self-care

We all carry a little trauma

We all walk around with a little trauma in our back pocket.  Sometimes we forget it’s there. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, we pull it up and it’s in our face without any warning.  How we experienced the trauma is individual and unique:  what happened, how we dealt with it or didn’t deal with it, our own personal experience of the trauma.  We were innocent one moment and then the event rocked us to the core and that is something we all share.

We’d like to pretend it never happened to us.  Why talk about such negative things that don’t affect us now?  The event shaped us whether we’d like to admit it.  We can choose to acknowledge this trauma that we’ve been carrying around for far too long.  Perhaps we’ve grown tired and exhausted from the heaviness of that burden.  And it has metaphorically created a hole and fell out of our pocket.  However it happens, the opportunity lies before us.

Do we quickly scoop it up and bury it once again?  Do we distract ourselves and hide it, ignore it or stuff it?  Or can we just for a moment accept our common humanity that trauma unfortunately happens.  It’s a part of the journey of life.  But it doesn’t have to control us any longer.  It happened, for sure.  It sucks.  Who wants to rehash unpleasantries?

But once we acknowledge our common human experience, our trauma, something shifts.  Our burden lightens.  We see that we are not alone in our suffering.  It is okay.  We are not justifying what happened, but right now in this moment can we feel safe?  Can we take a breath?  Can we sit with this feeling for just a few moments?

Here’s what I would like you to do right now.  Don’t engage in a dialogue with the trauma.  Just be the listener.  Write if it helps you to sort out your thoughts on paper.  Treat yourself gingerly, with the softness and tenderness as you would a small infant.  You were innocent when it happened through no fault.  Can you see what “trauma” is showing you?  Is there a message?  A nugget of wisdom that you can explore?

When you’ve listened to what has to be said, put your hands on your heart and just breathe for a minute.  Counting breaths helps.  I like to count to 10.  One, inhale; one, exhale.  Two, inhale; two, exhale, etc.  I promise you any fear, anger, or other strong emotion you feel will dissipate if for just a moment you can let it out.  It’s been bottled up for too long.

self-care

The blank page is my refuge

My journals lead me, guide me, remind me, comfort me and show me.  I’ve been keeping a journal since high school.  They often lead me to the answer or solution.  They lead me to insights.  They guide me to the next steps to take or can serve as a gentle nudge.  They can be a light in the dark; a map showing the easy and difficult terrain ahead; an exit to safe passage.  My journals remind me of what I had forgotten.

They are a tool that is portable and accessible.  I find the space to cope, hash out, dissect, examine, vent, relax, pause, slow down and breathe, and integrate:  To be the observer of thought.  My own words can comfort me during times of sickness, heartbreak, anguish, or confusion.  It’s like a warm cup of tea or being wrapped up in a cozy blanket.  I can enjoy and savor the moments.

My journals have showed me how much I’ve changed, my ever evolving inner and outer circumstances and how I dealt with various people, events and places.  They serve as a still frame, a reflecting mirror, a magnifying glass as to who I was on month/day/year and what mattered to me then.  Can I see how I got from there to here?  The most important part of my journals is that it records my timeline and becomes tangible evidence of my life.  My inner thoughts are brought onto the page for time immemorial; like a time capsule if I dare to look back.

The notebook:

In my teens they were one-subject notebooks. “Psychology,” “History,” “Oceanography” in large print on the cover.  Who would want to look inside of that?  Who would care to see my chicken scratch of quickly jotted notes?  To their surprise it would not be.  The subject on the cover was a ruse, a lie to cover up its true contents.  A teenage girl who shared a room in a tiny apartment with five other family members does not have much privacy or space to call her own.

I discovered journaling could be the safety net I so desperately needed to deal with the trauma, the heartbreak, the teenage angst, the big questions, the fears, the boredom of not being able to go anywhere unless it was by foot or public transportation.  Through journaling, I discovered my love of the written word.  I tapped into that creative well and poetry began to appear on the page.  It lit me up to hear my words rhythmically along the page.  Instead of wallowing in despair and hurt or numbing myself with illicit substances, I went within.  I found myself.  I saved myself.

Now in my 40s I still turn to the blank page.   These days I’m not looking for anything in particular to appear but the journals are more like creating an opening.  I’m deliberately making creative space and taking the time to see what’s beneath the surface.  What grain of salt or sparkling spec catches the light of my attention today.   My notebooks lately have been simple composition notebooks that I slip on a pretty cloth cover.

