Posts tagged ‘healing’

December 29, 2016

Environment Affects Healthy Habits

new year
It is clear that environment affects healthy habits. I’m in my hometown for a holiday visit with family. Funny thing is, there’s not much family left here so I’m not running from party to party with no time to spare. I’ve had time to notice how quiet it is in this little town. It reminds me of a snow day when there’s no traffic and a blanket of white absorbs the noise.

There’s a wonderful new restaurant in town. I eat there every time I’m here. Last night when I finished eating, the manager walked me to my car. It was about 7pm, but really dark outside. There were more bright stars visible in the sky than you can imagine. The whole scene struck me as ironic. In a town so small that I can see every star in the sky, the restaurant manager is courteous enough to make sure I get safely to my car…at 7pm.

This stands in sharp contrast to a recent experience in the neighborhood where I live. After a concert at a highly touted restaurant, in order to reach my car I had to walk past two men who had rolled out a mattress in the parking lot where they were openly smoking crack and talking to the car next to them. The car was empty, but the alarm had gone off causing the men to loudly admonish it. There was no security guard and certainly no restaurant volunteer to walk with me.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered a crack-encumbered man outside of an upscale restaurant in my city. One night on the way to my car, another man who was flying high hugged me after I told him I wasn’t going to give him money. He could just as easily have shot me.

I felt pretty sure a gold-toothed man I encountered at a gas station was going to hurt me whether I gave him money or not. I don’t go to that gas station any more, but I don’t think my instincts were wrong. Four people have been shot and killed near that intersection in the past year. And so it goes where I live. In the past month, a two-year-old and a 3-year-old were shot and killed while riding in cars.

You might dismiss this as a large inner city problem, but I don’t live in a large city. The population is under 200,000. You might dismiss this as my choice of neighborhoods, but I live 5 blocks from the governor’s mansion. In an even more affluent nearby neighborhood, two women were recently robbed at gunpoint in a grocery store parking lot. My daughter-in-law had just left that store moments before.

Today I’m left pondering the contrasts – a small town that is often called ultraconservative, redneck, closed-minded, uneducated, bigoted, and the most racist small town in America where a total stranger wants to make sure I’m safe on a short walk to my car vs a small city that is considered more sophisticated, diverse, educated, inclusive, and enlightened where it is commonplace to encounter danger and uncommon to encounter concern for my welfare.

If I had grown up in the community where I now live, would I believe that I would live long enough for healthy habits to matter? Would organic produce seem important when I’m rolling off the couch into the floor to crawl away from external walls because I hear the rapid-fire shots of an AR-15 and the screeching tires of the car out of which it’s being fired? Would I be more likely to seek comfort in a high carbohydrate, endorphin releasing meal?

I can answer one of those questions. The most recent drive-by shooting at my house was within the past year. Nothing seems more important than hitting the deck when you hear gunfire outside. Period. You’re not going to make sure to grab your phone so you can call the police. You’re sure as hell not going to make sure you grab a salad while you wait for your heart to stop pounding.

If there’s a way to import the attitude of community concern I experience in my insular hometown, sans bigotry, to the city where I currently live, it’s sorely needed. Self-care begins by giving our bodies good nutrition, adequate sleep, plenty of movement, and enough stillness, but the feeling that we are worthy of self-care begins when we feel valued. That feeling comes when our environment provides safety and responsiveness to our need for food, warmth, comfort, and touch.

It is ideal when that responsiveness comes from our parents and extended family in our first moments, but it can be healing even when it comes later. The violence and divisiveness in my community exposes a huge need for healing. Extending a hand may require courage. It could make us vulnerable. But if we don’t begin to summon some courage to reach out, we all become more vulnerable anyway.

As I move into the new year, it is with an acute awareness of the unhealthy environment in which I live. No matter what I do within my household, I am still affected by my neighborhood and the community at large. I must decide how I can best take care of myself while best contributing to the larger community. It is the ideal time for reassessment and reevaluation.

The extent to which I am willing to face my failures, own my weaknesses, understand my limitations, enforce my boundaries, and feel my shame will determine the extent to which I am effective in contributing to healing, health, peacefulness, and joy.

In 2017, I hope you will join me on a journey to create an environment for ourselves, our partners, our children, and our communities in which we can all become healthier as well as more whole, peaceful, and joyous. We may not solve the world’s problems, but when we show concern and kindness one walk to the car at a time, we will make a difference.

Happy New Year!

Additional Reading:
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42878/1/924159134X.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12034132

May 24, 2016

Is It Me or Is It Kanye? Practice. Practice. Practice.

I’ve been wondering if Kanye West is mostly delusional or just sometimes oddly effective. Of course, I’m knitting while I ponder this question which makes me further wonder – is it me or is it Kanye or is it everyone for that matter? Are we all a bit unhinged?

