This Year Answered Questions.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Today is the last day of 2015. For me, this year both asked and answered questions. I will say, that it was the first year in a very long time that answered more questions than asked. I’m not sure if one is better than the other but tying up loose ends does feel good.

This year I learned, in ways that shocked me, to let go, and trust that things will work out. I have much more faith in the power of prayer/hope/wish/intention. I let go in a number of areas of my life and things fell into place in ways I would never have guessed. For this, I am incredibly grateful.

I learned that when you live your values (mine being: love, gratitude, adventure, connection, compassion) your life falls together in a magical way. Of course, there are always struggles and pains. There is no day that passes without some sour. But, when you know what you want for your life and you know what direction you’re heading, it makes the sour more palatable. Identifying my values, knowing what I want for my life, and having the courage to go after what I want were my major accomplishments of 2015. I will continue on this path in 2016.

But what of the struggles? Naturally, there are always growing pains. I definitely experienced painful moments in 2015. I am still working on things, but with a little more compassion for myself. Although I live my life out loud on social media and this blog, my personal intentions and limitations are just that, personal. Maybe, I’ll share what I’m working on at some point, but not today. Rest assured, my to-do list for 2016 is plenty long.

What do I hope for you my sweet lovelies in 2016? I hope you trust yourself a little more. I hope you have the courage to go after the things you want. I hope you believe the world is full of opportunity and potential. I hope you care less about what other people think and worry only if you are living a life consistent with who you want to be. I hope you share time with people who tell you that you can move mountains and chase the stars. I hope you smile at people who remind you of your limitations, knowing they’re wrong.

I hope you get to see Adele in concert because Lord knows I tried to get those tickets.

So, my sweet lovelies, let us see what 2016 will bring. I’m thinking it will be magical.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne
And there’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand to thine
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne”

Love.

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My Favorite Love Stories.

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth”

-Kahlil Gibran

“I, I should have told you I would be difficult.
I should have shown you the scars on my soul.
I should have told you I wanted you,
I wanted you to take care of me
without allowing you to gain any of my control.”

-Lori McKenna, Beautiful Man

Love can look like a grand gesture played out on a megatron at a baseball game. But, my favorite place to find love is in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives. That is where the best kind of love lives and thrives. That is where the grows. These are my favorite love stories.

My lovelies, let me share with you my favorite love stories.

“One forgives the other”

“One takes the garbage out”

“One smiles at the other when the house is a mess and the kids are screaming”

“One crawls up next to other as they cry on the bathroom floor, and just holds them”

“They catch eyes at a party and just know it’s time to go”

“One grabs the other’s hand while at the grocery store”

“One grabs the other around the waist while making dinner and thanks them”

“One looks at the negative pregnancy test and says to the other, while hugging: We’ll keep trying”

“One remembers that the laundry needs to be folded and does so”

“One remembers that today is going to be a long day for the other and does everything they can to make it a little easier”

“One makes dinner for the other”

“One picks up a bottle of wine on the way home to share with the other”

“One holds the other at a funeral”

“One takes the other to the hospital at 3am”

“One calls the other and can’t wait to tell them the good/funny news”

“One kisses the other when they get home. A good long kiss.”

“One tells a story about the other, proudly, in front of a group of people”

“One walks the dog”

“One gives the kids a bath”

“One loves the other’s friends and family even when it isn’t easy”

“One does something just because it might make the other smile”

“One tells the other that they’re sorry”

“One cuddles up next to the other while they sleep at night and whispers “I Love You” in their ear”

“One endures a rom-com or action movie just to share time with the other”

“One takes the kids to the other room to give the other a moment”

“One cuddles with the kids and the other as they watch a movie and share laughs”

“They have a dance party in the kitchen on a Tuesday night”

“One listens to the other patiently and kindly”

“One asks the other what they need”

“One forgives the other for being selfish or mean”

“One forgives the other for moments of thoughtlessness”

“One forgives the other for forgetting”

“One always, every day, forgives themselves and the other”

“One kills the bat that’s flying around the house while the other hides under the bed”

“One cheers for other while they play a video game”

“One tells the other they’re beautiful or handsome and the other believes it because they can see the truth in the other’s eyes”

You see, love is so simple. We make it hard by forgetting to take care of it. When you love someone the love becomes it’s own thing. Love is like a plant and needs to be watered and fed all day every day or it withers and dies.

