Category Archives: Love letters

Stand Your Sacred Ground: Owning my Shame.

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Shame is all the proverbial rage now, right? Brene Brown is a household name. Everyone is conversant on shame and vulnerability. It’s trendy. And I love that Dr. Brown’s goal of creating a world-wide discussion on shame has been a success.

 

I love her work, and I applaud just about everything I read or see that sports her name. I even went to see her last year in person. It was awe-inspiring and Real and something I can cross off my bucket list. I can die happy now. She is one of my (s)heros—and I don’t have very many.

 

So I can honestly say I think it is so very wrong to try and shame someone else—or even ourselves—on purpose. I even have problems when I find I have shamed someone inadvertently, when I say or do something totally innocently that causes another person to go into a shame spiral.

 

It makes me have to do some personal soul-searching when I find out that has happened. Did I do that passive-aggressively?! Were my motives truly innocent?! WTF?!

 

And in all this soul-searching I have done–on both sides of shame, I have discovered one very important thing:  I have to own my own shame. We, as humans, have to own our own shame. We have to own our triggers and our buttons. When someone pushes our buttons—purposefully or accidentally—it is not on them to heal that shit.

 

It’s on me.

 

When someone says something to me that pushes my buttons, that triggers a PTSD flashback, that drops shame in my lap so suddenly that I am disabled in that moment, it is not on them to apologize and make it better and heal it and fix it.

 

Again, it’s on me.

 

Sure, they are definitely fucked up if they have decided shaming and triggering someone on purpose is some type of sick fun—but it is still not their circus, not their monkeys. And don’t get me wrong in any sense of the interpretation of this rant. I am never okay with shaming—no matter how it happens.

 

What I am saying:  It is time to own my shame. If someone says or does something from which I get triggered or feel shame, it is my responsibility to own that, to explore that button, that shame trigger, and heal it.

 

I don’t get to play the trendy shame victim card and blame my shit on someone else and never dive in to find out why that particular word, phrase, attitude, tone of voice, etc. pushes my buttons. They are my buttons, and I cannot expect anyone else to even know of their existence, much less try and avoid them.

 

My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to first, get myself out of shame safely. Brene Brown has an excellent shame resiliency method. Second, after I can function again, my mission is to get real and honest with myself and do some exploring to find out why I felt shame.

 

Lastly, I need to heal that button. I need to do whatever is needed and possible to heal that in me. I need to know that that time my father, in my childhood, said, “You don’t know what you are doing! Let me do it!” in a shaming voice, does not mean that every time someone says, “Let me do it,” I have to feel that same shame it originally produced.

 

I can grow. I can heal the past to stop the shame in the present and future. I can own my shame. I can own my triggers. I can heal them. And if they are not heal-able right now, they might be in the future and with more work on my part. And if I can’t heal them, even with all the healing work I can put into the problem, I can at least be aware of their presence and navigate my life accordingly.

 

What do you do after the first, hot, immediate, horrible flush of shame has passed?

 

Do you “puff up” and want to get aggressive and shame them in return as your response? Do you “shrink” and want to people-please and start apologizing? Or do you “stand your sacred ground,” and get out of the situation as quickly as possible and have a look at it later to heal yourself?

 

“Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” ~Brene Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When You are Dragging Yourself Through the Dark Night of the Soul.

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Most folks dread the void. I know I do.

I hate being in that place where no information seems to be forthcoming from the Divine, no options present themselves—and even if they do, no decision feels right. I feel mired in the muck—stagnant. Nothing feels comfortable. I feel like I’m a stranger in my own skin, my own life.

When this happens, I tend to view this state as a failure on my part—failure to connect with the Divine, failure in my ability to navigate bad, foggy times in my life, failure to adjust, failure to be a good, faithful human, failure to blah, blahblah, blahblah…

I get very frustrated; I worry. I tie myself up in I’m-not-good-enough knots, creating even more difficulty for myself.

I begin to think I’ve lost my mojo, my groove, that something is so wrong with me that I will never hear my inner guidance again, never feel the presence of the Divine again, never be able to be myself again.

I have been in this foggy, void-ish place for several days. Or has it been weeks? It could be weeks, because I totally suck at Earth time. But whatever the time frame, it is sucking like a big dog.

My friend, colleague, sister and mentor, Jo Underwood, who is an all-around good, kick-ass friend, colleague, sister and mentor, suggested a few days ago, when I was crying to her about this void-ness, that I just sit still.

What?! And not do anything?! Not figure out where it came from, why I’m in it, how and why I created this? How irresponsible is that?! Sit still!?

And indeed, it becomes clear, when I look at the last few weeks, that there have been plenty of signs that I should be “sitting still.” A month ago I popped my ass out of joint on the right side by doing yoga on the beach, for christ’s sake—something that is supposed to be good for me—soothing and calming. Oh my gawd, that hurt—and it still hurts!

Okay, Grace, so that is not slowing you down? Then we see that pain in your ass and we raise you a broken pinkie toe—all on the same side, by the way. Because two weeks ago I stubbed my right pinkie toe so badly that I’m sure it broke. I stubbed it on something in my house that has only been sitting right there in that very same spot for about three years. I know it’s bad when I stub my toe and it hurts so badly that I can’t even cuss about it—it quite literally took my breath away, it hurt so much.

