Monthly Archives: May 2016

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally designated as a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States. Regardless of what we believe about war and politics, for most of us, it’s still a reminder for us to recognize and appreciate those who have lost their lives in the armed forces, as well as to thank those still living who are or have served in some capacity. All of them, including their family members, have sacrificed so that the rest of us can enjoy the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. Let me take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all who have given their energy and lives to protect us.

In recent years, we have expanded this holiday to honor the lives of other loved ones who have transitioned from this physical realm of existence.

If you’re mourning a loss (whether through military service or otherwise), this holiday may be a sad reminder of something you’re already struggling to balance in your life. Go easy on yourself this weekend. It sometimes helps to have a plan – a way to honor your loved one by doing something you used to enjoy together or that was important to them; or to do something totally different to take your mind off things as much as possible. Structure is usually helpful when we’re struggling. But listen to your body and soul and do what feels right for you. If that means staying in bed, watching old movies, going out in nature . . . whatever it means for you, that’s what you should do. Just allow the day to unfold.

Following is an excerpt from Hard Choices For Loving People by Hank Dunn:

A natural response to the possibility of losing someone is to hold on tighter or to try to gain more control. Ironically, this does not lead to a life of freedom and joy, the very things we were pursuing. Most of us do learn to let go. We let go of our childhood and accept adult responsibilities. We let go of our teenage children and our attempts to control them. We let go of finding happiness in possessions or careers. We even learn that we have to let go of other people and not be dependent on them for our happiness. To learn these lessons, we have to accept the fact that these things or people were gifts in the first place.

There are two ways to hold on. We can grasp tightly as we would a coin in our fist. We fear we will lose it, so we hold it tight. Indeed, if we open our hand palm down the coin falls from our possession, and we feel cheated. The other way to hold on is by opening our hand palm up. The coin may sit there, or it could be blown away or shaken out of our possession. But while it is there, we are privileged to have it. We hold on with an open hand. Our hand is relaxed and we experience freedom.

I wish you a relaxing and peaceful Memorial Day weekend.

What do you Value?

The process of examining values often pops up in sessions with my clients.  I don’t see how we can work through issues without knowing what is really important to us – and looking a little deeper into how and why we’ve embraced those things that can give our lives meaning.

I’ve developed a fairly simple process that can help. All you have to do is answer a few questions.

  1. What are my values?
  2. Am I putting my energy towards the things I listed above?
  3. Where did my values originate?
  4. Do they still fit for me?
  5. If there are some that no longer fit, what else might be more appropriate for the life I want for myself moving forward?

Let’s look at each of these steps a little more in depth.

  1. What are my values?   To determine what your values are, just ask yourself, “What is important to me?”  Some examples might be: family, spirituality, religion (yes, they are different), friendships, alone time, financial security, honesty, trust . . . You get the picture.
  2. Am I putting my energy into what I say is important?  I suggest writing every value down, then look at each one and ask yourself “Is this where I spend my time and energy?”  For example, if you say family is your number one value, do you really put them above all else?  Or do you spend more hours at work or going out with friends than you do enjoying your family?  If you say honesty is extremely important to you, are YOU always completely honest, or do you just expect others to be honest with you?  It’s important that you not expect something from others that you wouldn’t also apply to yourself.
  3. Where did my values originate?  Many of our values originate outside ourselves; from parents, religion, society, friends (ie, what everybody expects of me). Upon examination, some of those might still fit for you, but some may not have been your choice in the first place.  In this step, I want people to really look at whether they have just taken on values they were told were important, and are living their lives to please others.  If so, sometimes those values are no longer appropriate for them personally. I can’t count the number of times a client has come to therapy because they feel they’ve disappointed a parent or someone important in their lives. (It’s my belief that my job as a parent was NOT to just expect my children to take on the values I’ve embraced.  Their path in life is very different from mine.  I’ve tried to expose them to various perspectives on things so they can eventually choose for themselves what works for them).
  4.  Do they still fit for me?  This step is kind of like cleaning out an old closet that you’ve ignored for years.  Some of the pieces of clothing might be too small now, or have holes in them.  Some might never have fit, and you just shoved them in that closet and forgot about them because you didn’t want to confront what they might mean.  This is your opportunity to really examine each piece and determine if you want to hang onto it, or if it’s time for the dumpster.  For some items, it might be that you’re not sure yet, so it’s OK to hang onto them, but set an intention to continue to evaluate how/if they benefit or handicap your life in some way.
  5. What might be more appropriate for me now?  Now that you’ve examined all the values you’ve lived by (or ignored) for years, maybe there are some cavities left in your value structure.  You may decide that ridding yourself of some of your old values helps you feel lighter, and you don’t need anything in their place for now. Sometimes we load ourselves up with rules that actually restrict our energy. But for others, now is the time for exploration.  If you found several areas that don’t fit any more, maybe you need to start looking elsewhere.  Study different philosophies about that part of your life; talk to or observe people who have different views or who have led very different lifestyles than yours in order to see whether another value might fit for you. But do this as research.  Do not simply take on another value just because someone else you know believes in that. That would defeat our purpose here.

