Tell Me About Your Mother.

“Young children, who for whatever reason are deprived of the continuous care and attention of a mother or a substitute-mother, are not only temporarily disturbed by such deprivation, but may in some cases suffer long-term effects which persist
Bowlby, J., Ainsworth, M., Boston, M., and Rosenbluth, D. (1956)

A few years ago, I was at a conference and the presenter talked about a child they worked with that lived most of their life in foster care. This child experienced some of the worst kind of abuse imaginable and was removed from their parents care when they were very young. Even so, when the child turned eighteen, they sought out the parents on social media, bought a bus ticket, and went to find them.

Why would anyone do that?

The more we sense that we are effectively connected, the more autonomous and separate we can be.”
Sue Johnson

The need for approval begins with our parents. It is motivated by our need to survive. Human babies are the most vulnerable young in the animal kingdom. We are incapable of independently taking care of ourselves effectively for several years. This leaves us at the mercy of our parents/caregivers. We need them to survive. Even if they treat us poorly, we will continue to return to them in an effort to get what we need. We have no other choice.

I am going to love you even if you treat me poorly because I need to survive. 

This is not just about food and shelter types of survival. Our emotional and psychological development is directly impacted by the relationships with our early caregivers. For a lot of researchers and therapists, we talk about attachment theory as a way to understand interpersonal relationships (developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth). Attachment theorists suggest that the interactions between the primary care givers and the child creates a story in the child’s head about how relationships should operate.

If you have parents that are consistent in their parenting and are able to help you regulate your emotions by validating and comforting you when you are in distress, this contributes to the story you create about how relationships should be: patient, healthy, validating, and safe.

If your parents are inconsistent in their parenting and punish you or neglect you when you express the need for comfort, this will contribute to the story you create about how relationships should be: unpredictable, scary, hostile, and unsafe.

If you witness your parents engage in verbal or physical violence, this directly impacts you (spillover) because you are constantly worried that something is going to happen to the people that keep you alive.

This is some of the reason that therapists have the reputation for asking about your childhood. We carry stories created in childhood around with us for the rest of our lives.

I have known adults well into their fifties and sixties that still want their parents’ validation and approval even if it is unhealthy. The urge to connect with them and be validated by them may always be there to some degree. If you are one of those people, please stop beating yourself up for trying to have a relationship with your parents. You need to be mindful of your self-worth and manage healthier boundaries.

“May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
Kristin Neff

Remember, the world is not black and white, but always shades of grey. Just because you had consistent parents does not mean you will not struggle in relationships and just because you had inconsistent parents does not mean you will always struggle in relationships. Attachment stories are just some of the many stories we create over our lifetime.

If you feel like your story about relationships is unhealthy, the best thing you can do is see a professional therapist. They will help you see the patterns of behavior that lead to reliving this story repeatedly. If you are a parent and you feel like you might be inconsistent in your parenting or you need support or suggestions, please see a professional therapist that specializes in family and child relationships. 

You can absolutely have a happy and healthy adult life even if your childhood was not happy and healthy, but you might need help to do so.

What is more loving than getting the help you need to live a happy and healthy life?

Love.

“Just as children are absolutely dependent on their parents for sustenance, so in all hut the most primitive communities, are parents, especially their mothers, dependent on a greater society for economic provision. If a community values its children it must cherish their parents” (Bowlby, 1951, p. 84)

Apparently I’m A Flapper In New Orleans

“It’s also a great reason why changing a habit on a vacation is one of the proven most-successful ways to do it,” he says. “If you want to quit smoking, you should stop smoking while you’re on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren’t there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life.” – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

I never planned to write about my travel experiences while on this vacation. In fact, I have some unrelated posts in the drafts box that I planned to publish. It just so happens, that ideas are presenting themselves.

As we approached the streetcar for our first (ever) ride yesterday, Josh mentioned that I should write about “Travel Identity.” The concept piqued my interest. I remembered reading that if you wanted to start a new habit you should do so on vacation because you are removed from your daily triggers. Thus, allowing you more cognitive flexibility.

I am curious what this means for us in terms of our health while on vacation.