Hello. Slow down. Sit still! But did I get the hint? No.

Okay, how about a bruised tailbone, then? Will that do the trick? I totally racked myself on my bike! Me, someone who has been riding a bike all my life, racked myself. It was because of the fucking broken toe, too. It was cold and raining, but because of the broken toe, I couldn’t wear shoes, so I was wearing my flip flops on the bike, in the rain, my feet freezing, and my foot slid off the pedal while going down a (smooth) curb. I jerked backward and landed hard on the bike seat, right on my tailbone.

Did that do it, then? No (have I mentioned that I’m stubborn?).

Just last week, while moving furniture so I could help put in my new flooring (!), I stubbed my right big toe. At that, though, I had had enough. I straightened up and began yelling—in the general direction of the ceiling, while looking wildly around (for the burning bush?), “What?!?!? What do you want from me?! Stop hurting me!! I’ve had enough!! What! Do! You! Want?!” I stood there, fists clenched, shaking and waiting… for lightening to strike, maybe?

Enter my conversation with Jo and her admonishment to sit still—stop pushing, stop trying so bloody hard to wrest an answer from God, from my Higher Self, from the Universe, from the broken toe, for fuck’s sake—when there might not be one.

To put the exclamation mark at the end of “sit still,” yesterday a client came to me for the very same reason. She was upset that no options for resolving any of the many issues in her life were presenting themselves—and hadn’t been for a long time. She was almost frantic, feeling so unlike herself, who is usually connected and flowing in the Divine River of life.

I always attract clients that are doing the very same thing I’m doing—proving to me, over and over again, that the Law of Attraction is very real.

It was easy to give her an answer to her void issue. It’s so easy when it’s someone else, isn’t it?

Slow down. Sit still. Stop pushing. See this as a time of rest instead of a time of nothingness, the lull before the storm, the caterpillar inside the cocoon, doing its necessary work (which when observed from the outside, looks like it’s doing nothing) to soon become the butterfly.

And the next piece of advice? What would you do for a close friend who came to you feeling this way? You’d comfort her. You’d make her a cup of tea and ask how you could help. You’d run her a warm bubble bath and light some soothing candles, you’d wrap her in love and comfort and hugs and soothing words and sounds. You’d take care of her, because you love her.

So why aren’t you treating yourself that way in this time of stress? I gave her the advice I most needed to hear for myself. Treat yourself like you would treat your close girlfriend if she came to you with the same problem. Stop beating yourself up. Stop gnashing your proverbial (or literal) teeth about it. Stop thinking you have to figure everything out. Stop thinking you have to have the right answer, right now.

Sit still. Let this be a time of mental/emotional (and perhaps, physical) rest. Let it just be whatever it is and stop fighting it—stop fighting yourself and please stop yelling at you. Stop rushing around—inside your head and heart, and in the world.

Use this time to retreat—from the world around you that says you must always be moving and conquering and slaying dragons, retreat from your very not useful harangue at yourself and also re-treat yourself: Comfort yourself instead of berating yourself that you should know what to do.

So when you are dragging yourself through the dark night of your own soul, or through that empty void where nothing feels right or true and when you can’t locate North on your own internal compass… consider just being still—inside, but perhaps outside too.

And be good to yourself. Rest. Cry. Sleep. Just allow. Pray. Grieve. Maybe patch that hole in the living room wall that has needed it for years. Maybe not. Give yourself the clichéd break. You don’t always have to be traveling down life’s road at absolute break-neck, hell-for-leather speed.

Breathe. Sit. Stay.

This too shall pass.

“When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now”
~ out of Peter Mayer’s song, Holy Now

Also published at elephant journal.

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She gracethanx2013.3sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-bees, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual but not religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet therapist—yep, they do exist. You can find her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Communicating with Men.

DSCF4131Why would you read these posts? Why would you do these things? Isn’t this anti-feminism?

When I get these questions from clients, my first response is always: Are you happy with your life/relationship(s) as is? If so, you have nothing to worry about. If not, what have you got to lose in learning how to respect and communicate with the men in your life?

In this post, I discussed the timing of inviting your man back into love. In the post before that one, I wrote about some differences in men and women’s brains and why it’s important to offer your gift of love, why it’s important to invite your man back into his heart and belly—back into love.

In my last post, we looked at some specific techniques to get your man out of his head—out of his driven, focused, “work” mode—and into his heart and belly, where he can share in love, where he can get a break from the driven, obsessive energy of masculinity and where he can notice and appreciate your feminine energy.

If you followed some of the instructions in that last posts, now you have his attention.

Now that you’ve got his attention and focus, how do you communicate with him most effectively? We’ll cover some of those ideas in this post.

Remember, his brain works differently than ours—not “less than” and not slower and not more shallowly—just differently. Learn the differences and begin to respect those differences.

