When the stories we tell ourselves no longer serve us

It has happened again to me. I am sure it has happened to you at least once. For me the “IT” are the stories I have told myself over and over again. They come to the surface when I am alone and lost in my thoughts. Or they appear when I look like I am daydreaming. Yet, these thoughts are nothing like a dream. They are very disconcerting and can upset one’s sense peace and equilibrium. Someone perhaps a parent, teacher, partner, or even by ourselves we have ingrained these ideas into our very essence. This thinking does not feel separate and apart from us. Rather these thoughts encompass us. These thoughts are not positive and they certain do not uplift us.

There are all kinds of other half-truths or lies we tell ourselves. I am not smart enough. I am not a good enough spouse, parent, or child to my own parents. I cannot make my dreams into a reality. I am unlucky. I do not have what it takes. The people who do have what it takes are mentally stronger than I am. I am lesser than others. I am not of worthy of whatever I want. To all of this I say slow down, not so fast.

How do you know your thoughts are true? What evidence do you have to support your opinions about yourself? Do you have good and loving relationships with your children, parents, or spouse? Have you stopped dreaming of what you and your life could fully be? Have you tried really throwing yourself into making your dreams a reality? Have you consulted with people to get expert advice to obtain your goals? Have you taken a class just to maximize your potential growth and achievement?

Now let’s say you truly know that you could have a better relationship with a loved one. Perhaps your conversations only skim the surface. The emotional connections and depth you crave are not taking place within this particular relationship. I know what this is like. There was a time when I actually pulled away from someone I loved because the relationship felt shallow and meaningless. I thought that by speaking less frequently we would have more to say to one another when we did communicate. It was a mistake for me because by speaking less often we didn’t seem to have the basis for a true and honest dialogue. I know there are things you can try to make the interactions more to your liking. I have tried them with good levels of success. While not every relationship will grow deeper, from my experiences nine out of ten times with effort, and the right type of effort relationships will become enriched. A good place to start might be to speak to the person more frequently. When you do you could ask them more meaningful questions about themselves and their pursuits. You could also open up more of yourself and be slightly vulnerable about what is going on with you and your life. Taking a genuine interest and opening up both go a tremendous way in deepening relationships. If your relationship becomes more to your liking then you have corrected something important to you. I implore you to update the story you tell yourself to a the newer and better version. If you genuinely exerted energy trying to modify the friendship and it did not workout the way you hoped you also should rewrite the story you tell yourself in a positive manner. In this case you should praise yourself for a valiant effort. When we are dealing with others sometimes we cannot get things to improve. But we should always acknowledge our efforts and growth.

At times the lies we tell ourselves are deeply buried. Sometimes we do not even want to acknowledge that we thought our lives would turn out differently than they have. In a sense, we delude ourselves from thinking about our past and our former passions. I suppose we all have dreams in which once upon a time we thought we would make an impact on the world. I used to think I would be an award winning a journalist. I would uncover situations in which people were suffering, or corruption was going on in the government or in medical care. I thought people needed to know about these issues and I would be the one to break the story. I really didn’t have the bravery that it took to go to war torn parts of the world in my early and mid-twenties. Back then, I was actually pretty timid in unknown situations. I didn’t have the forcefulness to get into people’s faces with a microphone or recorder. I did try on this career while I was in college when I worked at a local television station. I discovered it wasn’t a good match for who I was at that point in my life . It was a dream and I haven’t forgotten that it was my dream.

The wonderful thing about dreams is that they can be revisited and adapted. A new version can come to fruition. I have taken a writing class and I plan on taking more. There is nothing like learning from experts when it is what you want to learn and become. When I was younger there was no such thing as blogging or becoming a self published author. Now they both exist. They are both possible and I have begun to make the updated version of my dream come true possible as a blogger. So far as a blogger I have not interviewed anyone, but; I am sure that if that is an avenue that I would like to pursue I will make it happen. I also had another dream in which I wanted to do something in the helping professions. Today there is a relatively new career which is working as a life and career coach. I went back to school to earn that certification as well.

My point of all this isn’t to say “Oh, look at me. I am fabulous. I can do anything I want to do”. My point is that I have honestly felt that I cannot make my dreams into a reality. I am unlucky. I do not have what it takes. The people who do have what it takes are mentally stronger than I am. I am lesser then others. I am unworthy of whatever I want. These statements are difficult for me to put out into the world knowing that anyone could read them. Yet, I think they are of immense importance to state them because we all feel lesser or overwhelmed at times. We all tell ourselves half truths and even lies about our most precious person, ourself. Often we do not know where or how to begin. Sometimes we do not remember our dreams. There are times we cannot even identify what we want to do with our lives or what we want to be. In those instance we feel frozen or locked within ourselves.

