Archive for ‘Emotional Support’

September 6, 2016

The Devil, as they say, is in The Details

faceAin´t it the truth…the devil is in the details! I have a friend who´s starting a business with a partner. My friend has no funds, but provides the talent & is a draw for clients. The two have formed an LLC, but have no operating or member agreement. When I ask questions like: Who will keep the records for the required (in his state) annual report; do you have to pay franchise tax; are you insured; are you going to file your federal taxes as a corporation or individual; how much compensation will each of you get and how will it be distributed; what duties are expected of you for that compensation; or can you work for other entities simultaneously, I am met with an angry, irritated stare. That would be no big deal except that my questions are in response to his request to help him get the business off the ground well.

His response is not that uncommon. It sounds exciting to talk about having your own business. You´ll be in control, you can decide when you’re going to work and when you´re not, you can create the kind of product you´d want to buy, you can be the boss you´ve always wanted to have, and you can make a lot of money…. And all of that is true.

What´s also true is that it make take a long time to make a lot of money and when you do, it will be subject to self-employment tax of 15% right off the top of your profit or to an employer social security, medicare, and unemployment contribution. Then there´s income tax that has to be paid in quarterly estimates eating into your cash flow. If you are in a service business, you will have to make some tough choices regarding accepting business vs taking time off, how hard to push when you´re collecting unpaid invoices, when to hire, and when to fire. And inevitable market or regulatory changes and/or competition will force you to innovate to remain relevant and continue to profit. While it may sometimes look like it from the outside, coasting never lasts long.

So while it feels really good to say you´re starting your own business, the actuality of being in business may turn out to be less appealing. There is no way to know whether you are well suited to the entrepreneurial world if you choose to ignore the details of running a business. The best way to ensure success, is to be willing to look at both the good and the bad, outline the details of agreements up front, negotiate in specifics, make deliberate choices in which you decide how much you are willing to lose in the short term in order to gain in the long term.

I mention this because it is the same with a workout program, a dietary lifestyle, a friendship, or a relationship – the devil is in the everyday reality of the details.

I love to swim. A couple of years ago, I swam 3 or 4 days per week for about a year-and-a-half. This meant getting up early to beat the other lap swimmers to the pool, jumping in cold water before I was even awake, and dealing with a less than friendly facility staff. For many months it was worth it. Then the pool became so crowded I always had to share a lane. That was enough to take the joy out of it for me. That one little detail made me dislike the effort it took to pack my bag, make the drive, postpone coffee and the newspaper to the extent that I quit swimming as a workout.

This isn´t uncommon. According to Statistic Brain, 67% of people with gym memberships never use them. The question is, do those gym members find a different workout and stick to it or are they lacking a commitment to finding a workout that fits them? That commitment is the critical detail that will affect their health.

Deciding to give up dairy because it makes your face swell may sound easy until you realize how many foods you eat with cheese. Planning to give up sugar may seem like no big deal until you start reading the labels on your favorite cereal, protein bar, chili seasoning, or chicken stock. Limiting carbohydrates may sound easy until you realize that all fruits and vegetables are carbs. Then you have to determine whether you really want to limit all carbs or just specific types of carbs.

Obviously, you can never know everything up front and you can over think anything to the point of paralysis, but in general exploring the details up front leads to more informed decisions. When I make an informed decision I find I can accept any resulting negative consequence, failure, or difficulty with much more ease. Accepting undesirable results as a risk I signed on for, allows me to let them go immediately because I am at peace with my decision. I don´t have to be at peace with the results.

Since we can never control the outcome of anything with certainty, being at peace with our decisions can reduce the stress in our lives. We just have to be willing to stare down that little devil – the details.

June 1, 2016

Remembering and Renewal Can Go Hand-in-Hand

DaisyRemembering and renewal can go hand-in-hand. Where I grew up, Memorial Day coincided with larger traditions of Decoration Day. While the official holiday is to remember our veterans who died, my mom spent the day visiting every cemetery in which our relatives are buried. She’d remove last year’s old, faded, plastic arrangement from each grave and replace it with a new one.

This morning I am at my mother’s house, the one that now belongs to me and my sister. I walked down the road to the farm homesteaded by my great, great, great grandmother looking for wild strawberries. When I was here a few weeks ago they were in full bloom, so I was excited by the possibility of picking the small, juicy berries. I remember when I was 5 or 6 picking berries off these stems and popping them in my mouth right there on the spot. They were delicious.

Today, there are no berries, just a few stems chewed flat at the top most likely by the rabbit I saw bounding across the yard. While I feel disappointed about the berries, I had an enjoyable walk past an incredible display of verdant fields and a roadside of hearty weeds topped with delicate flowers. All around me I saw growth, change, renewal.

It’s common to become attached to things that feel familiar – not just furniture, paintings, dishes or clothes, but attitudes, beliefs, and emotions. Sometimes loss or change will cause us to grasp onto the familiar with a death grip and hold on for dear life. Stay in an emotional spot too long and soon enough you’re in a rut. Ruts can be deep tracks that we subconsciously follow. While they give us a defined path which can look like a way forward, they also limit us to that path which can sometimes mean we’re stuck.
When we’re stuck, there is no renewal. There’s no room for new growth because our physical, spiritual, and emotional space is full of the familiar. Remembering how things used to be can be a method of hanging onto the past and keeping us stuck, but it doesn’t have to be and nature is a great reminder of that.

I know what it feels like to move into the familiar groove of feeling alone, not really lonely, just alone as though I must carry any burden by myself. The only reason this is a reality for me now is that I easily slide into that familiar groove. I do it in spite of many layers of healing. It was my reality for so long at so young an age that I have many layers left to heal.

The good news is that not only do I have a healing process I trust, I see examples all around me of the renewal that happens naturally when we stop interfering.
I see it in the sticker bush that in two weeks has grown from two feet tall to 5 feet tall.
I see it in the blackberry bushes that in the same two weeks have shed lively flowers and begun to create fruit.
I see renewal in the dandelions that spread their seeds on the wind. And I’m seeing all of this renewal on the farm where I grew up, the same farm where I spent most of my days walking through the fields and sitting in the woods…alone. It is a place of many memories. It is a place of renewal and growth.

Sometimes we remember how great things were because those are the things that left the biggest impression. This can either keep us stuck in the past or encouraged for the future. Sometimes we remember only the bad things. This can keep us stuck in our pain or give us a starting point for healing and renewal. Staying stuck in our memories or connecting with our memories to heal and move forward begin in the same place. It is the place of choice.

When I interviewed Life Coach Mack Arrington for our Cooking2Thrive interview series, he pointed out a moment at which I was “at choice”. It’s an expression I’ve heard from other life coaches and it’s exactly the time/place where memory and renewal intersect. Memorial Day is the perfect time for renewal to begin.

March 1, 2016

Comparison Kills Compassion

When things in our lives get tough or unpleasant, it’s easy to begin to compare our situation to those around us; unfortunately, comparison kills compassion. Have you ever started looking around at other people in a restaurant eating pie or cheesecake while you have to opt for dessert later since there’s no gluten-free option and begin to wonder why they have it so much easier than you? Do you ever feel annoyed when you sit empty handed while the rest of the office begins oohing and ahhhing over the box of cupcakes they’re consuming?

Once you allow that thought train to begin, does it gain steam and cause you to compare, and compare, and compare until you’re sure you’ve gotten a raw deal as compared to everyone else? Now that you’re on the comparison train, do you move from feeling annoyed to feeling downright angry? Does this anger keep you from noticing the tears in the eyes of the woman eating cheesecake? Does it cause you to turn a blind eye to your coworker’s obvious anxiety that he will be laid off? Do you ever notice that comparison often interferes with any compassion you might otherwise feel for those around you?

It’s easy to jump on the comparison train even when we know it never takes us to a positive destination, and often our comparisons are based on perception and assumption rather than knowledge. How well do you know the colleague you believe is less encumbered? Is it possible that you don’t really know them at all? Is it possible that they are deliberately projecting a certain image in public that hides their grief, sorrow, shame, loss, confusion, or anger? Have you considered that although they can eat desserts you can’t have, their life overall may not be easier or better than yours?

Since it’s sometimes hard to keep perspective, let’s play a game about perception that might help us next time we’re tempted to compare.

The following chart lists descriptions of real people in the left column and their real characteristics or actions in the right column. Match the description in the left column to the action in the right column you believe fits each description best.

Description – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –Action

Award Winning Financial Advisor – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Chairs yearly high-profile charity event for a nonprofit organization.

Perfectly Coiffed, Suit Wearing Executive- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Home is filled with trash and rotting food.

Highly Educated Teacher with 3 Advanced Degrees – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Pooped on sidewalk outside hotel.

Successful Business Owner who sits on Multiple Governing Boards – – – – – Daughter wears doo-rag to church funeral.

Single Mother Earning Poverty Wage – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Volunteers time to adult literacy organization.

Married Woman Pregnant With Baby From Affair – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Frequently travels to Europe to value antiques.

