This is a repost from two years ago. Sometimes we just need the reminder that we each serve a very special role in life that only we can fill…
From February 2016: Last week I shared the beauty I experienced with my dad dying. This week is the other side of all that! It wasn’t all sweet and sappy. I spent about two weeks with my family and that is bound to bring up issues. We have different personalities, tolerances and messiness. Mine floated ever so effortlessly into clear view. I am number 5 out of 6 kids plus I have two foster sisters who take the first and last spots. I sometimes feel unimportant in my family and my dad’s exit process was no different. I just didn’t think I had a place. I wondered where I fit in. Why should I even be here? I decided after a few days to just go home. Why subject myself to misery?
Each of my siblings, in my opinion, had a role: executor, nurse, caretaker, carry on the family business…
But what about me? For a time I kept thinking my dad didn’t even know who I was…he did. That was just a story I created to support my “I don’t matter” theme. Then I thought he looked at me with disdain, like maybe he was seeing me as he did when I was involved in an affair. Shame poured all over me like waste from a port-a-potty extraction.
Our minds are so powerful! We can convince ourselves of almost anything. Mine was doing a fine job of tearing my worth and value into shreds. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I quietly packed and gently left. No one would have known anything was wrong. I am an excellent, Oscar worthy actress! One of my sisters wanted to have lunch with me before I started my drive back home…that changed everything! She had no idea how fragile I had become or how intensely the toxic stench of shame had poisoned me.
I poured out all the gunk inside of me and laid it at her feet. That’s when the hazmat cleanup started. She and my niece stayed in the icky places with me.They let me have my experience and also added truth. They helped me see my role…everyone has a role! Mine was subtle but still important.
The time with my sister and niece changed an entire course of my life! I could have walked away. I would have missed out on the healing I received from them. I would have missed out on being there for my dad, my mom and my sister in ways only I could fill. Not because “I’m all that” but because I am me and the elements I bring into my relationships are uniquely mine. No one else brings what I do, just as I don’t bring what any one else does. It’s this beautiful place of importance that we all have in the entangled messy rootball of life.
If you happened to buy a copy of my workbook would you be willing to write a review of it? I really need reviews…I only have 3. Reviews help boost a book’s presence on Amazon. The more reviews a book has the more likely it is to show up in a person’s search. Click here to be connected to the Journey Forward Workbook Amazon page. Once on that page, click on “Customer Reviews” just below the Workbook title. Next, click on “Write a customer review”. I am so grateful for your help!!!
Also, my new website is up and running! It still has some kinks and errors to be worked out but at least it’s up. Thanks to my web designer, all of my websites feed to the same place. Take a look! JourneyForwardforLife.com Soon I will be adding helpful videos and workshops (online and in person). If you want to be on my email list, just sign up on my website.
Angry with anyone today? Think about the things the person is doing that contribute to the anger you feel toward them. Then think about this: Sometimes we are so quick to point the finger at others and forget to look within. Is there something you might be doing that is contributing to the situation? Perhaps in other areas of your life are you doing the very same things you are angry at the other person for? Maybe…maybe not.
When we get in our self righteous stance, we sometimes forget someone else might be angry at us for something we have done…or not done. When I am really angry with someone it’s easy to list all of the reasons why I am justified. Another thought occasionally finds its way into my mind, “You know, Karen, people are probably angry at you right now for something you may have done.” That thought stops me for a moment. It softens me.
Sometimes our anger is justified but even in justified anger we can get really hard and unloving. It turns into bitterness that can eat us up from the inside out. It’s ok to be angry but bitterness is not good for us or anyone around us.
Is there an area in your life where it might be helpful to soften the intensity of the anger you are feeling? To recognize you aren’t without fault in this life? The softening might give you a healthier perspective of the situation. At the very least, it will be better for your emotional and physical health.
PS I’m working on this, too!
