Blog Posts

Are You Considering A Life Change?

Every five to ten years most people go through a life examination. Through the lessons of counseling others, as well as seeing friends and family go through life, there comes a time where many people ask, is this all that life has to offer?

Maybe you think it is the job, your house, your lack of material things or your spouse that is the source of your disappointment. You think back at all your hopes and dreams and don’t see them happening for you.  You realize you are bored and find yourself desiring new excitement. As new experiences, things or people are introduced you experience FEELINGS similar to a drug’s high. Those are all fine unless you begin to rely on those external factors for joy and become reliant to a point of unhealthy addiction.

With anything, we can sometimes idealize other people’s lives and forget we aren’t seeing their whole picture. We aren’t seeing their challenges or sacrifices.  If it is a desire for a different spouse, we forget that everyone wakes up with bad breath, likes to get in comfortable clothes after work, has their bad days and the newness always wears off.   No job is perfect and all homes require work.

The changes you are considering also require sacrifices. New jobs require you to feel vulnerable again as you go through the learning curve. New houses require a TON of work for you to organize and it takes a while for it to feel like home.

The most severe and costliest change that can also have ripple effects is divorce.  Second marriages where children are involved can be even more work than first marriages.  You will find things that you don’t like about someone you live with no matter how perfect they may seem.  The good things you now take for granted in your current spouse may end up being the very things you miss in the new one.

Whether it is a house, job or person, everything NEW does lose its luster and excitement. Constantly jumping from job to job, house to house or spouse to a spouse is a possible sign of needed self-healing. If the reason for the change is caused by expecting the next thing to lead to greater happiness, it can lead to endless disappointment. It may be too hard to face the fact that the problem is really within yourself and that search externally can lead to continued spirals of emptiness.

The fact is, peace and joy are controlled internally by a reframing of the mind. I have met people who have very little and yet are full of joy. I have talked with someone whose spouse has battled life-threatening cancer for five years yet their faith keeps them holding onto peace. I have met people and heard stories of parents who have lost their children and were still able to forgive their child’s murderer.  On the other end of the perspective, I have met people who have all kinds of money and still feel the desire for more in order to be happy.

Alternatively, there are times you can outgrow a job, house or friends. There are also times where you may finally realize the need to leave an abusive spouse or boss. You may have gotten stuck into not changing.  You could be in a situation where you have let others take advantage of all of your adjusting on their behalf. You may be in a situation that is truly unhealthy for you.  Staying unhappy is also not the answer.

So how do you know whether a change in life is going to lead to a better life for you or not?

Start with self-discovery.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why are you making this move?
  • When you go back to the reason’s why you chose that job, home, friend or spouse what was the reason’ for you making that choice originally?
  • How has that situation changed?
  • Are you chasing something or running away from the old?
  • Have you created a list of all the things you currently have to be grateful for?
  • If that choice you are contemplating does not make you happy, what will you do next?
  • What are all the pros and cons of the changes you are considering?
  • If you make this change, could you end up being in the same place you are in now?
  • If it is a spouse you are considering leaving and have children, what do you want as your legacy or what kind of life do you want for them?  Don’t they at least deserve your effort to first get marriage counseling?
  • How do you want to affect the lives of others around you that are forced to do all the adjusting if you do not heal in a healthy way?

Only you can truly answer these questions. If you are willing to hear your answers but are having a hard time finding them, you may need someone to help you self discover.

Find a counselor who will help you with that self-discovery process and that will not judge you.  Be sure you are NOT just looking for advice from people who will give you the answers you WANT to hear just so you don’t have guilt. What you NEED to hear is how YOU will feel about yourself after making the decision you choose.

Don’t expect anyone else to give you the answers. If are expecting to be given the advice for an easy way out, don’t.  You need to expect to be held accountable for whatever choices you make.  If you don’t make a healthy choice for yourself based on your values, it will lead to shame and guilt and more unhappiness for you to face.

Others have been through struggles and learned from mistakes. Those lessons have led to healthier more fulfilled lives.  Through counseling and spiritual practice, there is hope for you too!

