Saturday, February 28, 2009

Filling in the Blanks

Communication is an art form. The words we use, our body language, whether or not we make eye contact... all these areas add up to our communication. When these areas are in conflict we send mixed messages. This causes the people around us to have trouble understanding our intentions. The words we use may have different meanings to each of us depending on our values, family of origin and life experiences. But our body language speaks for us on an unconscious level.

We may say that we are interested in talking with another, but our arms folded, our legs crossed leaning away from our companion and our body curled up in that same direction, say we do not want to communicate. We may say that our self esteem is healthy, but our reluctance to make eye contact says otherwise.

What do we do when the verbal and non verbal messages we get from another do not mesh? We use our tools. We first assess the situation. How do we feel? Are we centered, calm and open to hearing another point of view? Have we contributed to the discomfort in some way? Are we aware of some issue that may be being processed? If we are truly aware of ourselves and our part in the situation then we will know the answer to these questions. We can be honest with ourselves and trust our instincts. It may be appropriate to give our partner some time to be alone. In that moment we can give ourselves the gift of self care as we permit our partner the same privilege. Once all parties are calm and centered a discussion can take place around the area of communication. Differences can be discussed intellectually rather than emotionally. Compromises can be reached and understanding will flourish. In this way we practice our tools of self care and increase our self esteem.

Ask for Help

So often in our daily lives we encounter difficult situations that require we make a choice. Some choices are clear. Others require deliberation. We may want to mull over our options prior to committing to a path. We have many tools available to assist us in choosing. One tool at our disposal is: we can ask for help.

Too many times when challenges come before us we feel we must carry the burden of choosing alone. Society indicates through advertisement and marketing that somehow we are inept if we cannot decide an issue on our own. Some of us have been taught through our family of origin that asking for help will result in being shamed. We are now capable of making informed decisions about who it is safe to ask for help. We can trust our instincts and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It is not necessary for us to pretend to know what to do in every situation. Perfection is not the goal.

There are areas in which each of us excel. Sharing our knowledge and abilities enables each of us to be stronger individuals. As we come in contact with others in our daily lives we have the opportunity to learn from each of them. Some contacts will teach us lessons about life, some interactions will give us insights into ourselves. Still some will cause us to suffer some unpleasantness. All these situations are presented to us as learning experiences from which we can benefit. We can choose to be open and allow ourselves to absorb the lessons that have been put before us.

Our goal is to take the information learned from each interaction and somehow incorporate it into our lives. In this way we grow and change. This is the path on which we encourage those around us to seek a more enlightened route for their lives. We become an example of recovery. Through using our tools we give ourselves the gift of improved self esteem and growth.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


One of the most sought after ideals in the human condition is intimacy. We yearn to have another truly know us. Yet at the same time we are desperately afraid to be seen. This harsh reality is the cause of many relationship struggles. We come together then pull apart. We desire time with others, then move away to soothe ourselves. In the dance of intimacy there is the unspoken two step that we unconsciously complete as we glide along. We often participate in the dance without even knowing it. We move in concert with our partner as though we were trained together.

Why then does the dance cause so much pain and drama in our daily lives? As we come together we feel the rush of closeness and the promise of joy that intimacy holds. We revel in the moment. But we cannot sustain the level of intimacy without feeling the fear that we somehow, will be lost. In reaction we pull back, gasping for personal space. Our instinctive reaction to pull away is our survival mechanism preserving our individuality. Intimacy at this level cannot be sustained for more than mere moments at a time. If we lived constantly at this energy level we would be exhausted.

So why does the coming apart cause so much drama and feelings of loss? Our expectations are the root of the challenge. We do not always understand the necessity of individuality. In our search for intimacy and connection we often feel that we must remain connected at all times to be whole. This is certainly not the case. In order to be two whole individuals, we must come apart to live our own lives and bring new experiences and ideas back to the joining. We must pull away to again rejoin. This time of separation allows us to live our own experiences, increase our self esteem and come back together with more to offer our partner. The synergy of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As we increase our self worth through self care and using our tools, we increase the value of our intimate relationships. This is a gift we give ourselves, intimacy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Each day we make decisions that effect the direction our lives will take. Along this road of many forks we have opportunities to choose. Often the choices are not well marked and our path ahead may be unclear. We may not know the consequences of the choice we make. At those times we use our past experiences and instincts to assist us in making wise decisions. We use our tools and may rely on a higher power to help guide us through the maze. We hope that we have made the choice that is best for our future.