The greatest love stories are summarized by: “I didn’t quit when it was hard” and “I forgave them.” I am not impressed by a fairy tale that ends when they marry or involves a handful of dramatic gestures. I want to know what happens when one of the partners royally screws up. I want to know how you love one another in the minutiae of daily life. That is where a love story is created. That is also where a love story can be destroyed.

Do me a favor, look at your beloved today and say: “Sweet, baby, honey, darling, I love you and I am so grateful for you and this life we share.” I hope this makes both of you smile and softens what ever life has placed before you.

If you are unable or unwilling to say those words to your partner, you need to think about what is happening in your relationship. Because, my lovelies, if you can’t say that, your love is dying or already dead. 

“I don’t mind spilling my hot sauce onto my white shirt
I don’t mind the twinge when I walk in that knee that I hurt
I don’t mind if my gums peeling back or my hair getting thin
Long as I’m with you I win, long as I’m with you” Ani DiFranco, Smiling Underneath 

Love.

Revel In Your Ignorance.

“Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.” -Stephen R. Covey

We live in a “know it all” society. We take pride in feeling like our perspective or view on things is correct and if anyone challenges that view our default is to say/think they’re wrong and we’re right.

I believe this is rooted in not wanting to feel vulnerable or appear dumb. But, it is simply impossible to know everything about everything. It doesn’t matter how educated you are, there is always more to learn and always things to be curious about.

In fact, I promise you, there are plenty of topics that you know nothing about. The only way to learn is to admit you don’t know. I think we have to be willing to confess when we don’t know what someone is talking about and ask them to clarify to help us understand. My guess is that a lot of people nod as if they understand what is being said and seek out the information on their own, if at all. In these cases, the opportunity to connect with another person is lost. 

I’m wrong about things all the time. I make comments and the people in my social circle correct my false assumptions. Or, I read a news article or book that helps me better understand the world. But, the best way to learn about the world is to be in the company of people that are different than you. There is no better way to learn than to listen to the lived experiences of others. There is something incredibly powerful about really listening to another person. These moments have the potential to change the way you see the world. I love those moments in my life. I live for those moments. Much of the time, those moments result in the realization that I was ignorant about something and may have said or done things that were hurtful with this ignorance.

The most confident people are openly ignorant. I think that confident people admit when they don’t know something as opposed to saying things like: “I’ve read this and worked here and my parents told me” Those statements let me know you’re scared to admit that maybe you don’t know something or understand what is being discussed. There is a beautiful vulnerability in admitting you don’t know but want to know and want to try and understand.

Ultimately, it’s lonely being right all the time. It’s lonely when you “know it all.” Human connections will always be made in moments of vulnerability. In my experience the inability to admit ignorance results in feeling angry or indignant. Who wants to live in that skin all the time?

Admitting ignorance and embracing vulnerability is honest and it just feels good (sometimes it feels scary, too). 

Finally, there is an important distinction between hate speech/actions and ignorance. If you don’t understand something you do not have permission to harass/tease/act violent towards the things you do not understand. It is better to try and understand or say nothing at all. People gather together (in real life and on the internet) around these types of hateful actions in an effort to avoid appearing ignorant.

So, let’s keep asking questions and trying to learn more about the other people in the world. Let’s embrace our ignorance.

Love.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
Stephen Hawking

I Know Where Your Keys Are.

“Multitasking is a lie”
Gary Keller

(Note: Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and literally lost my keys last week and cannot find them anywhere. So it goes.)

