As Halloween approached memories from my childhood are bubbling up to the surface. One in particular captured my attention.
When I was about five, my Uncle Ed created a costume for me. Tradition was that we dressed up, went trick or treating around the neighborhood, and then the community gathered at the local firehouse for cider, donuts, bobbing for apples, and the costume contest.
That year, a pair of my light blue cotton pajamas became the backdrop for all of my uncle’s fireman medals and badges. I wore a mask–a man’s craggy old face and atop his head was a fire hat. I was the hit of the night, and the delight on my uncle’s face brought a smile to my own. I can still hear his cackling laughter echoing from the past.
Recently, I shared that memory with my friend, Anita, who was visiting for the week with her husband, Kit. As we sipped our morning drinks, I recalled walking around the circle with all of the adults laughing and smiling at all the young people dressed in our costumes. I, in particular, felt noticed, and later was awarded first prize for the best costume.
When I completed my story of that event in my childhood, I was stunned at what I had just discovered. Remembering the feelings of being noticed and being elated that I was finally visible to those around me, I suddenly recalled the sense of the mask on my face.
Behind the rubbery facade, it was safe to be seen. And I wasn’t really being seen for me. I was portraying a character that was far from who I really am. There was a certain comfort in that. And I also knew I was winning the approval of at least one person who was close to me.
That pattern of seeking approval from those around me continued far past my childhood, and it’s taken some discipline to overcome that habit. It’s a practice to show up as who I am, no longer worrying whether someone likes what I said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do––and trusting that it’s safe to be seen for me.
There is some risk in this. Potential lovers fade into the background as I adamantly lay down my deal breakers. And many individuals who knew me from the time that I wore many masks are unsettled by my confidence and authenticity. At times, I find our relationships shift and some distance is often required to preserve any of our common ground. It’s necessary to remember as my friend Hilda once said, “Stay in the present. Meet people where they are. And respond appropriately.”
The biggest hurdle of showing up authentically has been to no longer expect my mother to see me as who I am. She never really could, and I struggled for years to change that, often making poor decisions so that I would be seen by her, or surrogates that reminded me of her. There’s a relief in letting go of the need for approval, and with that, I’m able to call her weekly, to check in, to see how she’s doing, rarely sharing details of my own life. I merely listen to hers and answer the questions she has about my kids. In other words, I do stay in the present, I meet her where she’s at, and I respond with kindness.
On a recent trip to New York, one in which I was helping to prepare my mom for a move to my sister’s, I was visiting an old friend. Kathi and I first met when I compromised my values and stayed in a marriage that created an unhealthy environment for my children and me–all because I was trying to please my father, who condemned me for “breaking up the family.” To his credit, he didn’t know just how bad it was; to his discredit, he cared more about upholding the dogma of the church than my happiness. He didn’t trust my judgement, so to ensure his love and approval, I stayed another five years, until finally, I threw that mask away.
I hadn’t seen Kathi for a few years and during our visit, she remarked, “You’re finally comfortable in your own skin.”
And that I am. Occasionally, that old-but familiar–discomfort arises, I quickly assess what mask I’m wearing and why. It doesn’t stay on long, and it reminds me that being comfortable with who we are is a practice–and a journey. Like snakes, we must occasionally, shed our old skin as we make way for the greater potential of who we really are…one season at a time.
Upon wakening one morning earlier this week, I pulled the blankets up close to my chin. This was the first indication that there was change in the air after weeks of heat and humidity that I thought I had left behind when I moved to California.
Stepping out of bed, the early morning chill kissed my bare arms, and I needed to don more than my yoga tank. A light sweatshirt was in order. A few minutes later, Lily and I took our first walk of the day.
As my senses relished the change in the air, I contemplated the significance of the change of seasons. Back east, the place I called home in my childhood, fall represented the time of vibrant colors, rustling leaves, and the preparation for winter. Here, in San Diego, there are hints of the seasonal changes, even while we continue to romp along the beachside or in the nearby peaks. And while there are promises of El Niño, I merely need to consider digging out my raincoats and umbrellas, not stacking firewood and putting the snow tires on the car.
As I continued to saunter along the street with Lily, my thoughts floated back to a blog I wrote a couple of years ago about committing to ourselves. It’s easy in the demands of daily life with work and family obligations to forget that commitment. Even with a regular mentioning of my daily disciplines to my accountability partner, Meg, I often dismiss the necessity of doing my seven minutes of sun salutations when I’m not heading off to a yoga class or reading my affirmations and goals when I’m knee deep in taking actions to attain them. Even now, sitting with my daily discipline of writing for fifteen minutes before I start the day, I heard the garbage trucks heading this way and I stopped, collected the garbage, and tucked it on the curb. The normal demands of every day life drew my attention away from what is important to me. Holding two small bags of garbage for another week would not result in unbearable circumstances. And even though, I know I will write beyond that fifteen minutes and have just added another five to my timer, I wonder why it’s so difficult for me to stay with the task at hand-–particularly when that task feeds my soul and brings great joy to my life.