I am the observer, the recorder of thought, and it will always be my refuge.

 

 

 

self-care

Fixed v. Growth Mindset

It depends on how much I “buckle down” and get done.  If I just work a little harder, strive a little more, I will be X:  Happier, successful, loved, fulfilled, accomplished, complete, evolved to be my best, smartest, healthiest, perfect-as-I-am self.  But that’s a cop-out.  I will never fully “arrive” as my life is here for the long haul.  My health, my interests, my friends, work, creative focus and otherwise will wax and wane, as it should in this place called life.

What happens when we get to the end of the road and arrive?  Is that the end of my story?  Do I stop learning, evolving and growing?  Do I want to?

There is no ultimate destination because that would mean the end of the line, the old couple on the porch sipping lemonade as the days quickly pass, waiting for what?  Remembering the past and stuck in story?  Waiting for a peaceful end to a fulfilled life?

I’m not there yet.  I have a lot more to learn, to glean, to create, to love, to be, to serve, to clear way, to relax, to enjoy, to delight, to revel and linger.  It’s too much, too juicy, too soon to stop.

So that fixed narrative sets you up for failure because there is no “done.”

Just be. Just here with life’s lessons, trials and tribulations, joys, mistakes, regrets, loves, memories both cherished and wished to be forgotten, hopes, dreams, pleasures, etc.  My growth mindset says to keep being curious on what lights me up lately.  Keep writing, keep asking the questions, digging and laying the inner groundwork to see what’s in store next.

self-care

This is where Doubt lives

Doubt is where the real inner work resides.  We can take a breather, examine what’s worked, what lies underneath the surface, and uncover old fears and wounds.  This is where Doubt lives.  It makes us feel small and inconsequential.  It belittles our triumphs as not a big deal or just a coincidence, chance or dumb luck.  Not true.

What do we do when Doubt creeps in?  Do we run and hide and choose  not face what’s blocking our path?

Playing safe = playing small.

It’s our duty to share our gifts with the world:  Our talents, our skillset, our voice, our words, our stories are desperately needed.

How can we overcome Doubt?

We can journal the uncomfortable feelings.  Process our thoughts into words on the page.  Or stop and simply get outside and take a walk in nature or do some other movement.

How do we get still and ready to confront Doubt?

My favorite is to sit still and do a visualization with Doubt.  Ask Doubt what is she trying to protect us from?  Imagine Doubt is an unexpected guest that needs tending and attention.  Make a cup of tea.  Help Doubt take off her wet raincoat and dry by the fire.  Hand Doubt the warm mug.  Start gently, where you are.  Try not to get caught up in a shouting and pushing match.  Accept Doubt.  Listen calmly and openly to all the concerns and potential threats.  See them as outside yourself.  They are not your truth or your story or what will happen.  There are no guarantees.

Assure Doubt that you are okay.  You are strong.  You are capable.  You are ready to take the next bold step.  That with uncertainty can come greatness, joy, and a life beyond imagination.  Sit in silence together, sipping the warm tea that never seems to cool until the last drop is gone.  Thank Doubt for her words and say goodbye.

What’s the payoff for playing small?  It provides a safety net in a world that seems wrought with violence and fear.  Doubt is natural and almost like reflexive, protective posturing.  However, please remember that your dream, your talents, skills, story, words, and energy are not threatening.

When I sit with Doubt I uncover some more:  FEAR.  Fear of being vulnerable, being open to criticism or possible judgment.  Or possibly overcoming Doubt will spark a movement, create momentum for inner growth and shared experience, and provide an accepting environment and community where we can all thrive and not only merely survive.

 

Connection · parenting · self-care · shared stories · working mom · writing

Labyrinth Walk

We start out as children and young adults learning and following the footsteps of those that came before us.  They made it possible for us to exist!  Now it’s my turn to create my own imprint and footprints for the next generation to follow; to trust my inner wisdom; to acknowledge with gratitude all the facets of life.  When I’m unsure or the path seems misguided and leading me off course, if I get still enough, the path gets illuminated before me and I can be the guidepost for those that will follow in my footsteps.