I wonder if part of the reason vacation is so healthy, is that we are free to step off the hamster wheel for a brief time. There is certainly a heaviness that comes with daily structure and there must be something healthy about being free from that. I find that I give myself permission to do things that I would not do otherwise.

For example, I have wanted a black flapper style hat with netting since we traveled to Paris a few years ago. We searched the stores, but I could never find just the right one. Instead, I bought a wine colored hat with some netting. It was not exactly what I wanted but it was still a fabulous hat. Our first day here we were exploring the French Quarter. I saw a store with hats in the window.

There it was: A black flapper style hat with netting.

“Flappers were a “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms” – Wikipedia

I bought the hat and wore it out of the store. I turned up my red lipstick and hit the streets and bars of New Orleans. It is pretty unlikely that I would do this where I live. What if someone saw me? It was not until the next morning on the street car that I wondered if buying and wearing that hat was a form of travel identity. Symbolically, my dog ate the last netted hat when I returned to my everyday life. Maybe he did this to say, this does not belong here.

I don’t think travel-identity is about running away or denying your real life-identity. It is about letting yourself be open to new experiences, trying new food, talking to new people, seeing new things, and allowing yourself to see how all of it feels. If you need me this week, I will be riding streetcars wearing a black hat and red lipstick.

“Self-identity is inextricably bound up with the identity of the surroundings.”
Lars Fr. H. Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

The First Day of An Adventure.

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

“This is way more important than a drink at the bar, the smoke we keep recycled in the dark. This is friends, this is life, this is the shit we did last night, and the memories that fade with sweet delight” – Anthony Adani, Matadors of Shame

I think my favorite thing about being in a new place, is the first day in that new place. I love how it feels to settle in to a new location and slowly notice the unique aspects about this corner of the world. The first day of an adventure feels the most ambitious and exciting of any day of the trip. As time wears on, we are forced to become acclimated to new places and even after a short time, they start to feel a little less new.

I am actively trying to avoid taking these moments of being in a new place for granted. I am reminded of the episode of The Office when Jim and Pam get married In Niagara Falls. She told Jim she was going to take mental pictures of the special moments because it was going to go so fast. I have tried to adopt that practice in my everyday life, but especially in moments like these. It’s true, before I know it, I will be back to my normal life (which is not awful, but is not vacation).

I will try to make sure I am especially mindful of savoring these fleeting moments of wonderfulness. 

I want to make sure to take time to actually form the memories. I can get so caught up in my mind: What happens next? What I should be doing? Sometimes I forget to actually pay attention to the fun I am having now. I am certain that my inability to stay in the present moment (and form a memory) is the reason I lose my keys, my purse, and my jacket on a regular basis.

I love taking actual photographs for this reason, but I want to remember more than the pictures. I want to remember the way it feels to be in this new place with people I love. If I do not pause to notice how I’m feeling in each moment, I will not be able to recall the feeling later. Maybe I am a sucker for sentimentalities.

My favorite memories of my childhood are from family vacations. For a few years in a row, we would pack up in the car and drive from Arizona down to a small fishing village in Mexico. I remember staying on the beach with my parents and my brother, looking out at the ocean and feeling an overwhelming sense of peace. My family has since dissolved and I wish that I had made a point to be more intentional about appreciating those moments.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look up from this laptop and make some memories.

“Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.”
Oscar Wilde

I’m Going Home.

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”
Stephanie Perkins

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”
Robin Hobb

I have not had a place to call home in 15 years. I do not have a hometown. Honestly, I do not remember what it feels like to go home and I don’t know that physical structures have ever really felt like home to me. For me, people are home. There are certain people, that when I’m with them, I am at home.

Tomorrow, I get to travel to New Orleans and meet up with two men that represent home for me. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world, when I’m with them, I can just be myself. I imagine that is what it feels like for some people to arrive at home.

I met Josh as a young graduate student. We were budding professional listeners, just trying to figure it all out. We soon realized, no one has any of this figured out. I was a woman in my early twenties and my self-worth was in the toilet. He was the friend I had been waiting to meet.

It was the friend version of love at first sight. Immediately, we challenged each other intellectually and comedically. We would talk about psychological theories and then wander seamlessly into jokes that would make most people uncomfortable.