Southbrook Christian Church has free counseling. There is help out there and within this website. If you are in an abusive relationship or need professional help search for sources near you. Also for further questions, you can email me at everythingforthesoul@gmail.com for a professional reference.

Create a Lasting Marriage

Favorite Sources on Marriage

Overcome Common Struggles

When to Make a Job Change

Traveling Above the Clouds

Have you seen the movie “Planes Trains and Automobiles”?  If you haven’t seen the classic 1987 Planes Trains and Automobiles comedy, I highly recommend it for gut laughter!

If you have lived long enough or done any traveling you know life does not always go as planned. For those of you who travel, you have seen the people who explode with travel complications at the airport and those that laugh at how comical some trips can be.

On a recent trip from Ohio to Wichita Falls, I ended up at the San Angelo airport. It wasn’t the plane I originally was supposed to use to get to my destination.  However,  after delays due to weather, it was the only airplane I could take to get to my meetings on time.   We had been in the air about an hour headed to Lawton when the pilot had announced how we were running out of gas so we had to land at the closest place we could which is how I ended up farther away from my destination.  He explained due to the delay on the runway waiting to get in the air, we missed our window of opportunity to get through the bad weather.  While disappointed, I had still kept my patience.

While refueling in San Angelo, they announced there were some odd noises with the plane so they decided to have maintenance take a look and discovered it was an issue with the brakes.  They allowed everyone to get off but made it clear if anyone went past the gate area they would not be allowed back on the plane and there were no other flights departing.  After hours of everyone hanging around in the gate area, they made an announcement saying once they “jack around with the brakes we should be able to get on our way.” While in most cases that would instill fear, most people found it comical and kept a good sense of humor. That humor and shared experience formed camaraderie of all the passengers.

Much like my past travel delays, cancellations, 9-hour bus rides, sleeping at airports and sharing a rental car, keeping a good attitude during those experiences has led to connections, lasting laughter, getting sent chocolate, and hearing other’s interesting life stories. Those stories have been some of my favorite to share.

When you can look at any of life’s detours or mishaps as an adventure and embrace the crazy with a sense of humor as if it will be a good story, it shows you can control your state of joy, patience, and mental health.  Yet, for all of us, it can be a constant battle that requires controlled thought.

On my way home on that trip, I was more tired given the even longer delays.  I noticed as I let myself think about how much I wanted to get off the plane, the more agitated I became.  When I switched to just enjoying the present, I found my peace with the misfortunes.

Fortunately, I did arrive in Lawton and found an Uber to Wichita Falls and made it in time for my meetings.  I also made it back home at 3:30 AM.  While it was late, I met people on my journey that do that trip every week.  It shows there is always a fellow traveler experiencing something worse to put your life into perspective.

Next time you are in a situation you cannot control, think of “Planes Trains and Automobiles.”  Also, think of how it could be worse.  Then start thinking about how you can embrace the moment and turn your unplanned misfortune into a good story! Keep traveling above the clouds.

 

The Healing Powers Of Touch

Now that I have been traveling there are things that I used to take for granted that I am appreciating more. The one thing that I didn’t realize I would miss so much when being away from my family and home Monday thru Friday on the weeks I do travel is getting to hug my family after work and before bed each day.

The comfort of a gentle embrace can be more healing than any medicines, any words, or any material possessions or accomplishments. Even if you are not a hugger, studies show the power of appropriate touch is transformational in healing.

A great way to be intentional and show your spouse, your family or friends you care is through a hug. It seems we sometimes only provide it during goodbyes. It always seems our natural instinct in times when someone is in pain and no words can help. However, we don’t always give a hug since it makes some people uncomfortable.

img_1461On my recent journey, there was a retired female teacher who made many friends at the airport. She was concerned for those around her and offered help as if she was taking care of the kids in her class. When she sat next to me, she touched me as close friends would while gesturing. It caught me off guard at first. Given cultures norms for space and touching strangers on a knee, I reacted internally as many would. The funny thing is, there was something about her that made me know it was her true love for people that made it acceptable and made me remember her.

In sales and management training in my career, I was taught the power of influence once through touch. The instructor had shared that by touching someone appropriately on the wrist or on the arm below the elbow when asking for something, the probability of that person fulfilling your request increased dramatically. While I have not tested it as it seemed like a manipulation, it has always stuck in my mind when I meet someone who naturally touches other people.

Also after all the snuggling with your kids when they are young, there comes a time where that is obviously no longer appropriate yet they still need that touch. I read once that welcomed playful wrestling with your teenager or giving your teenage daughter a shoulder massage when wanted are good ways for your teenager to still experience healthy loving touch and provide comfort or healing to their stress.

Consider giving your loved ones a good hug more often and see how it makes a difference in you and your relationship with them. Allow yourself to fully enjoy it as one day you will wish you could.

For more on the power of a human touch see Dr. Ilene Ruhoy, Ph.D. article in Psychology Today. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/human-touch-is-really-powerful-according-to-science

Being Okay with Guilty Pleasures

“Sometimes I just need to put away the self-help books and watch Game of Thrones.”- My niece.

Don’t we all have guilty pleasures that make us feel like a normal person? Yet many of us carry too much guilt to allow ourselves to take a time out.

As long as the behavior we choose as our guilty pleasure is not just a short term fix making our long term problem worse, why can’t we enjoy ourselves? We need to laugh, we need to take time for a pause, and we need to connect with other people.  Therefore we need to stop feeling guilty as long we aren’t doing something that will make matters worse for us or our loved ones in the long run.

It is one thing to experience our guilty pleasure, it is another if we are using it as a means of constant avoidance. At times we do not want to face our areas of struggle. Our habits have become too hard to break. We can feel like we are a mess and it is too much work. Yet, what will happen if we do not ever deal with our issues?

If our issue is self-esteem and we grow addicted to the need for other people to lift us up rather than being able to lift ourselves up, we become too reliant on other people to find our joy. That can lead to more depression and unhealthy relationships.

If our issue is anger and we stop working on forgiveness then we will live our a life full of bitterness and ruin our opportunity for happiness.

If our issue is controlling other and we don’t work on our ability to influence versus force power over others, we end with people avoiding us and becoming lonely.

If our issue is feeling overwhelmed or in a rut and we have not been able to set boundaries we will burn out or have health problems.

If we keep fighting in unhealthy ways and not learning to communicate effectively it can lead to divorce, loneliness or lack of connection to other people.

If we don’t deal with our anxiety and learn to understand how to reduce it we will go on living in fear and not fully experience life.

Keep in mind when working on ourselves can be a delicate balance. When we get caught up in seeking happiness through self-help without acting on the practices taught, we can end up feeling worse about ourselves.  We need to often remind ourselves:

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Author Unknown

When we focus on doing little healthy “other things” like exercise, reading a few positive messages, are intentional about controlling our thoughts, and use active listening, life is good, isn’t it? Aren’t we also happier people when we remember to be empathetic of others?  Why not be more understanding of ourselves as well?

What is it you want? What have you put into your daily practice to stay on the right path to achieve your goal? If you don’t do what you know you need to do, what will be the outcome?  Wouldn’t it be beneficial if you reward yourself for your hard work and accomplishments along the way? Remember to tell yourself each day, “I am worthy! I can enjoy taking a little time for myself and not feel guilty.”

Stone bridge Photograph taken in Ireland

“Discover a Better Life” By a Farmer’s Daughter

As I was replenishing the rabbits’ food supply the smell of hay brought me back to the days with my sisters being in that barn every day.

Growing up on a farm I learned dedication at an early age. The animals had to be fed and watered every day regardless of how of cold it was outside. In the winter my sisters and I would pile on the overalls, winter hats, gloves, boots, and make our way to the barn. If the animals’ water had turned to ice we had to break it up and provide new water. It required carrying two ten gallon buckets across the long graveled barnyard which was quite heavy for a little girl. Filled with horses, rabbits, a couple of dogs and often a new litter of kittens, rabbit poop and hay, that barn seemed impossible to keep clean. When you opened the barn doors there was always work to be done.

In order to free ourselves from the daily feedings and massive poop clean up, one Spring day my sisters and I had taken all our rabbits in the middle of the alfalfa field to run free (in our minds).  While I have fond memories growing up on a farm and am thankful for the values it taught me like hard work and dependability, I did NOT miss the chores.  After shedding many tears due to pets “going missing”, I also learned not to grow too close to the animals on the farm.