I spend a lot of time looking for my keys. A friend of mine even put up a hooks for my keys at each entry point of my house because he was tired of spending time helping me look for my keys. I am ashamed at how seldom I use the key hooks. The reason I forget where my keys are is not entirely a function of a bad memory (that I know of).  It is that I am not paying attention when I put them down. When I come home from work, I drop my bags and keys where I stop and this is not the same spot everyday.  Thus, the search for my keys becomes a regular struggle.

If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing I can’t form a memory of the event.

This is what happens when you’re scrolling through social media on your phone and your partner asks you something and later says “remember when I asked you about this?” and you really cannot remember. You did not form a memory. You were not paying attention to what the person was saying and so it was not absorbed into your brain.

Yes, people can struggle with short-term memory challenges but a lot of what I see happening is not memory problems as much as a lack of paying attention to your life. This can be because you are thinking of what you have to do next, you are watching television, you are reading, you are on the phone, or you are anxious about something and hanging out in What If Land. The truth is you were not paying attention to what was happening in the right now.

How to improve your memory (unless you legitimately have a brain injury or a neurological disorder; if so, contact a physician).

Slow down.

Do one thing at a time and take your time doing it.

Pause while doing the task and review what you are doing.

Limit unnecessary outside noise so your brain only has to process one thing at a time. This is why when we are driving and lost (or the weather is bad) we turn the radio down. It allows our brain to focus on the task at hand.

Do not agree to do things you do not have time to do.

Sometimes it helps to say what you’re doing out loud as you are doing the task. For example, when I leave the house I say, “Doors locked, dogs inside, gate up, alarm set, good to go.” This way if you are stressing about whether or not you did those things you will remember that you went through the task out loud. You will have formed a memory that you did this and will be less likely to stress all day about if you locked the door or not.

I know it’s a bummer that a vast majority of us cannot do two things at once and do them well. And, I know that some of you won’t believe me and will even pride yourself on your ability to multitask.

But:

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” Travis BradberryMultitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest

So, take your time getting things done and then come help me find my keys.

Love.

 

Merriest of Christmases!

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Hello my sweet lovelies,

As usual, I underestimated the amount of stress and obligation the Holidays would bring. It appears that I will be taking a leave from my daily posts in an effort to preserve all that is left of my sanity.

I am preparing for a super special event (CHRIMBUS). I once struggled with Christmas and now I host a wonderful Christmas event (that lasts for days). And, it is the most perfect kind of Christmas filled with too much laughter, too much love, and too much joy. Just as Christmas should be.

I will take leave from my blog post to revel in the love that is about to fill the walls of my house. I wish you all a holiday season filled with more love and joy than you can handle. Please, remember to take care of yourselves and cherish each moment as they pass too quickly.

Talk soon.

Love.

The Easiest Meditation Ever.

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention, otherwise whole days, even a whole life, could slip past unnoticed” – Jon Kabat Zin

The research is solid: Meditation is one of the healthiest practices you can employ to improve your quality of life and overall health.   

Meditation is simply the practice of pausing.  I think there are some misconceptions related to the practice of meditation. To meditate, one is not required to spend hours sitting cross-legged on a pillow while chanting (although that can be pretty incredible). And, it does not have to involve eastern religions.

We live in a culture that pushes us to constantly be on the move. In an effort to integrate mindfulness (paying attention on purpose) meditation in my daily life, I have truncated my meditation practice to fit into the cracks of my day.

Let me share with you my daily mediation practice.

When I wake up in the morning, I pause for a quick moment to breathe and be thankful before getting out of bed.

Then throughout my day, I pause, stretch my body, take three to six deep breaths (or more), and check to see how I’m feeling (am I hungry, am I happy, am I frustrated). I like to look out the window and see what is happening in the world (at this moment it is a sunny winter day). I rest my eyes and my shoulders. This practice takes no more than one minute. I repeat this practice about every hour.

