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.

Have Courage

img_0785Off on a new adventure! It took me an hour just to find a working bike rental system. It only gave me 30 seconds to remove it from its automated lock and it was stuck. It took me three tries to unlock the rented city bike with a basket.  

After figuring out how to free the wheels, off I was down the Rabbit Trail. What a beautiful and freeing feeling to ride with the breeze flowing in my face and not being strapped down to obligations at the moment. It was quiet and the trees and flowers were coming to life from their dormancy of Winter. 

img_0786.jpg

Amongst the new green grass, budding trees and blooming flowers were colors of purple, pink, yellow and white.  The sounds of the river rapids next to the trail were calming and lightened my spirit.

As clunky as that bike was, it sure put a smile on my face to bust through the fear of being a little woman going somewhere unknown, alone and unprotected. While it may seem like a simple experience to many people, stories of kidnapping and people going missing had been close to home for me and thoughts of not being so lucky next time raced through my head.  However, if we live in fear we are not living.  While we must take precautions it is exciting to discover a new path.

Nature was awakening. The birds and sounds of Spring made me no longer feel so alone.  They replaced the noises in my head.  My gut was feeling safe so I decided to listen to the truer voice.  The voice of reason.

img_0781

Sometimes we lack the courage of trying new things for fear of the unknown. However once we do discover there is nothing to fear, that freedom renews our energy and confidence and brings a new life to us much like nature comes alive in Spring. When was the last time you were held back by unnecessary fear?  If you listen closely to your gut, you can sense the difference between moments where you need to use precaution and other moments where you need to shut off the negative voice and go for it.  Next time, have the courage to listen closely.

Lion Statue taken near Reedy River Falls in Greenville, South Carolina 2019

How to Improve Your Relationships

In “Winning with People,” John Maxwell says the best way to be interesting is to be interested.

When is the last time you had someone really listen to you? Who is it that makes you feel heard and interesting? Who gives you their full attention and makes you feel understood?

The person who takes an interest in you makes you feel incredible, don’t they?  You feel heard and seen, finally understood and important! Yet people who have a genuine interest in hearing your life story, digging into the layers of who you are, and work to understand you beyond the surface are hard to find. When you do find them, don’t they make you want to be around them all the time based on how they make you feel?

In counseling, active listening is the key element in what makes people feel better. Just being able to talk with someone who will really listen, not judge and help them feel understood can be a huge step toward healing them. It is very rewarding to see the effects an interested person has on them.

When you first met your spouse, remember how it felt when they wanted to get to know you and you looked directly into each other’s eyes when talking rather than dealing with all the distractions such as a TV, kids interrupting and work demands taking your full attention away from them?  Remember how interested you were in their stories for the first time and how you made the other feel?

As a parent, when you give your kids their full attention and don’t start immediate lecturing and stop to listen fully to them, it is amazing the difference you see in your child.

At work, when a manager listens to an employee’s problems and finds out if they need support or direction many times the employee has solutions to their own problems or may just have needed a sounding board.

When salespeople get a client talking about their business they can go on and on about their passions. Salespeople who show a genuine interest in their client’s business and their life story make the prospect want to see that salesperson again.

On the contrary, lack of listening is one of the key reason’s for marital disputes, children not feeling important to their parents, leadership mistakes and why some salespeople fail. Don’t you hate it when someone does not look into your eyes when you are trying to talk with them? Also, the natural tendency is for people to wait for their turn to talk. We have all been guilty of bad listening and yet hate when someone else doesn’t listen to us.

Active listening is when you are truly engaged in someone else’s story and you seek to understand them. Rather than replying with your own story, instead respond with “it sounds like you (then share what you hear them feeling) are really passionate about x.” You may hear that person say, yes!  That’s right!  I do feel…  If you got their feeling wrong, then you can then have them clarify rather than make the wrong assumption.  The next time someone tells you something, look at what they are telling you like a flower where there is more to discover underneath the petals. When you show you are hearing how that person is feeling watch how it ignites them as they realize you get them. That, in turn, solidifies a connection. Who doesn’t love feeling connected to other people?

You may be asking, but how do I teach other people to listen to me?  Wisdom from many books and therapists say the best way to influence others is when we lead by example. I know it can be frustrating.  Yet isn’t it worth it to improve our relationships?

While active listening can be very hard, it can be learned. It requires being intentional and also takes practice. When we make the concentrated effort to practice this way of listening genuinely and not for manipulation purposes, we will find more fulfilling conversations. We will also see a response in people that will help us enjoy other people’s stories and develop deeper more connected relationships.

Would you like to learn and practice your active listening skills? Join me in becoming a better active listener and please share if you would be interested in participating in a workshop.  Please note in the comments the best times and hours that would work for you.

 

You do that too?

How many times in your life have you had an aha moment when listening to someone confess something they think or do?  Aren’t you are elated that you are not alone.  You blurt out “You do that too? So do I!”  Don’t you instantly like that person because you can relate to them?  Why is it so hard to let ourselves be vulnerable?  Our relationships with our friends and family, in the end, is what really matters? Aren’t they who have stayed by you due to those vulnerabilities you have shared?   What about those you love?  Didn’t you fall in love with them because they chose to trust you with their most real thoughts? Also, aren’t the people we most admire those people who are the most comfortable in their own skin?

It is self-doubt that gets in our way.  Spiraling negative self-talk creates unnecessary anxiety.  As we age, why is that so many of us let triggers take us back to the most insecure time of our life? We go back to that painful time in our life that could have been more than 30 years ago.  Just when you think you are past all of your insecure days, there are times in your life that circle back around to it.  That makes us feel we are going to fall flat on our face and erase how far we have come.  Wow!  That is hard to admit.

Admitting it is the first step to recovery though, isn’t it?  The key to stopping those bad habits is awareness.  When we can get to the point in our life where we can recognize the problem is when we can heal. More importantly, when we dig deep and discover the root cause of it, is when we start our own intervention when we see it pop up.  The faster we: draw our attention to the trigger, identify the beliefs and values behind it, recognize the emotions it causes, the outward and inner thoughts, the sooner we can start reversing that negative self-talk into positive self-coaching.

How you ask? It isn’t easy.  It can’t be done in a day.  It is never-ending.  Don’t give up hope. You can transform and it does get easier.  You will go forward and then backward. Stay consistent. Persevere.  It always comes down to discipline, doesn’t it?

I confess I haven’t gotten it down 100%.  Just as I am thinking I am getting better, moving away from my weaknesses in my past, I have a day like yesterday that takes me on a two-day spiral.  It sure helps to have a coach to keep you in practice. Who wouldn’t love a personal trainer?  Especially a free one that can relate to your struggles, empathize and encourage you to keep at it.  As you get a few techniques understood, you can then start teaching someone you love.  The more you teach someone else, the faster it helps you bounce back.

Are you ready?  I have learned that you can’t provide help to someone who doesn’t want it.  Have you heard the phrase, when the student is ready the teacher will appear?  Are you ready to do the work on you?

First, all credit for this practice goes to the teachings of Randy Creamer and his workshops through Southbrook Counseling. He has his own website Timetoheal.solutions where he will be sharing his workbooks and teachings.  He teaches how to recognize what someone is struggling with and provides resources to work through the majority of people’s problems which boils down to Unforgiveness, Low Self-Esteem, Communication problems, Emotions, and Behavior out of control, High levels of stress, Can’t say no-overwhelmed, unresolved conflict, High levels of anxiety, and controlling relationships.

I encourage you to visit Randy’s website.  Read other stories there and share your own.  Check out the once a month workshops he will be organizing on Monday nights at Southbrook Church. http://www.southbrookchurch.org to find out more details on times and topics.  Also, you can email counseling@southbrook.org at Southbrook Counseling and make an appointment with one of the Pastoral Counselors if you find you need someone to listen to understand, care, and help move you forward.