Just because his brain works differently than ours, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him or his brain or the way he thinks. You can choose to be angry or upset or hurt by this, or you can realize he is a man with a man’s brain and you can work with it, being respectful of how different he is

Please leave your prejudices behind and stop rolling your eyes at him (or behind his back). Be respectful and kind. See him and men and how their brains work as a lovely new land to be explored. Be willing to learn and enjoy—bring your sense of adventure.

“Be mature. Be kind. Be honorable. You will never regret taking the high road no matter what happens.” ~ Steve Horsmon

Get in the Same Zip Code

The reason he doesn’t respond to you sometimes? Because you haven’t gotten his attention, so that he can switch “boxes” in his brain. He is not ignoring you. The way his brain works makes that impossible.

Don’t just yell out the back door, “Dinner’s ready!” or “Your brother’s on the phone!” and expect him to respond. He is focused out there, doing his guy thing.

Go out to where he is and do this first. Then tell him the information. He might be irritated at the interruption, but be respectful enough to know that the way his brains works makes being in physical proximity to him necessary, and he needs that from you.

Being in the same zip code is especially important if you are conveying significant information—meaning you are talking about something that’s important to you and that you want him to remember.

Don’t walk off, or start doing something else while you’re talking to him. If it’s important, convey that by staying right there and keeping eye contact. Put your phone away, close the laptop, wait until you’re not cooking or sorting bills. Tell him, “This is really important to me.”

Make an Appointment Ahead of Time

Men need to be able to switch into the appropriate box in their brains. Be kind and give him a chance to do that. Let him know ahead of time what you want to talk about and set an appointment. Put it on his calendar.

Ask him, “It would make me so happy to talk about this with you. Is this a good time?” If he says no, don’t take it personally, simply ask, “Okay, when would be a better time? How about Wednesday after dinner?” If that works, get it on both of your literal calendars, so that he has a reminder.

Men are goal-oriented and are driven to accomplish those goals. When you get on his calendar, not only does he have a reminder, you and that discussion are now a goal to be accomplished.

Remember, don’t be offended by the way his brain works, learn about it, respect it—use this knowledge to promote peace and ease between the two of you.

He will be so much more open to giving his attention to you if you respect his needs. Tell him what you want to talk to him about—don’t keep him guessing and nervous. There’s nothing respectful about that.

Remind Him Nicely

You will have to tell him things more than once—remind him. That’s just the way his brain works. He is always so focused on right now, that he is unable to think ahead in that moment. He needs to be reminded—kindly.

Alison Armstrong suggests something like this. As you are both waking up and getting out of bed, say something like, “Wow, only four days until my birthday! I am so excited this year!”

And then maybe the day of, “Happy birthday to me, the birthday girl!” as you smile and hug him. He gets to celebrate right then and there with you, and you have reminded him kindly.

Tell him What you Need

Women need and like to talk and rant out loud. We just do. That’s how we process and figure out how we’re feeling about something. That’s how we understand and make sense of our world.

“I believe that when women stop emasculating men, men will give us everything we ever wanted…”   ~ Alison Armstrong

Don’t expect him to be your girlfriend. Don’t expect him to be able—or willing—to talk to you like a woman would/does. He shouldn’t be expected to learn and then execute that.

To insist he do that is actually a subtle form of emasculation. When you refuse to let him talk to you like a man talks, you are demanding he be a woman, and you are saying there is something wrong with him being and talking like a man.

If this idea doesn’t sit right with you, pushes buttons or otherwise pisses you off, think of the opposite.

Think of just how pissed off you’d be if a man refused to talk to you until you “cool off and become more rational”—in other words, until you can communicate more like him, more like a man.

Men can get overwhelmed by all those words if he thinks you need him to fix it. And most men are fixers—it’s a guy thing. If you need to just rant and talk out loud and just need him to listen, say so.

Try something like, “Baby, I really need to just vent/rant right now about this. Could you just give me the gift of letting me talk it out? I don’t need you to fix anything. I simply need your ear.” And when he does this for you, let him know how happy that makes you!

Learn to Listen

But learn to listen not like a woman needs to be listened to, but like a man does. You know how we talk together, ladies. We finish each other’s sentences, exclaim out loud to empathize and talk over each other in our excitement and intensity, sometimes gesturing wildly and emphatically.

Ask a question of a man and then put an invisible piece of duct tape over your mouth and just sit and wait and listen. You will get the most wonderful, deep, incredible answers. It is beautiful.

While he talks, let him know he still has your attention, but without interrupting—just nod or make small sounds. Remember, men focus on one thing at a time (I am so envious of this!), so don’t derail him by being too verbal in your responses while he’s talking.

Then after he stops talking, use Alison’s 10-second rule: after he stops talking, wait. Wait another 10 seconds before saying anything or asking the next question. Give him time to add on to his original answer if he chooses to.

In stressful/critical situations, men often like to take the information/question you’ve given them and then want to process and come back to you with their answer or their condensed version of what is needed.

They often will want to give you just the end result of their analysis rather than talk it all out and come to an out-loud, verbal decision right in that moment.

I know it can be difficult to wait for him to do this—especially in the middle of an argument or uncomfortable confrontation, but he really does need to do this.

Be patient and kind and respect that they want to bring you their best answer, their best selves, and that is why they are requesting your patience. Trust him (and maybe call a girlfriend in the interim and get her to talk you down off the ledge while you wait).

Just the Facts, Ma’am—Keep it Short and To-the-Point

When you need something other than just to rant, choose your words wisely. Focus on efficiency. Men can get overwhelmed by all the words and emotions coming out of us, and when men get overwhelmed, they tend to want to retreat to their “nothing box.”

That’s not how they communicate effectively. Their brains work quickly and comprehensively, taking in information in big, often visual, chunks. They don’t need or want all the fluff. Help them help you by sorting through all that ahead of time.

A good rule of proverbial thumb: talk sticky stuff out with your girlfriend(s) first, then take the boiled-down reduction to your man to discuss.

Tell Him the ROI (Return on Investment)

Get his attention and tell him what the ROI is for him if he listens to you.

Try something like, “When I feel listened-to and heard, I am able to relax and concentrate on you and on having a good time with you. I will be the normal, happy woman you know and love. I will have more confidence. I will be easier to live with. I won’t feel crazy and isolated. You will be my hero for listening to me rant/talk/emote and being my support. I feel like I can go out and conquer the world when I know you hear and respect me by really listening to me. I love that feeling of knowing you have my back and that we are a team this way. I’ll want to connect with you more deeply. I’ll want to have sex more often.”

Why Men Don’t Tell you the Truth

“Men are not devious like women—unless backed into a corner, men will always tell the truth and say what they mean.” ~ Alison Armstrong

If you find out your man has lied to you, the question you might think about asking yourself is not “Why is my man a liar?” but rather, “Why does he feel backed into a corner? Is it because my reaction to this in the past has been not very pleasant, so he is avoiding that again, perhaps? Do I emasculate him on a regular basis in this type of situation, so that he needs to avoid that?”

And remember, many men pretend to be vulnerable, and don’t tell us the entire truth, so that we women don’t kick the emotional shit out of them, according to research by Brene Brown.

I’m not saying a woman is responsible when a man lies to her, I’m just saying that in an otherwise, seemingly normal, relationship where lying is unusual, these might be questions to think about. And it might be time to learn how, as a woman, to respectfully sit with and honor his true, deep (scary!) vulnerability.

And gentlemen, why are you lying to her? Is it because you don’t want her emotions, her femininity? Is that too scary?

“One of the deepest feminine pleasures is when a man stands full, present, and unreactive in the midst of his woman’s emotional storms. When he stays present with her, and loves her through the layers of wildness and closure, then she feels his trustability, and she can relax.”     ~ David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

Do You have a Great Ask?

Alison Armstrong, who has studied men for over 25 years, encourages women to use the Great Ask with men. Figure out what you need instead of just complaining first. Then ask him for that. Example: “I really love birthday parties. Could you plan a birthday party for me this year?”

Then ask him, “Now what do you need from me to make this happen?” Then put the invisible duct tape over your mouth and wait and let him tell you what he needs from you.

He may need to be reminded nicely, or he may need you to tell him more about what kind of party you want. He may need you to witness him putting it in/on his calendar, so he has a reminder.

Then do that for him, so as to help him get you what you need/want. That is the Great Ask.

“When we share our emotions with our man, it inspires him to protect and help us. Share the specific emotions and then ask for what you want/need, ‘When we don’t get enough time together, I feel sad and I miss you. I would love to have more quality time with you. And what do you need from me to help make this happen?’” ~ Alison Armstrong

Is this manipulation?

Some folks will see this information as manipulation. And indeed, if that is your motive, then it is manipulation. And some will recognize it as the informed route to the relationship that they have always wanted to have but either didn’t know how, or didn’t have the courage, to do.

Tony Robbins talks about how you don’t just want your partner to be a fan, because satisfied fans/clients leave. He says we should create raving fans of our partners, because raving fans just keep coming back for more. It’s the difference between worshiping and loving someone.

We’ll talk more about whether this is manipulation or not in the next post.

A version also published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Avoiding a Valentine’s Day Disaster.

love4Ladies, this is directed at you.

I’m not going to pretend I came up with these ideas. I’m just going to pass on the information, because it’s too important not to. I want to help you avoid Valentine’s Day disasters. We have Alison Armstrong and her years of research to thank for this info.

Valentine’s Day, if you are not watchful, sets women up to be disappointed and men to fail.

You know you have that fantasy V-Day in your head (and heart)—admit it. You know exactly what it would take to make you feel loved and special on V-Day. It can be very elaborate, or perhaps something very simple.

It can involve romance, sex, fantasy, chocolate, candlelight, moonlight—the list can be long.

Ladies, you know all about Valentine’s Day disasters, don’t you? You have the perfect day playing inside your head for weeks before the date, but come V-Day, nothing goes as planned, right?

But here’s one of the most important things to keep in mind about V-Day: Does your man know about your fantasy/wish/idea? And I don’t mean have you been hinting around but not really, specifically, telling him anything, expecting him to read your mind the way your best girlfriend can.

I am asking if you have directly told him what you want/need—and in a way that he can actually hear. Because if you haven’t told him, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and him to fail.