What action do we take when the path we have chosen has lead us to an unintended place? We recall our tools and begin with acceptance. We are not perfect and make mistakes. This is part of the human condition. Once we have realized our mistake, we take the necessary steps to correct it. We examine the situation thoroughly, making sure we fully understand all that has occurred. We assess all consequences. We make any needed amends, then take action to make corrections where possible. Finally, we make an amend to ourselves and move forward.

Moving on without shame or guilt is vital to self care. Since our choice led us to unintended consequences, we do not need to burden ourselves with shame or guilt. This is baggage that never permits healing. Shame keeps us locked into poor self esteem, since we feel we are not okay as a result of our choice. Guilt keeps us feeling responsible for making a mistake, when perfection was never the goal. As long as we continue to realize that all human beings make mistakes, we can continue to forgive ourselves, make needed amends, minimize the loss, and continue to practice self care using our tools. In this way we give ourselves the gift of increased self esteem, which when practiced as part of our daily lives, leads us to experience more joy in each moment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I watched the President address a joint session of Congress tonight. It was inspiring to listen to him lay out his blueprint for our economy. President Obama showed substantial clarity of thought, the ability to process complex information, and make appropriate evaluation of the facts. Of note, was that he was in a room not only of allies, but of adversaries. Although the President's approval rating is about 65% there are still about one third of Congressional members who don't agree with him and loudly voice their opposition. Yet, President Obama was calm, clearly relaxed, poised, well spoken and even interjected some comical relief into his very serious speech. He displayed the kind of confidence that inspires others toward trust. He carried himself well showing dignity and grace under extreme pressure.

This is the kind of person that we all aspire to emulate when we are under stress. We want to be unflappable, competent, genuine and empathetic. How do we achieve this kind of persona? We begin by realizing that our insides are reflected in our outsides. What does that mean? We cannot hide who we are internally by wearing a mask. Our true selves show through. When what we project doesn't match what people sense when they are around us, it sets up a peculiar energy that people can feel. They can't tell you what they sense, it just seems awkward.

In order for us to be genuine, we must allow ourselves to be seen without masks. In being open, we allow others to see us for who we are and by extension are competent at being ourselves. As such, we can be empathetic, since we are living in harmony with our inner selves. A strong self esteem allows us the confidence to be unflappable. Carrying ourselves honestly permits us the freedom to put all our energy toward the moment. We aren't focused on maintaining a mask. Thus we can listen intently, absorb all the information we need , evaluate appropriately and make decisions that reflect integrity and empathy.

This formula to make response-able decisions works well in all relationships. We use our tools to learn to respond rather than react and in so doing give ourselves the gift of increased self esteem.

Monday, February 23, 2009


One of the most useful tools in our bag is journaling. Writing down how we think and feel preserves a moment in time. We can use this tool to clarify our views on an issue with which we are struggling. We can use it to vent when we are angry. We can use it when we need to express grief over a loss. We can use it to soothe ourselves when we are scared. Since our journal is completely private, we can use it to express feelings to others in a safe environment where we are not judged or criticized. We can even use it to express joy when we are happy.

Journaling gives us the opportunity to save our thoughts and feelings in a moment when we may be overwhelmed by emotion or confusion. We then take some time for self care, bringing us back to our center. Our journal becomes an opportunity to return to our entry later when we feel calm and centered and can process our feelings more fully with both our intellect and emotions. In this way we give ourselves the gift of time. Time to become ready to deal with the issues that have presented themselves. Many of life's challenges are areas where no solution is readily apparent. Often, through journaling, we can develop a changed paradigm where we can see a wider view. Through this process we become more holistic, more able to see the world through the eyes of others.

As we practice journaling we will develop a record of our progress and growth. Without a written record, we might be unable to see ourselves in a new light, as personal change and growth happens slowly and is often invisible to ourselves. Through our journal entries we can travel back through our past selves and witness the changes in our thinking and emotional response. This is another gift we give ourselves through the tools of self care and journaling.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Drama Addiction

When things are going well, we "wait for the other shoe to drop". We don't have time to sit back and relax... there's so much chaos going on right now that we have to manage, or there will be a disaster. Every time the phone rings someone at the other end of the line is having a major problem and we need to attend to it now. Sound familiar?

This is the sound of drama addiction. We have no time to live our own lives because we are so busy attending to everyone else. Why do we adopt this mode of constantly making work for ourselves? What would we be doing if we disconnected from other peoples issues and problems and instead focused on our own lives? Some of us have been living through others for so long that we have lost our own lives along the way. We have neglected our self for such a long time that we no longer know who we are. Without the drama, who would we be? Wouldn't it be fun to find out?

We have a choice. We can elect to let others solve their own problems and attend to the business of living our own lives. Although we will get plenty of change back messages, if we keep minding our own business and letting others do the same, eventually they will begin to pick up the slack. This will give us the freedom to explore what self care feels like on a daily basis. We can begin to fill our own lives with the fun hobbies and activities that we enjoy. We can begin to live our lives again, to feel joy and wonder at the world and to engage the present.


Responsibility. That's a big word. When partners talk about relationships, the issue of responsibility often comes to the forefront. Each party believes that the other is not carrying enough responsibility with regard to the areas in conflict. How do we resolve issues this complex? This first step is assessing what responsibilities are encompassed in the overall issue. Once they are clearly defined, we can then move on to deciding who is going to take responsibility in each area. To solve the conflict we must each take responsibility for our portion of the problem. We must be honest and objective with ourselves and our partner about what we are and are not currently doing with regard to our part of the responsibilities. We can then move forward with a new perspective about how a change in our behavior can positively affect the overall issue we face together. Each of us is invested in carrying forward our part of the bargain to make the synergy of the whole outweigh the problem. Being on the same side of the issue creates a team environment where both parties can work toward a mutually agreeable solution.

The word, response - ability, gives clarity to the true meaning. The ability to respond, rather than react, to any given situation denotes a level of self care that is truly attractive. When life deals us a blow we have the tools we need to take care of ourselves. We breathe, give ourselves a moment to become centered and calm, then respond to the stress. If we need more time to make a decision we can always say, "Let me think about that and I will get back to you." Very few issues are so pressing that they must have an immediate response. We give ourselves the gift of time whenever we need to. That is truly self care. When we practice self care on a daily basis we will be able to discharge our responsibilities in a healthier manner.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Detachment... what exactly does a word like that mean? When we feel like our heads are swimming from all the drama and confusion around us... when all the things we have done to try to "fix" the problem have failed... when we are so obsessed with the problem that we can no longer see any solutions... that is when we become willing to look at our situation in a new way and we try detachment.

Detachment does not mean abandoning, running from, leaving, or ignoring the problem. It does mean that we separate ourselves from the issues that are not ours to solve and focus instead on the ones we can work through... our own. We stop trying to control outcomes and force results and instead accept that we must remove ourselves from the situation and let the consequences fall where they may. If we have, in some way, added to the problem, we accept responsibility for our part and make our amends. Otherwise, we step back and let the person who has caused the problem suffer the proverbial consequences of their actions. We do this because we are too exhausted to keep carrying all the responsibility for the problems of both ourselves and others. Once we stop being responsible for others problems and step back, miraculously they will begin to take responsibility for their own lives and free us to do the same.

In this way we experience a paradigm shift that allows us to finally see our part in the drama. We will get plenty of "change back messages" from those who suddenly have to be responsible for their own lives. As we persist in self care and minding our own business we will find that others will eventually do the same. It may not be easy, it may feel awkward at first, but we will get used to it. We will learn to take care of ourselves and practice healthy self care principles throughout our daily lives.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nutrition and Wellness

Very often as we rush around in our daily routine we forget to take care of ourselves. We fix lunch for the kids, make dinner for the family, skip breakfast, grab a quick something during the day then wonder why we have such low energy. Nutrition is vital as we strive for appropriate self care.

Nutrition is a tool we can use to make certain that we have the fuel to discharge all our responsibilities and still have enough energy left to take time for ourselves. Each meal should include a serving of protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, fat and water. A high quality carbohydrate is best, one with plenty of fiber to slow digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. I prefer a multigrain bread, complete with seeds. A lower fat protein works well to trim calories and cholesterol for long term health. Processed meats and foul can contain nitrates and high levels of sodium, so limiting those foods is a better choice. A monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil, keeps the digestive system lubricated and provides essential fatty acids. I like a home made vinaigrette prepared with both balsamic and red wine vinegars, plenty of herbs and spices and extra virgin olive oil. Vegetables are wonderful for increasing the bulk of a meal whether raw or lightly cooked. They also contain essential nutrients, vitamins and phytochemicals. When preparing a meal at home I like to lightly steam my vegetables, then briefly stir fry in a bit of olive oil and garlic. Water is an essential part of a healthy diet keeping the body hydrated, washing out toxins and replenishing our skins natural moisture. A good daily goal for water consumption is eight glasses. This can comprise water, broth, herbal teas or any decaffeinated beverage low in sugar and sodium.

Once we make the commitment to keeping ourselves healthy we are doing what we must to achieve our optimal level of self care.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Every day millions of Americans get up and go to work. They plan their vacations around their jobs. They plan their families lives around when they can get time away from work. This past year over three million people in the United States lost their jobs and cannot find work. In addition to the financial hardship that a lost job creates, there is extreme stress due to the inability of a wage earner to provide for their family. This coupled with the loss of health care coverage creates a home environment ripe for conflict. For a man, self esteem is often tied to a job or job title. For many women this is also the case, but women may have another outlet for esteem building... the family. In either case, the loss of income and health care coverage can be catastrophic.

During times of extreme hardship and stress, support meetings can be a true lifeline. Local YMCA's, churches, synagogues and mosques offer free weekly support meetings. These are places where anonymity is valued and privacy is required. Folks meet to share their stories, hardships, loss and recoveries. All this can give a stressed person hope, showing light at the end of the tunnel. Not only is the support of the group of tantamount importance, but the friendships that grow through attending meetings can become the strongest links in the chain toward recovery, both financial and emotional. The only requirement for getting help is the willingness to ask, and to let another lend a hand up.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Why is it that so often in relationships we have confusion between partners? How can we improve our time together? The one answer is communication. Although we both speak the same language, be it English or another, the meaning we assign to the words may differ according to our family of origin and culture. We may say the same words, but mean very different things by them. The result of this truth is that partners may believe that they are understood, when in fact their meaning has not actually been grasped. The outcome of this confusion is often an argument. Partners can feel any range of feelings: misunderstood, ignored, used, frustrated, angry, shamed or shocked by the response they receive.

How can we make ourselves understood? We can improve communication by learning some basic tools. We make a commitment to listen to our partner until they are finished with their thought, without forming a response. We allow ourselves to absorb what is being said to us completely. We can always take a moment to process what has been said when our partner has finished. We respond by using "I" statements. We focus on ourselves and our response to the situation as well as our feelings, while allowing our partner to have their response and feelings as well. By validating our partners feelings, we give them the gift of being heard. We cannot control what they think and feel. We let them know that they are entitled to have their feelings without restriction or shame. Once our partner feels truly heard, they may be more open to hearing us.

If we have not succeeded in clearing up the confusion with this tool we have others at our disposal. We can use "dialogue" as a communication enhancement. We listen to our partner fully, then restate what has been said in our own words. Our partner then tells us if we have understood completely. If we have not, they make further clarifications and we try again. Finally we will fully understand what has been said, along with all the underlying meaning. This process may feel awkward at first, but produces results. And isn't that is what we are after?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


So many of us have been betrayed in our lives. Someone makes a promise, then doesn't keep their word. We are faced with our feelings: a combination of pain, anger, frustration, shame and loss. How do we cope in that moment when we realize we have been betrayed? We have a choice to respond rather than react with hostility or rage. We can take a moment to ask ourselves, "What do I need to do to take care of myself in this moment?" We use our tools: breathe, give ourselves permission to feel our feelings fully, write in our journal about the event, call a trusted friend to share our disappointment, and finally, accept that we cannot control the behavior of others. We focus on the moment, realizing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be in our lives and ask ourselves,"What lesson am I supposed to be learning from this experience?"

Betrayal has the highest cost in relationships. It dissolves the trust between two people. Trust can take months or years to develop, but betrayal can destroy it in a moment. Betrayal leaves wounds that are deep and lasting. Some wounds heal with enough time and personal growth work. Others create scars that inhibit a persons ability to be emotionally available. The choice, as always, is up to each of us to follow the path that creates the most joy in our lives.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Letting Go

To say that letting go is difficult is an understatement. Letting events flow as the universe intends goes against the human instinct. We all strive to control outcomes. But is that really effective? When we move against the current, the ebb and flow of universal synergy, we set up a peculiar energy that others can feel. They may not be able to put their finger on what they sense, but they certainly sense that something is not right. Controlling outcomes may cause harm. Someone we love may be suffering the consequences of prior behaviors or acts. If we try to control outcomes to minimize their pain, should we succeed, what have we accomplished? We have failed to let our loved one learn their lesson. Instead we have taught them that when they make a mistake we will step in and save them from the natural consequences of their actions. This will eventually force the universe to cause them to experience a more severe consequence that even we cannot fix. So, have we helped? No. We have stepped in, and in our effort to provide a false bottom for them, have delayed them learning their lesson, actually causing them greater harm in the long run. Letting go means that we trust that we, and others, are exactly where we are supposed to be in the moment, and that there is a greater plan that we cannot yet see. When an artist paints he sees each individual brush stroke as he creates his masterpiece. He has a greater plan in mind. If we see only the brush strokes, we miss the masterpiece. We must step back and view the completed painting, seeing it in its entirety. Only then do we really understand the master plan. Our lives are like a painting. We cannot easily step back and view the path on which we walk. Only when time has passed and we have the opportunity to look back in retrospect can we appreciate the art of the universes plan.

Monday, February 9, 2009


So often in our daily lives we suffer disappointments. How we respond rather than react makes all the difference in how we view these challenges. We cannot control the behaviors of others. We can only control how we respond to what happens. We always have a choice... to react and let our overwhelmed feelings cause us to lose control in that moment. Or to respond... taking a moment to detach, breathe, assess and decide with our intellect how we wish to proceed. Responding appropriately to challenging situations doesn't lessen the difficulties they present, however, it does allow us to maintain our dignity and think through our behavior. We give ourselves the gift of time. Time to reflect... even for a moment... on the consequences of our choices, the words we choose to use to handle our dilemma, and the ability to process the feelings we have in the present moment so that we may move forward in a responsible manner. The word response-able says much... the ability to respond. This is a tool we can use in our daily lives to enhance the quality of our interactions and our self esteem. As we respond more and react less, we feel better about ourselves and our sense of personal control.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Weekends are typically the time when we enjoy our families and friends, taking a break from the everyday routine of life. Why then do so many of us spend our weekends feeling blue. Is it that we feel lonely? Do we not know who we are without the role we wear at our job? Are we stuck in a role at home which no longer serves our needs? Do we know what we want? Do we know how to be happy? Have we forgotten how to experience joy? Spending some time alone pondering these types of questions can lead us to experience much tension and stress. If we peel off all the roles we have in life: child, parent, sibling, co-worker, spouse, friend, lover, boss, etc. , who are WE? Who is the person underneath all the roles? Have we lost touch with the human being? How do we go about finding ourselves once again? How do we get back in touch with the person inside? Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we are awakened from our slumber. Sometimes we decide that feeling numb is no longer how we want to live out our lives. Sometimes we experience a loss that forces our hand. Either way, the time has come to uncover ourselves and find our who we are and what we want. Tools are the way to accomplish this task. Finding ourselves among the roles isn't as hard as we thought when we have a guide to show us the way.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I watched C-SPAN today as the Senate debated the Economic Stimulus package. I was engrossed by the lesson I was seeing played out before me. In this country we have citizens who's opinions differ substantially, often polar opposites, yet we all live in peace. The Senate is a microcosm of this fact. Each Senator devotes his time on the Senate floor to arguing his position on the Stimulus package, which he believes is a reflection of his constituents desires. Here is the lesson is perfection... no Senator will be satisfied with the completed package once the debate is over. All have compromised. Yet, the bill will be passed. This is a tool we can use in our daily lives as we find ourselves in conflict with others. Many times communication and compromise are the keys to finding an acceptable solution to our difficulties. If we accept that no one person in the conflict will be completely satisfied, then compromise becomes an acceptable solution, and communication becomes the means to achieve a satisfactory end. As one wise woman said, "The hardest part about life is accepting reality when you don't like it."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thought for the day

The prospect of dealing with loss can be overwhelming. In the current economy it is common for folks to experience a sense of loss of control as they watch their savings evaporate. Business owners worry that their profit margins are shrinking and question if they will be able to remain afloat. We as a nation are facing a time of loss. As individuals we must learn to take care of ourselves during this time of economic crisis. When loss overtakes us we ask ourselves, "What do I need to do to take care of myself in this moment." If we fail to take care of ourselves, we cannot be emotionally available to help others. Each of us has the responsibility to make ourselves as stable as we can to enable our families survival. We must use our tools to carry ourselves through difficult times. Caring for ourselves during times of stress and hardship is one of our primary responsibilities. It enables us to respond rather than react when crises occur. Our tools are our lifelines.