Before I fall asleep, I pause and reflect on my day. I check in again to see how I’m feeling. I take a number of slow deep breaths and I reflect on the things for which I am grateful. I also reflect on moments where I may have not been the best version of myself. I try not to make this a punitive practice (trying to be more self-compassionate and all) but that is a work in progress.

Typically, that is all there is to the way I meditate. 

On days where spaces of time open up, I will spend more time breathing and being grateful (remember gratitude is the KEY to happiness). And because I’m human, there are days where I drag myself out of bed, maybe pause once (if at all), and fall asleep without any reflection. I am doing the best I can.

For some people, when they pause they use Bible verses like: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

For others (I use these a lot) they use Metta Meditations or Loving Kindness Meditations: “May I have peace, May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I have love

With meditative practice you can do and say what ever brings you to the present moment. Remember: The goal of meditation is not to make thoughts or feelings go away or “feel better.”  The goal is to simply and kindly notice what you are thinking and how you are feeling. This awareness can help reduce reactivity and defensiveness and soften your overall approach to life.

“Nothing was ever so unfamiliar and startling to me as my own thoughts.” Henry David Thoreau

The Bully Is Calling From Inside The House.

“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

Bullying is serious issue plaguing schools. It is also a complicated area of concern. It is curious to me that we address bullying in schools, but we don’t connect that behavior back to what is happening in the home. In my experience, children who bully are often experiencing one or more of the following:

1) Being bullied/abused/neglected in the home by parents/caregivers

2) Witnessing bullying in the home (e.g., parents calling each other names or acting violently towards each other)

3) Listening to their parents verbally bullying friends or family in front of them (e.g., that idiot, what a slut, he can’t do anything right, your sister is a bitch, your brother is a moron)

4) Viewing bullying on the television (pick any news channel)

5) Watching their parents or older siblings laughing at Vines or YouTube videos that include mocking, teasing, and/or physical mistreatment

6) Being bullied by an older sibling, cousin, kid on the bus, etc.

The lesson the child learns: The people that I love and that love me and take care of me think this behavior (bullying) is appropriate (and even funny). They find a vulnerable kid in the classroom and act according to what they witness playing out in the home.  What is worse, the vulnerable kid they target might also be experiencing bullying in the home, but instead of acting out they retreat inside their own heads.

A child learns more by watching the people in their world than they do by listening to directions. We need to do a better job connecting the home environment of the child and the behaviors of the child in school if we want to fully address and eventually eliminate bullying. For example, an adult cannot make fun of homosexuals (condemn them, say they are going to Hell, call them sissies) in the home and then scold their child for doing the same thing at school. Moreover, the parent sometimes sides with the child in private, saying that people are too sensitive. Imagine how confusing that is for a child. The child does not know if bullying is bad or good.

Many people are incredibly self-critical (I am not good enough, I am fat, and I’m dumb) and critical of others (my boss is an idiot and my coworker is a bitch). Complaining and criticism begets complaining and criticism. When left unchecked, this outlook leads to misery, anger, and resentment. And, it is often paired with “It’s not my fault I’m unhappy, it’s that idiot I have to work with (or I’m married to).” The child adopts these same thoughts and beliefs (spillover). And, the child learns that their happiness is not their responsibility and/or they do not have the power to make themselves happy.

When I am working with children, I hear these adult expressions coming from their mouths and I know exactly where they are really coming from. Frequently, adults do not appreciate how closely children are paying attention to the events occurring in their world. I promise you, they hear and see it all.

Why do I feel so passionately about this? Children are impulsive. Their brains are not wired to think long-term. So, bullying leads to suicide. My message to all the adults who think political correctness is for wimps: Your children can hear you. Be nice. Be nice to others. And, for pete’s sake be nice to yourself!

What to do if you find out your child is bullying another child? Compassionately and kindly explore what is happening with your child. Ask a lot of questions. Find out who and what is influencing this behavior. Be willing to take responsibility for how your own behavior may be influencing your child. Be willing to adapt the culture in your home and other places your child spends time to be less critical and more safe and compassionate. Be willing to get other people involved in the conversation to help support efforts to eliminate this behavior.  Most importantly, intervene immediately and take the problem seriously.

What not to do? Don’t criticize your child for being a bully. This only shames them and perpetuates the problem.

Spare the rod, spoil the child is not healthy parenting advice. At all. Ever.

“Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person”

Love.

My Time In Therapy.

“I know you said that you do not like the word survivor, but its just saying that you lived through, you survived, things that were traumatic…which was (and is) true. Much metta” 

I had my first session with a client as a therapist in 2005. I can remember every bit of the experience. I could probably recite, verbatim, every word we exchanged. To say I was nervous is an understatement – I was a wreck. It meant everything (and means everything) to me to be good at this work. Not to mention, my training involved years of clinical professors analyzing me through two-way mirrors and commenting on my every little move. At the time, I hated that process, but now I see the benefits of such intense self-reflection and self-awareness.

Then I needed to see a therapist. 

I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, and for the most part, I have been able to manage it fairly well. However, in early 2010, depression swept me up like a tsunami. I was not sleeping well (among other things) and I had the thought (at about 3am), “I could just disappear.” It wasn’t that I wanted to die, but it wasn’t that I wanted to live either. That thought scared the shit out of me. I knew in that moment, I needed professional support. In retrospect, I should have called for help much earlier.

I asked some of my colleagues for recommendations. I presented for my first appointment (scared and vulnerable) in front of a woman a few years older than me. From the beginning, she avoided eye contact. She asked me several stock questions, in a flat tone, and wrote out notes on a legal pad. At one point, I was describing how I was feeling and she said, “Oh wow!” and scribbled something on the pad. I thought to myself, “This sucks.” I left that appointment feeling even more hopeless.

As I reflect on the experience, I think if I had not been a therapist and known that there were better therapists than this, I may have never tried again. It takes immense courage to present in front of a complete stranger and lay your story bare. This business is serious stuff. I suppose she might have been off her game that night. Who knows, I never saw her again.

Still needing help, I tried once more. I asked around and this time the masses recommended Ken*. I sat in the waiting room of a dimly lit historic home that had been lightly (it still looked and felt like a house) remodeled into offices. A thin balding man with a Hawaiian shirt came down the stairs to greet me. He smiled warmly and called me by name. As we walked toward his office, he asked if I liked dogs. I replied that I love dogs. This is when a three-legged collie appeared (I cannot make this up).  I sat in a soft comfortable chair and the dog curled up near my feet.

Little by little, I disclosed the details of my story. He nodded and asked all the right questions. There was no legal pad with scribbles. It was simply, perfectly, and beautifully a conversation between a scared, sad person (me) and a person saying that it was okay to be scared and sad. He told me this repeatedly for months. I wish I could tell you that he had a bag of tricks or magic words but that was not the magic at all. The magic was that he never tried to make me feel better. It was safe to share the scary thoughts and feelings and in doing so, it made them less scary and sad. It sounds simple, but there was nothing simple (or easy) about that process for me.

Let me also add that I have an incredible support system. My partner, my friends, and my family were literally by my side through this period in my life. But, when I hurt they hurt. I needed someone with a bit more objectivity. Someone that could sit with my pain and not try to make it better. That was the alchemy of my time with Ken – deep pain and sadness transmuted into intense love and compassion. The only way out of pain is through, and I needed someone to light the way.

I write this story because reflecting on my work with him fills me with so much gratitude, it’s intoxicating. My work with him changed my life and may have saved my life. It also taught me to treat my profession with greater reverence. I literally understand the level of vulnerability that sits in front of me on a daily basis. I am humbled and honored that this is what I get paid to do with my life.

Even now, when I need to, I see a therapist where I live (I’ve since moved away from Ken). My current therapist is remarkable (and she is certainly magical).

Ken and I shared email correspondence throughout our time together and I’ve included two excerpts (including the quote at the top).

“Dear Ken, Sometimes the most valuable lessons our parents teach us are through their mistakes and suffering. This should not get lost in all that sunny-side shit. I credit my parents for these very reasons. They helped me “be better” by their own struggles. I have to believe we all do the best we can with what we have to work with. This inevitably will be different for everyone. There is so much to be learned in the darkness. lovingkindness.”

Love.

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality and the integrity of the relationship.

 

 

 

Okay, Maybe I’m Embarrassing Myself A Little.

“So many female friends of mine feel like they have to be overly gracious and nice to compensate for their ambitions, because there’s this sense of having to swap one form of femininity for another. And honestly? Not every woman is warm. Not every woman is friendly. And they don’t have to be. Some women are reserved, some are biting, and some are mean. Humans are weird creatures. There are a whole lot of different personalities.” – Maddy Foley, 6 Backhanded Compliments Every Ambitious Woman Is Tired Of Hearing

In the last week, I received some interesting feedback related to my reactions about Donald Trump being elected President. I’ve heard things like I’m overreacting, I’m embarrassing myself and I’m not operating at my best. These comments are coming from people that clearly do not know me very well or know me at all. If you do know me, you would know that social justice runs in my veins. It also runs in my family. My grandmother is an avid fighter for social justice and my grandfather had planned to go into politics before my biological grandmother fell ill.

I’m a woman and women are allowed to be angry, pissed, frustrated, rage filled. We are also allowed to say fuck. If this makes you uncomfortable – it makes you uncomfortable but I will not compromise my values or shrink to fit into some mold.

That being said, I am also in love with my life. I am hosting a Thanksgiving Celebration with friends and family this weekend. One of my best friends is driving in to spend time with us. I plan on seeing some Harry Potter movie that I know nothing about. ESPN will be doing Game Day here on Saturday and I can’t wait for my brother to get to participate in that.

You see, I can be a fighter for social justice and go to work and love my friends and family and laugh and cry because I’m fearful for the people I love. It’s just all so complicated being a human.

What follows was the original post which I think captures this complicated woman stuff in a little more detail.

A few days ago I was reading an article about backhanded compliments made towards women and I encountered the above quote. I think it is perfectly written and it captures an experience that I have long struggled to articulate. I don’t have to be nice. I don’t have to smile. I don’t have to be friendly. If you can accept that I’m a complex person and not a Stepford Wife, I think you can get what I’m talking about.

Let me back up a bit. I believe being kind and compassionate are healthy ways of interacting within the world. In fact, pages of research support living a compassionate life. And, it simply feels better for me to go through the world with as much kindness and compassion as possible. However, there are days and situations where I just can’t be kind and kindness is not indicated.

If I were able to adapt Foley’s incredible string of words to better fit me, I would add: all the time. I think that I try my best to be good, nice, kind, warm, and compassionate. Be that as it may, it is impossible (and ridiculous) to set the expectation to be that way all the time. There have been times and there will be times when I am reserved, cold, and biting. It is part of being a complex human being. 

I’ve been in a number of  situations where I needed to be “biting” to get what I needed, or what a family member needed, or what a friend needed, or what a client needed. In those instances some people had no trouble calling me a bitch. I don’t believe I’m a bitch. I believe that saying that, is a way of trying to shut me down or shut me up. Frankly, if you do feel like I’m being a bitch, I’m not too concerned. I don’t know a woman that hasn’t been called a bitch, so I’m in good company. 

I really struggle with the sweet and quiet aspect of femininity. I identify as a woman, and feel it is absolutely impossible for me to be sweet and quiet on a regular basis. I would explode and, more importantly, it would mean living dishonestly. For this aspect of my personality, I’ve paid social consequences (e.g., been called a bitch, told to be quiet, asked to shut up, been threatened by men, been called butch, told I don’t know what I’m talking about, and openly mocked). I find it extremely hard not to be resentful of people that want me to “be quiet“. It feels like you are trimming away at parts of who I am. At this point in my life, I have much less trouble distancing myself from people that don’t appreciate these unique and integral parts of me.

The idea that women must be kind and warm all the time is absurd. No one is warm and kind all the time. Even more, some women are never sweet and kind. It is how they are put together. This does not make them bitches or bad people. If I’m being completely honest, I think “mean women” (aka, strong women) can be wonderfully intimidating. Sometimes, I am jealous of their ability to speak up and speak out about things without the (noticeable) incessant worrying related to perception.

So, Maddy Foley, thank you for your words. You gave voice to thoughts I’ve had for a long time.

Love.

How To Say: “No.”

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

“I don’t want to!”

Humans are wired for social connection and it can be challenging for some of us to set boundaries and say no; especially if the other person really wants us to say yes (and maybe part of us wants to say yes). First, we must believe that we have value as a person even if we say “no.” Meaning, that you are absolutely still a good person and worthy of love and compassion even if you don’t extend yourself to the person asking that of you.

“Will you stop being my friend or loving me if I say no?”

By saying no and setting a limit you are treating yourself with respect. And, it is so important to treat yourself with respect on a regular basis. Our lives are finite and our moments are the most valuable things we have. We must spend them wisely and honestly. Please don’t waste the precious and fleeting moments of your life on people, places, and things that don’t mean everything to you (I understand you have to go to work).

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

It is true, some people will not be happy if you set a boundary in the relationship (it feels like rejection to them, but it usually isn’t about them at all). A good friend will be understanding of your limits and boundaries even if they really want you around.  Please, don’t make the people in your world feel guilty for not doing what you want them to do. I don’t think we always make people feel guilty or bad on purpose, its just sometimes we really just want the person to do what we want them to do. But, if you are wielding guilt as a way of manipulating the person into doing what you want, that’s not okay.

If someone says, “I can’t make it.” They don’t owe you an explanation, and your relationship can still be fine. Naturally, if this is a pattern of behavior, maybe it is time to let the relationship go for awhile and sometimes, the relationship will come back around. People have a lot of stuff going on in their lives that does not include you and if you remember this, you will be more compassionate and understanding.

It is unhealthy to make other people’s lives easier/better/happier at the cost of your own. 

How do you manage your bad feelings when you want to say no/set a limit:

  1. Breathe (number one on almost all of my lists is breathe), it slows you down, calms you down, and reminds you that in this moment you are safe.
  2. Remember that saying no to them is saying yes to something else. If I say no to you, I am probably saying yes to a bubble bath, glass of wine, Netflix, a night alone with my partner, or to time with someone else. All of the above are important.
  3. Remind yourself that if you force yourself to do something you don’t want to do, you will probably be unhappy doing it (and build resentment towards the person). In that case, is it really fair to bring your grumpy self to a situation “just because you said you would“?
  4. If the person is making you feel guilty or bad for setting a limit, end the conversation. Please, do not go into anxious detail about how or why you are saying no. You don’t have to explain yourself.
  5. Breathe and sit through the anxiety around saying no (and stick to it because it is a form of self-respect) and do the thing you said yes to. It gets easier. You will realize that most people get over things (forget about it) pretty quickly because again, they have a lot going on in their own lives.
  6. If they stay mad at you for saying no (and hold it over your head), that tells you an awful lot about how much they respect you and the relationship.

“When enforcing our boundaries, first and foremost, we are caring for ourselves, but we are also helping others to have a clear understanding of what we consider acceptable behavior. We are reflecting back to them what is not acceptable and, therefore, providing them an opportunity to consider that information and make necessary changes. If we ignore the behavior or accept the behavior, not only are we undermining ourselves, but we are denying the other person an opportunity to learn about themselves and to grow, and ultimately, we deny them the opportunity for a healthy relationship with us.” -Psychotherapist Donna Wood in The Inspired Caregiver

Love.