So sorry for a long delay between posts. I ran into a bit of a technical issue with my blog that is now remedied. Since last writing, we have learned that Anna’s lung functions stabilized. She has about 1/2 her lung capacity. It has remained this way for about the last two months. Our hope is she stays at this level for the long haul. Anna has adjusted to the reduced lung capacity physically and doesn’t notice most of the time. We’ll know more about the progression of the chronic rejection this summer after Anna’s next Dr’s visit at Duke.
NEWS: I have a new website that will be up and running hopefully soon. I’m combining my Journey Forward website with my new, Journey Forward for Life domain. I am planning on offering videos and online workshops to supplement the Journey Forward Workbook. I also have an idea to create in-person retreats that will give a limited number of people the chance to go to a beautiful place where they can work on issues in a group format lead by me.
The first retreat will be on Self Care. You’ll have the opportunity to explore who you are, what you like and don’t like and how you can restore and recharge. We’ll dig into the whys behind the challenges you face in taking care of yourself or even knowing what you like. I’m excited about the changes to come. If you want to stay in the loop, please email me and I’ll get you on my email list. No constant filling of your inbox, just letting you know when I’m launching new offerings. Email me as well if you are interested in participating in my first retreat this summer: email@example.com
Here’s to humming along!
Anna has returned home from Duke Hospital! She is laying low and doing her best to avoid all the nasty germs since her immune system is not strong. She is getting back to just living a normal life. She will return to her new apartment in Phoenix next week. She is in a friend’s wedding next weekend and then she will start her internship at Southwest Behavioral Health.
I asked her how she is doing with her diagnosis of chronic rejection. She said she is choosing not to think about it. There is nothing she can do to change it. Moping around about it sucks life out of her and makes the present very gloomy. She is living in the moment of what is rather than what could be. She spent some time crying about it and then wiped her tears and said, “OK.”
I’m sure those tears will crop back up now and then. She’ll feel them and then continue to move forward. That’s the healthiest way to deal with the harsh realities of life. She sets a fabulous model for all of us as we face our own challenges, disappointments, and pain. Feel them if they are real, let the tears fall, and then wipe our eyes and move on. Live in the now, not the ‘what could be’.
On Thursday I was casually enjoying coffee with a friend. My plan for the day was to take care of a few errands and then head up to Buffalo, WY to enjoy my Birthday and New
Year’s with family there. I got a text from my step-daughter that my granddaughter was super sick and it might be good to put our trip off by a day or two. Plans change. Within an hour, I got another call. This one was from a nurse breaking the news that my daughter, Anna needed to get on a plane and head to Duke Hospital ASAP. Anna had gone to the Dr. for a regular checkup. While there, they discovered her lung function had decreased significantly. After a conversation with her team at Duke it was determined she needed to be treated there. By 5:30p we were on a flight to Raleigh/Durham. After we arrived, Anna was immediately admitted to the hospital. We don’t know exactly what’s going on. The likely culprit is rejection, but we won’t know for sure for a few days.
When I first heard about this I just listened. My next step was to call my husband and let him know. As I talked to him the gravity of it all started to sink in and I started crying. I cried for Anna because she, her dad, stepmom, brother and sister were supposed to leave on Sunday for their first-ever cruise. Anna was extremely excited about it and to hear she couldn’t go left her crying so hard she couldn’t tell me, that’s why the nurse called me. I also cried because I feared the worst: irreversible rejection. That’s where I started sinking. Fearing the unknown.
While sitting on the airplane I realized I was future-tripping. My eyes felt hot and tired and I started crying again. Then it hit me, I have no idea what’s going on with Anna’s lungs. This could all be an over-reaction. It could be minor rejection. It could be devastating rejection where the only solution is another transplant. These are all “could-be’s” none are a reality any human is aware of at this point. So I stopped myself. I said I will deal with reality when I know it. For now, stay with what I know is true and real.
That is what I am doing: staying in the here and now. It’s very freeing. Every time the sneaky future-buggers start yipping about how this might happen or that might happen, I quickly quiet them down with, “There aren’t any answers right now.” It simply requires awareness and intentional thought. Simple, not always easy, but always freeing!