This is a V-Day disaster in the making.

He cannot read your mind. Stop thinking that men’s brains work the way ours do. Learn the differences and respect them. Learn to speak in man language and gently educate him about woman language.

He has the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at time without fifty million ideas coming at him at once to complicate things, among other differences.

The reason he “waits until the last minute” to plan and/or do things, is because his thoughts are focused elsewhere until it’s time to focus on the next thing. Men can focus on one thing at a time and to the exclusion of everything else, so he is going to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Trust him.

Pause

Take a minute or two and think about what you want for Valentine’s Day. Then think, above and beyond that, what would make you happy.

If you don’t communicate clearly and kindly to your man about what you need, don’t blame anyone but yourself for a V-Day disaster.

Set him up to win with you. Men are hard-wired to make us happy, ladies. Let him win. Let him make you happy. Tell him what you need and want and then ask what it would take from you to get that—help him help you.

Remember that men’s brains are wired differently than ours and work differently than ours. Your man might see Valentine’s Day as not much different than other days.

I think the only reason men might register it at all as different is because, as women, we have trained them to be aware of the possible dangers of this day. If they have any experience at all, they may even hate the day because of past “failures” on their part in keeping you or other women happy on this day.

So go to Alison’s page and take her detailed advice and take control of your Valentine’s Day. She has done over 25 years of research into men, women and relationships.

Help your man. Let him win. Let him make you happy. He so wants to.

And if you find yourself balking at the idea of helping him win with you, it might be time to think about why you don’t want your man to win.

Most importantly: No matter what he does for you or gives you, those are gifts. Accept them as such.

Yeah, I’m Not Your Girl for That.

DeathtoStock3Resentment has nothing to do with the other person or situation.

It has everything to do with me and how I am not taking care of myself, how I am asking/allowing/training others to treat me, how I am not respecting myself.

But it usually takes me a while to remember this. So, I grouse around, resentment brewing in me, being a jerk, treating others unkindly (or secretly trying not to) in my blindly self-imposed, co-dependent fog, until I remember from whom the resentment originates.

Me.

I can be a people-pleaser if I am not careful—to my own detriment. I can get myself into situations where I am going full-tilt for too long, trying too hard to please too many different people, not remembering that I’m an introvert, not mindful that my internal self-care meter is dipping dangerously low into the red, depleted, zone.

I have been so over-giving, over-caring, over-eager, over-“perfect,” (over-over-over it!) that I have made myself physically sick with exhaustion.

I find myself very logically, very (what I can justify as) practically, thinking things like,

“Sure, I can take on one more responsibility. I can do one more thing for you. I can go out one more night in a row. I can contort myself, my brain and my life to figure out how to make this work for absolutely everyone, how I can keep everyone (but me?) happy. I can stay up late again working to get another order finished (the weekend isn’t that far off; I can sleep then).

“I can put off taking care of myself one more day, one more week. If I can just make it to X, I will be able to rest then, able to slow down, able to recharge. I can make it. I’m strong. I can tough it out.”

Because I want to be nice. I don’t want to disappoint. I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to be Super Woman. I want to get everything done—leave no loose ends. I want to be that person who is nice and generous and kind and lovely and gentle and strong and capable and independent and insert more superlatives here—all the time—without fail.

And look good while I’m doing it, too, damn it!

At first, shallow, please-love-me, let-me-impress-you, look-at-my-military-corners glance, I quite self-deceptively think I am somehow helping my relationships and myself by doing this overextending thing.

Then I find myself treating them and myself unkindly, resenting them. I’m short with them, quick to anger, quick to treat them disrespectfully and dismissively—like they have somehow caused the problem and deserve to be treated thus.

I feel put upon and overwhelmed. Can’t they get their needs met elsewhere? Why are they expecting me to be everything to them? Can’t they read my mind and know that I’m tired? Why are they asking so much of me?

Because I’ve trained them to—duh.

And of course they have no idea this is happening—how would they? I’m Super Woman. Super Woman doesn’t get resentful. She doesn’t ignore her own boundaries and self-care. Super Woman has got it goin’ on—all the time. She does it all—in a single bound, no less.

My question to myself should be, though:  Why am I allowing myself to do more than I am reasonably and self-respectfully able to do? Why am I allowing society, the harsh judge in my head that sounds a lot like my father, old habits, my fears of inadequacy, etc. to dictate my life and schedule to me?

Who’s really in charge here? And why am I blaming the person/situation I’m resenting, for fuck’s sake?! They aren’t expecting too much from me. They may not be expecting anything from me.

But I am.

I have somehow set myself up to be superior to, and co-dependent with, them in some way—their savior or babysitter or main source of support/entertainment/etc.

I begin thinking they have put me on a pedestal or something, so this must be their fault—when really it is me that has put me there on their behalf and in my arrogant (needy much?) imagination.

As the fog begins to clear, I realize that they have done none of this. They are just doing what I have trained them to do. They don’t necessarily know I’m suffering. Do I need to be needed so badly, then? Because it can be nothing but arrogance and/or fear, in my opinion, that gets me to that point.

It is so arrogant and disrespectful of me to assume that person can’t cope without me. It is arrogance that assumes they are depending on me too much and can’t take care of themselves. It is with arrogance that I pull away from them, assuming they will be too disappointed to bear it, and I will somehow seem like the bad guy who let them down.

They will be angry at me. They will cling to me. They will be disappointed in me. They will ask too much of me and be desperate. I will fall from my arrogant, exalted position with them.

And they will see that I am human and fallible—weak, even. When Brene Brown asked women what they feared most, women said they feared being judged as not good enough—not able to keep all the balls in the air at once.

The answer from men:  To be perceived as weak or lacking in any way.

Because the only thing worse than someone getting a peek behind my wizard’s curtain and seeing that I’m not able to be everything for everyone, all the time, that I don’t always have it figured out, that I’m not always so calm and “Super?”

The only thing worse than that is them seeing, at the same time, how ashamed I am at allowing myself to be so “weak.”

If they see that, they will know I really am not Super Woman. I have flaws. They might feel sorry for me. They might assume I am inept and incapable. Those flaws could be so bad that if anyone knew about them they could never really love me. They might just decide I am too flawed to be worth their time and effort.

So when I begin treating those around me resentfully, testily and without generosity and kindness, I need to remember that I am the problem here—not them. They may not have done anything to be treated so disrespectfully. And they may—but that still doesn’t justify my bad behavior toward, or even my bad thoughts of, them.

In my case, it is a simple fix. I just have to remember to do it—even when it means telling someone no. I have to take care of myself first, or I will be unable to take care of those I love. And taking care of me usually simply looks like staying home, being alone and relaxing for a day. It’s not complicated.

I know I don’t require a week’s vacation to recharge—when I remember to recharge regularly, when I don’t allow it to get to the stage where I do require a week on the beach somewhere out-of-country.

The thing that finally bursts this bubble of fear and/or arrogance around me is when I withdraw to recharge and no one notices—or if they do, they don’t care, or they don’t mind. In other words, their “dependence” on me was just one more car on the Grace Crazy Train.

And it involves trust. I need to trust that they will understand my need to recharge. I need to trust that they will not think poorly of me if I reveal my flaws and humanness to them. Trust them not to assume I am so flawed that I can’t be trusted to know when to retreat for my own good.

But you know what? Even if they do notice, even if they are upset that I am no longer available for them in such an overextended, please-need-me-that-much, notice-how-perfect-I-am way, it never serves any healthy good for anyone involved that I would put myself and them into that dysfunctional position in the first place.

Why would I want to foster and reinforce resentment in me toward those I love simply because I can’t say no? If I truly love them (and myself), I would want to keep our relationship clean and healthy—free from my Crazy Train crap.

First published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Trust and Betrayal.

 DeathtoStock_Medium5Keeping my heart open is essential for allowing trust—but it also allows for possible bruising, and even breakage.

Remember, though, when someone or some situation seems to have betrayed your trust and your heart (and ego?) is limping around, still assessing the damage: You didn’t do anything wrong by trusting.

My first thought is usually, ”Why did I trust her/him?!”

My next thought is that I feel stupid to have somehow “allowed” myself to be betrayed.

Let your heart hurt if it needs to, but let it hurt because of the betrayal itself, not because you trusted them. Trust is not a weakness; it’s a blessing and a gift—to ourselves first, and then also to everyone else. Please don’t add to the heartache by doubting your decision to trust.

“The fact that you are feeling big pain lets you know you are truly living big. When you live a big and openhearted life, the possibility of big pain is also present.” ~ Jo Underwood

I used to feel like a fool if someone betrayed my trust. I would spend large amounts of time beating myself up, looking back at all the signs I should have somehow deciphered differently to somehow have figured out that this person was at some point going to betray me.

I thought I was somehow “guilty” and to blame for not being smart enough to know a betrayer when I saw one. I think those who are betrayed are often seen as naïve, stupid, blind or gullible. At the kindest, they are seen as victims.

“You should have known better,” the betrayed are told.

Silly, right? Yeah, I know. But I think we humans seem to believe some version of that much of the time.

There is no shame in having been betrayed. Indeed, the shame, if there is any to be spread around, might better go to the betrayer. They took trust and misused it.

To trust is to be open to possibilities. It is to let the heart fly and sing and swell. To trust is to be brave and generous. It is to give up trying to control those things outside ourselves.

To trust is offer up one of the most sacred gifts we have to give. To just jump in with enthusiasm and trust with your big, available heart, ready to believe the very best is possible, is like magic.

It’s the opposite of enabling, the opposite of co-dependence. It’s like saying, “I know you can handle this. I’m gonna just let you do it your way, because I know you got this. I’ll be right over here cheering you on, and when you’re done, we can go celebrate that you showed up and did your best.”

It is best served up in times of worry, uncertainty and fear. It can come in many forms, too—big like a formal prayer carefully lifted up to a higher power, or more simply like a quick, small knowing that the right words will somehow spill right out my mouth when I look up and realize a friend in need is walking toward me.

