On Friday’s, I volunteer with a day care program designed for people with early stage Alzheimer’s. I have the good fortune of selecting material for a reading and discussion hour. Today we talked about how a mother wished she had more patience and was never angry with her children but Mister Fred Rogers, educator and TV host, advised that the best thing we can do for our children is to express a wide range of emotions, including anger (just appropriately!) so that our children learn healthy habits.
I asked the class, “What is something important you wish to teach or talk to a child about?” The list was long but the answers that registered most with me were happiness, the power of prayer, compassion and the importance of helping others. I couldn’t agree more, adding my two cents, perfectionism is overrated.
I also mentioned that at my office we have something called COURAGEOUS DIALOGUE, a major factor that attracted me the company. If you have an issue with someone at work, regardless of their position, you ask for a Courageous Dialogue (CD) where you come together to work things out. Each person has the opportunity to hear the other one out, one on one, without judgment and under confidentiality. I have used the process and there is nothing more refreshing than hashing out a miscommunication before it festers into a larger problem.
My personal life isn’t always so tidy. Today I got an email that angered me to such a degree that I was speechless. If I were a cartoon character, you would have seen steam blasting out of my ears, my eyes the size of saucers and my hands accusingly placed on my hips. In real life, the surge of blood pressure caused a bloody nose, nature’s way of getting me to sit down and breathe, so I couldn’t get in the car and go confront the offender.
I can’t remember the last time I felt such disgust and rage. That part doesn’t really worry me – after all I’m only human. The real danger was that I started to doubt myself. When the anger left my body, it took along my self-esteem for company.
I phoned a friend. I took the high road and didn’t respond. I’ve learned that “TWA” or “typing/texting while angry” leads to bigger trouble so I shut off the computer, washed my face and cuddled with my doggie. I have a very good support system!
This is what gets me. I am perplexed by people who don’t have the integrity or maybe it is the courage to communicate honestly. These people, no I’ll call them gutless eunuchs, hide behind insulting emails, gossip and lies. These adults really disappoint me.
Listen, just do me a favor and stop playing this stupid game. We don’t have to be friends.
I’ll do you a favor. I won’t spend time with you so you won’t be reminded of how...
For most of my adult life I did not want anyone to know that things weren’t rosy behind the white picket fence. I thought if I admitted my struggle, it was a negative reflection on my character. It meant I was weak, incompetent, lazy, and maybe even stupid. Pretty harsh words, huh?
I was acting a part. I was the perfect wife, mother, friend and professional. What I didn’t know was that if you play the same role for years, you begin to forget who you are. You drift further and further away from your true self and become a character from your imaginary life; just going through the motions.
Avoiding those feelings or then deciding not to seek help meant that I could tune out what I didn’t like——-shut off the critical voice. I didn’t have to hear how horrible I was, however, there was a big price to pay. There were days that I would BLOW without provocation. More often I would cry in the bathroom or in the car – that is where I could touch up my makeup so no one knew I had been upset. Put on a pretty face and carry on!
Last week I touched base with a friend who seemed different but I couldn’t put my finger on it. They asked me for advice on how I remain positive despite the many things I have on my plate. I truly am happy despite living in one of the most stressful times of my life. My secret? Once I started to admit I wasn’t “FINE” every time some asked me, I started to feel much better. It sounds simple because it is.
Now I don’t go on and on, in intimate detail every time someone chirps, “Hi, How are you today?” I am not obligated to say FINE. I’d rather to say something I am happy or grateful for. It shifts my thinking over to the positive side.
Let me interrupt this thought with an important reminder. Before you start giving anyone advice, ask them if they WANT YOUR advice and if they do, speak only from YOUR OWN experience—that is your truth. If not, zip your lip.
Why did I choose to check my emotions? What was I avoiding besides the critical voice?
I thought my friends would judge me when they knew I was struggling. THEY DIDN’T.
I thought I would have to justify or defend my decisions. NOPE.