The next man I get to be with is Nathan, Josh’s partner. He is the the epitome of loving kindness. I had the distinct pleasure of being present for their first kiss and being in their wedding.

I believe it was my relationship with Josh and Nathan that made my relationship with Mr. Beard possible. The summer before I met Mr. Beard, I had little to no self-worth. This was evident by my past relationships and the way I treated myself. Our friendships went into high gear the summer before I set off for even more graduate school.

Knowing I was moving away, I practically moved into their condo for most of the summer. I even renamed their couch my boudoir. It was over the course of this summer that Josh and Nathan reminded me that I was someone worth something. It was not as if I was explicitly begging for affirmations or validations, it was just the organic nature of our interactions.

I think we like to fool ourselves into thinking we do not need these types of validating relationships.

It was the first time in a long time that I did not feel as though I was too much for someone (too loud, too opinionated, too crass, too needy, or too nosy). My laugh has a reputation. It is loud, but they only tried to make me laugh louder. They never acted embarrassed by me (although they say they did). It was those little bits of consistent acceptance that made all the difference in my life.

I think when we pick people apart and tell them they are too much or too little of something, we damage them.

That summer they helped me put those little pieces of Too Much Sissy back in their deserving places. When I met Mr. Beard early that Fall, and he claimed to love all those “too much” parts of me, I believed him. I do not think I would have been able to believe him if I had not spent the summer before being loved back together by two wonderful men.

Our relationships have the power to build us up or break us down. I have known both kinds of relationships in my life and I know that the more time I spend with people that build one another up the better I am and, I think, the better they are, too. I am so incredibly fortunate to have a community of people that represent home for me. I hope they all know what they mean to me. Tomorrow, I get to go home to a place I have never been.

Love.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
Sarah Dessen

You Need A Vacation!

“What shall you do all your vacation?’, asked Amy. “I shall lie abed and do nothing”, replied Meg.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Once upon a time, I presented on the topic of managing stress in the workplace. Here is the scenario I gave them: Would you rather have two more weeks of vacation or a dollar more an hour?

There were roughly 100 people in the audience and not a single person chose the vacation time. I was not prepared for this response (I thought at least one person would choose more time off) and I had to adapt my presentation on the fly. Before I adapted my presentation, I could not help but lecture the room on the importance of using their vacation time.

“Unfortunately, as the workplace rewards the most driven, play time is seen as unproductive or lazy. Scientists discovered that when young rats are deprived of play, their brains don’t develop properly and their cortisol—our stress hormone—stays so high, the rats die.”

Now, I understand that many people do not get paid vacation or even paid sick time (which we should all be ashamed of). For example, many servers and cooks do not get paid sick time and often opt to work when ill because they need the money. Take a moment and think about that.

But for some people they all have hundreds of hours of paid time off just sitting in their accounts. For some people, they even lose the time off every year because it does not roll over into the next year or the cash in the time off for money. Maybe you can’t afford to go somewhere but you can certainly afford to stay home and rest. Please, take a staycation.

“The landmark Framingham Heart Study – the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease – revealed that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did not take time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.”

The research is clear. Taking vacation is essential to being a productive employee. You will be better at your job if you take some time away. You will also be a better partner and parent if you take time off. More importantly, using your time off will improve your overall health.

I’ve heard a lot of excuses in terms of why people do not take time off. I know that you’ll come back to hundreds of emails and you will miss meetings and conversations while you are gone. This missing out will provoke anxiety and that is perfectly okay.

The way business works is that the organization will wring you out for all your productivity (money) until you are worth nothing and then they will replace you with someone younger and cheaper. This is not political commentary, this is just the truth. Business is about money not about health. If only the people at the top understood, healthy employees create better business.

And what good is the money if you’re not alive to spend it or enjoy it being spent?

“Work while you can and rest when you must.”
Lailah Gifty Akita

I’m Minding My Own Business.

“Make somebody happy today. Mind your own business.” — Ann Landers

“Stay in your lane” – Katrina

In third grade, I had a teacher that told all the students in her classroom, “MYOB” (Mind Your Own Business). Once, I told her about something that someone else in the class was doing, and she looked at me and asked, “Are you minding your own business?” I was not, and I went back to my desk carrying the appropriate amount of shame not to make that mistake again.

