Hey Everyone! Below is a description of a workshop that I’m going to be offering via Zoom on September 12th, 2021. It is a workshop that I would like to keep offering on a regular basis – and even in person one day when it is safer to gather in groups again. If you’re at all interested, please shoot me an email at email@example.com to either sign up or get on my mailing list for future events.
What would your life be like if you truly held yourself sacred? In this workshop, we’re going to explore this idea in depth.
My greatest passion in life is to create and hold safe space for people (including me) to be our full, authentic selves – in all of our uniqueness and diversity and sacredness. I want you to feel safe to explore, to question, and to be who you really are. Get in touch with your inner voice, your true feelings, desires, and beliefs. Who are you when you let go of perfectionism and approval seeking – and instead simply allow yourself to be fully human – to be YOU?
The purpose of this workshop is to help you to connect more deeply with your authentic self and to hold that Self sacred. Who would you be if you were not afraid? Do you live your life according to your social programming … or do you follow your inner compass, your own truth and values? Have you thought about it? Do you love and value yourself? Are you happy in and with your body? How about your sexuality? Your relationships? Do you use your power to create the life you want … or do you abdicate your power and feel like you’ve sold yourself out? Let’s see if we can reconnect you with your own truth and allow you to claim your power so that you can choose to live the life that you most deeply desire.
This is your invitation: *to consider what it means to you to be your authentic self *to explore your sacred sexuality (life force) – your feelings, beliefs, and desires *to develop healthy boundaries *to embrace your body with love and appreciation *to love yourself unconditionally, holding YOU sacred.
This workshop is based on my workbook, The Sexuality Reclamation Project For Women Workbook. It is not necessary to have the workbook, although it could be helpful for you. Order the workbook here.
I’m going to be sharing ideas, asking questions, inviting/guiding participants in writing exercises and guided meditation, and facilitating group discussions/shares where we can learn from each other. The size of the group will be limited to eight women – your participation level is up to you. It’s okay if you just want to listen and absorb, also okay if you want to share with the group.
If you sign up by August 31st, you pay only $89. If you sign up between September 1st and 12th, the workshop is $111.
To sign up, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you billing information, a Zoom link, and other details/logistics you’ll need to know about this beautiful day we will spend together.
Do you ever say “yes” or “okay” when you really want to say “no”? Do you default to “politeness” rather than speaking your truth, taking up space, defending yourself, and/or standing your ground regarding what you actually want? Are you able to check in with yourself and say and do what needs to be said and done to meet your own needs in any/every situation? Does “no” come easily when that is what your truth is? Do you ever endure discomfort (physical, energetic, or emotional), rather than speaking up, figuring “it’s not that bad” or “it will only last a little while”? Can you ask for what you want, need, and/or desire in each moment – even if that means saying “no” to someone else’s wants, needs, and/or desires?
If you’re anything like me, “no” often doesn’t come as easily as you would like it to come. In fact, while I’m quite tough and outspoken in the pretend conversations frequently happening in my own mind, my reality in the outside world is that I often don’t speak up for myself or speak my truth/s in the ways that so easily flow in the privacy of my mind or when I’m speaking for other people. I’m great at standing up for others, defending others, offering others support and encouragement to take up space and stand in their own truths. I want to be great at standing up for myself and my own needs and desires as well.
Just recently, a friend had a talk with me about how she witnessed me saying “yes” to a request with my words, while everything in my whole body and energy field was saying a strong “no.” That incongruency isn’t going to work in my life! I’m so adamant about ideas such as that a person can change their mind at any time in any sort of sexual encounter – and has the absolute right for the encounter to stop, no matter what is happening – even in the middle of intercourse. When “yes” becomes “no” – that’s it!
This isn’t just true in sexual encounters. This is true in every aspect of life. It’s so important to be able to speak our truth/s about what we want and don’t want! Being able to say “no” is an essential skill! Now, I realize that sometimes if we want to keep our jobs (for example), we may be required to do things we don’t particularly want to do. We have a choice, though. We can look for a different job. We can look for other solutions. We can quit. I’m not saying that it’s easy or that it’s always clear-cut. I’m simply saying that we often have more choices than we realize – and also that perhaps if we used our “no” wherever that is our truth and it is possible to say no, then that could move us toward feeling more empowerment in our lives. I want that, for sure! Do you?
How do you know if you’re a “yes” or a “no”? Feel into your body. What is your body saying to you? Do you feel tightness or restriction? Where? Do you feel lightness or opening? Where? Does it feel like a possibility or request opens you or closes you? Paying attention to these signals in your body and pausing a moment to breathe into them and allow awareness can give you the space to make decisions that are in alignment with what you really want. My friends in the tantric world, with whom I just assisted at an Energy Sex Facilitator Training, suggest that anything other than a “Hell YES!” or a “Fuck YEAH!” are a “no.” “Maybe” is a “no.” Just practice saying “no.” You can change your mind later and say “yes” if you want. The opportunity may have passed, but there also may be some room for negotiation.
Communication is so important! Being willing to be open and communicate your truth is a gift, not only to yourself, but to everyone with whom you interact. Owning your “no” is truly the first step into worlds of “yes!” and creating the life you want!
In my goal of living my life as authentically as possible, I realize how important my “no” is. Especially when interacting with other people – in order for people to be willing to have more intimate relationships with me, they have to be able to trust that when I say “yes” that I mean it – and I’m not just defaulting to politeness or people-pleasing, but that I’m actually a “Hell YES!” Being able to say “no” is an important step in building trust and authentic relationships, which is absolutely what I want. Hell YES! to that! Also, it’s okay to be awkward! I don’t have to do this perfectly! This is a new skill for me! I mean, yes, I’d mastered it when I was two years old, but that mastery was lost in further socialization to please others – even at the cost of sacrificing Self. I’m unlearning so much! It’s okay! I’ve got this! You’ve got this! Perfection not required!
It’s a daily practice and I choose to have fun doing it. Yes, it’s out of my comfort zone. Yes, it requires me to pay more attention and to check in with myself when anything comes up. It’s not that hard! I just need to get out of the habit of trying to respond to everything immediately as if other people don’t have the capacity to wait a moment (or however long it takes) for me to check in with myself. The PAUSE is important! I give myself permission to pause regularly and check in with me! I choose to be willing to disappoint other people if it means taking care of me and being true to myself! I choose to live in my Hell YES! and stop pushing my meh’s and maybe’s toward reluctant or obligatory yeses. I don’t owe anyone my time, attention, or life energy! I want to be as clear as possible in my energy going forward, this barometer of feeling guiding my way.
I just received an open invitation to spend some time with someone. I’ve just finished a 16 day workshop where I was surrounded by about 30 people most of the time. All I want right now is time alone. I saw myself trying to talk myself into making plans with this person. “She’s only here a few days. It would be a good opportunity to talk – blah, blah, blah.” You know what? NO! No, I’m not going to talk myself into something that is most definitely not a Hell Yeah! Yes, it could be a good experience. But no, it’s not what I really want right now. So, “no” gets to be my answer. I don’t need to be afraid of missing out or of letting someone else down. I need to trust my Inner Guidance and Knowing – and allow myself to hear my inner “yes” and “no” – and act accordingly.
This post has been dealing with the ability to say “no.” Next time, I’ll talk about the ability to accept “no” from others with grace and ease, and without becoming discouraged or defeated. Receiving “no” can have its own challenges! A lot of the time, we avoid that by not even asking for what we want. Let’s look at that! I’d love to hear your stories of your relationship with “no”! Feel free to share below! Also, if you’d like some support around your choices, self-love, body image, and/or sacred sexuality, please check out what I have to offer!
Several years ago, I followed very clear guidance I received on what to do with ideas about an invention, which were gifted to me during my experience of driving repeatedly between Florida and Michigan – and the resulting pain that accrued in my body from those long drives. For the full story and more information on my invention, click here.
I applied for design and utility patents. I sought out manufacturers for the various components and found the perfect company to put it all together. I fired the first manufacturing company I’d hired and went with another that I liked better, even though that meant sacrificing thousands of dollars. I assured myself that it was a business lesson well learned – and better to change course than to throw good money after bad. I went through all of the processes – getting licenses, insurance, permits, etc. – all of which seemed like a big deal and a lot to go through. And just before my product was to officially launch on Amazon, I fell and broke both arms. Go, me!
To make a long story shorter (because this isn’t even the point I’m getting to), my great idea that I was sure would make me millions, didn’t get very far at all. I sold a few dozen. Most of the people who tried them really liked them, but my business didn’t expand, as I’d been sure it would – by word of mouth, the bit of promotions that I was doing online, and by having sales booths at local events. I ran out of money, motivation, and trust in the Universe.
Frankly, I was angry. Build it and they will come? Do the work and the Universe will rise up to meet you and open the doors you need opened? Have a positive attitude and you will create what you desire? Crap, crap, and more CRAP!!! I did all of that! I invested everything! I believed and committed 100% and made the effort! I got counseling from the Small Business Development Council. I wrote to everyone I could think of – and got invited to The American Dreams Academy by the Home Shopping Network. I did everything right! And then I ended up going through a bankruptcy and spending the next few years, not financially secure as I’d expected, but literally struggling to survive, working 60-80 hours a week and still not making enough money to even have my own place, much less a savings account. My bitterness at the Universe and my disillusionment and resentment were enormous. WTF?!?
Fortunately, I had good friends who allowed me to rent a room in their homes. I stayed in one place for a couple of years, in another for a little over a year. When the pandemic hit, I’d already turned in my resignation at the high school where I was working at the time. I was planning to move from Florida to Colorado, where I’d already lined up a massage license. I did make it to Colorado, but due to the pandemic and being in several high risk categories for Covid19, I couldn’t work as a massage therapist. I actually tried to do so and had a panic attack, running out of the tiny, unventilated office before my first client even showed up. I couldn’t collect unemployment since I’d voluntarily resigned from my teaching job – and I watched my already meager savings rapidly evaporate. I was given some respite from receiving the stimulus checks and my tax return, as well as a few cash gifts from friends, which have (so far) allowed me to keep my car. I am coming perilously close to that not being the case, but am maintaining my faith that everything will work out.
Here’s why I’m keeping the faith – and some of what I’ve learned from these past few years: even though I don’t have financial security right now, I do have a roof over my head. In fact, I split time between the homes of family and a friend, so I have two roofs over my head. I do have food to eat. I still have my computer and free internet access. I have moments of stress, fear, sadness, and grief – but my life is mostly quite happy. I spend my time with people who love me – and they love me just for me, not for money or anything I can give them, which hasn’t always been the case with some “friends” and “loved ones” in my life previously, who have used me over the years. I’ve also learned to receive, which hasn’t been easy for me because I’ve felt good about myself for being a giver. Receiving feels vulnerable, whereas giving felt more like I had control and power. I am learning the important of balance – and that receiving is as essential/important as giving.
This time during the pandemic has actually been a healing opportunity for me. I spend a lot of my time writing and doing creative projects that bring me joy and pleasure. Yes, I’ve been applying to jobs all of these months – and while the closed doors have been frustrating and discouraging, the reality is that they’ve given me the time and opportunity to publish my own books and work on other projects of mine.
But more than that, here is what I want to say: had I initially met with the success that I expected years ago, had I made the millions I was expecting – I would have missed out on some very important people, connections, events, opportunities, and lessons in my life. For one thing, this website and my online healing/coaching practice wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t have gone down this road – I would have been in my own little house somewhere writing novels and enjoying my solitude. I wouldn’t have moved to Colorado or spent time in Arizona, because I could have bought my family a house near me in Florida.
Had I not moved to Colorado, I wouldn’t have found Awkwardly Zen – my friends and tribe, which has become a very important part of my life. I wouldn’t have given talks on Self-Love and Sacred Sexuality and Boundaries. That wouldn’t have opened up other doors to other interviews and classes and opportunities to help people. Yes, there is still not much showing monetarily, but the connections I’m making with people are priceless. Had I not been spending some of my time in Arizona, I wouldn’t have been able to assist at a Sex Energy Training in Cornville upcoming in July, 2021.
There are countless ways my “failure” to become financially wealthy, when I expected to meet with that kind of success, has had a positive impact on my life – even though on the surface financial insecurity may seem only negative. Finally for now, though, had my ego not been broken down enough for me to get out of my own way, I would probably not have had the courage to publish my books. I had to get to the IDGAF stage in order to own ALL of me – and to be willing to stand in the world in my own truth, authenticity, and vulnerability. I had to get to the point where I felt like I had nothing left to lose in order to claim my own life, strength, power, and identity in a very public way. (Not everyone has to get to that point for the same result, but I’m a very stubborn Taurus who craves comfort and tends to be conflict-avoidant, so yeah – I had to be dragged kicking and screaming, my typical MO, LOL).
It must have been necessary for me to be broken down and to face possible homelessness, and to experience the fear and despair of living in uncertainty about the future, in order to develop more compassion and empathy and a deeper perspective on life. I’m not saying I have everything all figured out (far from that!) – but I am miles down the road from where I started – and these paths I’ve traveled, as painful and scary as they’ve been at times – and as joyous and healing as they’ve been at other times, have been essential to my overall life path. This brings me to the conclusion that maybe the Universe knows what it’s doing after all.
There is no amount of money that would have been worth missing out on the friends I’ve met or the lessons I’ve learned or the opportunities I’ve had – and will have – because I didn’t get what I thought I wanted. After years of despair, discouragement, and struggling just to survive, living with near constant stress, I’ve actually had a very healing year this past year – a year where I’ve been nurtured and sustained by family and friends (who’ve supplied me with shelter, food, and even some occasional cash to keep me afloat). I haven’t been busting my ass, working 60-80 hours a week just trying to get by, like I had the previous few years. Weirdly, all of my needs are met without even having a paycheck! I’m not saying there’s no stress or that I won’t need a paycheck (or other influx of money) soon – just that my daily life is actually much better now – and my financial situation (thanks to not having to pay rent, etc.) isn’t appreciably different from when I was overwhelmed with and exhausted from work, barely staying ahead of the steady influx of bills.