I had thought that Spring day was the last time I would ever be cleaning up after rabbits. Now years later, my daughter’s desire convinced me to agree to be part of the Bunny Brigade at the Human Society. Typically it was my daughter that handled the rabbits. I typically just went through the cleanup motions as an obligation to my daughter. Yet this morning was different.

When I started the task of removing the first bunny from its cage I could still hear my daughter’s response to my unhealthy comment the night before.

“Why do you feel I owe you for helping out animals?” She had wisely replied.

Her come-back had left me in silence and in thought. Even though it was not her fault she had another obligation, I had been irritated that it was her idea. I was once again stuck.  It wasn’t right to reschedule as they had counted on us showing up.

Over the course of the morning, smelling that hay brought back memories. After petting and holding that rabbit I started to realize my core issues.  My daughter was innocent. The truth is I had built up a blockade to not feel anything for those rabbits. I had left myself cry too hard too many times when I lost them and quit seeing them as something to love and enjoy.  By resisting vulnerability I killed my own joy.  The experience became an unwanted task because I resorted to just going through the motions.

Can you relate? Are you currently stuck and find something you used to enjoy has now turned into something you dread? Have you let yourself become bitter for feeling out of control of something in your life? Or have you even become detached to someone or something to prevent yourself from being vulnerable?

When you experience yourself feeling irritable, examine the root of it? Dig deep and ask yourself, “why do you feel that way?” Randy Creamer the lead teaching counselor at Southbrook Church then says to ask, “How are you going to find your joy if nothing changes?”

What is holding you back from experiencing joy? What is it you have control over? What can you change to become unstuck?  What are you going to do about it?

Until we dig deep about what it is that is really leaving us annoyed about our life, we will keep living each day as a daily ritual and soon our life will have passed us by. We can choose to live with a dark cloud over us or we can choose to live in the light. It is our choice.

For me, after working through the answers to those questions I began to see again. I was able to see those rabbits as God’s creations who needed care. The bitterness was replaced with delight. I also could see the positive…at least those rabbits were not in my old barn, it was not the dead of winter, and no ice needed to be broken. It was only me who needed to warm up inside.

What can you do right now to enjoy this very moment? Examine the beauty around you right now!  It is there, you just need to look for it.  Begin truly seeing again like you are experiencing whatever it is in front of you for the first time. Let your appreciation be known. Focus on the blue sky rather than the work required. It is amazing what doors will begin to open!  Doors to a more enjoyable life!

Positive Messages

Workshops and Resources

 

Barn Photograph was taken near Terre Haute, IN in 2019

Dear Daughter,

Dear Daughter,

Work seems to have never-ending demands. All of these years I have strived to find balance.  It’s hard to not want to be the best at both career woman and Mom.  As I look back I hate when works’ demands and running the household made me choose to work over putting you first on my list. There were so many times I wished I could quit in order to have more time with you.  Sometimes it makes me bitter, however, I realize my career has always also been a part of me. 

Now as you go off to college I wonder where all the time has gone.  My biggest concerns are what impact I’ve had on you. What lessons have you learned from how I have parented you and what I have valued? Has my ambition for my career and drive for success in my career negatively affected you?

Time seems to be running out and I find myself quickly trying to fix all the things I may have broken in you. Teach you all you need to know before you move out of the house. I want to pour out all my knowledge and life lessons to make your life easier, more fulfilled and joyous than my own.

Sometimes when I am trying to teach you all of these things or try to help you live life better, I go about it all the wrong way. I see that when I try to control your actions and your choices you do not react well.

I noticed the change in your tolerance of control around 13. You entered the time of your life where you were trying to understand yourself. You started to desire the freedom to define yourself and not let others try to define that for you. You started transforming from being a kid to an adult. Sometimes you still feel needy and yet you don’t want to feel you need anyone.

I was once like you.  I know you want to make your parents proud but also want to be true to yourself. Some days are better than others and you still struggle with who you can trust. You want to have the freedom to make mistakes as you are learning. You want to be able to have your own money and not let that be the way others have control over you. You take pride in earning it even though you would prefer to do things where you don’t have to take on adult responsibility.