The further I walk down this journey of life, the more I realize life is just plain hard and people are messy. Somehow I thought life was easy, people were uncomplicated and almost everyone was nice. I remember the first time I realized people are complicated and mean, I was 23 and managing my dad’s hotel in Aspen, CO. A guest treated me horribly. It was because I was on the other side of the counter (like the other side of the tracks). The man talked to me as though I was sub-human. I was in disbelief and a tiny crack began to form in the protective layer of shellac I had poured all over the messiness of life so I wouldn’t be aware of it.
The shellac comes in the form of stories we create. We force everything that goes on around us into that story. At some point, though, the story begins to disintegrate and when it does, we melt into a puddle along with it. It’s healthy to melt. In that space, we are able to experience life as it really is instead of in some story we created. While the story might feel good, it doesn’t actually serve us well as adults. The story keeps us pouring lots and lots of shiny shellac over the pile of crap that exists in reality. It’s just polished poop.
When we take the shellac off, we can deal with the icky parts of ourselves and the world around us. We can be sad and hurt. We can grieve. We can be with others who embrace reality, too. And this is the place where healing happens: aware of our own issues, knowing others have issues and being vulnerable with each other. No more stories! No more polished poop!
Note: Sometimes when we let the shellac dissolve, it’s too much for us to bear and we feel as though we are falling apart, like the bottom has dropped out from beneath us and we’re in a free fall. If you are ever in a place like this, please seek out the help of a Mental Health Professional. You can also call the National Suicide Hotline just to talk with someone, whether you are suicidal or not: 800-273-8255
Just like you, I need to fill up my tanks. I need to enlist self care. Part of my self care is receiving encouragement and guidance from others. For the past few years I have been learning from Molly Mahar. She is a coach who offers a variety of online trainings. I appreciate her honest approach to life and tapping into all the amazing abilities we have. I could keep this to myself but I want to spread the word about Molly.
So often in our culture we hoard info and stuff for ourselves, fearful that if we share, someone might pass us on the ladder to success. I believe there’s lots of room on that ladder. We all have something to offer the world and I’m not going to stand in the way of another’s steps up the rungs. In fact, I’m going to help, even if it’s for someone who is farther ahead than I am or will pass me.
Oh sure! there’s a selfish part inside of me who wants to keep people down, but I don’t want to feed that part. That part is mean, self-centered and greedy. So I’m pushing past that and feeding the part that wants to embrace and share and love! There was a bit of bait from Molly: a contest for the ones who get the most people to sign up for her course. I’m more motivated by the desire to share Molly’s wisdom than winning a contest 🙂
I signed up for Molly’s Courage Council. If you’re interested in tackling your blocks to moving forward, take a look at Molly’s course. It starts September 11. Click here to find out more!
I was informed of an occurrence in a loved one’s life that sucked a bit of life out of me. At this point I will not be telling you the details. It’s not my story to tell. While I was alone with the new information, I started to cry. I cried for the person. The wave of tears left me for a moment and I began to think about my ownership in the situation. Years ago I had an affair. It was a conglomeration of the worst decisions I have ever made in my life. It hit me that while my loved one dealt with their own pain, I was oblivious to even the slightest changes in this person. I was so self absorbed at the time, so consumed with my own pride and selfishness, I missed a very pivotal time in history.
As another layer of the negative ripples of my affair surfaced, I felt deep pangs of regret and remorse. Tears flowed again followed by heaving sobs. It felt good to cry and purge the anger and disappointment. I was driving to Aspen to visit family and attend a Board meeting. While crying, I wondered if other travelers noticed I was crying. Instantly I “looked” at myself with an expression of “OMG! Are you kidding me?!” This is the very pride that tripped me up with my affair: I was being noticed and it felt good. Here I was crying about my selfish choices and thinking all about myself yet again! Ugh!
I am a God-believing person, so I took this to Him. I poured out my frustrations with this prideful, selfish side of me and begged for help to stop. Then I enlisted a useful thought-stopping technique:
- Each time I noticed myself making something all about me, I told myself to stop.
- I looked at the beauty all around me to get my mind off of me and on to something else.
- I audibly spoke a narrative of what I was seeing. You can say it in your head if people are around but it’s most effective if you say it aloud.
It helped. The focus on myself stopped. That time. Not too much longer, it happened again. Cracking up at this behavior, I said, “STOP!” and went through the process again. Now, every time I start that pride-filled thinking, I use the Stop Technique. It’s been several days and I haven’t needed to use it. I will again, I’m sure, but for now I seem to have reached a respite from the “all about me” thinking.
It’s important to understand the underlying issues that contribute to why I wondered if people were noticing I was crying. It’s an issue from my childhood (no surprise!). I was the fifth out of six children for most of my childhood. My parents were ultra busy running their hotel. I was not noticed. I was not special. I think there’s a careful balance necessary between letting our children know they are important and noticed by us without creating self absorbed children who think the world begins and ends because of them. Confident in who they are, not arrogant and entitled. I’m working on being confident, not arrogant or chastising myself (the opposite of arrogance and equally unhealthy). It’s a crazy pendulum swing I find myself on at times. I’m thankful techniques exist to ground myself back to truth and reality!
I’m taking on a new role as an adjunct professor for Dr. John Townsend’s Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University, Irvine CA. Initially I was thrilled about the opportunity to teach for his Master’s and Certificate programs in Counseling, Organizational Leadership and Executive Coaching. I went through the hiring process, check. I navigated setting up my email and access to the online portal, check. Perused the Online Blackboard and froze in my tracks with fear! I unsuccessfully attempted to navigate this completely unknown program. I couldn’t find the information I needed to tell me how to make sense of everything in front of me. I was supposed to create my own practice-course to prepare for using the program but I couldn’t even figure out step one. That was a few weeks ago. I logged off the system and ignored it. I considered resigning before I had even begun.
Recently, a thought entered my mind: I could call one of my friends who has already been teaching and likely knows how to use Blackboard. I could call the man listed as my contact person for help. I relaxed some as I realized all is not lost. I don’t have to jump ship before weighing anchor. Yesterday I logged back on to the system. I accidentally ended up finding the learning modules but quickly got myself lost again and couldn’t find them. Panic ensued. “I’ll never be able to do this. What am I thinking? My brain is getting too old for learning new things.” Defeat began to settle in again. Then a small yet courageous voice starting making itself heard in my mind, “You CAN do this. Your brain is NOT too old. Stay with what you know is true right now. This is hard, yes. It is new, yes. Remember you have a few life lines–the help person and your friends. Oh yes, that’s right. I can at least give this a try.”
Before calling my life lines I searched one more time. Low and behold, I found the Instruction Modules. They call it The Sandbox. I think of a sandbox as a fun place to learn. Up to this point the sandbox hasn’t been any fun. I had to find the sandbox. I did it the hard way, on my own. I could have asked for help. I just wanted to see what I could find on my own first before I asked and heard, “The title you are clicking on is the one you will use when you are ready to create your own practice course. The one you need is just below it.”
I like that I figured it out on my own. It took a bit more time and included more frustration but I did it and that feels good. I like that I was freaked out by this unknown world. I don’t want to stay only with the known. I need to keep my 51 year old brain learning new information or I will get stuck. Fear can do that to us. It can keep us stuck. What do we gain if we stay stuck? Maybe ease in some way at the moment but not down the road. By regularly challenging ourselves and stepping into our fears we keep our brain active by creating new neural pathways, we grow in our confidence and we develop more compassion for others.
It was this new fear that helped me connect more deeply with my clients and those near me who are facing their own fears. I get the fear. I feel it regularly. And I welcome it! I’ve read in several different books to do something everyday that scares me. Something that is bigger than me, something new. Not to torture myself but to stretch and grow my abilities.
Come and join me in the sandbox. You might have to find it first but once you do, it will feel so good to be here.
Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Self-Help
Tags: Challenging ourselves, Concordia University Irvine, fear, Individual growth, Learning, Teaching, Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling