only on the hurdles. Find a balance of foucs.

5-      Want the changes you seek. For example, “What would make me want to lose weight? “What would make me want to do more exercises? “What would make me want to stick to my goals for change?

6-      What is the smallest, easiest step to take that you know you can’t fail? For example if writing a book is one of your goals, try writing one sentence per day and before you know it you’ll have the makings of your book. It’s a step that there can be no excuses attached to.

7-      Recognize that there will be setbacks and plan for them. For example, IF I want to go to the gym to exercise after work and a colleague asks me to go to happy hour after work THEN I will either meet up with that colleague after my work out or get up early the next morning to go to the gym.

8-      Strengthen your will power. This can be done through meditation or personal challenges to test your resilience.

9-      Dig in and keep going. Persevere. Work hard to achieve your end result.

10-   Know when to let goals go. Sometimes, but rarely, will you realize that the path you are taking toward your change, toward your goal is not the right path. Be flexible enough to recognize that signs of a bad plan and be open enough to change course, change the plan but not give up on the idea of where you want to go.

In this new year that is fast approaching I wish you strength, perseverance and open mindedness toward your changes, your goals and your resolutions. Happy New Year!!!