There are so many things I want to know about you. So many things I want to understand regarding your individual path of life.  What are your fears, struggles, hopes, and dreams?  I want you to feel safe to share these things with me.

I want to share all my own struggles and make myself vulnerable to you so you know you are not alone. I have and still make mistakes too. I know I am not perfect. I am on my own journey of life as well. The more I can understand you and you about me the better our relationship and lives will be.

I promise to work on not controlling you. Instead, I strive to work to influence you to make the best decisions for your future. I will work to make it safe for you to share who you are with me.

All I ask is, talk to me. Trust your Dad and me with our wisdom. Count on our love for you to coach you on decisions that are for your long-term well being. Get me to listen to you, understand you and ask for guidance when you need it. 

Know that I am so very proud of you and that I love you no matter what!

Mom

I had written a similar letter to that of the above to my oldest daughter over a year ago. She is the one that said I should publish it. It was healing for me to write to her and healing for her to know how I felt. It helped bring us back together when I felt I was losing her.

Many working Mom’s ask themselves, “Have I:

-put my work ahead of my kids and made them feel less important?”

-set such high expectations of them the measuring scale seems to be perfection?”

-overcompensated to make their life easier and instead made them take things for granted?”

-taught them to find balance in their life and happiness within themselves?”

The second-guessing list goes on and on. If you are struggling as a Mom, know you are not alone. May this letter inspire you to write a letter of your own and help you find your own healing as your kids grow and start lives of their own.

Givers, Don’t Forget Your Worth

If you are a giver or thrive on the sense of accomplishment, often you may find you have developed such a willingness to help that you begin to overextend yourself.   It can be difficult to know when you may be giving too much versus providing outstanding service to others based on how good it makes you feel. If you often find yourself burnt out and blame it on your job, ask “is it really the job? Or is it me trying to be a superhero?”

It can become detrimental to your own well being if you have trouble saying no even when you are already overwhelmed. If you have a hard time saying no for fear of letting others down, remember your worth! Practice using this phrase for the next time you have larger priorities and want to say no but feel obligated to say yes:

“I would love to be able to help you with …, however, given my current demands, I won’t be able to give your request the attention it deserves.”

If said sincerely the person making the request will understand. Know it is okay for you to not carry the world on your shoulders. You don’t have to be a martyr to be valued and loved!

Also, learn to delegate.  When you have a huge list of tasks, write them down. What can other people help you complete?  Then keep in mind they may have a different way of completing the job.  Ask yourself, does it really matter how it is done as long as it gets done?  For the things where quality work does matter, spend time teaching given you will thank yourself in the long run.

In my own experience, I used to get annoyed when I would rush around the house trying to complete everything.  Particularly when folding and putting laundry away.  I would belabor over hanging up my teenage daughters’ nice clothes and also nicely fold everything I thought should go into their drawers.  Then I would get annoyed when I saw how they would just dump all their folded laundry on their floor and shove it into their drawers or take off the clothes from their hangers and organize it a different way.   I kept doing their laundry because I felt needed and good about doing something for them and tried to push my system on them.

It wasn’t until I had shoulder surgery where I was forced to have them do their own laundry.  When I recovered, they both admitted that they would prefer to just fold their own anyway because they had their own organization system.  It made no sense to force my way of doing it on them.  All they needed was to be taught how to work the washer and dryer, learn to sort, add detergents, and now they are self-sufficient.  It does not make me a bad Mom.  I have taught them how to live when they are on their own.  They also have a less stressed Mom! While I still need to work at setting boundaries, I have become aware that I need to caution myself from basing my worth on how much I accomplish.

We will be no good to anyone if we become bitter extending ourselves too far.   Imagine how our worth multiplies when we teach others and don’t just do it ourselves.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” -Brene Brown

Recommended Podcast for Working Mom’s: “Heather is in Control” by Heather Cauvin episode 448 “How to Implement a Boundary”

 She reviews:

Five part formula for saying “no thank you”:          

• Start with a compliment if one fits the situation

• Give the answer

• Say thank you

• Encourage the person

• Change the subject or excuse yourself