I thought they would abandon me to avoid the drama. NOT A CHANCE.
I thought I may intensify or attract more of what I wanted to get rid of. This is something to pay attention to. If you feel stuck and you are repeating yourself, there may be another issue at play. I am talking about letting the words flow through you—looking for a release and ultimately resolution. Solid and stuck versus fluid and liberating— can you see where I am going?
Acknowledging what you are feeling allows you...
For the last two weeks, the word ALIGNMENT has been on my mind. Perhaps this is a good thing since I am on a ten day business trip—the “Cara –Palooza”—jaunting across the country, meeting folks for my day job. I love meeting the clients in person but I have to say, sitting in airports and wearing the same two outfits over and over is making me cranky!
In simple terms, alignment can be defined as the proper placement of muscles so that your bones have to do less work and therefore expend less energy. (I always feel better after yoga!) Another example is how we balance the tires on our car so that they wear evenly. This makes sense in the physical realm, however, what does alignment mean in the non-physical realm?
Emotionally I feel neutral; like my tires are balanced or my weight is evenly distributed between my two feet. It took a concerted effort to land in this ZEN DEN. At first I would describe the feeling as hollow or floating. I didn’t know what to do without a whirlwind of turmoil in my head or anger in my gut. Slowly the practice of gratitude and living in the present shifted me into neutral. My mind is not fighting my emotions. I prefer to think I contemplate my emotions.
Last week my favorite Uncle passed away after a long battle with emphysema. He was plain tired of fighting and after a bought of pneumonia, he remained physically weak. We joked that he liked control down to the very last detail but I am sure that he felt both a spiritual and emotional alignment when he decided it was time to let go. Uncle Dave always made me feel good about myself and for that, I am blessed.
Alignment is not intuitive because evolutionarily, we are born to react. Being on the defensive or as I like to call it, being prepared (wink, wink), means I am threatened by you or I pose a threat to you. If you take time to smell the daisies, practice kindness or god forbid meditate, prepare to be mowed over!
Alignment is an active practice. It is a choice with a lovely pay-off.
As the “Cara Palooza” comes to a close, I feel the need to offer a Public Service Announcement for those of you who don’t travel often; to help you get into alignment of course! (and out of my alignment)
- The gate attendant will not forget to board the plane when it is time. You don’t have to remind them to do their job.
- Please exit the plane as you would exit a church service or wedding— ONE ROW AT A TIME.
- Do not block the aisle, hallway, sidewalk, etc. with your stuff. STEP TO THE SIDE.
- You loud talkers — STOP! Just because you have time to talk doesn’t mean you should.
- Use headphones— I am trying to read “Fifty Shades of Grey” in the row behind you and I don’t want to listen to that crap you have blaring at full...
What a night! Attending a dinner party on a school night seemed like such an illicit affair! Delicious food and even more delicious company! We sat at the dining room table and used the good china! I wouldn’t have cared if we had been served frozen waffles on paper plates. I am grateful for the opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
There was a spiritual kinship amongst the guests; five women who have reinvented themselves at least once if not twice in their lives. Women who shine because they possess the fine quality of being authentic; comfortable in the skin they embody.
At 7pm, a gong sound rang out and our “Hostess with the Mostess” let us in on a wonderful new practice. At the same time every day, the gong sound reminds her to stop and say a blessing for her friends. WOW—uber cool!
She learned of this practice while visiting a college friend and wanted to pass it along to us. This is the ultimate “hostess gift”. If you have read some of my previous blog posts, you know I proselytize the “power of the pause”!!! I absolutely love it this idea and thought I’d pass it along to you.
Let me share a few more notes from our gathering. We agreed that kindness never gets old. We discussed the importance of a “friendship network” and how confidence is the sexiest quality in a person.
Remember the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for!” I am a firm believer that the intentions you put out to the Universe will be answered but I was advised that the intentions I speak of may not be specific enough. Holy smokes, thank you. As a result, I made an appointment with the Universe today and restated my intentions in very specific terms! Phew.