And to be trusted, when someone else gives me that gift—well, it is like being handed the shiny, secret key to his or her tender heart. I want to hold that so carefully, so respectfully.

So trust. Be that brave, that vulnerable, that allowing and open. Just jump into the pool of trust and sink down into it. Be brave enough to become the person that goes first. It feels scary at first, but then good when you realize what a relief it is, how it makes your body relax, your breathing settle low into a soft belly. And it feels good no matter how well it is received—or even if it is received.

Just the act of trusting is enough.

Try it. Imagine someone or something in your mind, face him or her and say, “I trust you. I trust you to do whatever it is that you need to do in whatever way you need to do it.” And then let it go. You’ve given it to them, so that now you can let them take it from there. You don’t have to worry about it anymore.

But what if, in doing it their way, they violate something in us? We must trust that everyone is doing the best they can in each moment with what they have to work with in that moment—including ourselves.

“What if no one is misbehaving?” ~ Alison Armstrong

We forgive. We ask them about their motives. We listen with an open, trusting heart, and discover that they had ample, satisfying reasons for what they’ve done—reasons we couldn’t have imagined, but that prove they were not misbehaving, they were simply trusting themselves too.

We don’t trust for anyone else, my dears, we trust for ourselves—to release ourselves from that small, tight, dark place where we put our hearts originally for protection, but which, some time ago—and without our conscious consent—has actually become a prison.

And in trusting and being open and vulnerable, you will discover different types of people: those you may choose not to be around, those who push your boundaries of trust, those who betray you and also those who maybe don’t betray you exactly, but perhaps try to use your trust to their advantage. The more you practice trust, the easier it is to recognize these.

What to do with those?

Brene Brown, the vulnerability-shame queen, says it best:

“How do you make yourself be vulnerable with somebody you don’t completely trust, like in a relationship?”

“You don’t,” Brene answers.

It is almost like a sacrament when, after I’ve been betrayed and I have finally let the water clear and all the sediment has settled back down to the bottom of the pond, I realize: I didn’t do anything wrong.

I was just showing up, living my life with my own brand of wacky, authentic integrity and balance, doing my best, making mistakes but keeping my heart open, assuming positive intent, allowing vulnerability, not perfect, not right—just trusting.

The fact that that person lied to me, cheated on me, verbally attacked me, tried to shame me or betrayed me says absolutely nothing negative about me. It doesn’t necessarily make me a victim, either.

It just says I know how to trust, I know how to not take on the responsibility for something that is not mine, I know how to live and love big—from an open, vulnerable heart—and that is a glorious thing.

Don’t let past betrayals talk your heart out of showing up! Keep it unlocked and open and ready to be amazed by the (mostly!) goodness all around you.

Don’t be ashamed of being betrayed. Don’t let anyone talk you into thinking you did anything wrong by trusting. More importantly, don’t let you talk yourself into that.

Remember that to trust is to be brave. It empowers you, and those you trust, as well.

First published at elephant journal.

Walking our Talk – The Vulnerability Challenge.

DeathtoStock_Medium4We live in a world that is—for the most part—not accepting of men being vulnerable and expressing their true emotions.

This needs to change.

A friend who is also a single parent called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that his kids (older teenagers) had bailed on going to Christmas Eve church service with him. He was also unsure whether they were going to follow through with the plans he had made to spend time with them.

He said he needed to talk about it and asked what my thoughts were on the issue.

We owe it to our kids, indeed to the world, to live and speak from our hearts, to recognize vulnerability and have the courage to speak from that place of pain/joy/authenticity.

It is the only way, in my opinion, that our children will learn how to be true, authentic, compassionate humans—only if we model it for them, and even if they do roll their eyes at us.

He expressed his indecision in that moment, just because he hadn’t yet had time to meditate on it, about how to handle the situation. He admitted to his desire to keep a stiff upper lip and just hand them their Christmas presents and leave, giving in and trying to respect that maybe they really didn’t want to spend time with him.

He expressed more when he said he wanted to have a talk with them about honor, respect and family. I could feel his sadness, pain, confusion and anger through the phone—and his indecision about into which of those he might finally land.

As a single parent, I must admit to sometimes doing much the same. My daughter and I enjoy an authentic, vulnerable, joyful, fun relationship most of the time. But I have also kept a stiff upper lip at times, not wanting to express my hurt and pain to her over something that might have happened between us.

I’ve done that to preserve some sort of peace that I seem to think is necessary between us. But what peace can be had when I’m holding back my authentic self and not allowing myself to be vulnerable?

Even more importantly is the fact that he is a father and a man. And he is a man that I know is willing and able to live in his masculine, as well as vulnerable, heart. We have often talked about how important and difficult it is to live from that vulnerable, strong place.

Yet we live in a world that does not value a man’s vulnerability, that does not welcome a man who is expressing emotions—especially if those emotions involve sadness, pain or indecision.

We accept anger from a man—indeed most men express anger first and foremost in adverse situations—mainly because our society teaches that as appropriate and that is what is so often modeled as normal for men. But we very seldom welcome pain, tears or sadness from men.

