He needed a good listening to…

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I was reminded what quality time means. I noticed my 17-year-old becoming more withdrawn, so I invited him to breakfast. It’s usually the five of us that venture out, making this a unique opportunity for both of us.
We laughed, talked, and gave each other complete attention for an hour.
There’s so much more to him than I realized. In part because I’ve missed how much his brothers talk for him, interrupt him, etc.
Chronic brain fog can blind me to the most important things it seems. My focus easily preoccupied with my day to day challenges.
Grateful a little “we” time was able to bring so much to light.
An important note. I had a list of questions I wanted answers to, questions about how he’s thinking, doing, and feeling.
But I didn’t ask them. These questions came from a place of worry, and could have come off as an interrogation. That would have put him in the position of having to comfort my worry with reassurance.
I didn’t want him taking care of me, it was important he understood there was no one more important to me than him right then.
Instead of twenty questions, I committed to listening deeply. Allowing for conversation to be organic so any subject that arose was welcome. Amazingly, my questions were answered.
Ever notice how often you answer your own questions when you’re talking with a skilled listener?
You can also get answers by being one. People show you who they are constantly. What they say, do, read, watch and so on.
It doesn’t take a debriefing to know what someone needs. Watching them live their lives speak volumes when you take the time to tune in.
Not easy when you’re riding the chronic pain train. Yet, it’s a reason to be more vigilant.
My son has a lot going for him, it’s clear he needs more opportunities to talk things out, so he can get clearer in his mind about things.
I wonder if I know anyone else who does that.
We have more opportunities to impact our children than endless lectures like the ones we were raised on.
By being present with another, in a way that clearly conveys, “I’m here with you, and only you. I care about how you think, and feel. I want to hear about your troubles, and celebrate your successes. We’re creating this moment together.”
Something like that. Here’s to more intentional moments together.

How’s your Self-compassion?

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Self-compassion doesn’t include self-deception. You aren’t trying to convince yourself everything is going to be okay with an optimistic whitewash.
Self-compassion is about comforting yourself with a full appreciation of your humanity.
We’re imperfect by design, and we are not less than because of it.
Being able to look at your decisions, and results through a lens that doesn’t create new shame for you, is what we’re looking for.
Maintaining your dignity, and self-worth through adversity, are beautiful experiences that come with practicing self-compassion.
That’s why it’s a primary focus of what I teach my clients.
How are you doing with it?

A good cry helps keep you honest…

I collapsed into tears last night, and am still processing this morning.
I’m having a procedure Friday (for back pain), that requires anesthesia. I’m not allowed to use my medical marijuana for 48 hours beforehand as it can interfere with the anesthesia.
I started ramping up my anxiety right away after hearing that. Work keeps me pretty distracted during the day. Distraction didn’t prevent thoughts of how awful I expected to feel, from intruding my mind all day. Anxiety was building in the background.
By the time the sun was setting, and I was in bed trying to relax, I felt a wave of dread building in my chest.
My brain began bombarding me with thoughts, telling me I’m a burden, that I’m fed up with needing so much help all the time, that this is all too hard, and so on.
I sat up, and began sobbing, saying these thoughts out loud. Not because I believed them, but because shame cannot survive in the light. I needed to get these thoughts into the open so they could be seen for what they are…fear.
I’m afraid of becoming an invalid in the future. I’m afraid of being left alone, and forgotten about while everyone else lives their lives.
Turns out, medical marijuana is as good for numbing emotion as it is pain. I can’t continue that. I plan on finding a balance so I can feel less pain but still allow emotion through.
Not in the flood like I experienced last night, but a more steady, hopefully more digestible flow throughout the day.
After I finished crying I began feeling tired, and lied back down. My wife in all her brilliance, put my weighted blanket over me, and got an icepack for my head. The combination helped me calm down even more.
Why am I sharing all this with you? I write so much because putting language to my experience helps me make sense of it, and work through it more effectively than if I kept everything sequestered in my brain.
It’s also a way, to hopefully demonstrate the power of sharing our experiences with each other. A simple conversation with a stranger can be paradigm shifting.
Why keep it to myself? I’m not in competition with you, we’re in this together. The more tools each of us has at our disposal the better we can show up for each other.

Carrying your circumstances with gratitude…

I had a moment with a stranger this morning. She called to review some things before an outpatient procedure this Friday.
She read my list of diagnoses, and surgeries, during which I was able to lay some tile, and do the necessary calculations to prove string theory.
After she finished reading, I said facetiously, “Aren’t I lucky?”
She went on to describe the various ways she’s seen people carry life’s circumstances. The, “its what you do with what you’re given” principle, as modeled by her patients.
She described a woman in treatment for the third recurrence of cancer. A woman who is also a ray of sunshine.
Then there’s the person with mild arthritis who is miserable constantly.
I learned a few things having my own experience with cancer some 34 years ago. Add the chronic pain, and fatigue I experience now.
The most consequential thing I learned is how immersion in the present moment, can open you up to more gratitude, and wonder than you realize is there.
You don’t notice because your mind is preoccupied with the past, and future.
I recommend expressing gratitude throughout your day, for the moments enriching your life. As many as you notice.
Think, “Thank you,” and feel the gratitude for the thought that cheers you up.
The piece of advice you remembered or the person who smiled, inspiring a smile in you.
The experience you’re having now is the most real. It’s the stove you’re touching that burns you, the breath you’re taking now that sustains you.
Spending your day saying, “Thank you,” hundreds of times. It’s been a transformational practice for my mindset, and emotional balance.
In time you won’t need to say, “Thank you,” to yourself. You’ll just notice a chronic feeling of gratitude.
I highly recommend it.

Self-care doesn’t have to be perfect to be helpful

When you live with chronic pain, it isn’t enough to recite an affirmation in the morning, and hope the pain is suddenly an after thought you can take in stride.

That’s an ineffective approach because it requires you to oversimplify the solution, mask your pain so everyone else is comfortable, and beat yourself up because the switch didn’t flip.

In my experience, the negative thoughts intrude all day long. Although my symptoms may vary in intensity, they don’t stop. So there’s plenty for my brain to react to.

When your mind responds with, “This SUCKS. I hate this!” “It isn’t fair I have to live like this!” I understand.

I have those moments too. I’ve also learned I don’t have to piggy back on these thoughts, and keep this line of reactivity alive.

I can acknowledge the part of myself that’s sick of all this, then remind myself my priorities are progress that includes self-care (refueling), being solution-focused, and empowered.

If you own a car, you need to fill er up or plug er in the make it go, yes?
You work the same way regardless of how hard you try to be unstoppable.

Although a part of my brain is telling me it’s hard to do what we want. Another part is saying, yes, but we can if we do it more strategically.

Both have something to say, one must ultimately be in charge.

Self-care is a habit, a habit that can require daily, and hourly reinforcement to keep going. Even if that’s what it takes, its better than the alternative.

You’re more connected than you realize…

One way I know I’m on the right track with a concept, is when I find a similar process in nature that works that way also.
We have expressions like, “Every night has it’s dawn”, or “Just keep swimming”. Examples of how nature already does, what you set out to do.
If it follows a natural process, it lessens the feeling of risk for me, because I see evidence it can work. Once I find a narrative that makes it work for me, I can plan for action.
Case in point, there’s a beautiful human experience called co-regulation. It refers to how our emotional states, and behavior are affected by each other.
We can help each other calm, cheer each other up, and suddenly find ourselves in sync. That’s co-regulation.
How deep does this process go?
On a subatomic level there’s a process called quantum-entanglement. This refers to a situation where two particles appear to be influencing each others behavior. To the point where if one particle changes its spin, the particle it’s entangled with will change its spin also.
Sometimes they just influence each other, other times they sync up. Sounds a lot like co-regulation to me.
Which stands to reason, when we help someone calm, help them find hope or discover their confidence. Aren’t we affecting them (potentially) on a quantum level as well?
When we say, “Its all connected”, we aren’t just talking philosophically. Everything is actually connected, following the same rules, and processes.
Nicola Tesla, perhaps one of the top geniuses to ever live, said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.”
Emotional “energy”, the “vibes” you get from someone.
We’re talking about how we show up for each other.
There are folks that make you cringe, become anxious or downright angry when in their space. You affect each other’s energy (for better or worse).
I shared this analogy with a client a bit ago, explaining the importance of surrounding yourself with people who help you regulate your nervous system.
Avoiding people who manufacture drama to keep their lives interesting. You need more road, and less rollercoaster.
Think about the energy around you, if it doesn’t help you regulate most of the time, we need to make some tweaks. Are you in?

Someone decided being creative, and being artistic were synonymous. PROBLEM!!!

Do you consider yourself creative?
Before you answer, it’s important to note someone, somewhere decided being creative, and being artistic were synonymous.
This perception of creativity is far too narrow, and denies the creative spirit guiding your every action.
Creativity is a process every cell in your body, and every response in your brain is actively involved in, every moment. Including, right now!
Your body creates energy, emotion, thoughts, inspired action, and so on.
When you smile at someone, and that someone smiles back. You’ve both created connection, together.
When they don’t, you’ve created an opportunity to connect with you.
They’ve created a boundary.
You’re both creators of your experience, and the experiences you create with others.
When you declutter a room you create more space.
When you’re safe to be with, you help create space for others to heal.
You with me on this?
If you ask yourself, “Why am I always messing up?”
Your mind will create a list of your weaknesses.
Ask yourself, “What action can I take to move things forward?”
Now you’re creating solution-focused, and action-oriented options.
Creativity is process as much as product. You can enjoy playing in the sand whether you build anything or not.
Your life may be more interpretive dance than DaVinci, yet it’s a sight to behold nonetheless.
Understanding yourself as a creator, reminds you you are active every moment in creating your experience.
If you don’t yet recognize this, it’s possible you are in survival mode. You feel it isn’t safe to pause, let down your guard long enough, to experience the emotional space you’re in.
What do you choose to create?
Where do you feel you have no choice? Is it out of your control, or have you been conditioned to believe it is?
Either way, you have a storehouse of creativity you’ve barely discovered. Because a misunderstanding of what it means to be creative, has put a film over your eyes.
Preventing you from experiencing the magnitude of your creative power, every time you take action in a deliberate way.
Your journey may not lead you to create an artistic masterpiece, write the song that inspires generations, or design the next device that forever changes our way of life.
But you can create a way of being in this world, that helps put others at ease. Helps them learn to believe in themselves, and that it’s okay to take risks to make life a little better for all of us.
Be you, THAT makes a difference.
That’s the work I’m helping every client of mine through, step-by-step, so they can live life as fully as possible.