I spent the weekend on a mindfulness for mothers retreat at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, CT.  I had so many amazing insights and breakthroughs, which can only happen when we slow down and retreat.  I wrote a lot in my journal.  I took full advantage of all the yoga and meditation workshops.  I kept my iPhone in the drawer in my private room and I went within.  The group was led by Hunter Clarke-Fields, the mindful mama mentor.  You can listen to her podcast and take advantage of her free resources at:  https://www.mindfulmamamentor.com/

We were a small group of nine mamas.  I learned new tools and tips for my mindfulness journey.  Mindfulness and meditation are not an attempt to strive, self-improve, or add to my day as another to-do.  In this retreat I was reminded about my why.  Why do I meditate and do yoga most days?  It gives me freedom and a sense of relief, as simple and profound as that.

As the retreat was coming to a close, I still hadn’t visited the labyrinth.  So it was my own personal closing ceremony to integrate the group sharing and insights.  I was alone.  It had snowed the day before and I had to follow the footprints that led to the labyrinth.  The path in the labyrinth was gravel and not shoveled.  I saw footprints in all directions within it.  I was able to find the path and stay the course.  At one point because of the snow, I was unsure how to get to the center.  When I got still, I saw that no one had gone right and when I did, I was back on the path.  My gatha or mantra came to me in the center of the labyrinth:  “Peace with this, Peace within me.”  I am ready to be the guidepost for those that will follow my footsteps.

 

self-care

What does self-care mean to me?

It’s 19 days into 2018.  And I’ve been inspired by three lovely ladies to start the New Year by putting self-care front-and-center.

January began with Kris Carr‘s 3 Simple Habits to support all your goals.  It really set the foundation for prioritizing my self-care.

  1.  Keep it simple.  Don’t tackle more than three goals.
  2.  Include buffer time.  Set realistic deadlines so I don’t set myself up for failure.
  3. Add more, subtract less.  Instead of cutting out that evening chocolate or snack,  I grab an apple before I reach for that treat.

Last week I participated in Susan Hyatt‘s miracle week setting yourself up for a fantastic New Year.  It was five-days long.  Each day had an uplifting video which included a 12 minute health/body challenge.  My daily self-care soared.

  1. Create a hygge corner.  It’s a cozy nest to unwind and de-stress.  I live in a small house with small children, so my couch became my hygge.  I neatly folded a blanket and had a fluffy pillow that was just mine.  Then I filled my tote bag with a journal, three inspiring books, two uplifting card decks, and a mindful coloring book with pencils.
  2. Mindful mealtime.  At home we usually eat with the TV on or at work I tend to scroll through Facebook during my lunch.  It was a challenge at first to put the technology away.  Now I’ve enjoyed Facebook-free lunchtimes for over a week!
  3. Declutter your wardrobe and find three amazing outfits.  We used Mari Kondo’s  philosophical question, Does this item spark joy?  That pink frumpy sweater and the itchy “work” sweater that I bought at Saver’s thrift store many years ago finally got tossed!
  4. Media detox.  This next tool has been a life changer.  Unroll.me brought my email inbox management to the next level.  I used to check my email and spend so much time deleting emails rather than reading them.  Now I’ve added those unwanted time-sucker emails to unroll.me.  They all get rolled into one email a day.  So the emails that I want to receive appear without any added distraction.
  5. Tiny goals and building consistency.  Small, attainable goals have the momentum to create lasting change. With the idea that tiny goals rock, Susan suggests that we choose one fun and tiny health goal that can be realistically and enthusiastically committed to.  My goal is to sit in my hygge corner for 12 minutes a day.  And if the couch is being used, I can just grab my tote and go to another room and unwind.

Susan Hyatt also hosted a motivation hour webinar.  The biggest take-away I got was Dial It Up and it only takes two minutes.  She suggests doing it while you brush your teeth in the morning.

  1. Assess how are you feeling or what you are thinking about.
  2. How do you want to feel?
  3. What can you think or do to get that feeling?

Here is an example.  Before I get out of bed in the morning, I tune in to my thoughts.  Am I beginning to plan all the little things I have to do to get me and the kids ready for school?  What will traffic on my commute be like today?  Are my to-do’s already forming?

How do I want to feel instead?  I want to feel a sense of completeness since it’s the end of the work week.  And I want to cultivate presence so I can savor the moment with joy.

What do I have to think or do to get that?  I can prioritize my self-care.  I can delegate the small things so that my plate is a little less full.

I’ve been practicing Dial It Up for three mornings in a row and I have enjoyed mornings without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

And heartfelt gratitude to Hunter Clarke-FieldsMindful Mama Immersion.  Five days of podcasts with experts and advice from mindful mamas who share their struggles and stories.  I might do a future blog on the takeaways from that experience.  Hunter’s wisdom and guidance came at the right time while I was forming my New Year goals.  She reminded me that meditation and mindful movement grounds me.  And I can choose to become aware of my thoughts.

For example, when we are sitting at the table as a family, I can notice my thoughts.  Sometimes I feel rushed and on a time-line.  But my thoughts are not all urgent.  I don’t have to share every single one (negative thought, fear, etc.) that pops into my head.  I can let it muster for a breath and the thought usually precipitates.  Then I’m able to enjoy myself, the meal I’m eating, and the moment.  And everyone around me is happier too.

When I feel aligned and mindfully present, I can truly listen to my child or my husband.  We all want to be validated and heard.  I know that’s one of my triggers.  I just want to be acknowledged and appreciated.  And if it doesn’t happen as expected, I can feel resentful, hurt, or frustrated.  When we’re lost in thought, we can lose those moments of connection.

So what does self-care mean to me?  It’s ever evolving.  I finally realize that how I start my day sets me up for how I want to feel for the entire day.  I begin with Dial It Up.  Then I do a few gentle yoga poses to feel grounded instead of hitting the ground running.  In the morning I choose to journal before I check my email.  At work I take a break and meditate for five or ten minutes.  After lunch, I take a walk in nature when possible, weather permitting this time of year.  I enjoy my green smoothie and a piece of fruit as a snack.  I spend the last few moments of the workday to reflect on the day, plan for tomorrow so I can set myself up for success.  And at night after the kids go to sleep, I devote at least 12 minutes to sit in my hygge corner.

What does self-care mean to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Here is Hunter Clarke-Fields free 3-5 minute guided meditations for you to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

self-care

I’m tired of living in fear

We are all connected.  And the speed of information has advanced our society into a global community.  You want to learn about X?  What does Google say?  Information is literally at your fingertips if you happen to own a smartphone.  And knowledge is power.

Even though my family got rid of cable years ago, we still have access to the news from our phones and apps on our TV console. I love that we can choose what to watch when we want to.  But we do channel surf through YouTube and you can’t escape the collective fear that is ever present.  The recent tragic events and acts of violence have pulled at my heart.

I love working in Providence. It’s a city rich in history and I’m proud to be a native Rhode Islander.  It’s a beautiful city to walk around:  the Brown University campus, the financial and downtown districts, and historic Benefit Street.  But I’m tired of living in fear.  If a car comes racing by or a strange box truck is around, I tense up and anxiety takes control.  My leisurely walk is interrupted and I’m terrified for a moment, especially if I’m around city hall or a federal building.  It never used to be this way.  Fear never played such a prominent role.  I started working full-time a little over a year ago.  And I loved the city.  I drank in the architecture, the people on their way to work, students walking to class, and the waterfront.  It was a welcome sight.

But over these last few months, the anxiety has been building. Yesterday as I was walking to the parking garage, a box truck stopped right in the middle of the street and began to back up.  Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue.  There’s construction everywhere and the street was a one-way.  But the truck seemed to be backing up and keeping  in pace with me as I walked.  Cars behind the truck began to honk, and it seemed like the truck was going to back up regardless of traffic.  This odd behavior made my anxiety soar.  I started to run, and all I could hear was the incessant “beep, beep, beep” as it continued to reverse.  I had the worst panic attack.  I feared it was going to blow up right then and there next to the financial district.  I had visions of me getting into the garage on the fifth floor and being toppled over by the above floors during the explosion.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that garage.

Once I got behind the wheel and started to exit, I shouted, “I’m tired of being afraid! I’m tired of living in fear!  I’m tired of freaking out over a truck!  I just want to be able to walk in peace without feeling terrorized!”

I don’t have an answer during these crippling moments. I just try to deepen my breath.  I remind myself that meditation helps ground me and I should meditate more and journal more.  Events will happen that are beyond my control.  And one thing I can control is my breath.

How do you bring calm when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed?