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The Secret To Happiness? Be Sad

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I hear  people saying that in order to be happy, we just need to do positive affirmations and let go of negativity. I say the exact opposite.

In order to be happy, be sad. Let me explain.

The new movie Inside Out is geared towards children but I think it’s a movie everyone should see, adults included.

Without giving too much away, the movie focuses on a little girl named Reilly and how she deals with her emotions. There are characters that represent the emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear.

In the beginning of the movie, each time Sadness tries to take over, Joy is there to push her away.

I did this for years.

I tried everything to make sadness go away because I thought something was wrong with me if I wasn’t happy all the time. I tried pushing it down, denying it, resisting it. I tried talking myself out of it by doing positive affirmations.

You’ve heard the saying “What we resist, persists?”  That is exactly what happened.

Before I knew it, I wasn’t just sad, I was depressed.

There were times when I felt like a deep dark hole was opening up and swallowing me. All I wanted to do was check out of life and sleep.

Then, after a while, I would begin to feel better and come out of it. (Those who have that hole swallow them up and don’t come out,  need to seek professional help)

When we resist feeling any emotion, it causes a reaction.

Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, compiled data that showed we cannot numb one emotion without numbing all of our emotions.

Basically, by not allowing ourselves to feel and process our sadness, we are not able to experience true joy.

In our society, it often seems unacceptable to express sadness. We can feel we need to put on a happy face and act like we’ve got it all together.

When we do that, our sadness festers and ends up coming out in other ways. It can manifest itself as depression, illness or destructive behavior such as addiction.

Or we could have an outburst and explode when we have reached our limit.

However, by acknowledging and experiencing our emotions and talking to an empathetic person, we will find that sadness or any emotion leaves as fast as it came.

This is what happened to little Reilly. Once she allowed herself to talk to her parents about her sadness, it opened the door to true connection as well as letting Joy once again be a part of her life.

The real lesson here is that emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. We all have them and all they simply want is to be expressed.

What about those positive affirmations? It is unhealthy and unrealistic to expect ourselves to be happy all the time. If we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, then we can use positive affirmations or gratitude to reconnect with hope and faith.  That way we won’t end up wallowing in negativity.

What emotion are you currently not allowing yourself to experience? Who is your go-to person when you need empathy?

If you are open to it, practice allowing difficult feelings, share with an empathy buddy and see what happens. I bet you’ll be amazed at how much happier you will be when you allow your emotions to just be.

What To Do When Inspiration Has Left The Building

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I usually feel inspired when it comes to writing something for my blog. Normally, I have something to say.

Not last week.

I kept waiting for inspiration to hit and although I had a number of ideas, nothing really felt right.

In the past, I would have forced myself to sit down and just write something. (Just look at some of my early blog posts, eek!)

My practice now is, if something doesn’t feel right then I don’t do it.

I mentioned to my brilliant daughter that I was struggling with this and she immediately said, “Mom, write about that.”

She went on to say that she was feeling much the same way. And I had a client that day who said she was also feeling that way.

When I inquired about what was going on with them, this is what I learned.

 

  • We are women who get things done but when we feel like we need a break from “doing,” we can get scared.  Our thoughts might go to worrying that we will be seen as lazy, lose our job & end up a bag lady. Or that our business is going to fail if we don’t make a blog post. Or some other made up story.

 

  • We need to remember that “this too shall pass.”  We can either fight it and force ourselves to do those things we think we “should” or we can give ourselves permission to wait for inspiration.

I did the latter.

Instead of forcing myself to sit at the computer and write a blog, I spent my time contemplating a retreat I’m putting together. I got my business finances in order. I was even inspired to rewrite my website text, finally! (I’ve been waiting for that inspiration to hit for a while)

If we give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are with no judgement, then it creates the space for inspiration to flow once again.

What is it that you’re not really feeling right now? Give yourself permission to be right where you are and see what opens up.

Let me know what happens.

Chutzpah & Heart

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I sat listening to a friend who was recounting a meltdown she had recently. Someone had pushed her buttons and suddenly, she found herself saying things she never thought she was capable of.

Afterwards she felt such regret and said, “This is not who I want to be.”

It became clear that her automatic reaction when triggered was to fight. She had developed that survival instinct as a little girl and it’s still there even though she’s an adult.

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means “shameless audacity.” I think of it as having guts, nerve or backbone.

I think this woman has chutzpah. And not all of us do.

There are those whose first reaction is to run away when there is confrontation. I fall into this category.

However, when I avoid the uncomfortable situation or person, I end up feeling defeated. My confidence and self-esteem take a hit.

A few years ago, the leader of an organization was continually putting me down. Even though they stepped over the line, I lacked the chutzpah to say, “I won’t be treated this way.”

Because I am a person who chooses to lead with my heart, I mistakenly viewed standing up for myself as being arrogant.  But each time I backed down, I felt weak and like I dishonored myself.  This was not who I wanted to be.

I had heart and not enough chutzpah. My friend had chutzpah and not enough heart.

Chutzpah by itself can come across as arrogant or mean. Heart alone can be viewed as weakness and a doormat.

The sweet spot lies where we have both heart AND chutzpah (heartzpah?! :). It’s not easy to find that place, it takes practice.

For fighters, it means forcing yourself to take a time out before you start saying things you’ll regret.

For those of us who take flight, it means giving yourself permission to stand your ground.

I think Brené Brown said it best, “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink back. Just stand your sacred ground.”

It can be scary and uncomfortable as we practice something new. But that’s where our growth lies, in those scary, uncomfortable places. And there is great joy  and peace of mind  knowing that you can handle anything or anyone who crosses your path.

In order to be the person you want to be, what do you need to practice more of, chutzpah or heart?

 

Good News

Amtrak Crash

I woke up to the news of a train derailment in Philadelphia. There were many people injured and at least 6 dead.

I watched a national morning news program where survivors of the crash said that the majority of people involved not only remained calm but worked together to get everyone out. There were accounts of passengers sitting with other passengers helping to ease their fear and console them before the paramedics could get to them.

The reporter seemed stunned.

The subsequent news stories described the devastation of the crash and told that there was an alert because this might be a terrorist attack.  And with all of the trains now running in the US, they wondered, are we truly safe?

I have noticed the media uses words when reporting, like terrifying ordeal, devastating and horrific. I thought the news was to report the facts? But if they just reported the facts without embellishment, their audience would think it was boring, right?

The news is a business and has certainly spent a lot of money on marketing research so they know which news stories sell. They’re doing what will put the most money in their pocket.

When I watch the national news, I get scared. Then I want to do something to fix what’s making me scared so I think I have to fight against what’s wrong. It ends up being me against someone or something else and now I’m not only scared but angry as well.

What do I want? I want the facts, just the facts, free of embellishing. I believe the media has a strong responsibility to be aware of the words they use so as to not incite fear or anger.

The Philadelphia train crash actually gives me hope. In addition to passengers helping each other, our men and women who are firemen, police officers and paramedics, were quick to respond.

And this is what happens not only here in the US but around the world. People rushing in to help when disaster strikes.  Look at Nepal.

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In our town, we have recently experienced flooding and who was there to help? Our volunteer fire departments not only from our town but from surrounding towns as well.

I also saw a crew from a neighboring town helping with clean up. Neighbors helping neighbors.

So yes, there is a lot of bad going on in the world, but I believe there is more good than bad and I refuse to be scared anymore.

Instead of looking for evidence that the world is a scary place, let’s look for the good.  It’s out there, we just have to look for it.

 

Procrastination Sabotages Productivity

bigstock-Concept-for-procrastination-an-51568768The number of chronic procrastinators has quadrupled in the last 30 years to nearly 20 percent of the population, according to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at Chicago’s De Paul University. It is an insidious habit that will sabotage your success and drain your energy.

Fear of making a mistake, fear of failure or even fear of success can be causes of chronic procrastination.

Procrastination may be a problem if you:

•Have been financially impacted because you didn’t cash a check on time or delayed filing your taxes to the point of incurring fines or penalties.

•Have become exhausted and/or given up working out because you had to watch just one (or two or three) more episodes on Netflix before going to bed.

•Are constantly making excuses because you are late.

•Friends, family or coworkers point out your procrastination or the consequences of it.

The good news is procrastination is a learned behavior. With the proper structure and lots of practice, new habits can be formed. It will take time and patience though.

“Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” according to Dr. Ferrari.

Here are a few steps you can take to begin to break the procrastination habit:

•Make a to-do list of 5-6 things daily.

•If necessary, begin by tackling just one and break it down into small steps.

•Pay attention to your thinking — if you notice you want to procrastinate, decide to just keep going.

•Acknowledge and reward yourself for what you have accomplished.

•If you find yourself procrastinating, don’t judge yourself just focus on the next item on your list.

As you begin to take even small steps, you will notice your production increasing, your energy level rising and your happiness begin to grow.

This was written for Rochester Women’s Network’s column Women At Work and was published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on April 21, 2015. 

Burning Down The Wall

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In 2013, I took part in a fire ceremony conducted by Marcela Lobos (picture above is me with Marcela), a Chilean Shaman, that changed my life.

It was a cool September morning at the Omega Institute. Down by the lake, a fire had been started and we were instructed to find a stick.

Marcela, dressed in a colorful sarape and a beaded headband, told us that we were to choose something that we did not want to take home with us.  It could be unforgiveness, resentment, anger, ties to an old relationship, etc.

We were then instructed to breathe onto the stick to symbolically transfer that which was to be left behind into the stick.  Then, one at a time, we were to step up, kneel down and place our stick into the fire.

But there was one more thing we had to do.

When one knelt down at the fire, another of us was to come up and stand behind her to cover her back.  This was a form of protection, because our sister, kneeling at the fire, was in a vulnerable position.

When I heard this, I began to weep as I suddenly realized that I had never felt like anyone had my back.

Standing there with tears streaming down my face, I knew this was something I needed to change.

The part of my soul that was weeping longed for authentic human connection, with myself as well as others. But that was impossible because of the wall I had up.  I needed to know that I was ok and that someone was on my side.

When I was younger, I had trusted only to get stabbed in the back. I had been hurt and betrayed so I had chosen not to be vulnerable with the people in my life.  Up came the wall.

I realized vulnerability was not only what would bring down this wall I had built, it was the key to learning how to trust and to living a happier life.

Vulnerability takes practice. It is uncomfortable, it can be messy.  And I  often don’t get it right.  I learned that it is not good to be vulnerable with just anyone.  I can count on one hand the people with whom I can be completely vulnerable.

Practicing vulnerability has deepened my relationships and brought a level of joy I haven’t felt before.

I have learned that life is more fun and less stressful when we can just be who we are and trust that we have people in our life who have our back.

 

 

 

 

Unexpectedly Feminist

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I am not a feminist. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and came to believe that a feminist was an angry, bra-burning woman who hated men.

I love men.  Some of my favorite people in the world are men; my husband, son, dad and brothers are at the top of the list.  So I decided long ago that I was not a feminist.

But what is feminism really?

The definition is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

This brings me to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech.  She said:

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

Feminism is not about women being angry and demanding our due.

Patricia Arquette is talking about advocating for ourselves just as vigorously as we do for our loved ones and the causes that we feel so passionately about.  It is about us knowing our worth and working toward receiving the same treatment and pay as men.

We have, for too long, gone quietly about our business take caring of everyone else, giving ourselves what’s left, only to find there is nothing left.

It is time to stop being stingy with our compassion and acceptance when it comes to ourselves.

We must give ourselves permission to ask for what we want but first we must know what we want.

It is time we speak up and let our voices be heard without judging ourselves as arrogant or self-centered.

It is time we help lift each other up and stop calling women who assert themselves a bitch.

Go for that thing that may seem out of reach.  Celebrate yourself if you get it. Heap yourself with the same compassion you give others if you don’t.  Then go out and try again.

If we live our lives modeling feminism then not only will our daughters learn to do the same but our sons will grow up to be feminists too.  We owe it to ourselves to do this, we owe it to future generations.

 

Pay Attention!

Recently our son noticed how his sister loved to play music on her smartphone but had a very cheap speaker.  The sound quality wasn’t all that good but we never heard her complain about it.

Our daughter’s birthday was coming so he decided he would get her a new, better quality wireless speaker even though she had not asked for it.

When she opened the gift, she let out a squeal of delight. She was completely surprised because, although she wanted a new speaker, she had not asked for it.

Her delight was magnified because her brother was paying attention to what she liked (her music) and what she needed (a new speaker).

I think there would be less ugliness in the world if we simply paid attention.

I believe most people want to know they matter and what they have to say matters.  We have a tendency to be so caught up in ourselves that we forget to pay attention to what’s going on around us.

When we aren’t paying attention, our children can think we don’t care, our spouses feel neglected, even the people we meet in the street can be left feeling that we are cold and detached.

My grandfather taught me what a gift it was to pay attention.  Everyone agreed he was a great guy.  When asked why, they would say that he made them feel special. All he did was pay attention.

When I was talking to my grandfather, it seemed like we were the only two people in the world.  He would listen attentively and ask questions that pertained to what I was saying. He made whomever he was speaking to feel special because he payed attention.

I have also had the experience of people who talk incessantly and are not the least bit interested in what I have to say.  Whether it’s true or not, I am left with the feeling that they really don’t care about me.

As a volunteer for Step By Step (a non-profit organization that provides empowering workshops for women who are, have been or are at risk of being incarcerated), I have had the privilege to work with veteran workshop facilitator Sally Kohler.  Sally writes and facilitates the workshops for both women in jail and for when they come out.

Sally pays attention to the women who sit in her workshop. She is accepting and listens intently therefore many of them feel seen and heard for the first time in their lives.

Because Sally pays attention, these women begin to feel worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.

I have witnessed people transform their lives simply because someone took the time to pay attention to them.

The great thing about paying attention is that you can begin now and it doesn’t cost you anything.  I suggest you begin by paying attention to yourself.

Pay attention to the thoughts you have about yourself. If you wouldn’t say those things to your children or your best friend then why are you letting them clutter your mind. Pay attention and let them go.

By paying attention to what and, more importantly, who is in front of us, we affirm that they matter.  That simple act serves to bring more love, understanding and peace to our world.

 

Better To Be Honest Than “Nice”

In a recent conversation with business women, we examined, at a networking event, how to deal with someone who is only looking to sell and has no real interest in anyone else.

The following suggested replies were offered:

• Tell the person you need to talk to someone on the other side of the room and you’ll catch them later.

• Excuse yourself for a personal need.

• Tell the person you don’t want to monopolize their time, suggesting you re-connect at another time to continue the conversation.

I suggested answering honestly. Tell the person you are not a potential client but would be happy to keep them in mind if you come across someone who might seek their services.

Wanting to be “nice” came up next. According to clinical psychologist George Simon, “Nice people tend to let things slide because they don’t want to seem harsh, but as the saying goes: Give people an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” Be “nice” and you resent the person for having to endure a coffee meeting or hoping they will stop contacting you.

The true definition of nice is pleasant, good natured and kind. For many, “nice” has become a strategy to be liked, avoiding conflict. That makes it more about us than the other person.

Learn a new way of being. Pay attention to your own behavior. Notice when you’re being honest and when you’re not. Recognize that it is possible to be polite, respectful and honest. By doing this, we honor the other person and empower ourselves.

It can be uncomfortable when we begin to practice being honest. Start being honest with those whom you are comfortable, for example your spouse, your friends or a trusted co-worker. As your comfort increases, extend the practice to people with whom honesty is more challenging.

 This was published in the Democrat and Chronicle on October 28, 2014.  The Women at Work column is written by members of the Rochester Women’s Network (rwn.org).

Keeping Up With Somebody

I recently heard an interview with Tim McGraw where he said something that made me angry. He said he always knew he wanted to be somebody.

Does that mean that there are people who aren’t somebody? What does that make them? Nobody?

Chances are we’ve all said or heard this saying and I’m sure Mr. McGraw didn’t set out to tick me off. But I was curious about what got me all riled up.

I notice that I feel the same way when I watch TV shows like the Real Housewives of Wherever and the Kardashians.

Why do we care so much about these people?

It seems to me we are a society obsessed with fame and trying to be somebody.

If fame can’t be achieved by getting on a reality show, then some people try getting on TV by leaking a sex tape, doing some idiotic stunt or, heaven forbid, an act of violence. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

We wonder why so many people in this country have mounting debt. We’re all just trying to keep up with the Kardashians.

As an adult with half a brain, I realize that these shows are anything but reality and are on the air because they make the networks money.

However, children and teens can fall victim to thinking they are a nobody because they cannot live the same lifestyle as the people they watch on TV.

As a volunteer with women in jail, the majority come from abuse and addiction. A lot of them don’t know how to live (or parent their children) because they were never parented.

Are these women somebody? According to Tim McGraw and I dare say our society, I would guess no. It’s too easy to dismiss and forget about those who are struggling to live; the homeless, the mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts.

What is missing from our society and culture that is creating this?

I believe it is because we have forgotten our inherent worthiness. What does that mean?

It means that just by our mere presence on this planet, we are somebody.

Worthiness is something that is born in each of us. It cannot be taken away but we can forget that it is our birthright.

We think that if we are famous and have adoring fans, then we will feel and, therefore be, worthy. Then we will be happy right?

But what if those fans never come? Or what if they come and then go away? This is a set up for disaster.

How many stars have turned to drugs or alcohol when they found themselves no longer relevant?

If we know our true worth, then it doesn’t matter how many followers we have on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Even if we lose them all, we will know that we are still somebody.

How do you measure your self-worth? What can we do as parents and a society to help our children cultivate a healthy self-worth?

What do you need to do to be somebody in your own life?