Men repeatedly told Brene Brown, the amazing shame-vulnerability expert, that women couldn’t handle their true, deep vulnerability, that we women kick the emotional shit out of men when they express their true pain and sadness. So they admitted to pretending to be vulnerable, and they only tell us what they think we can handle.

Remember ladies: men are basically hard-wired to make us happy. It’s just the way their brains work. So of course they want to be vulnerable when we ask it of them, but can you blame them for not showing us the true pain when we kick them emotionally for it?

Can you blame them for pretending to be vulnerable?

My first thought was: How masculine of them—how very chivalrous and protective to not want to upset us.

My second thought was the same one Brene had: Oh my gawd, I am the patriarchy, the oppressor.

We ask, even beg, men to tell us what’s going on inside, what they’re feeling, what emotions they are experiencing. “Please let me in,” we demand of them. We get upset when they won’t share with us. But according to her research, when men do share the real emotions, the real pain, doubts and fears, we women very often can’t handle it—and men know this.

I relate the story of how it showed up in Brene’s life. She came home and saw that her husband was upset about some extended family issues. She immediately got angry and wanted to pick a fight with him.

Instead—and because she had done so much research about this very thing—she pretended she was in a movie taking direction, playing a character that knew how to handle that sort of situation without anger.

Anger is very often fueled by fear. We live in a world that is afraid of men being vulnerable and expressing their true emotions. And this fear is often expressed as derision, as shaming. This must change.

How are we going to change this?

As a woman, I am committed to learning how to carefully, lovingly and authentically sit with and support a man who is feeling and expressing emotions—especially the “negative” emotions. I am committed to learning to stop and think before I act and speak if, like Brene, my first impulse is to get angry with him.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ~Brene Brown

I am demanding of myself something better, something braver, something much more humane and vulnerable (scarier!). I have made a vow to not shame anyone, especially a man—who we women have already trained to not be fully vulnerable—for having emotions and expressing them. I am committed to learning to peacefully allow them, even when I might be feeling fear.

I am going to do these things because integrity demands it. The future demands it. The world my daughter is inheriting demands it.

I hope you will join me.

In doing my own work, in learning how to allow men to be vulnerable without letting myself be overcome by fear and then anger, I am asking men to meet me there in that scary, vulnerable place.

As a woman, I am asking men to please consider being brave enough to be vulnerable. I’m asking you to do your own work too—the work on yourself that will allow you to meet me there. Brene Brown points out that you can’t get to courage without going through vulnerability first.

I am asking for your trust.

And in asking for your trust, I am also admitting to failing at this at times, too—even now, when I have become so aware of its importance. So I thank you for your brilliant patience as I am learning.

I am asking you to help us heal our children, ourselves and, indeed, everyone on the Planet. I am willing to “go first” (thanks Steve Horsmon!) by offering that to you. I am willing to learn to sit with the discomfort of allowing if it means healing, for everyone, will take place.

And I believe healing will take place like this: one person at a time, one vulnerable exchange at a time. And men, I’m going to ask you to be even braver by living it out loud with me—by expressing this vulnerability on the stage of the world.

We are going to be even more courageous than that though, ladies and gentlemen, because we are going to be this vulnerable and brave in front of our own children, in our own homes.

We must.

Because everyone knows this is the real test of walking our talking, isn’t it? Not only by how we treat our friends, co-workers and the random person-in-need we help on the street, but by how we interact, breath-by-breath with those closest to us—at the kitchen table each morning, in the car on the way to soccer practice.

“If he’s not he should be by now. The things that happen to people we never really know. What happens in houses behind closed doors, what secrets—”

“Atticus don’t ever do anything to Jem and me in the house that he don’t do in the yard,” I said, feeling it my duty to defend my parent.

“Gracious child, I was raveling a thread, wasn’t even thinking about your father, but now that I am I’ll say this: Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.”

~ To Kill a Mockingbird (Miss Maudie in a conversation with Scout)

We are going to teach by example. We are going to show up, be vulnerable, responsibly express our sadness, pain, joy, concerns. And when society tries to shame us into submission, we are going to take Brene Brown’s advise and not let them. We’re going to teach our children, chiefly by example, that is not okay to shame anyone else—ever.

And when we discover we have done it unconsciously, have reverted back to that without realizing it, we are going to make it right as soon as possible.

How do we not allow society, which most often shows up as a person trying to talk/shame us out of our emotions, to shame us? By simply stating, with calm, and even kind, conviction, “I refuse to let you shame me for my emotions. I am sad/in pain/upset/etc. right now. If you are not comfortable with that, then you might want to leave the room (my life?).”

“Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your holy ground.” ~ Brene Brown

I am confident my single-parent friend will choose the correct path for him, his children, the world, because I know and trust him to be a man who is willing and able to live in that authentic, necessarily vulnerable place.

And I sincerely hope you will join me in this vulnerable (scary!) quest. I hope you will be kind to yourself when, like me, you find yourself slipping and falling back into old patterns as you learn to move into a new, and hopefully better, way of being.

I hold a hope, a vision, that you and I can learn to be kind to, not only others, but also to ourselves when we “fail,” because that form of sweet, vulnerable self-allowing is also a most needed saving grace in our world.

Originally published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.