“Just enough”, not more…

A3A89FF0-C8D4-4D4A-87E6-4D19E4CCB3BEWhen you woke up this morning, what was your first thought?  Was it, “Oh wow, I’m so rested and I have everything I need to face this day.”?  If you are like me, it was a “to do” list followed by all the resources you lack to get the work done.  It would sound like this,

“Ugh, I have a cold today.  I didn’t get enough sleep.  How am I going to take care of the kids and get to work today?  Can I push through?  I wish I had not eaten that cookie last night.  I should really exercise today, but I don’t feel good.  I need to do a couple loads of laundry and make the kids lunches.  Can I do that and go by the dry cleaner before work?”

  Whew!  What a racket, right?  While the above thoughts were about mundane tasks, what if  I examined my self-worth, body image, marriage, career or role as a mother/daugther with the same scrunity?  I’ll let you in on a secret, I do.  If I do not catch myself, I can go into a spiral about how I need to “be more, strive for more, accomplish more and contribute more.”  Here’s the scary part, my mind is happy to assess this list of “mores” while also reminding me how to be “less.”   For example, “I should weigh less, I should not be too outspoken, I should not impose on others etc.”  Thankfully for me, I do the work I do.  I spend much of my time being aware of my mind and body and helping others do the same.  Doing this work can ground my busy mind.

An author that I greatly admire, Brene Brown, writes that thoughts like these are steeped in “scarcity.”  As she says, scarcity is the game of “not enough.”   Ultimately scarcity is fear and shame based.

She writes,

“I can see exactly how and why more people are wrestling with how to believe they are enough.  I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.  And I see how kids that grow up on a steady diet of reality television, celebrity culture and unsupervised social media can absorb this message and develop a completely skewed sense of the world.”

So knowing what I do about our culture and my own mind, I often purposely choose to live a life of “enough.”  I am currently wrestling with accepting that I may lead a “completely ordinary life.”  I may not change the world.  I might not ever write that book, or do that speaking tour.  Or maybe I will and I will reset the goal-post.  Either way, it all about how I approach this belief that I need to “do” to “be enough.”  I know better than to believe this sentiment.  So when I wake up and my mind is swimming in “not enough”, I find one thing in that moment that is okay just the way it is.  I admire it and smile at it for a moment, and then I move into my day.  I befriend my fear and my discomfort.  I welcome them to join me throughout my day.  I soften.  I remember that my mind is just a part of my whole being and it is flawed too.  Once I do this, I remember that my fear is here to guide me away from danger and toward joy.  That’s what I believe fear really wants…what’s best for me.  Whenever I forget to do this practice and I believe my fear, I’m depleted.  Scarcity sucks joy.

So I choose to question my culture and my own mind when it presents me with the message that I “don’t measure up.”  I’m okay if I don’t fit a standard, as long as I accept my life as is.  I want to continue to practice to show up as “just enough” in my life as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a professional etc.  Just enough.

I invite you to find your own way to have compassion for your mind as it struggles to make your life meaningful, especially when it uses fear and lack of acceptance as the method.  Your mind is most likely doing the best it can to help you.

Less work, more connection

The older I am, the more focused I have become on “to do” lists.  In fact, completing tasks for me has become a form of self-care.  I often light a candle, put on good music and clean.  This act feels important to me, especially with the constant clutter created by small children.  I will tell you from experience that while completing lists feels good to me, it comes up short in creating a meaningful life (for me).  My belief that life’s meaning is often revealed in the messiness of the daily grind.  Which is why I am working on allowing for more mess, so that I can free up time to connect with friends and family.  If I have a finite amount of time during the week to connect, cook, clean, work, exercise and explore the world, I need to prioritize what portion of my life is spent on each.  Today I choose to spend time playing with my children, laughing with friends and perhaps doing a chore or two.   It is a choice to focus on what really matters.  At the end of my days, I will not regret having a messy kitchen when I have nurtured meaningful relationships with friends and family.  I invite you to consider what you prioritize. Just because it is best for me to make this choice, I do not believe that you need to make the same choice.  Perhaps decluttering and cleaning is the exact thing you need to create balance in your life.  I honor and respect that too.