Mechanic at Tire Store – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Blackens his wife’s eye, sprains her fingers, and holds her down on regular basis.

While you were making your choices, were you focussed on actions that you would expect from the description? Did you stop to think for a moment about the things you do in private that might seem incongruous with the persona you deliberately project to the public?

Now take a look at the real matches:

Description . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Action

Award Winning Financial Advisor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pooped on sidewalk outside hotel.

Perfectly Coiffed, Suit Wearing Executive. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Daughter wears doo-rag to church funeral.

Highly Educated Teacher with 3 Advanced Degrees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Blackens his wife’s eye, sprains her fingers, and holds her down on regular basis.

Successful Business Owner who sits on Multiple Governing Boards. . . . . . . . Home is filled with trash and rotting food.

Single Mother Earning Poverty Wage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Volunteers time to adult literacy organization.

Married Woman Pregnant With Baby From Affair. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chairs yearly high-profile charity event for a nonprofit organization.

Mechanic at Tire Store. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Frequently travels to Europe to value antiques.

How did you do? Were there any surprises?

If even one of the answers surprises you, perhaps you can carry that memory with you and review it each time you’re tempted to judge anyone’s road as easier than yours.

Life brings each of us unique opportunities for sorrow and joy; periods of difficulty and periods of ease; difficult choices that build our character; difficult choices in which we can demonstrate love; failure and success; abundance and scarcity. No matter who you choose to believe has it easier than you, rest assured that they too have faced, or will face, difficulties. It is a commonality of the human experience.

I am enough. You are enough. You are good enough. We have the raw materials within us for a life filled with compassion, gratitude, and peace. I hope we all give up the temptation to poison ourselves with comparison.

November 24, 2015

Made with Love. Served with Kindness!

StuffingYou hear that the food always tastes better when it’s made with love! It seems to be true, but why mention it now? A lot of us are tying ourselves in knots preparing for this week’s Thanksgiving meal. In our heads, we hold an image of a large harmonious family gathered over a delicious meal composed of perfect replications of our great grandmother’s traditional recipes. We work ourselves into a frenzy to create a real world experience that matches this image. We focus on our expectations and feelings of obligation, then learn too late that along the way we have lost any feeling of connection and joy.

I’m thinking about this because I have a friend who just abandoned his car 2000 miles from home in a city where he was temporarily working, bummed some frequent flyer points and flew across the country to see family who had begged him to come home for the holiday. They picked him up at the airport and within five minutes began blasting him for not doing well because he doesn’t have as much money as he used to have before he lost his job of 15 years, his wife, and his large house. Soon after this berating, he called me.

For the first 8 minutes of the conversation, he mentioned none of this. He did not disclose that he was 2000 miles from where I thought he was, or that he was changing the plans we had made for this week. He accidentally let the story slip when I asked why he was breathing so loudly. As it turns out, he was walking 4 miles to get a ride from a friend. I was taken by surprise. He began explaining that he had made a last minute trip because his mom wasn’t doing well. I felt alarmed, assuming she must be in the hospital. Then he told me about the scolding she’d given him at the airport and how the guys at the gym were giving him trouble. Soooo, obviously, mom was well enough to go to the airport and he had been home long enough to work out. I felt confused. I started asking questions to try to make sense of the story. He still did not address our plans. As the details slowly revealed themselves, I was not pleased with him for failing to notify me of his change in plans and I may, or may not, have said, “There’s no excuse for that!” If I said it, I meant it. I believe I was right and I feel just fine about feeling angry with him.

At the same time, I recognize that it doesn’t matter how right I am, how disappointed, angry, annoyed, unimportant, or betrayed I feel. The bigger truth is that he is afraid and struggling, and, in spite of that, trying to accomplish the impossible task of pleasing all of the people he cares about. This often leads him to over promise and under deliver. While that could be called creating his own problem, my “no excuse” response did not make him feel loved, accepted, or supported. Reviewing the conversation, it seems clear that I have created a space in which I happily confirm for him that he’s not living up to expectations causing him to feel even more worthless and afraid to tell me the truth. That is a bigger problem than anything specific he has done. So while I may be technically right about the situation, I am woefully wrong at the same time.