This can be scary, but it can also be a very exciting time.  It’s important that whatever you choose will become a foundation for your life.  It has to fit into YOUR life; don’t try to squeeze into something just because you think it’s the thing to do.  We all get to choose who we become, but most of us just put blinders on and go down the path of least resistance.  It feels safer somehow.  It’s not.  Life is not supposed to be safe.  It’s supposed to teach us lessons.

I examine my values occasionally, and I encourage my clients to do the same.  It helps solidify our sense of self.  When we know what we stand for, we begin to love ourselves more because there’s more of a purpose behind every choice we make. And we are being true to ourselves, not dependent on pleasing or fearing disappointment of anyone else.  Therein lies true peace.

A ship in a safe harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for.

-William Shedd


You Can’t be the Light and Hold Someone Else in Darkness

I wrote this blog a couple of years ago while many of us were focusing on gay marriage. Unfortunately, it is still applicable today – maybe even more so, with the transgender bathroom issue and other LGBT discriminatory bills, the “suggested” wall between the US and Mexico, or ban on Muslims, etc.  Regardless of which group is being targeted, the issue is the same:

Last week I woke up to this headline on a friend’s Facebook page:  Kansas Restaurant Kicks Gay Man Out, Tells Him “No Gay Eating Here”

I immediately got sick to my stomach.  This was from a news company in Topeka, KS.  The capitol of my home state.

I am an LGBT-affirmative therapist, a straight ally – an advocate of equality for everyone in every aspect of our lives.  I’ve been following the news on this issue, so I’ve been very aware of the legislation in the state where I grew up (& in a couple of other states) that has been so controversial in recent weeks.

I typically do not even respond to stories like this.  I try to focus on those that are shining the light on humanity and showing the positive strides we’re making.  But I couldn’t believe what I read – and I reacted immediately from the gut, apologizing to my friend for the ignorance of the bill (as if I carried some responsibility for it simply because I’m from Kansas).

Then as I began my morning ritual in the kitchen it hit me that I’d never heard of the news organization or the town they talked about in this post – and believe me, there are very few small towns in Kansas that I haven’t been to, heard of, or even lived in!  So I realized it was probably a hoax.

Why would someone would go to the energy to write something like this?  Part of me thought it was cruel and insane. It smacked of the same angry, fearful hatred that came out of the Jim Crow days. That’s why it hit me in the gut.  Haven’t we moved past this mindset in our society?
But what I want to believe is that it was a cautionary tale. Someone was trying to get the rest of us to see the insanity of this bill as it might play out in reality. (It turned out to be just that).

Action that stems from fear only creates more fear. When we act out of fear, we aren’t living consciously.  We are reacting to what things appear to be, without delving deeper to try to understand where others are coming from.

People who do things to separate themselves from others who at first glance appear different, feel threatened by something they don’t understand and they don’t (won’t ?) take the time to learn about it.  I think it’s because there has been so much progress in gay rights recently that they are running scared. The world is changing and that means they are going to have to deal with it. It feels to me like a last ditch effort to stay in their comfort zone. Yes there are some religious teachings and beliefs that drive some of it, and I respect everyone’s right to believe as they desire. But beliefs are built on what we are told, what we experience, and the thoughts we feed.  Beliefs are not truths.

One of my beliefs is that we all came from – and will return to the same place – the place of ultimate Truth and Light.  If we could look into each other’s eyes and really see the soul there, we wouldn’t have any of these issues, because we would realize we are all one.  What I do to you, I do to myself.

The following comes from The Book of Love and Creation, as dictated through Paul Selig:

“. . . You have made love small.  You have made love an ideal that is stuck with candy and rests in a box.  You have made love a discerning issue.  “I will give my love to this guy because he’s got what I want” or . . . “I will love my job because if I don’t someone will take it from me”. . . None of that in truth is love.  They are all aspects of ego seeking to control . . .You can no longer create love from a cookie cutter that excludes the fabric around it.  You can no longer love John and not love Fred. . . You can no longer hold your culture in love, claiming that another culture cannot be love because you disapprove of their actions.”

This means ALL of us – those who espouse hatred of the gay community or some other group because their experience with a few have tainted their view, or because they are told they are not “normal” or are not sanctioned by a specific religious belief – but it also speaks to those of us who believe in and actively work for a more inclusive society.  We tend to judge them because they don’t understand love as we do.  There is no us or them.

We can’t be the Light that we are meant to be if we hold even one other person in contempt and darkness. We all have the responsibility to find ways to make this life on earth work – through kindness, education and love. Let’s commit to being more creative as we look for ways to do so in peace.

Mother’s Day

When I was a young mother, more often than not, I found myself dreading Mother’s Day.  At the time, I was confused why this was the case, but I now realize it was because I didn’t feel I deserved to be “honored.”  I was only 19 when my daughter was born, and 23 when I gave birth to my son.  I had no idea what I was doing, so why should I be singled out to be appreciated?  I felt pressure to be the kind of mother society expected of me – to do everything the “right way.”

I’m now WELL past my 20’s.  Actually, I’m well past my 50’s!  And I’ve had a lot of opportunity to examine some of those early feelings, and to work on myself.  I know now, that many mom’s feel the same way I did (maybe not about Mother’s Day, but about being a “good” mom), regardless of how old they are.  There’s no class to teach us how to be a mother.  We all just figured it out from watching our own mothers and other matriarchs; some of us read books and maybe even went to therapy to try to understand what we were “supposed to do.”

What I’ve come to realize (at least for me), is that there are no “supposed to’s”. It’s kind of like my spiritual beliefs: If my thoughts and actions come from a place of love, then I’m probably doing “the right thing” at that moment.

But all moms also know that we don’t always act out of love.  The demands of the job are overwhelming and we can lose our sense of self with all the hats we have to wear.  I won’t try to list all the things we do as moms, because I’ll surely leave many out.  But to name a few: we’re managers, coaches, teachers, spiritual leaders, huggers, secretaries, mediators, schedulers, cooks, taxi drivers, house cleaners, nurses . . .

While we put much of the pressure on ourselves, there really is always WAY too much to do.  I’m a list maker; and while I’m much better now about not beating myself up if everything on my list doesn’t get done, I still put that pressure on myself at times.  But one day I had an “Ah ha” moment.  I realized that when I make my transition to the other side, there very likely will NOT be someone standing there with a clipboard containing a list of all the tasks I didn’t get done today or any other day. It’s a good way to remind myself that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t meet my own expectations.  And that maybe I need to rethink those expectations anyway.

I’ve also recognized that I have been a pretty darn good mom much of the time.  I’m not what I used to call “Nancy Homemaker;” don’t see myself much as a nurturer; don’t even like to cook much any more. But I was always there when my kids needed to talk (I learned that if I didn’t nag them to tell me everything right away, they knew I would be there when they were ready); I drove them to and attended all their performances and games (even coached a few), & helped them hone their baseball, basketball and softball skills and their musical and artistic talents.  Yeah, I screwed up some times, but I’ve learned to give myself permission to be the mom I am.

I’m going to leave you with this post from Sanaya that says what I think all moms (and the rest of you) probably need to hear:

There is time to get it all done. It is you who thinks that you must do it all in a certain period of time. And what does this do to you? It knocks you off balance. It lessens your awareness of who you are and why you are here. It causes you to lose your focus on what really matters. And what really matters? Being present. Being the presence of love. Loving. There is time for all else, in good time. If your “to do” list and your anxious thoughts take you away from presence and being and loving, then it is time to re-prioritize.