For many years I used to say “I am not sure what I to be when I grow up”. Let me assure I was already very much an adult when I was saying this. I had bills, a house, and a family. I was working but not very fulfilled creatively or professionally. I knew something had to change. For years I didn’t know what direction this would take. I didn’t know if it would ever happen. I do not know if you believe in the universe aligning, God, or using determination and your will to make things happen and transform. I believe in God. I believe in the universe aligning with God. But, mostly in cases where change and tenacity are required I believe in deep down soul searching. I know what it feels like to go through true, profound internal searching that takes us to places where comfort no longer resides. It is from the discomfort that you arrive at the spot that feels bare and almost raw. You then are able to be completely honest with yourself. It is within this space in your mind where you let go of what others will think of you. In this space you realize what decisions mean the most to you. I know it is important to believe that your drive, fearlessness, and backbone will see you through the days in which you say to yourself “what have I gotten myself into?” On those days which I have often, I use my dedication to my goals. I summon the courage of my convictions to myself and to my dreams to stick with it. I do so because living this one life in the most purposeful and dynamic way is my gift to those I encounter and to myself. I also know that I deserve to rewrite my stories which will make me happier and more successful. You are worthy of rewriting your stories too.

Thinking things through

I have been reflecting on a conversation I had with two of my three daughters and my husband a few weeks ago. My daughters are twenty eight and twenty five years old. I do not remember how the conversation began, as these discussions often drift along from one topic to the next. Somehow we began discussing a male celebrity who is going become a single dad for the first time because his heart yearns to be a parent.

I said that I didn’t believe he should become a father. It was totally the opposite of what I usually say. I usually think that everyone is entitled to their happily ever after in whatever form that takes. From my point of view anything is possible. I genuinely believe that any capable person who wants to be a parent should be, regardless of their sexual orientation or marriage status. So I wondered where my harsh and even mean spirited judgement came from.

In response to my stating that “he shouldn’t do that”, my daughter said, “why not? He has tons of money, will be able to hire the best nannies and he doesn’t work many hours a day”. My other daughter said, “don’t you think that I will need to hire a live-in nanny because my work hours will be unpredictable?” I agreed that she would.

Later on I knew my opinion was unreasonable and very detrimental to all the babies that need good loving homes. More so, I know that every person is entitled to become a parent in any way they decide to and at their own time. I apologized to my daughters for my incorrect thoughts.

For days and weeks I have asked myself why the idea of this man becoming a parent bothered me. I have wondered if I’m not as open hearted as I like to think I am. Thankfully that is not what is at the root of this. The basis of my response had nothing to do with him being a working single dad. It completely had to do with me and my mommy guilt.

For years I struggled internally to find a way to balance work and family without guilt. I was very fortunate that when my children were young I was able to be home with them after school. I carpooled, helped with homework, made dinner. I did all the typical mommy things that moms of school age children do. Some days I fell into bed exhausted as soon as they went to bed because I was actually doing two complete jobs – that of a working mom and a stay at home mom. I would not have changed this for anything because I had the unique privilege of sharing in the experiences of my girls daily lives.

My inner turmoil was about the days when I couldn’t always make it to an elementary school event because someone else was not going to be at work and I needed to be in my office. It was about the random days off like Columbus Day. It was about Christmas break, February or the Passover/ Easter breaks when my stay at home mom friends took their children to a movie, to a museum, or on any other adventure. I just felt awful that I wasn’t with my children. Instead, my children were home with a baby sitter or playing with their friends. As my daughters grew older, on days like this they were often hanging out, watching TV, and inventing something to do as they kept each other company. There was nothing wrong with any of this, but simply put, I had a full blown case of mommy guilt.

Today when I look back, I recognize that the time children spend with a baby sitter, while their parents are working does not harm them at all. In fact, the more adults that love these little people, the more enriched their lives become. This makes them much better off. The love doesn’t all have to come from mom or dad at every moment.

These realizations have made me hope that things will be different for the next generation of young moms and dads. What I hope is that no one will do what I did when talking about a celebrity or anyone else starting their family. Please do not scrutinize anyone else’s decisions about their version of a family or their parenting . I implore all of the next generation of moms not to judge the stay at home moms, the full time working moms, or the moms that do each in some sort of part time way. My most sincere hope would be that each parent that choses to work outside the home would be kinder and gentler to themselves then they would even be to others. As parents, and especially moms, we need to stop constantly evaluating ourselves against our individual unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a good mom. I believe that if we as a women were more united, this guilt would be eradicated. Then, without remorse and time wasted on such thoughts, we could really light the world on fire!

Adjusting your view

Last night I felt like I had the wind taken out of my sails. I am in the process of finally finishing decorating my dining room. After all we have only lived in this house for nearly twenty nine years. I guess there is no time like the present! I showed my mom the window treatments and wallpaper I picked out and excitedly asked her, “won’t this be great?” She replied, “It’s eh…ok BUT…” That answer was not the one I hoped to hear. I reverted back to the old me, got a little miffed, and reacted slightly stronger than I intended to do. I was genuinely excited and truly happy with what I had selected. I felt disappointed in her response. Yet, this isn’t about wallpaper or drapes. It’s about wanting to be told, “yes, it’s great”, even at my age. It’s about wanting her approval. I live my life as a fully functioning independent woman in all areas of my life: as a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, volunteer, and woman starting her own coaching business. I don’t typically need my mom’s approval. But, when this feeling is set off it stings.

My mom is a lot of wonderful things. She is intelligent, an avid reader, quietly insightful, loyal, kind, classy, a fabulous artist as both a painter and sculptor. Her family is her world – she will do anything for us when asked. She is never ostentatious, brash, or a braggart about herself, her children or grandchildren. However, my mom is also somewhat reserved in her praise or excitement. Perhaps it is correlated with never drawing any real attention to herself and her family.

Mothers and daughters have had tumultuous relationships since the beginning of time. As a mother of three daughters I can see it from the other side too. Sometimes, our best intentions are seen as bothersome or overbearing. My mother has rarely been overbearing. Yes, like me she has said “Did you do X? Don’t forget Y.”. But, the older I became and the more of a life I made on my own the less she did that. I give her a lot of credit for that. Somedays I’m still doing too much direct mothering to my three “technically adult” daughters. For me, this letting go is very difficult. Loving them feels inextricably tied to wanting to make things easy for them. It seems to be my modis operandi. Despite this, I am completely aware that I am in control of very little in regards to their lives. I can’t stop the bad from happening, nor can I make the good happen.

I have been getting on one of my daughters nerves lately. It’s hard to sit by when I would do things differently. It’s hard to let her make t her own mistakes, especially when some mistakes have serious consequences that could be avoided if I stepped in. I will try to say less, direct less often, and just in general try to take a back seat. I will let her drive her own car down her path.

At this time in my life I am very fortunate to have a mother and daughters, even though we may disagree on small issues. So many people wish they still had their mom to talk with. They dream that they could chat about their days or their kids, about gossip or a movie. I know many who wish they could visit their mom and share another hug instead of only being able to visit her at the cemetery. This is the heart wrenching and the truly hard stuff.

I took some time to think and I changed what I will focus on. Not hearing, “yes, that’s great”, or what feels like not her getting approval, is truly unimportant at this stage of our relationship. I know that the time we get to spend together, to talk, to hug, to tell each other I love you, is all the matters. So, I am choosing to be farsighted when viewing our relationship instead of only seeing the moment in front of me. I am counting my blessings. I’ve washed my glasses and adjusted my view. I love what I see.

Convictions

I had the complete honor and privilege of watching my sister give a speech at the Town of Hempstead Board meeting on Tuesday evening. It was awe inspiring and motivating. My sister does not consider herself a public speaker. Yet, when faced with extremely righteous causes nothing would keep her from standing up for her principles and beliefs. She put her apprehension of public speaking aside to do what matters. In this case it was to take a stand for the benefit and safety of the animals at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, and more vehemently to stand up against anti-Semitic hate speech.

Watching my sister and the other speakers made me think: Why is it that some people have no problem standing up for what is right? What is it that brings someone to action? Why do some people appear to have no ability or desire to stand up for anything? Why are some people ready and willing at a moments notice to put themselves on the line for others in manners that can be injurious to themselves physically or mentally?

As I sat pondering these thoughts late into the night when I should have been sleeping I had several ideas. The first was that the way you were raised as a child probably has a great deal to do with your sense of right and wrong. You may have watched your parents involved in your community doing charitable work. You may have heard or were part of discussions as a child or a teen in your parents house that made you aware how important it is to stand up for the things that really matter to you. My sister and I were taught to never back down and to never give up when fighting to right an injustice no matter how insurmountable it seemed.