This is a spot in which we often find ourselves. We are both right and wrong at the same time.
A coworker refuses to take on a task at work that belongs to a slacking worker and the company loses a customer because this task was left undone. What she did may have been technically right, but her choice was detrimental to the team overall.
A friend plans a move to Nashville to become a songwriter, but a mutual friend discourages him because for fear he may eventually have to move back home. Whether he stays home or moves back home isn’t really all that different, is it?
With her kids playing in the room, a neighbor screams to her best friend that her lousy husband cheated and she’d like to kill him. She may be right to feel the betrayal this strongly and to seek support from her friend, but expressing it this way in this situation, creates an environment of insecurity for her children. Can that be right?
A husband gets his kids every other Thanksgiving and it’s his year. He refuses to negotiate when the kids mom asks if he can switch out holidays this year so the kids can visit with her extended family that’s rarely together. Of course he’s within his rights to refuse, but is it the wrong thing to do?
Every time Uncle Paul sees his nephew, he reminds him, and the rest of the family, about the time he slept through Thanksgiving ’cause he was drunk. No matter that it was 10 years ago, then 12 years ago, then 15 years ago and he’s been sober 14 of those. Is Uncle Paul right about the facts, yes! Does it accomplish anything positive to bring it up now?
A woman in your Sunday School class doesn’t like her son’s girlfriend so she treats her politely while making sure to inform family and friends with a big eye roll that the girlfriend was once homeless, hasn’t finished college, uses bad grammar, and has been to, gasp, jail – all correct facts. She fails to remember to mention that the girlfriend has also had the same job for 5 years, is still in school, can sing like an angel, is an incredible artist, supports herself and the nephew she took in, and has never been charged with a crime. Does the portrait she has painted give the right impression?
A man misses his daughter’s evening wedding because his current wife’s daughter loses her house in a fire. Everyone lives in the same town, there were no injuries, and there is a 12 hour window in between events. Is it wrong to celebrate a joyous event in the face of a tragic one?
Aunt Betty never misses an opportunity to tell your sister she’s fat whenever there’s a family meal. She pointedly passes artificial sweetener when she asks for sugar and brings her an apple when she’s passing out pie to everyone else. Aunt Betty says she’s worried about your sister’s health. Your sister cringes every time Aunt Betty enters the room.

I’ll admit it’s sometimes difficult to determine when to challenge an affront and when to let it go because sometimes things that look the same on the surface are exactly opposite underneath, but let’s face it, most of the time it’s just easier for our egos to cling to being right, feeling angry, and lashing out than it is to admit we have been wrong or shortsighted. It takes insight, courage, and commitment to keep your heart open when loved ones let you down or make sure to let you know you’ve let them down. It may help to remember that we can all be right and still be wrong.

You’ll know you have a Thanksgiving made with love and served with kindness when:

• You feel no need to join the chorus when your mom and sister find fault with your brother’s wife who insisted on bringing cherry pie even though your mom told her not to. She also brought her big smile and warm hugs. The pie was just, you guessed it, the cherry on top.

• You notice that your grandmother always finds another place at the table for an unexpected guest without ever missing a beat.

• You discover that you want to forego a large menu and choose a few family favorites that you rarely have time to cook. If your husband loves slow-cooked ribs, you fix ribs! If your daughter has been raving about her friend’s mom’s chocolate lava cake, you forget the pecan pie and make chocolate lava cake. If your son likes pizza better than anything on the planet, you serve mini pizzas as an appetizer. And you make sure to include your favorite roasted cauliflower as well. You make these choices to deliberately show your family that you know and value their preferences. You feel at peace with your decision even when you happen to overhear a snide comment regarding the menu from a traditionalist cousin.

• You enjoy seeing your cousins so much that you hardly notice that your mom, who is angry with you, hasn’t put a single gluten-free item on the table other than turkey.

• You find yourself taking time to absorb the gratitude your family expresses for your efforts. You feel free to sit down and let your kids serve coffee and dessert or wash the dishes.

• You feel comfortable saying no to an 8 hour drive home for Thanksgiving during a time when you have been over obligated and feel that you need quiet renewal time. Will Aunt Helen say a few ugly things to your mother when you don’t show up? Possibly, but you know you are able to choose to let the bad behavior stop with her. You view your decision to stay home as a loving gift to yourself and your housemates.

• You feel more excited than disappointed when your mom encourages the family to volunteer at a shelter that feeds the community instead of maxing out a credit card to meet the expectation of a fancy meal.

• You find that you are beginning to show up for holiday events with your courage and boundaries intact and your defenses down.

• You feel free to gracefully let your reluctant relatives refuse your invitation to dinner and easily shift your focus to providing a fun experience for some close friends.

• You find that you are able to feel grateful for the gifts given you by your most difficult moments.

I am grateful for the insight I gained from the recognition of my shortsightedness. We wish you a holiday full of love, kindness, joy, gratitude, and delicious food!

Happy Thanksgiving!