While many couples regularly renew their vows to their marriage, I am struck with the desire to renew the vow to myself. My soul has been nudging me to look at ways I’ve not been treating myself with the highest degree of respect and kindness. My sleep has been encroached by late nights and early mornings of teaching–and some social events–resulting in an inordinate need for more coffee to keep going during the and a glass of wine to unwind at night. These habits are sending my body into rebellion. Feeling inflamed with aches in my hips and in my hands, and an overall heaviness, it’s time for me to honor the changing of the seasons with a change of habits.
On the way home last night, I stopped at Whole Foods and stocked up on teas–some with calming herbs, some with cinnamon and vanilla, and green tea to take the place of some of the caffeine from the coffee.
Knowing that balance is important, I will have one coffee a day during a pause between my responsibilities and the wine will be assigned a place at dinner with friends, where I can savor the richness of the flavors and aroma. Deprivation can be a form of self-flagellation and I’ve done enough of that in my life. This isn’t about punishing myself for going too far astray to my commitment to my health. It’s about coming back to center. It’s as my friend Carla White, author of the soon-to-be published book, Showing Up – Lessons in Happiness, Humour and the Courageous Heart (2016), refers to as soul care.
As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true,” and so I am. Beginning now and in the days ahead, I’m treating myself to savoring delicious teas, a few extra yoga classes, and a massage–along with snuggling on my sofa with at least one of my favorite writers.
I first met Hank on a rainy Christmas morning three years ago. He was sitting on the sidewalk outside of Peet’s Coffee cafe where Jude, Max, and I were about to celebrate our good deeds. We’d just spent the last hour or so delivering bags of goodies to the homeless. The idea to begin a tradition came from participating in Robert MacPhee’s Prosperity Game, where each day for two weeks we received virtual checks in our email inbox and the amount doubled each day. We were to “spend” the money on anything but paying bills. It was nearing Christmas and I decided to “spend” some of my money on filling 100 bags for the homeless people on my neighborhood and include space blankets, water, food, toothbrushes, and other items. After posting my idea on the game’s Facebook page, I left my computer feeling a little sad that I couldn’t make that happen. In reality, I didn’t have what it would take to buy 100 gift bags, let alone fill them.
A couple of days passed, and I found myself thinking about my dream of filling those bags. Then it dawned on me. I didn’t have to start with 100. I could start with ten, and so I did. I enlisted Jude and Max’s help, hoping that it would instill some sense of charity in their hearts. While we may live on budgets, we do not go without. We are very blessed.
The day before Christmas Eve, the boys came over to my house, and we decorated the bags. We spent the evening with Christmas music playing, eating good food, and imagining who we might meet the next day. After the bags were filled with bottled water, a packet of instant coffee, a cutie, and a granola bar, we settled into watching a movie and eating our dessert. Christmas Eve morning we awoke to rain. Jude looked out the window and said, “Mio, how are we going to deliver our bags?” The disappointment was heavy in his voice. I too was a little worried that we might not be able to complete our good deed. “It will stop raining, Jude.” I said hopefully. Max, just about two years old at the time, hadn’t grasped the concept of our mission and was oblivious to the rain and our concern as he played on the floor with Ninja Turtles that once were his Uncle Pete’s.
By mid-morning, the sun broke through the clouds, and we loaded up a backpack, tucked Max into his stroller, and headed out onto the streets. I was a little unsure of our reception, but with each bag, I saw a smile and a twinkle of an eye. We were spreading a little holiday cheer with a bag whose contents cost a little more than $5.00. We had one bag left as we arrived at Peet’s and that’s where we met Hank. He was the only one I feared approaching. He was sitting on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth, with a deck of cards in his hands, turning one over and then another and then another. As we stood near, he acted like he didn’t notice our presence. I took a deep breath and checked in with my intuition, and my fears subsided. “Go ahead, Jude. Give him the bag.” Jude bent down and set the bag just a few inches from the cards laying on the sidewalk. Hank ceased flipping the cards, and he stopped rocking. He peered into the bag and then he cocked his head, and looked up at us with his deep brown eyes. “Merry Christmas,” I said. Jude echoed the same. Hank moved his attention back to the contents of the bag, and we slipped inside Peet’s back door.
We didn’t see Hank the next Christmas, but we did touch other lives. Jude and Max had accompanied me on the shopping trip to Costco and I worried that the gift bags would hold all that they chose––goldfish, protein bars, fruit strips, water, cuties, Emergen-C, and more. This time one of Jude and Max’s little friends, Violet, joined us along with my daughter, Shana. It was a beautiful warm day, and we walked around my neighborhood, but without much luck of finding our intended recipients. After a lunch at Project Pizza, we headed to Balboa Park. Jude and I wandered further than Max, Shana, and Violet, and when we had given away our last bag, we headed back to meet the rest of our party. As we passed by a couple exchanging gifts on a park bench, the gentleman said, “That’s really nice what you’re doing.” Jude beamed. He got it.