I think many problems are avoidable if we keep our eyes on our own path but the challenge and balance is that our paths are always crossing with others. 

I strongly believe that asking kind and curious questions is the better alternative to making assumptions. I have seen many relationships fall apart because of making too many false and negative assumptions. Unfortunately, sometimes, asking questions can come across as nosy or judgmental.

I think this all depends on the situation and the type of relationship.

If only life were not so nuanced and complicated. There is a line in terms of asking the appropriate questions at the appropriate time. As a naturally curious person, I love to learn about people and hear their stories. It is no wonder that I spend my days listening to people talk about their lives. Professionally speaking, asking questions is a huge part of my job.

I think we cross the line when the questions feel intrusive or judgmental to the person on the receiving end. As we talked about in the post on, I Did Not Mean It That Way! When I asked a person how many pets they had, they perceived it as a judgment as opposed to curiosity.

I am learning not to ask questions when I do not want or need to know the answer. Most of the time, how people are living their lives is none of my business. By asking questions, I can also get drawn into people’s problems, which can (and has) caused me a great deal of anxiety. The line blurs between what is my problem, what is their problem, and what is not even a problem.

Knowing when you are crossing a line is especially challenging when it involves family or close friends. I sometimes say to myself “Sissy, mind your own business.” I love to help problem solve but many times people don’t need my (however well intentioned) help or they don’t perceive what I’m trying to fix as something that requires fixing. Sometimes when we offer unsolicited help or advice it can feel like we are passing judgment. Recently, I asked someone, “This is a bigger deal to me than it is to you?” and he responded, “It seems that way.”

I think the key is to do a better job just listening to someone without offering advice or suggestions and then ask the person if there is anything you can do to support the them.

We take it upon ourselves to feel responsible for everybody’s business. We will feel guilty if we don’t get involved. The flip side of this is: we don’t trust that others are capable of taking care of their own business. -MANAL GHOSAIN

And really who am I to be telling someone how to better live their life? We are all muddling around doing the best we can and I am definitely not an expert on living life. The people I love continually amaze me in terms of their ability to take on life’s challenges. I absolutely trust them to handle their business and I know they trust me.

If you need me, just ask, otherwise, I will be MMOB.

Love.

“Advice is a dangerous gift.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

The Dreadful “What If Land.”

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman

I have struggled with insomnia almost all of my adult life and have tried all the medications that my doctor could think of to help me sleep. They offer little help. My medical record (because we can see them online now!) literally, reads “patient doesn’t sleep.” Naturally, that is an overstatement. I do sleep, but not much. Unfortunately, I am not awake at 2am having a dance party or planning a great adventure. I am spending a lot of my time in the dark and dreary What if Land.

What is What if Land?

What If Land is the place in my mind where all the things that might go wrong play out in what if a variety of scenarios and at 2am it feels like my charge is to solve the problems before sunrise. This is when I work through every possible worst-case scenario until my mind is exhausted but I am still not asleep. Sometimes, I even wake up Mr. Beard to ask him his thoughts on a given scenario. I am sure that is buckets of fun for him.

In addition to medication to help me sleep, I have tried mediation, prayer, reading, writing, and watching television. Sometimes those things work but sometimes they do not. What does seem to help the most is reminding myself that I actually live in What IS land and to remind myself of What IS actually happening in the right now. Usually, it is that the house is quiet and my life is going pretty well. It helps to take several deep breaths and slow down. If there are problems I need to solve in the morning, I keep a note pad by the bed and jot them down.

This is a skill in mindfulness and staying present. 

What if Land is a function of my anxiety. My anxiety is the main culprit behind why I don’t sleep. I have what some have termed a fiery amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for our survival and for some odd reason my anxiety tricks the primal part of my brain to go straight for What If Land and get to work at 2am.

We all have anxiety, and on a scale from 1-10, I am the type of person that consistently hangs out above 5 whereas plenty of the people I share time with float closer to 3. Now, if it is 2am and I’m wandering the streets of What If Land I am probably closer to a 9. This makes traditional methods of stress management a little more challenging to implement.

“A stress response is a natural part of our survival pattern. The amygdala is believed to be the part of your brain that processes basic feelings. The amygdala plays a big role in sounding an alert for threatening situations and triggers fight or flight behaviors. This works well as long as there truly is a threat that you need to run away from or defend yourself against. Otherwise your body suffers from being on high alert when it doesn’t need that reaction.” – Karyn Hall, PhD

I often wish that 2am Sissy and 2pm Sissy could sit down and have a chat over some chamomile tea. It seems that 2pm Sissy has a much better grasp on her anxiety and is better able to avoid What If Land.

I have accepted that sometimes I will find myself wandering around What If Land knocking on doors and peaking in windows. I think my knowing it is probably always going to be there makes it a little less scary because I always have the power to bring myself back to What Is.

Love.

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Eckhart Tolle

I Need A Man.

When men are vulnerable women find them more desirable both emotionally and sexually. Women don’t want men to be vulnerable to “get” sex from them, but to be vulnerable so that they can be closer, which ultimately turns most women on. When women feel closer to men emotionally they want to be closer to them sexually and are more likely to feel safer and more adventurous because of it.” –  Andre Moore and Dr. Lisa Kaplin.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid that men will kill them” – Margaret Atwood

Gender socialization is a complicated issue and for the purposes of brevity, I am going to focus on male emotional vulnerability in this post. I think we would all be better off if men were afforded the same freedoms as women. Namely, to be human and to express their emotions honestly without the repercussions of being called names or being physically assaulted.

We socialize men to be angry or shut down (flat affect) and this is destructive beyond measure (you only have to watch the news everyday to see another incident of violence). If a man expresses sadness or vulnerability at a young age, we say things to him like “toughen up” or “stop your crying and be a big boy.”

If a boy plays with dolls (that we label “feminine”), we take the doll from their hands and give them a truck or a gun. A doll does not represent anything other than a role playing toy to a young child. In that moment, all they know is that they did something wrong and that something was “boys don’t play with girl toys.” They learn that to be feminine or associate with things feminine as weak and undesirable. The association is then if I do something weak I will get in trouble.

This is problematic for many reasons.

Men are humans, too. This means that they also naturally experience emotions like: sadness, fear, frustration, hurt, joy, happiness, anxiety, embarrassment, and hope (and on and on). When those feelings are not validated as a child, they learn that the only acceptable feeling is anger or disconnection. In addition, they feel shame when they inevitably experience the undesirable feminine emotions. This does not allow a man to safely and honestly express how he is feeling in relationships.

When this happens, it prevents men from having genuine connections with people because they were told that to express vulnerability is unsafe and I’ll get in trouble. This narrative is drilled into their heads in childhood, the story becomes rigid, and challenging to alter once these men are adults. For the millions of children that experience/witness violence in the home, this narrative becomes even more challenging to revise.

Then these same men want to know why they can’t find stable relationships. In healthy relationships, people need to feel safe. There is nothing safe about someone who is angry, unpredictable, insecure, and/or shut down. Not a lot of people want to cuddle up or be intimate with a ball of rage, insecurity, and/or anger.

However, because those emotions are validated and encouraged in childhood, it is confusing and often beyond the male and female understanding why these same skills do not work when we become adults. So, these men (and women) continue to try again and again to map these same emotional skills (anger, jealousy, rage, insecurity) onto their relationships only to have them fail again and again.

Allowing men and women to express their emotions safely and with validation will improve their lives and the lives of the people that cross their paths in the future. A person with the ability to understand and express their emotions is a healthy person with an increased ability to have and maintain healthy relationships with healthy partners.

Women, I am talking to you: when you shame a man for expressing vulnerability you are fueling this destructive narrative. 

“When we reach out and be vulnerable we get the shit beat out of us. And don’t tell me it’s from the guys and the coaches and the dads, because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else.” – Brene Brown (her research on male vulnerability)

We absolutely can do better. We can allow men and women to be honest about their feelings and validate their experiences from a young age, allowing them a happy and healthy future. If you are a man or woman and you feel like you are repeating unhealthy relationships, please enlist the help of a professional therapist. 

Love.

Thou Doth Protest Too Much: Your Perfect Life Freaks Me Out.

HAMLET
Madam, how like you this play?

QUEEN GERTRUDE
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

When I was training to be a professional listener, I had a clinical supervisor that regularly used the phrase “Thou Doth Protest Too Much.” She insisted that I pay close attention to people that propose that their lives are perfect without sprinkling in a few challenges once in awhile.

She said that no one is fine all the time and saying so was a smoke shield for something (perhaps something sinister even). She encouraged me to be suspicious and curious at all times (an interesting approach). I was not exempt from her suspicious curiosity. If I told her I was fine without offering up a struggle or two every so often she would say, “What are you not telling me?” She was right. If pressed, I could always offer up an obstacle I was facing that would benefit from some conversation. She said it just felt more genuine to share a blend of life experiences.

“Her vows are too elaborate, too artful, too insistent.”  

Now, after over ten years of professional and personal observations, I would agree with her assertion. I think we are socially trained to pretend that “everything is fine,” “my life is just so awesome”, or “I’m just so blessed.” Certainly, I hope that your life is fine, awesome, and blessed most of the time but it is impossible for it to be this way all of the time.

“It is suspected that, because someone is insisting too much about something, the opposite of what he or she is saying must be true” 

By no means is it my intention with this post to sound cynical or to deter people from sharing the wonderful things about their lives. I am just asking you to consider being honest with yourself when things are not perfect and being honest with the people that love you. We all have better days than others and we all encounter moments of imperfection (if not several).

I think with social media we are in a bit of a Catch 22. If you only share perfection people will say you’re bragging and if you share too much imperfection you are oversharing or begging for attention. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I think the best practice is to pick up the phone and tell someone you love you need a few moments of their time to talk (not text).

Because of my incredible supervisor, it freaks me out when you tell me your life is some variation of perfect. If you do try to pull that on me, I am probably going to slowly back out of the situation curiously suspicious of you.

Love.

Find this #Shakespeare quote from Hamlet at folgerdigitaltexts.org #FolgerDigitalTexts:

http://Found on folger.edu

I’m Circling The Starting Line.

When someone says, “I’m going through hell,” the best response is to tell them, “Don’t stop!”  If we see that pain, grief and tough times are a process and that it will get better, we’re less likely to get stuck in the hell. – Douglas Bloch

Imagine that you are preparing to run in a race and instead of starting the race when the gun goes off, you just start doing circles around the starting line. This is sometimes what fear looks and feels like.  On one occasion, I was circling the starting line by staring at a wall crying and feeling completely hopeless, when my grandmother looked at me and said:

“We just need to figure out the next step”

In that moment, she reminded me that all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. It felt like I could grab onto something for the first time.

At that point in my life, it was just too overwhelming to think any farther ahead. She sat with me and discussed what the next (healthiest, logical, feasible, and possible) step was. At times, this process was painful and required taking terrifying steps that felt like I was stepping off a into a dark abyss.

Approaching the situation one step at a time made it possible to move forward and eventually through the painful situation. All I ever needed to know was, the next step. When I felt overwhelmed I thought to myself: “This is just the next step, that’s all.”

I credit her approach to surviving an impossible situation. Fear can be paralyzing; especially, when you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. And, the path out a bad situation will include some scary and painful steps. Not all of the steps are painful but some will be.

The only way real way out of a place you don’t want to be is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will need support. You will need people who love you and will keep you accountable in terms of taking each step. You will need people holding your hands and loving you unconditionally as you take each step. I have learned that this approach can be used in any situation where I feel paralyzed by fear or confusion.

I take a step back and ask myself to consider only “What is the next step?”

In terms of this blog and other writing projects, it helps me stay focused and on track. And, in terms of my health, it feels much less overwhelming than setting goals of losing 100 pounds and cutting a 1000 calories. It helps to have the ultimate goal in mind so you know what direction you’re heading but life never goes as planned.  And. taking it one step at a time allows for the necessary flexibility when you will inevitably have to re-chart your course due to an unforeseen challenge or barrier.

It is also to be noted that taking a step backwards does not mean you are starting over. It is not a catastrophe to pause or slide back from time to time. In fact, I think it’s inevitable.

My grandmother has taught (and continues to teach) me countless incredible coping skills but this is one of my favorites.

Love.

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