Marshall County school shooting and my own grief

I just returned from Benton, KY (in Marshall County) yesterday morning.  I was there to celebrate the life of my grandmother and to do my own grieving.  You see, Benton, KY is not a big town, nor is it a destination in travel guides, but it was the most magical place I could imagine as a child.  Every summer for a month I would live on my grandparents’ farm and I would learn the art of farming, caring for cattle and riding ATVs.  I had more adventures in this small world than I have had in many of the places I’ve traveled in the world.  To give you an example, the barn pictured above is one where I spent hours-on-end taming feral kittens for the summer.  I considered this “my job” and I took it very seriously.  My family likes to tell of the time I fell out of this barn while holding one of “my kittens.”. There is a ladder that goes up to the top of the barn and it has small trap door.  I was standing in the hay loft, holding a kitten while hanging out with my cousins.  I happened to take a backwards step and as I began to fall, I threw the kitten (to protect it, of course) to my brother.  As I landed on the concrete slab below, I had the breath knocked out of me.  I couldn’t speak, as my family asked if I was okay.  Instead, I stood up and began to walk to the house without speaking.  My grandfather ran out to get me and I remember collapsing into his arms…limp.  So limp that my legs moved like noodles and I remember hearing him call out, “Mama, I think we got a broken leg here!”  I still didn’t speak, but I had no pain in my leg.  I just let him carry me.  They put me in a lawn chair under a shade tree where they had been shelling Purple Hull Peas.  They checked me out and determined nothing was broken.  I rested and watched them shell peas, while I recovered.  I remember falling asleep in that lawn chair for sometime.  When I awoke, my cousins and brother were going to ride 4-wheelers and I didn’t want to miss out.  So I asked if I could go.  I remember my grandmother seeming relieved and noting that I had just needed a rest and I was fine from my fall.  So off I went to ride out into The Bottoms of Benton with my family.  There was such a rush of freedom in being too young to drive a car (age 11 or 12), but being fully capable of having my own transportation to go out in nature on my own.  We would ride out, get muddy from head-to-toe and head back home for dinner.  I have distinct memories of my grandmother taking one look at us as we came home caked in mud and telling us to get ready for the water hose.  She would spray us down and send us into her basement, which was more of utility space than a living space.  We’d dry off down there and then one by one we’d have to take turns getting baths because they didn’t have a shower until I was older.  We’d then sit down to a homemade meal (that we likely took for granted) and spend our evenings playing games, doing puzzles or watching movies.  That was how I spent my summers.   So as I was there this weekend for my grandmother’s funeral, seeing this old red barn, brought memories swirling back.  So many in fact, that I couldn’t keep up with the pace my mind processed them.

I had planned to get up this morning to try to capture as many of the memories as I could, but I happened to see a message from a cousin in Benton that, “my kids are okay.”  There was no explanation, so immediately I began to search the internet to learn that at Marshall County high school there was a shooting this morning.  My heart sank.  I worried about my relatives and their children and our family friends.  I felt (and feel) helpless.  This place that I love so much is not safe as I once believed it was.  To me, it felt invincible.  The sad truth is that there are a lot of guns and hurting people in the world…and so this sort of thing happens regularly now.  I’m not usually one to lament about the past and “wish things were like they were when I was younger,” but in light of this news I do wish for a simplier time.  I wish for there to be a “right” and a “wrong” and a “black and white” about the rules of our society.  One thing my grandmother used to say (that honestly annoyed me because it was too overly simple) was “just do right.”  As a deep thinker I often found myself wanting to present challenges to this sentiment, but today I think I’ll live by “just-doing-right.”  I will honor my community in Marshall County and my grandmother by trying to make this world a better place, one small act at a time.  I will offer kindness where I can and will be present to myself.