The tradition continued again this year. Jude takes his job very seriously decorating the bags and Max seems to enjoy stuffing them, counting the number of bars, cuties, or whatever we have to ensure that each person receives the same. This year we included the standard fair, plus a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Hank didn’t receive a bag again this year, but a few months ago, I did run into him. I was writing at Peet’s sitting at window table, overlooking the street when he came in and rummaged through the garbage and emerged with a cup of half consumed coffee. He wandered outside and stood by the bus stop, drinking the remaining contents. As I watched him, I knew I had to do more, and so I asked the man sitting next to me to watch my computer. I purchased Hank a cup of coffee, a bottle of water and a muffin, and proceeded to track him down. I found him a half a block away, and I walked up to him. “Wait, I have something for you.” He looked at me and then pointed at the building, “Look up there. The number 10.” He repeated it several times. A woman near us, said to him, “Why don’t you just take it?” He looked at her, looked at me, and pointed at the building again. “Here,” I said, “It’s yours.” I set the bag with the muffin and the water and the cup of coffee on the sidewalk and then turned and walked away. I never looked back.
A couple of weeks later, as I walked home from yoga, I sensed I needed to take a different route. A block away, I ran into Hank, and this time, he saw me. It was a warm day, and he was strolling down the street sipping a cup of coffee. Gone was his trademark dirty blue coat, and he sported a fresh hair cut. As I came closer, he leaned against the railing of an outside dining area of a restaurant. He titled his head and his brown eyes met mine as he smiled. I smiled too. He remembered.
For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve been hit by a truck. Despite seeming that life is rolling along on my Facebook page and that I’m in a state of joy and happiness––and I am when I’m with Jude and Max––for the most part I’m feeling pretty miserable.
I have at my disposal coaching tools, RIM, meditation, EFT, and much more, and I haven’t been able to get out from under this cloud that has been following me for weeks. While I live in San Diego, and no longer see those grand clouds that take up the entire sky as they did in Texas, the cloud that has been hovering over every aspect of my being has been growing.
There is a range of emotions that I’m feeling––fear, anxiety, lethargy––that I haven’t felt in years. Then there’s the pure freakin’ anger. I’m pissed. I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in my training, marketing seminars, marketing materials, and more. I’ve spent hours upon hours networking, virtually and otherwise. And my business isn’t where I want it to be––or need it to be, to create a livelihood that is safe and comfortable for myself.
I’ve made just about every mistake ever made when starting a business. I fell into the trap of spending more time working in my business than on my business. I haven’t valued my services in a way that honors my years of experience in writing, publishing, and in entrepreneurship.
And I haven’t been consistent in my blogging, or in my social media posting, but when I do there is an impact. The feedback I receive is that I touch something in my readers, and I get public and private messages––heartfelt messages––telling me that I’m doing something right here.
It’s not like I have no clients at all. I have a half of dozen awesome clients whose messages are going to touch the hearts of many, and help improve the lives of countless individuals. I receive a great deal of meaning and happiness from midwifing the creations of my clients, and when they give birth, I’m like a proud mama watching her baby walk for the first time, graduate from college, or get that first big promotion.
Despite all of this my client load is unpredictable––no volatile––going south fast with very little warning––just when I think things are finally reaching a tipping point––in my favor. And I’ve been contemplating why.
Writing is a tough game. You stare at a blank page, wondering what the hell I’m going to say, or who is going to read it. And then at one point or another there is the biggest obstacle of all––the fear of exposing your innermost thoughts for everyone to read––the family, strangers, the clerk at the grocery. Everyone will be seeing inside of you. Cleaning the refrigerator becomes more appealing than sitting down to the computer. I know. I’ve been there. And I frequent that place far more than I like to admit––particularly since I coach other writers through the process.
And in fact, that’s exactly what’s been messing up my flow–in all areas of my life.
I’m choking off the lifeblood of creations that I’ve birthed, left to sit on my desktop. I’m ignoring those little beings that are beginning to come into my consciousness, whispering in my ear. “Hey, how about your thoughts on this?” And then there’s the baby that I orphaned at birth––my memoir of learning to fly fishing on the Lower Laguna Madre and what I discovered about myself––and life––while stalking redfish and speckled sea trout.
A year ago, almost to the day, I settled into the driver’s seat of my car, with the key poised near the ignition, and I heard the words:
“If you can’t commit to yourself, how can anyone else?”
An earthquake reverberated through my body that shook me to my core. That was it. The missing step to Dancing at Your Edge…or more aptly put, dancing at my edge .
