This Thanksgiving, Love it and Leave it

tgivingI was inspired listening to Marc Maron’s podcast this morning. Usually around Thanksgiving time he starts complaining and describing the anxieties of the holiday and being with family.

Today he told us he’s really going to try to drop those old, old triggers, resentments, sensitivities and justifications and try to love his family and love being with them.

That was some major growth. It’s one of the fun parts for me of listening over the last few years, really hearing someone work on themselves and witnessing the changes.

So, here’s my take, for you.

Practice loving and leaving it this Thanksgiving.

This is who your family is.

When you get ticked off by your uncle’s comment on politics, or your mom’s, love it and leave it. The conversations from the past might have helped you refine who you are. You may want them to be different, but changing their mind is only marginally useful in the long haul. Just love them, leave it and let them be. Most likely the damage they are going to do to the world personally with their attitude is minimal.

If someone comments on your weight, marital status, health, career for the twelve thousandth time, love it and leave it. They’re undoubtedly hella flawed themselves. They can’t help themselves and deep down they probably want wonderful things for you, but they’re not good at expressing it or seeing your life from your eyes. See if you can say “thanks” and let it be. Thanks doesn’t mean you agree with their words or approach, but they meant to give you something. Love them and leave it at that.

In fact, when I notice how much of the uncomfortable experience from things my family might say is my own making (my reactions are mine, no matter how justified I feel in having them), I often actually get the good information that was in the nudge and even get the love that was embedded in the concern or complaint. It took some work. I needed to be able to love them and leave it first.

And if you want to fight, I get it. Fighting isn’t the end of the world, but if you haven’t mastered loving it and leaving it first, you may take it all personally. Then you’re not going to be very thankful for much, unless people make all gone with that pie you brought and tell you how much they liked it. Then at least you get that feeling when you don’t know if you still really want to be upset with these people. I love making D and Marcus feel like that 😉

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Slap Some Truth on ‘Em

proverbI told the truth yesterday to a former client who is six weeks away from her wedding and called me for some support around her fears and concerns.

I asked her how many great marriages she sees around her.

I told her that being married may be the most challenging thing that most people do in their lifetimes. You’re signing up to partner with someone on EVERYTHING in life, where each of you are far from expert in most things you will deal with.

I told her that love is wonderful, it helps, but it is not enough on it’s own to ensure a happy marriage.

I told her that trying to make everyone happy will jeopardize her happiness on her wedding day.

I asked her to share with me what she sees in the two of them that convinces her that they have a chance to make this work.

I told her she may wind up letting some people down and not be perfect and instead need to be human, for her own happiness.

I asked her why she was doing this at all.

These are the things we are often afraid of saying, of hearing, of dealing with. We cross our fingers, we let love leave us in an ambiguous state, we deny reality sometimes, we get caught up in belief. Love is wonderful, I encourage its growth all the time, but do we really need to be blinded by it and not look more closely? The only harm we are protecting ourselves from is that we may see we’ve built a house of cards and that can just be a starting point if you’re willing to look at it, a place to build from.

By the end of the call, with no prompting from me, she was reborn in her commitment, felt clear and more sure that she was with the right man, more trusting of herself than she was when she called me in a near panic and in breakdown. She felt the impact of her fears, shed some tears, saw that she could handle all of this and knew why the man she chose is the man that can take this on with her (and she thinks he’s cute as heck, too). Before we even finished the call, she texted her fiance to apologize to him, explain her recent behavior and let him know how ready she was. Of course he needed no explanation.

She was ready to lead her way into marriage. I had no idea how this conversation would go and no attachment either, but this is the way it went.

It’s not the truth that hurts us so much, it’s the not dealing with it. We are much more courageous and able than we give ourselves credit for. We create longstanding patterns where we let our fears run away with us. When we see more clearly, we give love an even greater chance to find it’s way deeper into our relationships and into ourselves.

Gotta love that Russian ethos… Slapped, huh?

Completing Ourselves

completemeI used to see no truth in “You complete me.”

Of course, I’ve had many moments of completion with people. Moments where I felt no fear, no pain, where my anxiety ceased, where the presence of something internal or external seemed to make everything all right and even have me experience myself as perfect how I am and how I may not be. In the movie, I read the phrase as final. As if now, in this moment, all is right now and will be right forever because of you.

Fairy tale. Just thinking about that movie and that scene used to make me abdominally uncomfortable. And maybe that’s because I got it wrong.

Perhaps in the light of recent events, of instance after instance of violence, of unimaginable pain inflicted on each other, the cost of incompletion has struck me so starkly and had me see the value of being complete, whether it is for a moment or a lifetime as a powerful message for us instead of just stopping at what I saw as the fallacy of the moment in the film.

It’s hard for me to look at school shootings, terrorism, premeditated violence, fundamentalism or beliefs of any sort that marginalize other human beings – as coming from someplace other than incompletion. A sense of disconnection, of being unreachable and temporarily or terminally less than whole. That they and/or we seem ungettable, distant, lost, worthless, sources of pain and ultimately expendable.

This isn’t meant to excuse anything anyone does from suffering in an incomplete state. I just mean to share how profound, how essential and how extraordinary completion has begun to occur to me. Perhaps it really saves lives.

We do have the power to draw completion from each other, to feel heard, known and to have the energy drawn to us that calms us, that relaxes the fear and has us return to ourselves again. It can happen through stories, symbols, songs, touch, substances, short-term sexual relationships, the sharing of ideas, a familiar meal and some things I care not to mention. Some of these solutions are extraordinarily temporary and even harmful, others can be expansive and healing. Conscious completion is an experiment in sustainability, but we crave completion so much that we take on all kinds of things to try to get there.

Whatever we utilize, it needs to be surrendered to for it to work or be so powerful that we are defenseless against it. We need to get ourselves past our own protection to allow completion. We wind up waiting to validate these entry points until they overwhelm us with their beauty, intoxicating qualities, convincing logic, whatever it is that helps us raise the bar of the tollbooth and allow it in, that force that we let come inside our fragile selves, before completion can occur.

Of course a kind, lovely, impressive, ever-expanding and new relationship can complete us for a moment or a stretch of time. It can make a fantastic case, but if we knew how valuable completion was, we’d lower the bar to entry and prioritize how essential it is to return to being ourselves again and again and again.

I also think we’d wind up being less susceptible to the empty promises of our fellow disaffected human beings and their invitations to the more unhealthy solutions they promote i.e. anything that looks like more separation and the villainization of other human beings. We might even get clear on what it takes to stay there and teach it to each other from an early age. That sounds like real empowerment to me and a source for greater peace, acceptance, love, happiness and cooperation amongst us.

What gets you complete? What might it mean to you if you prioritized getting complete and were successful at it?

Maybe Marriage Takes a Village, Too

community
Maybe it takes a village to support a marriage, too.

The things couples go through, successes, failures, money issues, grief, aging, health, changing as human beings, being hit with reality all the time and realizing how much we don’t yet know.

The more years I’m married and the more years I support my loved ones, friends and clients in theirs, I realize our marriages themselves benefit so much from being loved collectively.

It’s great to have people that love us individually, but when we have people that love our marriage, in a nurturing way, beyond judgment, people that can relate to our challenges and us as human beings who are trying our best and learning, we can make so much out of it. We can create a culture around marriage as an incomparable learning opportunity that benefits from collective wisdom and support. We can take it easier on ourselves and lean on each other. No couple has it all covered on their own.

It takes a willingness, too. Admitting challenges in our marriages can be embarrassing, because we publicly declared our love for our spouse, because we don’t want to admit that we don’t know what to do, because we can bristle against receiving help because we want to hold up a pretty picture.

We need to let go of the fairy tale as a marketing tactic for selling marriage. A wedding, sure, but not a marriage. Perhaps a more apt definition of marriage is a lovingly entered joint commitment to  evolution. We use shared goals and the experiences along the way as we share our lives to help spark this evolution, to shape it.

I think the best part about my marriage 14 years in, is the growth, the learning and giving it to each other as a gift, finding ourselves in new places as new people because we needed to evolve and used the commitment to each other to hold the process. I’ve needed to learn so much about myself in trying to become a truly worthy partner and there’s much more to go.

I think of all of the forgiveness I ask for when I learn what I needed to learn. Humbling. Some of that learning is truly challenging, but I couldn’t be any more grateful for earning it, for who I realized I can be, for the commitment and for the woman in my life who gives me the reason and the person to share it with.

I thank those who were willing to speak to me, to be my teachers, to be my friend and to sometimes just listen for helping me get here and who I know I can count on for what’s yet to come.

Keeping Our Power Beyond People’s Reactions

I just wrapped up a coaching call with a client considering renewing our coaching relationship. We’ve done a great job so far of getting past a lot of bugaboos and creating a huge leap in self-awareness and confidence. She shared gratitude for her ability to do this, how much it meant to her and how it’s transformed her relationships and career path. She’s been courageous.

The questions she asked herself now, looking at what’s next for her was: Is it worth it to partner with a coach to have and keep my power beyond the reactions of others and my fears of them? What happens if I don’t?

When she looked at this, the fear was palpable and so was the possibility.

Some big questions for our lives. Where do we stop because of the reactions of others? What do we give up on? What version of ourselves doesn’t come out, assert itself and simply be because of this? What’s the cost and for how much longer are we going to keep things going this way?

If you want to, please share below both wins, where you stopped letting other people’s reactions define you or what commitments you want to make to get beyond this. I promise what you write will make a difference for someone else reading the post.

Are You Really Welcome Here?

armsfoldedREALLY wanting someone to understand something, especially when you think it’s for their own benefit, has nothing to do with them getting it. In the end, how much you want them to get it is what may impact them the most and usually puts our (work, family, friend, romantic) partners in defense, reaction and protection.

The willingness of your conversation partner is the most valuable currency there is in relating to each other. Cultivate it wisely and know when it hasn’t been offered to you.

Sometimes there is no in door. Knowing how to love and take care of ourselves when the door we want to be open is closed can be the most valuable currency for our own well-being and finally takes the pressure off the other person to take care of you by letting you in.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Talk about putting things in perspective, this article demonstrates some predictable patterns and outcomes for those who experienced childhood traumas. The higher propensity for depression, addiction and victimization later in life, for example.

http://acestoohigh/got-your-ace-score/

Imagine if we were more supportive, more understanding and less blameful about the impact of what people have been through and what their struggle might be.

It also pinpoints the responsibility – to ourselves, those we will be in relationships with, our coworkers and bosses and society – that we have to take care of ourselves given any history of childhood trauma. We’re not talking about excuses here, we’re talking about understanding and getting the help we need, the empathy we can have for ourselves and others and the information we need to be better parents.

Thanks to one of my favorite, most kind, gentle and powerful therapists I know, Kathy Metcalf, for sharing this piece and for always being so compassionate. She is an amazing resource for working productively on the effects of trauma in your life. I’m eternally grateful to her for the work we’ve done around the loss of my father, among other challenges. Also, thank you to Paul Cooper and T J Samadi Demme, two powerfully compassionate coaches, for the work we’ve done as well.