**Just for fun…if you zoom in on this photo you can see my father helping my daughter climb the ladder to the trap door of the barn.  This is the hole I fell through.**





Ditching new year’s resolutions…as an act of self-acceptance

cropped-img_00102.jpgAs the new year arrived I began thinking about setting resolutions and I decided against it. My favorite (and most-hated part) of setting resolutions is the dreaming. I take time to sit, reflect and dream about what change I want to invite into my life. Perhaps I write it down, perhaps I take steps towards making it a reality…for a brief time. Fast forward a couple of months later, (maybe six months at best) and I have grown bored and disenchanted with it. This is usually the time of year I begin bargaining with myself on ways I can let go of my resolution until it disappears. If I am really being perfectionistic, I can then “beat myself up” for ditching the resolution in the first place. Oh what a racket! Does any of this sound familiar to you?
This year, I thought I’d invite you to hear my thoughts on resolutions and what I plan to do differently. I am guessing if I have these struggles, so do some of you do too.
Here is where I’ve gone wrong in the past:
1 I’ve set resolutions designed to change something I perceived to be “less than” about myself. So the goal itself was rooted in a lack of self-acceptance.
2 Dreaming about all the magical changes I planned to make was more enticing than actually doing the gritty work.
3 I had actual barriers (like young children and a career) that (rightfully, so) kept me from spending time on my new endeavor.
4 My goal was not simple or realistic.
5 I didn’t have a way to measure or track progress
6 I expected big changes…quick!

I believe that a fundamental issue with achieving goals begins in the stage of dreaming. Is the dream one that really supports who you already are or is the dream rooted in a lack of acceptance? I can give you an example. I am a mother-of-two and I would like to lose a little postpartum weight this year. I can approach this in a valued way by acknowledging that I earned that extra weight by bringing two wonderful souls into the world and I can make tiny tweaks to my daily routine to influence this goal. Or I could have my goal to be to lose X lbs because that seems like how much I should lose to not need “mom jeans made of spandex.” See the difference? One supports my life as a journey and other is demeaning. The end result of the work may be the same, but how it shifts my perspective could be quite different.
This year is the year of “The Tweak” for me. (I realize that word sounds like a drug reference, but I like how simple it sounds when it referencing behavioral change.)  Tweak means “to improve by making fine adjustments.” Making incremental changes towards a goal is much more manageable. This is a different process than following a step-by-step formula for goal achievement. I get to tailor the change around my existing lifestyle; I do not need to live by rigid rules. My favorite part is that forgiveness and “being human” in embedded in this approach. Every step of the way is flexible. I can have a bad day or barriers that consistently interrupt my goals. In this way, I get to practice self-acceptance of who I am and where I am as I meet each day of 2018.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share your successes or struggles!


Less, Life, and Loss

I entered this holiday season with mixed emotions.  As I heard the Christmas songs on the radio laud how “magical” this time of year is, I found myself feeling a bit cynical.  As the crooners sang about how this is the “most wonderful time of the year,” I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that I was experiencing loss and that I know of many of my clients are also experiencing this feeling.  Some of us are experiencing the loss of a loved one, others a divorce or perhaps the loss one’s quality of life due to a mental illness or substance abuse etc.  I am not so cynical that I could not experience great joy or even wonder this holiday season, but I wanted to write this post for those of you who are hurting at this time of year.  When we hear how “wonderful” this season will be, it can set an expectation in our minds that does not match our reality, thus creating more disappointment.  So this holiday season, I decided to allow the sorrow and joy to rush-in and recede as it saw fit.  I cried tears of sadness and of joy this Christmas.  I missed my mother-in-law who passed this year and I felt my heart swell while making gingerbread houses with my children and family.  I practiced allowing the complexity of gratitude and loss to exist simultaneously.  It was difficult and it was worth it for me.  It was definitely tiring.  While speaking with my father-in-law this holiday, he said, “We all only have a short-run in this life.  Even if you live to 110, it’s a short time when it is all said and done.”  He’s right.  His statement reminded me that being present to each day is an important practice.  For me, it is a practice that takes dedication and I know that I will practice it for a lifetime and I will never master it.  I am too human.  My wish for those of you that are hurting during this “time of great wonder,” is to find someone to mourn with…don’t isolate.  It can be tempting to allow your tears to find their way out alone, but it is important to BE with others.  I wish you a holiday season that is grounded, peaceful and real.