I had become frustrated with the man in my life––who came and went like the tides, and sometimes unpredictably. I had also watched my clients come and go as well. My fluctuating bank balance was my biggest concern. So I asked, “What is the lesson I’m to learn from this?” And here was my answer:
I hadn’t been willing to commit to myself!
I pondered this during a group meditation that I frequently participated in on Sunday mornings. After meditation, I came home and hit the sofa, turning off my phone, which I rarely do, so that I could have uninterrupted time just for me. I mind-mapped all the ways I hadn’t committed to myself––and the results of doing so. Hours passed and the results were sobering. Here are just a few of my examples:
As I dug deeper into my past, dipping back into my teens and early twenties, my stomach flipped when I acknowledged each situation where I hadn’t chosen in favor of myself or hadn’t committed to my own happiness, success, and safety. I’d done a great job of self-sabotaging myself. I did just enough to get by and to have some semblance of success, but not enough to catapult me into the level of accomplishment and fulfillment that I knew I was capable of. I was also far too focused on keeping everyone around me happy first, putting myself at the bottom of the list.
Knowing that I needed to acknowledge myself for all the ways I had committed to myself, I mind-mapped some more.
My biggest epiphany!
As the afternoon slipped into evening, I realized that when I committed to taking care of myself and my work, the money flowed and I experienced abundance in all areas of my life. When I set boundaries in my relationships, the men in my life stepped up and took responsibility for their part in the relationship. Without that commitment to myself, my bank accounts dried up and the men in my life misbehaved.
I knew something had to change.
Since I advocate embracing change as an adventure, I knew that my next adventure was to develop a stronger relationship with myself. So the mind-mapping continued around the question:
What do I need to do to commit to myself?
My hand whirled across the page as I thought about ways to commit to my body, my mind, my business, and my spirit. In addition to creating a schedule and a habits list, I committed to:
Detaching from Distractions
In the week that followed, I created a strategic plan to further the commitment I had made to myself. By looking around my life, I discovered that I had allowed many distractions to keep me from being focused on ME! So I wrote the question: “Does this Serve Me?” on Post-Its and placed them strategically around my house.
I had several books sitting on my coffee table and my nightstand, knowing that I could read only one at a time. My files were a mess, and I had piles all over my office. I received several newsletters or emails a day from organizations or other business that I just didn’t read, but spent time deleting. I got into action:
Then the discomfort began and the little voice that wanted to protect the status quo began to arise: What if I’m going to miss an important email? It’s my house, I like books, and I can leave them around if I want to––and read more than one at a time! I’ve got so much to do, how am I ever going to find time to organize?
As a Master RIM facilitator and someone who’s been studying limiting beliefs for a number of years, I knew what was happening. My ego was trying to protect me, and keep me safely within my comfort zone––the zone of the known. It was the same force that kept me in marriages long after they were good for me. It was the same force that said, one piece of bread won’t hurt. And it was the same force that kept me focused on taking care of everyone else’s needs first and putting mine last.
However, I was willing to Dance at My Edge!
I’d like to say that I was successful to committing to myself in 2013. I was, but not until life’s circumstances turned a whole lot worse–the Universe’s way of really driving the point home until I’d learned the lesson. Committing to myself consistently was difficult. I faced guilt, procrastination, and even anger.
Jack Canfield frequently advises, “Always choose in favor of yourself.” It’s taken practice, and like any practice, whether doing yoga, meditating, or running, it’s gotten easier over time. Now I contemplate each situation, each person, each “thing” in my life and ask: Does this serve me? And if it doesn’t, I do my best to release it with love. I don’t always do the releasing gracefully, but I do the best I can in the moment.
My intention for 2014
I’ve raised the bar on committing to myself. In the last week, I’ve been transforming my house–painting the walls in vibrant colors, rearranging furniture and redesigning my office to make it more efficient. I’m releasing pieces of furniture and decorations that no longer suit me. I’ve declared new client hours that allow me to use the first hours of the morning for what I need for me : meditation, inspirational and business reading––and writing and developing my business. And all but one of my evenings are for yoga, family, friends, and relaxation.
So I have a question for you: What do you need to do to commit to yourself?
A few weeks ago, Jude and Max were spending the night. We’d watched a movie, I’d given them a bath, and we had a dessert––vanilla ice cream, with M&Ms, and a dollop of peanut butter.
My time with the boys always allows me to slow down and appreciate some of the simpler things in life. It’s an opportunity to step out of my busyness and connect with what’s up for me in the moment.
That night after we told stories––making up characters and events, where we were the superheroes staving off the ugly, evil monsters, they drifted off to sleep. I looked over at their sweet faces and felt so much gratitude that my daughter and her husband had given me such a beautiful gift. I wrapped my arms around both of them, expecting to drift off into a peaceful sleep.
I suddenly was seized by the overwhelming desire to have my mother hold me and comfort me. The last few weeks had been challenging professionally and personally, and while I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I was weary. I just wanted to be held. But what make this even more painful was the fact that it was a rare occasion that she did that; in fact, I can only remember one time––the night arrived at her house in New York after leaving my first husband––and my children behind in Indiana. Leaving my children was the hardest decision I had ever made, and at the time it seemed like the only answer, to save all of us from further pain and destruction. At that time, I didn’t have the courage or the skills I now have to address the relationship issues that clouded my family’s happiness. If I had, I would have done things very differently.
I rolled over away from the boys to stifle my sobs in the pillow. I ached with disappointment––disappointment that she never was the loving, affectionate mother I longed for. I ached that my first marriage was not the Cinderella story I had believed in. I ached that my second marriage was just a tad better than the first and that my needs were not met there as well. I ached with disappointment at all the ways my mother and the men in my life had failed me.
I cried myself to sleep––only to wake up and cry myself back to sleep two more times, once waking Max, who cried out for his mommy. Cradling him in my arms and rocking him back to sleep, I thought I’d die from the pain in my heart. I thought after all I’d been through, my heart wouldn’t ache any more….but it was. Luckily, both Max and I drifted back to sleep.
In the dawn’s early light, I woke up crying again. Thankfully, with my thirty-year spiritual practice coupled with training I’d had in recent years with Jack Canfield and Deb Sandella, I knew this was good. I was breaking through something. So even as I sobbed, there was a part of me––my Witness––watching and urging me to go deeper into these feelings, to know that there was a reason and a message behind this pain and these memories. And with the awareness, I received, I knew I would find a way through this and be in peace.
I slipped out of bed and made some coffee, settling onto the sofa for some quiet moments before the boys woke up. And then the wiser part of me awakened, and I acknowledged that this wasn’t about how my mother or the men in my life disappointed me.
I needed to look at how I was disappointing myself.
I knew instantly how:
* I didn’t make room for my own writing.
* I often ate foods that didn’t agree with me.
* I didn’t practice my yoga regularly.
* I didn’t take regular runs.
* I wasn’t out in nature enough.
* I kept myself too busy.
The list went on.
Essentially, I wasn’t attending to my own needs, and if I didn’t, I certainly couldn’t attract men who would. My mom was never good at putting herself first. She was one of my greatest teachers of how not to do things. My job was to make a course correction with my new awareness.
That night was truly one of the darkest nights of my life, and I’m grateful that the boys were with me. Their presence not only sparked this night of self-inquiry, it was comforting as well. They gave me the strength to look at some places inside of me that I had locked away. Another divinely choreographed moment in my life.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like an Mp3 RIM meditation to help you discover how you disappoint yourself and unlock ways that you can become more committed to being your own advocate.
Two and half years ago, I stormed out of my mother’s house after unloading a lifetime of resentment, frustration, and anger on her. I’ll spare you the details, but in essence, it wasn’t pretty. I took a plane the very next day to San Diego to be with my children, someplace I had hoped to be, but changed my plans to help mom out during her knee surgery.
We both said things that were hurtful, and if my own children had said even half of what I said to Mom, I’d die on the spot. To her credit, a month later, when I was back home in Texas and about to go to my first Breakthrough to Success with Jack Canfield, she called and said, “Let’s put this behind us. I want you to concentrate on your workshop.” I was relieved…but still for a couple of years there’s been some tension between us. We talked every week or so, and she was very supportive when I left my marriage and Texas and traveled to San Diego to be with my daughter and my grandsons. Yet we never again spoke of that argument, we never spoke of our feelings. We talked about the weather, feeding the birds, relatives, and her cats.
Mom and I never really understood one another.
We are so different. If we didn’t have the same eyes, I would swear I was switched at birth. Mom likes things to stay the same and surrounds herself with possessions that she no longer uses––or perhaps never used but acquired from a deceased relative when cleaning up estates. I purge my surroundings frequently––often out of necessity––particularly when my gypsy-like spirit senses a completion in one part of the world and sends me off looking for adventure in another. Mom keeps her heart shielded (she’s walked a tough path), and my heart is open for the world to see. I’ve seen her cry twice. If I don’t have tears in my eyes at least once a day, I’m searching for why I’m closing up.
For over a year now, I’ve been looking at my calendar and saying, “Well, maybe I’ll go to New York here…or maybe there…well maybe not then…I’ll have to wait and see…” The visit finally happened in October, thanks to my daughter’s promptings. She and the boys were going to be there for three weeks. Knowing the tension between my mom and me, Shana said, “We’ll be there to buffer whatever comes up. You’ll both be focused on the boys.” Knowing I needed another nudge, the universe sent my my friend Rina into action as well. She said, “Kath, you need to do this for you. What if something happened to her? You’d spend the rest of your life regretting not making the trip.”
The next morning as I sat at my computer, I suddenly had the feeling that I had to go. I made my plane reservations within minutes and hoped it wasn’t too late. Mom’s health has been precarious at best for several years, and now I really wanted to see her.