I am reminded of a story where a blind man was granted one wish. You would imagine he would ask for his sight but his wish was as follows and I paraphrase, “I wish to be standing on the roof of my mansion, covered in gold, watching my many grandchildren play in the vast garden.” Was he greedy? Maybe but the moral of the story is to ask for exactly what you want. Just sayin!
Today I felt a renewed sense of creativity. Was it the result of the gathering? YES! The people you surround yourself with can lift you up or drain you. Be selective with your time.
You are your most valuable resource.
Thank you, ladies!
From the heart,
Photo credit: spiritsentient.com
Some things don’t change and in this case, it’s a good thing!
My friend Simone and I were sifting through a box of old photos and memorabilia this weekend. There in a wrinkled envelope, written on index cards, was a speech I wrote when I was eighteen years old. Of course, Simone couldn’t resist a reading it through it. Yes, reading it, in full character voice as well pointing out each one of my spelling errors! (Spell check hadn’t been invented yet—dare I date myself?)
In the speech, I shared my wishes for my classmates, friends and family.
–to find a career filled with passion while leaving time to play and rest (did you notice that CAREER was the first thing on the list? I was a product of the times—ready to take on a man’s world.)
–to practice patience, especially during the most trying times (overrated; nothing more to say. Next!)
-to understand the importance of a sense of humor (absolutely – how wonderful it is to laugh so hard you snort or squizzle)
–and finally, friendships are the key to living a long healthy life (AMEN! Enough said)
I have a hard time connecting to the person I embodied at eighteen but it is pretty cool to see I was already inspiring people to find happiness and live with passion! The words may have sounded foreign but they served as a compass for my life. I still follow this compass but now I call it, “My Girlfriend Voice”.
And by the way, this photo shows that some of my best times were in my robe and PJ’s. Some things never change! (me at 18 in red bandana)
From the heart,
So Sadness Enhances Creativity?
I was listening to a radio interview on the topic of creativity and one statement stuck in my brain. Four days later and I’m still thinking about the theory that sad people are the most creative people. At first I thought of tortured artists like Van Gough and Pollack but weren’t they dealing with more than mere sadness? OK, perhaps I am getting too analytical.
When I was sad, I didn’t feel the creative spirit pouring out of me. I was tired and cried all the time. My most creative venture was getting dressed—if there was anything clean to wear! If I was really creative I could a make dinner out of supplies in the pantry.
Why would sadness unleash creativity? My theory is that the INNER CRITIC voice may be dampened to the degree that creativity sees an opening and feels safe to explore.
Blessings did arise from my sadness. Through cognitive behavior therapy, I learned how to work with my emotions and completely embrace myself. I am a work in progress, don’t get me wrong, but I start each day grounded in gratitude and seeking happiness.
My Girlfriend Voice (MGV) came to light during my sadness. I noticed I had this soothing, compassionate voice in my head. For example, if I was contemplating how to handle a snarky comment from my former boss my MGV would say, “You can go down to their level or just let it go. You’ll make the right choice”. The choice was mine. I love having choices!
Had I listened to my inner critic that day, it probably would have said, “Here we go again. Why do you put up with this crap? Why don’t you have a new job? Are you too lazy to look for one? You should…… Why don’t you…. OMG! Loser.”
I came to realize that the words the inner critic was delivering to my head were so harsh, things I would never dare utter out loud to another person. Why would I talk to myself in such an abusive way? My inner-dialogue, lacking any sort of compassion or trust, shredded my self-confidence and squashed my objectivity. It was a form of self-mutilation because words are weapons.
The more I listen to MGV, the less I hear from my inner critic!!
It would be unrealistic to think I could completely eliminate my inner critic. Perhaps there is something important buried in those harsh words? Again, it is my choice to take what I want and leave the rest behind. I’ve tried giving my inner critic an appointment time– like the DMV. I tell her I’ll listen with undivided attention as long as what she says is helpful, kind or beneficial. I’m not into whining or belittling but rather finding a solution. Funny, she hasn’t come to call nearly as often. ♥
From the heart,
Did I Just Say That????
Dang I can be brillant! Have you ever have one of those moments, smack dab in the middle of a conversation, where you say something so amazing that you have to pause and write down your own words? I had one of those recently when chatting with one of my girlfriends!!!
Here is my illuminating moment….. “When it comes to the people in your life, you are either on the same wavelength or you complement one another like Ying and Yang”. If a relationship requires too much fixing, thinking, wishing, primping, etc., then hey, what’s up? Why invest so much energy?
Time is a valuable asset; it is your MOST valuable asset. If you use your time to morph people into something that they are not, is it worth the effort? Even if they go there, they won’t stay there long. Why is it up to you to direct another person to change anyway?
Entering a relationship with the desire to change someone is not going to go well!
Let’s flip the situation because I know people who try to morph me into something I am not to fit THEIR needs! Not only do I feel uncomfortable, I start to resent the feeling of not being good enough. No one defines me but me.
Maybe friendships work for two simple reasons.
- You are on the same wavelength: you can actually finish each other’s sentences! You often communicate without a sound—reading each other’s mind (or eye roll!) Sisters of a different mother! Comfortable.
- You are the complement of one another: the introvert and the extrovert, the left brain and the right brain. You COMPLEMENT one another and there is no pressure to be anything but your lovely self. You bring out the best of one another. Surprisingly this works like Lucy and Ethyl, Laverne and Shirley.
Simple and sweet.
What do think? Do you have more friends in the first category or the second? For me I have very few in the “opposites” category. Can’t wait to hear from you!
From the heart,
Elephant image from laurenconrad.com
What I Want… A letter to my son
What I want for you, my son….I want you to see me as a person. I am more than your parent. I am a creative, generous, sensitive woman.
I want you to understand that it is difficult providing you the space you need to make mistakes. I want to shelter you from hurt and disappointment. Parenting is the most difficult thing I have ever done and most of the time I don’t feel very good at it.
I want you to be comfortable in your own skin; never feeling inferior or inadequate. You are responsible for your own happiness.
I want you to realize that unresolved anger seeds resentment; a toxic companion. Exercise the power of forgiveness and feel your heart open.
I want you to feel the beauty of true love and how it feels to share your heart, your fears and your dreams with someone who loves you for who you are.
I want you to know that we may not always agree but I will always love you. I am blessed share my life with you.
Editor’s Note: Although my sons are now 19 and 21, I felt it may be time to tell them again what I want for them and what I consider to be life’s most important concepts.
From the heart, Cara
Advice? It’s an Artform
ADVICE. It sounds like a simple topic yet giving and receiving advice is a mine field or should I say MIND field which potentially disables otherwise healthy relationships.
Think back to the last time you received unsolicited advice. I bet it didn’t feel good regardless of the topic. As soon as I hear “YOU SHOULD”, my hackles go up. I stop listening. It’s like you’re holding my arms down and force feeding me worms. Stop already! I am super sensitive to you know-it-all “do gooders” that try to tell me what to do!
Because I am sensitive to unsolicited advice givers, I try to mind my P’s and Q’s and keep quiet. If I had to guess, I would say that the catalyst for giving unsolicited advice likely falls into one of three categories:
1) POWER PLAY. The need to be the authority figure or the need to feel important.
2) DRAMA QUEEN. The “need to be needed” a monster fed on a strict “drama diet”.
3) ALTRUISTIC DO-GOODER. An eager but authentic desire to help.
So what if you are asked to provide advice? Is there a good way to offer your thoughts without blowing up the MIND field?
GOLDEN RULE: DO NOT OFFER ANY ADVICE UNLESS YOU ARE ASKED FOR IT.
Then when you do speak up, you address the topic from your own experience. “I found or I did” over “you should”. Speak from your truth. The recipient takes what they want and leaves the rest. The quality of your advice has nothing to do with their actions. You are not tied to their outcome.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you don’t know if you are being asked for advice??? If in doubt you can say, “do you want to know what I think?” And then be prepared to stop talking if they say no! (easier said than done!) Engage brain before engaging mouth. I find myself in this position quite often with my boys.
Please, only give sincere advice that you support and would follow yourself! Be credible. If not, your words feel cheap. There is no other way I can think to describe it. I can smell “cheap” a mile away! Save your breath.
Now the flipside……you are the advice seeker. You are looking for guidance so consider this:
- The SOURCE. Am I asking the right person for advice? I wouldn’t ask my son for parenting advice nor would you want me to give you advice on your investment portfolio. Am I going to someone that is afraid to tell me the truth? Do I trust that they will have my best interest in mind? That they will be honest!
2. Feeling RESISTANCE. If I run up against resistance, I know there is something else going on and I probably need guidance. This week I was asked to...
My Sadness is a Verb not a Noun
“Scratch her and she’ll bleed sadness.” Wouldn’t that be a great opening line for a novel? Truth is stranger than fiction. This is my story.
When I feel sadness, I am immediately fearful. Is this the sadness that feels like a wet fur coat in July? Is it the same sadness that sat on my chest and poked me until I cried? No. This is different. My current sadness is a verb; not a noun.
A few years ago, I toppled into a clinical depression. I remember sitting in the ER while my son was being treated and something popped. It was like the last bubble of resolve in my brain expired and I was overcome by darkness. My heart ran out of blood. I tumbled into unknown territory so fast I couldn’t identify what I was going through. It was hard to breathe. I was a shadow of my former self.
In the beginning I was extremely successful hiding depression from everyone close to me. As my depression continued, it got to the point where I had trouble leaving my house. Frankly I had trouble doing anything except crying. I raged at myself and the feelings of inadequacy—if I were smarter, somehow different, worked less, exercised more ….. if (insert anything her) then I wouldn’t feel so hopeless.
I was living on CONTINGENCY. As long as everyone else was doing well, I was doing well! Things were falling apart fast and based on this system, I too would become a casualty. I was taking zero time for myself, not only for self-care but time for feeding my passions. I was living for my kids, had my identity tied up in my job and felt invisible in my marriage. Kaboom. There she blows! I had nothing to ground me in the storm.
Depression affects all people regardless of geography, socio-economic status and age. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression; often stemming from an inability to process or express anger. In the midst of depression, it feels like a glass divider separates you from the world. Help is just too far away or you don’t feel worthy of the help.
Depression is a pit of despair. The walls are high enough to keep you trapped inside and out of sight.
Now when I feel the sadness running through me but it doesn’t knock me down or overwhelm me. Why? I am giving myself permission to sit with “uncomfortable” feelings. From this struggle I will grow. I am confident of that fact.
I have learned to give myself permission to feel. Everyone struggles!!! I take care of the little girl inside, craving to be healed. I am pursuing my passions. I laugh, I sleep, I dance. I work really hard and play even harder.
If you walk in the rain, you get wet. This is how I describe my current...
When I Count My Blessings I Count You Twice
I have a plaque with this phrase hanging by my front door. Every time I come and go, I am reminded that my blessings outweigh my struggles. Focus on the good stuff—–
Lately I’ve had to remind myself of my many blessings because the past two weeks have been hell– laden with struggles. I am being tested! My Girlfriend Voice consoles me and agrees with my plan. In order to take care of myself, I will pull back on my social commitments and activities. I tell myself, “Put on your oxygen mask first before assisting another passenger”. Slow down. Recalibrate. Listen to your body. Indulge in a little self-care.
In the past I equated struggling with being weak and dammit, I AM NOT WEAK. If I didn’t solve each and every problem–figure things out– then I was a failure. Struggling was NOT ACCEPTABLE. Stupid people struggle. Incompetent people struggle. Struggle = weak = failure.
“Never see her sweat,” was my motto but it was exhausting to operate as the perfect woman. I didn’t allow myself to see how unrealistic it was to be a super hero Mom, supportive friend, patient wife and creative business woman all at the same time. Talk about setting myself up for crisis!
Fortunately I learned and now believe that struggling is an accelerator of growth. Struggling is the indicator light on my dashboard that it is time to pause.
On Thursday night I admitted to my friends that I was in a vulnerable place and needed a quiet weekend for self-care so I cancelled our plans. It reinforced what I already knew —- I have phenomenal friends! Friends, who despite what struggles they are going through, such as the death of a parent or unreasonable job expectations, offer to help ME. I can call on them for a late night chocolate delivery, a shoulder to cry on, a belly laugh, retail therapy—you name it. They are there for me, just a phone call (or text) away. No worries about being judged or criticized. My gals got my back!
What is even better is that my friends don’t rely on my drama to feel important. They don’t require updates, solutions, or explanations. They are not trying to fix, save or remodel me. One gal pal in particular is so good at asking me, “do you want me to strictly listen or are you looking for advice?” Sometimes I just want to say (scream) things out loud and have her listen to my ramblings. Sometimes I need her advice. Sometimes I want to hear about her life so I can momentarily forget about mine.
Living an imperfect but perfectly authentic life is so refreshing! To my girlfriends……THANK YOU. You are my SOUL SISTERS of SOLACE! Your Girlfriend Voices have comforted me more than you know!
How do you feel about struggling? What is your support system?...
Today I smelled a hint of spring in the air and for me there is almost nothing better than connecting with my garden. I decided to plant the Hollyhock seeds I’ve been saving from my previous garden. (Clarification: this weekend I found the seeds I put away when I moved a year ago! Time to plant them before I lose them again!)
Planting seeds is a wonderful visual. I hope that my little seeds will become stately stalks of color but I won’t know for many months. What do I have to lose? I lovingly set them in moist rich soil and wish them a safe journey.
I love giving time and attention to my garden because it graciously receives all my efforts. (and there is no talking back!) I give and give and have no expectation of any return. Is that a crazy statement? Not at all, especially if you know me! It is one of the few things I do where I plan, nurture and happily accept the results. I have no control over the weather. I do my part to fertilize, water and place plants where they will thrive. The rest of the work is up to those little seeds.
My seeds are my hope and a reminder that life has seasons.
Resentment is like a seed. You put it away but it grows—it doesn’t need light or water; just time. Resentment takes up valuable space. I think of resentment like an AA battery left too long in my desk drawer. The acid slowly leaks out and ruins things, leaving a rusty stain behind.
Angry feelings left unattended will seed resentment. Is it realistic to assume can avoid resentment when anger is a natural emotion?
The next time you get angry, ask yourself a few questions BEFORE you react.
Identify the ONE thing that irks you most—was it an insult? Someone let you down? Was there lack respect or appreciation? Resist the urge to rehash the entire situation by focusing on the predominant offense.
What is your role in the situation? For instance were you relying on telepathy to communicate? (I do it all the time!) Were your expectations out of line? Did your mood invite or elevate the situation?
Have you allowed this behavior in the past to go unaddressed? Do you say “whatever” and silently seethe?
If we understand the anger, we can prevent the anger from seeding poisonous resentment.
There were times in my life when I wore resentment like armor. You see, I love someone afflicted with addiction. Addiction is a disease—not a lifestyle. I have been disappointed, irate, terrified, and sad beyond words but then I look at that four letter word H.O.P.E. I have HOPE that he will be safe and find his way. I have hope that I will continue loving him without judgment.
I also was in a long term relationship where I felt unappreciated; where sarcasm was considered “affectionate banter”. I thought that no response was the right response...