Then I thought, even without family discussions or role models of activism sometimes our life experiences carve out a road we know we must take. If, for example, you were bullied or abused as a child, I imagine it would be horrifically painful to hear about any child living a similarly horrendous torturous existence. It might remind you of the time when you didn’t have a voice or your voice went unheard. Even without hearing about another child suffering, your life experiences may motivate you to stand up for those that desperately need your help.

Sometimes I find myself feeling confused by others’ inaction, so I try to understand their mindset. I surmise that some people convince themselves a cause does not affect them in order to rationalize not getting involved. Maybe some people are simply not interested in tackling the important, albeit difficult issues that lay in front of them. Perhaps they’re too comfortable in their own lives; perhaps they don’t know what to do or where to begin; or, perhaps they doubt their ability to effect change. It seems to me that in the world of wrongdoings, there is no room to say “that’s not my issue” or “that’s not my fight”; injustice is injustice no matter who it affects, and every person is capable of working to improve other people’s lives. And if anything, history has shown that when it is permissible to target one group, it will eventually spread to affect other groups too – maybe even yours.

All of this has me hoping that your social interest and actions are now sparked. If you do not yet have a cause or something that you want to work towards, think about what people or organizations need you. Volunteering or fighting for an underdog will completely warm your heart. So, what cause will inspire YOU to act as an advocate? When will YOUR principles propel you to action? I hope you know acting on YOUR convictions can be a catalyst for others. I know you all have it in you. I know you all believe passionately that this world can be a better place for all of us. I assure you that you will never be sorry that you gave of yourself, and the recipients of your good deeds will forever be grateful.

Inspirations for a New Year

As I think about this New Year which is eight and a half hours away, I am thinking of my goals to make this year more meaningful and focused. Goals can be as simple as cleaning a closet or being more organized. Yet they can be larger and more aligned with growth, and the path I want my heart and my life to go on. The goals that lead to a larger and more fulfilling life are the ones that I want to foster a clearer vision of for myself.  I have been thinking of  these types life changing ideas and hopes for approximately two years. While I have made some movements forward by becoming a certified holistic life, career & executive coach and taking a writers workshop I seem to stop myself from truly being engaged and following in my passions.

     So the questions become WHY NOT & WHAT WILL PROPEL ME FORWARD? I could be as cavalier as saying after working my entire life as student, graduate student, teacher, business woman, mom, daughter, wife and friend it is just easier not to do much of anything else or it’s easier not to begin new pursuits. (These are not all jobs all of the time. Many, many times they are pure joy. Yet, at some periods the amount of mental energy and demands have been all encompassing.) While my answer to myself is certainly true it simply is the surface answer.  The more complete answer is that changes especially ones that include putting oneself out in vulnerable positions such as a writer, blogger and beginning a new business as a personal coach are daunting and scary. They require great personal risk. The act of being vulnerable by it’s very definition is opening oneself to risk or being hurt. 

    So how does one move from fear of vulnerability and even the frightening thought of personal defeat? The answer is to find personal motivations and inspirations that can be held onto in one’s head and heart.

     My personal motivations are for me to my live life to the  fullest as a blogger, life coach and author. For everyone the motivations are different but for me it is separate and apart from my family and my friends. At a very significant level, I’d like to think I have mastered the roles I play in relation to those most important to me even while those people and our interconnections change. It is the deep down gritty, powerful, soulful, purpose driven thoughts that I need and want to turn into actions. So where do my inspirations come from to move forward? 

     My inspirations first and foremost must be myself.  These inspirations must come from a deep place within my essence. It is in the way I want to see myself and the person I want to become. I want to be person who lives up to my potential risks and all. I never want to let my fears immobilize me. I know we all have fears from time to time but paralysis or stagnation is not the way I want to live my life. I want to be a a person that can lead from the example my life will create. I want to be a woman that forty, fifty, sixty something women can look up to when challenges present themselves as the inevitably do. I want to be a woman that others can look to when their children move on, their workplace changes or that their personal goals have evolved.  I want to be a woman that my daughters or other young woman in their twenty’s can look at and see that life is what we make it by deciding to move forward.  I want women of all ages and men too to trust in their resilience and fortitude. I want to be an inspiration for own my life with enthusiasm and high spirits. I want to show others this is how life is meant to be lived.

     These inspirations are a beginning. I have thought about them for a long time. I have to take the leap of faith that I inherently believe in and have given to others. Now is the time to shine the light of trust onto myself. I will see where this path leads. The one thing I know for sure is that this is where and when dreams or goals will become actions. Actions when combined with passion will make life all the more worth while to live.