Divine choreography was at work again in my life––as it always is––in the weeks leading up to my trip. I was scheduled to assist my beloved mentors––Jack Canfield and Deb Sandella––in their training rooms for two weeks in Southern California, and then headed off for four days of master’s RIM® training with Deb in Denver before I headed to New York. Any remaining hooks dealing with my relationship with my mother were on the chopping block, and I knew there were some given my rising anxiety about the trip––even after dealing with many layers of our relationship in my mini RIM® sessions with Rina for the last few months.
At one point during the week my friend Jaro and fellow RIM® facilitator said, “Why are you acting like a child about this? You are a grown woman––and a grandmother! Where is the courage I see in you in other places in your life?” He hit the nail on the head. I wasn’t responding to my mother as an adult.
I was still the little girl longing for her mother’s love and attention.
And perhaps more importantly, I wanted to be recognized for who I was. It was time to dive in and take care of this once and for all. In a RIM® session later that day with my friend Brenda, and under the watchful eyes of Deb and Jaro, any remnants of the unresolved issues with my mother were cleared. Two days later I was on a plane to New York, not feeling anxious, but excited.
It took a couple of days for my mom and I to cross paths. Apparently she was more nervous than me, and a stomach bug sent her to bed. She warned my daughter and I off, not wanting to spread her germs to any of us. So the first visit, three days after my arrival, was short and sweet, as my daughter, the boys, and I were heading off to my sister’s for an overnight visit. Walking into mom’s house, I felt a tinge of anxiety, but a short prayer to just be present pushed it away.
She hadn’t changed much in the two years, except now she walked with a cane, and was a little stooped over. Her house hadn’t changed. Her possessions surrounded her, as did her multitude of cats. I sat down and yes, the focus was on the boys, who began to draw on a cardboard box with magic markers. It was a pleasant visit of about 45 minutes––an icebreaker.
Mom and I had a longer visit the day before Shana, the boys and I were to go home. Mom came to the open house at Shana’s mother-in-laws, where all of us were staying. We chatted mostly about her life, her activities, and the boys. I didn’t feel the need to share anything about what I was doing. In essence, I really didn’t need for her to see me, or my life. I was there to be with her. After accompanying her to her car, I walked around the yard under the moonlight with gratitude filling my heart. I’d seen my mother and said good-bye, truly not knowing if I’d ever see her again. And I was okay with that. There was a sense of completion in the air.
A week later, I was in Santa Barbara at Patty Aubery and Terese Dow Huggins’ women’s retreat. Mom called at some point during the evening reception, leaving a message about the newscaster that I’m sure she has a crush on. I hung up, and I said aloud, “My mom is such a hoot.” The spontaneity of my expression startled me. I felt as if I was looking down upon myself. I had never found my mother to be delightfully humorous. Up until that moment, I had usually expressed my frustration with her. Something had shifted.
The topic of conversation around the first morning’s share was about mothers. Tears filled my eyes, and I knew the integration of the lessons with mom hadn’t yet been completed in my heart. And then I had a sudden epiphany. During my trip, I had come to love and accept my mother for who she is, honoring the choices that she makes for her own life. I even told my daughter, “I don’t need my mom to do anything for me anymore. I have no expectations.” And now I knew I meant it. And I knew why it was so important for me to get to this place.
Many years ago, a friend, Hedda Leonard, shared that when dealing with her own mother and other difficult people in her life, she affirms that she will, “Stay in the present, Meet People Where They Are, and Respond Appropriately.”
By resolving the wounds of my little girl, I was able to be in the present, as the courageous woman I am. I met my mother where she is at, and I did respond appropriately––with love and compassion.
In doing so, I freed myself to be the mom that I am choosing to be at this stage in my life. For a time, I’d been struggling with guilt over my frequent travels and not being available as much as I once thought I would for Shana. And I hadn’t yet traveled to Austin to see my son, where he’d been living for about a year. Suddenly that was gone. I knew it was okay for me to make choices that were good for me––not to fulfill someone’s expectations of me. Hopefully it will model for my children that they can do the same. Freedom is such a relief.
Without all the work I’ve done on myself over the last few years, I know I’d still be a little girl locked in a grown woman’s body. And while there is still the playful child within me that loves to swing, climb monkey bars, slide down slides, dance, and laugh a lot, there is a grounded woman within me that is filled with a lot of wisdom. It’s a nice place to be.
A couple of Sundays ago, I woke up from a dream where both of my mentors––Jack Canfield and Deb Sandella––were speaking to me. Jack’s signature smile was present as I heard him say, “You need to focus.” Deb was there offering me a prescription for Paxil, saying that it would be better than taking ibuprofen. In fact, they were both adamant that ibuprofen was bad for me.
The dream ignited my contemplation so despite it being really early––before 5:00––I decided to get up and meditate. The question: “What do I need to focus on?” swirled through my mind.
The evening before I decided to tackle my office. It had become a chaotic mess. The excuses I had for letting every flat surface be covered with paper were long. And I knew that it was distracting me. For accountability, I had told my daughter that it was my intention to clear that space once my RIM event was behind me. Thursday night I did a talk on the effectiveness of The RIM Method to heal emotional traumas. No more excuses. No more putting it off. It took me less than two hours to toss a basketful of paper into the recycling, file client writing projects, and create space on my bookshelf for my RIM materials.
Yet, it seemed that there were other distractions to be removed as well. A few hours after waking from my dream, my lover and I reached an impasse on our agreements, and I found it necessary to give him the space he needed to enjoy his freedom. The pain from that healthy decision is still undeniable and something I will likely live with for some time. Ibuprofen won’t even touch it.
I reflected back on my dream. When during my life have I taken Paxil? It was always during times of great duress, and the medication normally prescribed for depression had allowed me to focus. While I am not inclined to seek a prescription, having focus right now is just what the doctor ordered to keep me from curling up in a corner in a fetal position for hours on end––something I seriously have no time to do.
So I focus on my work. Amazingly, I’m able to turn off the heartache from losing my lover, who is now moving back to Paris–hence explaining some of his distancing moves over the last few weeks. I pour myself into my work, my writing, and my family. And in doing so I find peace––at least for the hours that I’m occupied.
Many years ago during my first divorce, an editor of a monthly magazine that I wrote for said, “You do some of your best work while you’re an emotional wreck.”
Gratefully, I do. There is grace at play.
And today, the purging continues. My trainer made his exit. He too is leaving my life, moving on to bigger and better opportunities.
I’m stunned and curious all at the same time. What is the Universe creating space for? Many years ago, a spiritual teacher cautioned me to always ask to receive information from the Universe with grace. So I am, hoping that as this week will unfolds, I will be given a hint of the good that is coming my way–-with grace.
I was half a block away from my office where I was meeting a client when I hung up the phone, choking back tears and wondering how I was going to pull it together enough to do a RIM session. One thought was going through my mind, “I am so tired of fixing everything for everybody.”
It had been the theme of my own RIM session earlier in the week where I got in touch with how my parents had always expected me to take care of their emotional needs by being the good girl and remaining quiet, no matter how I felt. The pattern had continued into both of my marriages where I was always the one to make things right–-whether it was lack of funds, family strife with siblings or parents, or marital discord. They handed over the responsibility, and I willingly accepted it. And it was coming into my consciousness once again.
However, it appeared my RIM session worked (as I know they do). I was stepping back from fixing everything for everybody––including clients and my lover.
The call from my lover wasn’t really a surprise. I had taken a run earlier in the day and the conversation I knew was coming was running over and over in my mind. I prayed for grace that maybe it could be sidestepped, and then he called to say hello. Then he asked, “Why don’t you ever call me?” Bingo, he hit the right button. “I feel like I’m always the one to ask when we’re going to get together!” The sweetness in my voice was gone, and I heard a hint of New York slipping through…as it always does when I’m upset. What I didn’t say was, I wasn’t about to call because I knew you had plans to be with your friends.” It was like that almost every weekend…big parties with friends from his country––a cure for the longing for his homeland––and I had yet to be invited. And while I understand the need for connecting with our roots, I was tired of taking the back seat.
It had been weeks since he had initiated getting together, and as I sat on my porch the evening before, on a Friday night, watching other lovers walk by hand in hand, I could no longer deny that something about our relationship wasn’t working for me––and that something was about making it right for him to see me when his scheduled allowed. When we were together things were good, comfortable, fun, interesting. We ate good food together, had deep conversations about world politics, his country, my work, family, and the lovemaking was delicious.
“It’s the only time I can see my friends,” he said. “They work during the week.”
“And so do I.” I responded.
Early in the relationship, he had wooed me. He had wanted an adventure with me. He wanted the time together, calling me, sending me texts––and many times, I pushed him away. Then my heart gave way. I fell in love, and then he began taking a stand for his freedom and professed an unwillingness to make a plan about when we could see one another. The one time he did, he backed out, setting the stage for the first discussion about what I needed in the relationship––or perhaps better said…what I wouldn’t tolerate. We spent an hour on the phone, and while I didn’t scream, my New York definitely came out. I passionately stood up for my needs.
Today, I was calmer, but adamant. “I want to be with a man who wants to be with me!”
He said, “I hate it when you do this.”
“I know you hate to be challenged,” and then I added. “This is what you wanted. You wanted me to fall for you. I wouldn’t be so upset about it if I didn’t care about you. If I didn’t enjoy being with you.”
“I’ve got to go. I have a client waiting. Think about this, please.” I took a deep breath. “I will call you tomorrow.”