The words in the previous paragraph sound as loosely related as a Kanye West rant. See why I’m concerned? Here’s the deal…

I HAVE been knitting. It’s something I haven’t done in 25 years and really only did once before last week. I made a decently well-constructed pair of wool socks in 1980. Now socks may not be the easiest knitting project for a beginner, but at the time I was determined and willing to put in the concentration to keep uniform tension on the yarn and count rows when required. The ribbing at the ankles turned out perfectly.
sock
Through sheer force of will, I completed the socks, gave them as a gift, and vowed never to knit again. I understood that I had no real talent for it and not near enough patience. I was clear that my greatest contribution to the world would not come from a pair of knitting needles. Yet here I am 30 years later amusing my sister by adding rows to the one my mom had cast on a needle and trying to remember what it means to purl.

I can see what a terrible job I’m doing. The weave is too loose. There are dropped stitches here and there and I have no idea what I’m making. But will I stop, rip out the flawed rows, and start over? Oh hell no! I just keep going as though this is something I feel compelled to do – as if it’s a creation that will somehow add required beauty to the world.
knitting
This is where I begin to see a resemblance to Kanye. Why do I keep putting effort and time into something I know isn’t for me? Why not invest that time in an artistic pursuit at which I know I excel? Am I being effective? Does Kanye make an effective argument when he rants that he wants to make the world better and stop bullying by producing clothes? Maybe he’s already made the world a better place through his music.

So, here’s what I’m really wondering: Why do we sometimes promote our own outdated, unrealistic, or Ill-suited goals to the detriment of real, positive contributions we can make to our families, communities and the world? If this were a rarity it wouldn’t be worth noting. In my realm of personal contact, it is not rare. It is rampant. Of course this may indicate I need a new social circle, but I don’t think my experience is aberrational.

I don’t really plan to answer this question. I don’t have the answer. I believe the answer is rooted in our relationship to ourselves, our truth, and our perception of our place in the world. I think it has something to do with our relationship to shame and vulnerability. I think it has a lot to do with our relationship to fear. And I believe these are the same relationships that left neglected, disrupted, or dysfunctional leave us vulnerable to over indulgence in numbing behaviors – over-drinking, over-eating, over-working, over-scheduling, over-spending, binge watching, and drug dependence.

The question is complex, the answers myriad. But maybe the solution is simple! Practice. Practice. Practice.

Practice stillness. See what comes up.
Practice gratitude. It’s the quickest path to seeing a silver lining.
Practice self-compassion. This is where all real compassion begins.
Practice fearlessness. Sit with your fear as long as you can. Leave it. Come back to it. Eventually, that particular fear will be gone.
Practice truth telling. Allow yourself to see what is. Not what you want it to be.
Practice joy. Experience what makes you feel full, free, warm, and content. Choose those experiences.
Practice problem prevention. Make deliberate choices. Own the choices you make and the reasons you made them.
Practice forgiveness. Forgive yourself for your flaws, poor choices, harmful behaviors.
Practice health. Feed your body nutrients. Move, move, move. Lift. Breathe.
Practice curiosity. This is the path to unlimited possibility.
Practice healing. Learn to release yourself from your emotional habits.

Now, back to my knitting. It’s a great opportunity to practice truth telling, self-compassion, and problem prevention. The truth is, my knitting quality is poor. I don’t need to push myself to do a better job at it or try to convince anyone it’s going to turn out better than they think. I can prevent myself from feeling inadequate by giving up this activity that I recognize is not my forte – an act which is itself a practice in healing because feeling like a disappointment is one of my emotional habits.

Wow, now I feel grateful for this knitting experience! Look what a great opportunity for reflection it provided. And that, Kanye, is how you make peace with what is. You’re welcome.

June 9, 2015

Beer Goggles vs Fear Goggles

Beer goggles vs fear goggles – which are worse? Fear fascinates me. I see its effects in my choices. I feel it intensely at the most unexpected moments. I feel its power over my interactions with those who are afraid. I’ve seen fear prevent compassionate parenting, business success, relationship longevity, personal satisfaction, creative achievement, and informed healthcare choices, not to mention joy, peace, and happiness.

fear

Fear Goggles


I don’t think much about beer, but I have spent many an afternoon at happy hour trying to alleviate the deep feeling of restlessness I carried with me for the much of my life. My friends and I spent a lot of money on expensive wine. We formed bonds with our favorite bartenders. We talked too loud, cussed too much, and went home too late. A lot of it was fun and sometimes it momentarily colored how I saw things.
beer

Beer Goggles


So, which leaves you worse for the wear – beer or fear?
-Both can affect how you perceive the situation around you.
-Both can keep you from exercising good judgement.
-Both can hold you back at work.
-Both can create strife within your family.
-Both can cause you embarrassment.
-Both make some people aggressive and obnoxious.
-Both make some people withdrawn and sullen.
-Both can make you physically ill.
-Both can leave you feeling exhausted.
-Both can cause you to drive erratically.
-Both can wreak havoc on your finances.
-Both can result in ill-advised liaisons.
-Both can cause you to feel shame.
-Both can create a monster boss, husband, wife, or teen.
-Both can lead to a betrayal of trust.
-Both can cause you to neglect your responsibilities.
-Both can be toxic.
-Both come with interesting labels.
-A little of either can have a positive effect.
-Enough of either can paralyze you.
-Either can bring you to destroy your life.

The biggest difference I can see is that beer is an option and fear is unavoidable.

In fact, it is precisely this difference that makes it critical for us to be aware of, and have a strategy for handling, our fear. If we do not, it can easily spiral out of control or leave us feeling numb. Left unattended, fear can sap our strength, our power, our resolve, and our joy as fast as any addiction leading us to make unhealthy choices or preventing us from making healthy ones.

Embraced, fear offers us a mechanism for both protection and improvement. It signals to let us know where our boundaries are. We then have a choice to honor that boundary or risk changing it. Of course this happens very quickly and often at a subconscious level. Allowing ourselves to fully experience fear with the confidence that it will dissipate rather than overwhelm can turn our lives in a whole new direction.

If you have ever been forced to live with, or in, fear, please know that you deserve to feel safe, secure, loved, valued, important, and supported. You are not damaged beyond repair. You have simply suffered wounds that will take time and care to heal. You are worth the effort!

Here are some of my favorite resources to assist you along the way:

http://www.traumahealing.org/

http://rhondabritten.com/

http://www.havetherelationshipyouwant.com/confidence/

http://brenebrown.com/books/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

November 28, 2014

I’m Going to let Thanksgiving be the Kickoff for a New Year Filled With Gratitude!

I’m going to let Thanksgiving be the kickoff for a new year filled with gratitude! I can’t imagine a better way to prepare for a new year than looking forward with gratitude. I suppose it’s more common to look back in nostalgia, but that only leaves me longing for something that is no longer. Somehow that seems like a waste of emotional energy that can better be used to recognize, feel, and express thankfulness for what’s happening all around me.

Approaching each moment with a posture of gratitude keeps me focussed on the amazing strength and courage the universe provides to meet each challenge. That recognition then becomes a spiral of feeling more confident, powerful, calm, peaceful, and humble which in turn provides me with more joy and, of course, gratitude. If that spiraled out of control, would it be such a bad thing? I think not.

Science is even getting behind this idea. Studies by psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons of the University of California, Davis, Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, and Dr. Martin E. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania have shown that the positive effects of practicing gratitude include: Feeling more optimistic and better about life, exercising more, and making fewer doctor visits.

Taking a quick look at daily news stories, online rants, and statistics on child abuse and domestic violence, it is easy to see that we are in need of healing in our family units. The pain we suffer at home often spills over into our workplace. Before we realize it, our entire worldview can quickly become jaded, pessimistic, and dismal.

Even the healing process requires that we walk back through sadness, grief, loss, and rage in order to let it go. How can we possibly feel grateful in the midst of open wounds?
Gratitude Journals

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to feel grateful to start the process. You just have to PRACTICE gratitude. I’m not saying this because I read it somewhere. I’m saying this because I’ve felt the power of this practice by filling journal after journal with lists that I struggled to generate while caught in a cycle of grief.

I started with the intention of writing 5 things I was grateful for every day. Some days I could only come up with 3. Often, 3 of those things were the same as the day before. I know this because I recently reviewed a series of these journals before throwing them away. I felt both sad at how I had felt and joyous about how I feel now.

What I learned in the process is that even the tiniest amount of gratitude changed my focus in a positive way. The other thing I learned was that when I could find a way to be thankful for something really painful, I had found an emotional place from which to begin to heal that pain.

Healing requires having the courage and fortitude to sit and fully embrace the fear, anger, sadness, loss and other difficult emotions that hold us hostage until they dissipate for good. Coming to these moments with gratitude helps makes this process more tolerable.

For instance, I am grateful that I believe I am competent to achieve a goal even when I must push past feeling unprepared, afraid, or inadequate. This belief for which I’m grateful comes from the years of events like: Having to hang onto the saddle when my parents sent me galloping down the road on a full-size horse by myself. I was 18 months old. Being sent to round up the cows when I was 5 and hardly bigger than the dog I took with me. The cows acted as if I wasn’t even there, but I knew if I didn’t get them started toward the barn, the danger of the punishment I would receive was greater than any danger those cows represented. Being the delegated baker of cakes for my family to give away when I had just entered elementary school. By then, I knew how to use a mixer and the oven so I was in the kitchen alone. This was not all bad. I enjoyed baking. Getting up every night to take care of my crying baby sister because the adults in the house didn’t seem to hear her. At least by then I was 13.

While I am grateful for the skills and feeling of competence, I have had to grieve the lack of a childhood and wonder what it would feel like to ever feel carefree. (I also have a lingering sense of danger because typing this would be considered talking out of school and the consequence of such a breach still feels frightening.)

Because I began sharing this with a statement of gratitude, the feeling of loss and danger quickly dissipate and I’m left with a feeling of accomplishment and joy that I left high school after 3 years to begin college, raised two amazing sons, was able to pay for their college education, started two businesses, successfully operated one of them for 24 years while building the other one, earned a pilot’s license, built and maintained computer networks, and am slowly finding the courage to reveal where I began.

Whew! I’m also grateful to Brené Brown whose work reminds me that gratitude will help me get past my current feeling of vulnerability. To that end, I am grateful this post is done and for the chance to begin a new year with gratitude as its focus.

If you feel you can’t possibly begin to practice gratitude, let me leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”




Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”