pony here somewherePeople in my personal community have a funny saying for when they are going through challenging times:

“There must be a pony in here somewhere!”

Meaning: with all this shit piled up, there has to be a pony creating it. It’s our slightly oddball way of describing looking for the silver lining. 🙂

The last couple weeks, I’ve been saying that phrase to myself a lot. I truly believe that whatever hard and painful things happen in our lives, we have the capacity to make something good and meaningful out of them. Perhaps not in the moment or while standing in the midst of the shitpile – something good and meaningful can be made from painful events eventually.

I didn’t always believe that. At times in my life I’d have argued you til I was blue in the face that there was no such things as a silver lining. Looking back, however, I find it’s true – whatever painful and hard events I’ve lived through, I have eventually found a way to create something meaningful and good out of it.

So, these last couple weeks, while I’ve been wading through my own piles of shit, I’ve also been looking for my pretty pony.

It occurred to me that a number of times in my life, when I’ve been in the muck and mire of some emotional upheaval or event, that I would have loved to have someone completely unattached to the situation to call up and help me climb out of the shit pile and move forward again.

Not an intense counseling session or long drawn out discussion. Just a quick “here’s what’s up” and “I need some perspective. please” chat.

That’s when my pony showed up.

Because I can do that for people. I can be that loving yet objective person people can call to get some perspective and start moving forward again.

I do that already for my counseling clients – but not everyone needs counseling. (I know, I know, us counselors aren’t supposed to admit that…but it’s true!) Some people just need someone to occasionally give us fresh perspective and remind them of their own capability.

My pony showed up as another way for me to do my work. Another way for me to help others find their voice, be heard, be loved, and be valued. My pony became my new service – the “Out-of-the-Muck Booster Calls.”

I have to say, I’m pretty excited about my pony. It totally made shoveling all the shit these last weeks worth it!!

How about you? What ponies have shown up in your life?

And, seriously, if you’d like some help climbing out of the muck so you can find your pony, do get in touch! I’d love to lend a hand!

mothers day messI had planned to hide today. To bury myself under metaphorical covers and avoid the flood of Mother’s Day messages on Facebook and all over the stores. To lose myself in books and movies and pretend this emotional day doesn’t exist.

I’ve struggled with Mother’s Day for years. Some years I’ve felt angry and bitter, grieving deeply for my daughters and angry that no one seemed to notice. Other years I’ve done as I planned to do this year, to avoid it, isolate myself and pretend it didn’t exist. Yet other years I focused on my love for my mother and grandmother and for my girls and worked to ignore the pain and loss I felt.

For the last 11 years, Mother’s Day has mostly been about trying to avoid feeling too much. It’s been a fight with myself between being visible and being invisible, arguing with myself about all the conflicting feelings of anger and grief and love and sadness and fear.

I talk a lot about how mothers with no children here in physical form can seem invisible – not seen by the world at large as the mothers that they are because they have no obvious physical, visible proof of their children. Professionally, I work to give these “invisible mothers” a voice, recognition, and acknowledgement. Personally, I fight to figure out how I want to acknowledge and recognize and speak for myself.

I had planned to hide this year. To avoid the dizzying array of conflicting feelings and just wait for the day to pass.

But hiding only serves to perpetuate invisibility. Hiding does not take away the pain or grief or sadness of this day. Avoiding the emotions of today will only serve to amplify those emotions – believe me, I’ve had plenty of experience with this! Hiding from this day doesn’t serve me or anyone.

Not everyone will understand the pain that I and others feel on this day. I may never understand the joy that mothers with physically here children may feel on this day. Everyone has their own experience of this day and likely people will always disagree on how it “should” be handled.

I get that. And it’s ok.

Instead of hiding, I will live this day. I will feel whatever I feel and let that be ok. I’ll go to my spiritual center and acknowledge the pain when the mothers are recognized. I’ll take myself out to a movie and celebrate for myself that way. I’ll call my mother and feel happy that she’s my mother and she’s still here. I’ll think of my girls and be grateful that they chose me as their mother. I’ll cry because they are gone.

I’ll live this day with all it’s messy and conflicting emotions because life is messy. Grief is messy. Motherhood is messy. Love is messy.

If I can’t avoid the mess, I might as well jump in and embrace it.

Online-datingWell, I’m probably about to break the rules again. Shocking, right? 🙂

I’m going to do what many of my colleagues would frown upon and talk about something personal again.

Online dating.

And how it has taught me self-approval.

I took the leap into online dating about 6 months ago – after having avoided it for a number of years. If I’m honest, the main reason I avoided it was because I knew it would mean having to deal with my “stuff.” Insecurities, body issues, loveability, blah blah blah.

I have to admit, the first few months of online dating, well, it sucked.

I felt pretty crappy every time I logged onto my account or thought about it. I felt crappy because my thoughts were crappy.

“No one’s going to be interested in me.”
“I’m too fat so no guy will give me a chance.”
“I don’t know how to do this.”
“Why would anyone want to spend their life with me?”

Those were just a few of the thoughts and beliefs racing through my head. I spent half my time looking at profiles of men with the view of “would he give me a chance?” or “would he be interested in me.”

I desperately wanted it to be easy. For some guy to magically find me, sweep in, and make it so I didn’t have to work through my insecurities and fears. I kept looking at these profiles with the hope that somehow I would find someone to approve of me and to “rescue me.”

I did not care much for the part of myself seeking approval and reassurance from another.

Fortunately, I have the support of an amazing coach. She helps kick my ass in situations such as these 🙂 and refuses to let me stay stuck in my stuff.

So, I have been doing my work.

I have questioned my thoughts and beliefs. I have taken action despite insecurities and fears and doubts. When I caught myself looking for approval or rescuing outside myself, I took a deeper look inside myself. I cried and kept going. I sent emails, got no response, and made myself send another. I made myself send emails when I felt too fat and ugly to be attractive to anyone. I challenged my thoughts again and again and again.

And it slowly began to shift.

It got easier to look at profiles, to send emails, to respond to emails and even to go on dates and not have so much of the emotional rollercoaster. I slowly stopped asking if “he” would be interested in me and started asking if I was interested in him. I got more relaxed on dates and started being more myself.

My profile description changed and I added more quirky tidbits in because I was no longer afraid of someone reading it and thinking “she’s weird.” I wanted them to do just that. Because I realized that I like who I am – and so would the guy who would love me. When I go on a date and someone isn’t a good fit for me, I don’t get upset anymore. A little disappointed perhaps, but I simply wish him well and move one. I stopped waiting and hoping for someone to “rescue me” from my insecurities and found security in myself.

I haven’t magically found my guy since this shift – not yet anyway. And that’s ok. It’ll happen when it happens and I’m actually starting to enjoy the process. Because whatever happens I’ve learned to love and approve of myself. I’ll continue to work through more of my stuff and to love and approve of myself even more.

My doubts and insecurities and body issues and loveability were never the problems. Only my thoughts about them were.

Who knew that online dating would be just the thing I needed to learn to love and approve of myself – exactly as I am.

Is there anything you’re avoiding because of the “stuff” it might bring up? What if that something was the path to what you want most?

Something to ponder 🙂

nothing wrongMoving is exhausting. That’s what I’ve remembered (again) this week. Moving is exhausting.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m overly tired, my mind can get a little….monkey-ish. Jumping around to all sorts of insecurities, fears, and second-guessing everything.

It’s been quite the week trying to corral my monkey brain.

Fortunately, this past week I’ve also been participating in a Facebook group centered around the idea of practicing 30 days of “Nothing Wrong with Me.” The idea is that we practice knowing everyday, in our bones, that there is nothing wrong with us.

Nothing wrong with our choices.
Nothing wrong with how we feel.
Nothing wrong with who we are.
Nothing wrong with what we love.
Nothing wrong with how we grieve.
Nothing wrong with where we are in life.

Nothing wrong with us, period.

We are exactly where we are supposed to be. Doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Feeling exactly what we are supposed to feel. Loving what we are supposed to love. Making the perfect and right choices for us right now.

When it’s time to be or do or feel or choose something different, we will. And that will be exactly right too.

Even the overenthusiastic monkey-brain is exactly right.

Because unless we make it so ourselves, there’s never anything wrong with us.

Where in your life could you practice a little “nothing wrong with me?”

minding-businessWhat you think of me is none of my business.

This is what I have been reminding myself over and over again the last few days. It started with a conversation with a friend. During this conversation she stated that she felt I’d been depressed or sad for a while. That I wasn’t the playfully happy person I used to be.

I have to say, my first response was bafflement. I didn’t feel particularly depressed (and, believe me, I know what depressed feels like!). I would admit to feeling a bit sad for the last few weeks as the anniversary of my daughter’s would-have-been 11th birthday approached, but not overly sad before that.

When the conversation continued, I learned that this perceived depression and sadness was why we hadn’t spent much time together in recent months. And the bafflement shifted to hurt.

What was most painful was that I immediately started to make myself wrong and to doubt my own feelings.

See, I’m a happy person. I love my life and I am mindful to pay attention to the gifts and blessings that come into it. I feel a lot of gratitude a lot of the time. And, for the past 18 months or so, my life has also been one upheaval after another. Outer upheavals that include starting my own business, losing weight, increasing my physical activity, a change in my financial situation, relationship changes and most recently the process of moving to a new house. I’ve also experience many inner upheavals as I have worked to change my thoughts and beliefs about who I am, my work in the world, my finances, my body, my relationship with food, and much more.

So, perhaps there was some truth to what my friend said. I’m not the same person I was a couple years ago. I’m probably not happy or playful – not in the same way that I was.

I can’t be that person again. I’ve changed. I wasn’t wrong about my feelings. I am happy. I still love to play and joke around and have fun. I do it often. I laugh a lot and talk in British accents to my cat and make silly pictures in the flour I spill while making bagels. I love the direction my life is going and I love the work I get to do every day. I am absolutely clear I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I have amazing friends and family with whom I share a mutual love and adoration.

These last 18 months have also been challenging. I feel scared a lot. I feel uncertain much more than I would like. I feel insecure and unsettled and unclear. I doubt myself and my abilities at times. I sometimes feel alone and disconnected.

Sometimes, I feel all of those emotions – the good and the less-than-great – all at once. When I moved past the hurt and upset of this conversation with my friend, I realized that what she thought of me and how she perceived me was none of my business.

Because my business is how I see myself and how I feel about my life. I see myself as happy. I wouldn’t go back to who I was. These changes and upheavals are scary and uncertain and unsettling, yes, but I wouldn’t give them up for anything. I’m not completely sure how all these aspects of my life are going to unfold and that’s challenging for me. All of it, however, is part of the adventure.

It’s my business to live my adventure – ups and downs and everything in between. To be authentic to me, I have to let it be ok to feel all those feelings and live both the light and the dark of my life.

That may mean my friend might choose not to be around as I move through this upheaval-y stage of my life. It may mean she might not see the happy moments because she’s unwilling to be with me through the challenging moments. And that’s ok.

I’ll be with me. The me that is ever-changing and evolving minute-by-minute these days.

Because I like the me I’ve become. And I already adore the me I’m becoming.

The question is never “does XYZ person like or approve of me?”

It’s always “do I like and approve of myself?” Nothing else matters.

Be you. Do it your way. Mind your own business. 🙂

In other business news: I am excited and proud to announce that IT’S HERE!! My ebook “Sensitive Conversations: Talking with Kids about Death, Grief, and Violence” is now available for download on my website and on Kindle!! 

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Beauty+Life+You

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