You can also choose to follow my blog as I share more on what I have learned.  Whatever you do, don’t use Facebook as your way to share your life’s problems.  Way too often you see not all Facebook “Friends” are friendly supporters.

 

Photograph taken on the Lake of Killarney in Ireland

 

Giving Up Your Right Arm

Sometimes it takes a negative life event to appreciate the simple things.  When you no longer have something that you used to take for granted, it changes your perspective on what satisfies you.

March 2, as I was turning 45 an accident during a ski trip led to an AC joint injury and rotator cuff surgery.  In other words, I am unable to use my right arm for several weeks and I am told I have a year-long journey ahead to get used of my arm back to close to normal.

Normally I am an active person who loves hiking, bicycling, and most of all kayaking.  My career also drives me to work 50-60 hours a week.  All of which including keeping up with the household chores like folding laundry is very reliant on my right arm.  I have spent a lot of time with family, reading, and realizing how hard it is for me to shut down and be patient and control my mind.  The days where I’ve had breakdowns of frustration coincide with the days I have not practiced what I have read and studied for so many years.

I picked up my first self-help book at the age of 18.  That’s where my journey for self-transformation really began.  It was a book I read the summer before entering college on overcoming test anxiety through self-hypnosis.  It taught me to imagine myself doing well, through first relaxing my body, controlled breathing, and visualization.  It helped me go from a 2.6 GPA student in high school to a 3.4 student in college.  More importantly, it helped me change my self-image from someone incapable of someone capable.  Through even more personal development I went from a poor shy backward farm girl that battled lots of depression to a high performing sales professional and household breadwinner that has persevered.

Even while surpassing my income goals and material possessions the relentless drive for checking off the accomplishments wasn’t leaving me feeling satisfied.  With the combination of teachings from others wiser than me and my halftime break at 45 this year, the reality of needing to concentrate on the daily rituals of filling the soul is even more glaring.

No matter who you are, we all have a story.  Some are just better than others at hiding their struggles and some are better at coping.  Others will admit they need all the help they can get to be present and fight off negative self-talk and depression.

What is consistent in all the studies for learning to be grateful, finding your joy, life satisfaction, or as I would like to call it having your soul feel fulfilled, boils down to doing the list of things below that all encompass “Everything for the Soul.”  Beyond the natural highs, nothing will leave you fulfilled.

  • Daily gratitude journal
  • Discover new things
  • Establish a positive streak
  • Exercise
  • Read something positive
  • Create something
  • Get Sunshine
  • Connection

As you review the list of what it takes, you may recognize they aren’t material things, food, alcohol, drugs, sex or whatever your addiction is on this list.  It is purely a list of things you can do to reframe your way of thinking.  All of us encounter negative self-talk.  Those happiest have been able to reprogram for the positive.  It is up to you to use the tools and resources provided to put them into your own daily practice.  Once you have recognized how the tools have helped you find satisfaction in your abilities to control your thinking please share your story in the comments section of any of the posts.

On the scale of life events for many, my temporary set back of having the use of my right arm taken away is a small price to pay for appreciation of my health.  During my recovery, I have learned of others facing even more serious health scares.  A mother, friend, and wife is battling stage four cancer, a father, son, and brother facing news of a discovered brain tumor.  Another person grieves over their lost loved one who chose to end his daily mind battle through taking his own life.

No matter our struggle, there is always someone facing something worse.  By sharing my story and findings and encouraging others to tell their stories through everthingforthesoul.com may it inspire more people to use these daily practices to reframe their mind and live a more fulfilled life.  What better life purpose than to fulfill souls!

Resource: If you struggle with addiction here’s where you can find help: http://www.mission-addiction.org/about-us/

Photograph take at Diamond Peak Ski Resort