I hung up the phone and looked around. I had been standing just a few feet from the patio of a restaurant. Several men looked at me. Nothing like transparency. I wondered if they thought I was just being a bitch or if it reminded them of conversations with their lovers.
Thoughts of my lover crept in once or twice during my session, but grace was with me, and I easily pushed them away. I tended to my client’s needs during the next hour and a half with the presence that I demand of myself.
When she left, my guard went down and the energy drained from my body. I questioned whether I was in action or reaction. Given the premeditation of the conversation, I knew it was action. Action that I needed to take in order to be in integrity with my own needs. During my walk home, I felt peaceful, a mist of divine presence cloaking me, as I reflected on the conversation with my lover and an earlier email I had sent a client.
I had taken on a writing project with someone who was also a personal friend. I had given him a very sweet friends’ and family discount on coaching. The first payment came due in June, and I had to request it. Then August rolled around and a friendly reminder fell on blind eyes, as did the second. It was now September, and not only was the lack of payment putting a crunch on my budget, our friendship was also on the line, at least in my eyes.
I had a lesson here and so I looked at the problem. I had no way to collect if any of my clients decided not to pay. I remedied that with a fifteen-minute phone call and obtained a merchant credit card service that allowed me to schedule automatic payments. I also revised my standard coaching contract for my writing coach clients.
Then I sent a third email stating that I would be canceling an upcoming appointment and freeing that time for other clients if I did not hear from him. I hit the send button and felt a rush of relief, just as I had when I finally said what I needed to say to my lover. I was no longer willing to make everything okay for them––or anyone. Thankfully, my RIM session had dissolved that pattern in me, and the Universe was giving me an opportunity to create a new healthier pattern.
Sifting through the memories, I discovered that in most cases they didn’t seem to understand was that there was always room for compromise, for meeting in the middle, and I was willing to meet there. And I had finally come to a place in my life where I wasn’t willing to cross the divide to come to their side though. Not any more.
As I opened the door to my home, I dropped my bag onto the chair in my office and went into my bedroom. I needed a nap. The laundry was waiting for me, emails to respond to, and marketing to do for my upcoming event. I didn’t have energy for any of it. I just wanted to sleep. When I woke up about forty-five minutes later, I heard the words, “My needs are just as important as yours.” They come from an exercise that my mentor Jack Canfield uses in his trainings, one in which we mingle throughout the room going up to other participants making the declaration that our needs are just as important as anyone else’s. It’s hard at first to look someone in the eye and own that our needs are just as important as theirs, particularly when we’ve been trained in our earlier lives to take one for the team over and over and over in order to keep the peace.
Keeping the peace comes with too great of a price, and the debt that mounts to ourselves when we’ve spent years and years doing just that can sometimes seem insurmountable until we say just once, “My needs are just as important as yours.” Over time it gets easier, and it takes practice, discipline, a commitment to do it daily, to put our needs above others, even if it means, retreating to our room for a few minutes of quiet time. Other times, it may mean taking a stand on a larger issue.
What surprises me most is that I’m not worried about losing a client nor possibly a lover. I’d be sad if either one left my life. Yet, I know that the Universe abhors a vacuum, and if there is space for another client, I know that an even better client will appear. What’s more, since the time I contracted with him, my rates have increased by 25%. And if my lover decides his freedom is worth more than making a commitment to see me once or twice a week, I know there is someone out there looking to spend some time with a powerful, sexy, fantastic woman with a big heart who likes to have fun, dance, and be passionate.
And when thoughts of doubt sneak into my mind, I’ll repeat the mantra, “My needs are just as important as yours.”
….On Saturday night, I went out with girlfriends and had a fantastic time. We went to a play where I laughed harder than I had in quite awhile, and then we found a place with gelato on Fifth Avenue. Sunday morning I woke up feeling very positive, knowing without a doubt that my actions were right actions–-and not reactions. As Lily and I walked around the neighborhood, I felt excited about the day ahead, thinking about how I was going to spend my day. I found a $5 bill on the sidewalk, and I graciously accepted it as a sign that all was well. I came home and put on some coffee, made a shake, and snuggled up with my computer on the sofa. Scrolling through emails I opened one where an old client asked if I could create an ebook out of some of his lectures. A pleasant surprise. I jumped up off the sofa and did a little dance (really).
Then I scrolled down my email list even further…there was my client who owed me money. He apologized profusely saying he had ignored his administrative tasks because other aspects of his business were calling his attention. I was relieved, and tears sprang into my eyes. Our friendship was still in tact.
Later in the day, my lover asked to come by rather than speak by phone. We found our middle ground…and it’s a sweet middle ground, where we’re both dancing at our edges of our adventure…and for now, this is exactly what I need.
I’m grateful that I had the courage to honor myself and to recognize the value I bring to my clients and my lover. And I’m grateful for the affirmation that the Universe does indeed reward right action.