That said, I’m starting to sell my invention again, hoping to help as many people as possible and finally make my millions. I’m hoping that this time, Divine Timing is on my side. And if it doesn’t work out that way for some reason, then I’m going to trust that’s because there are better paths for me and more important things on the horizon for my life. I’m going to put my faith in Divine Right Order and know that all is well. Maybe I’ll even stop stomping around and complaining that I did everything “right” and petulantly questioning why am I not being appropriately rewarded for my efforts? There is wisdom far greater than that of my ego at work. I’m going to lean into that and trust my path, trust the NOW that unfolds in each moment before me. Live there.
Embracing Awkward is a compilation of some of my poems and short writings I’ve collected over the past 30 years. It is my journey into accepting and loving myself in all of my humanness.
I’ve been contemplating my relationship to “Awkward” lately – how I’ve avoided that feeling my whole life as much as possible. In my book, I tell the story of how when my daughter was little, if she sensed an awkward moment coming in a movie or TV show, she would jump off of the couch and go flying out of the room at a dead run, yelling, “Tell me when it’s over!” I felt a little sad that she did that – because she missed all of the best parts! The funny, the heart-felt, the poignant, the very human moments that were what actually made the story.
One night as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that I do that in my real life. Instead of hanging around for the awkward moments – and allowing whatever might come (laughter, tears, arguments, awkward conversations, the unknown), I have my own version of running out of the room, avoiding having to deal with anything that makes me feel the least bit awkward or uncomfortable. How sad! And I not only do that in relationship to other people, but I’ve also had a way of closing myself down inside – that separates me from my own Self – from my own life force, my inner voice, my feelings and passions and desires.
As I’ve faced loss, betrayals, disappointments, and incredibly painful moments in my life, I’ve battened down my feelings with my very oft repeated mantra, “It doesn’t matter.” That is spiritual bypassing, in case you don’t recognize it. I’d tell myself that the Universe has a better plan or that everything happens for a reason. I’d coach myself to “put love first” and let slide the things that would pull me out of love by (rightfully) upsetting me. “It doesn’t matter.” “All that matters is love.” I’ve been an expert at spiritual bypassing for decades – but that isn’t the whole story.
The other part of the story is that spiritually bypassing was useful in helping me to avoid dealing with awkward situations and feelings – both with other people, as well as inside myself. It’s the inside myself that really concerns me. I mean, yes both – with other people too – but if I’m gaslighting myself, denying myself access to my own true feelings, that’s a major problem for me. And yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing when I kept repeating to myself, “That’s okay. It doesn’t really matter.”
When I’ve said, “It doesn’t matter” over and over, the message I was getting internally was that I don’t matter – that my feelings, desires, wants, disappointments, dreams, etc. – none of that matters. I was shutting myself down. I’m well aware that when we shut down any part of ourselves, when we dim any area of our emotions, we shut down and dim everything. We can’t shut down our disappointment without also shutting down our joy and hope. We can’t shut down our anger without also shutting down our passions and love. I mean, yes, of course I still have felt love – but the reality is that when I tamped down my other emotions so much, there was a sort of deadening in me that’s difficult to explain. I almost felt like I was bound inside – as though each denial had placed a layer of gauze over me until I was nearly mummified.
“It doesn’t matter” and “I don’t care,” when they aren’t true, have done incalculable damage to my Inner Being and to my relationship with Self. I’ve done this dance to some extent my whole life, between burying my feelings, just going through the motions of life, then excavating my feelings and allowing my vulnerable, awkward self to step out into the light. Then back into hiding, only able to take so much before I needed the “peace” of numbness, checking out. Of course, my Spirit doesn’t allow that for very long before she rises back up and demands to be seen and to be able to breathe.
I’m currently in a phase of stripping off the gauze and allowing myself to see what’s there – and while I’m doing that, to dance with Awkward. I’ve personified him in my mind. I sat with him the other day, feeling the physical and emotional sensations I have in my body in his presence. What I noticed, is that much like fear and excitement, Awkward produces those same sort of vibes and reactions in my body – a fight or flight or freeze response, tingling all over, nausea, a sense of something that feels like dread, but might be excitement. It’s an interesting experience, to stay physically and emotionally present to Awkward. I’m going to try to do that more often – because I really want to set my Spirit free. I deeply want to live from my own truths and to follow my passions and desires and inner voice. I can’t do that if I keep running from Awkward – because a lot of the things that matter to me are sitting right there next to Awkward – and the only way to get to them is to approach him. I’m training myself to think of each potential encounter with Awkward as an opportunity to move toward, rather than a threat to run from (respecting, of course, when I don’t have the energy to deal with such an encounter in the moment).
One thing I have noticed is that as I move into Awkward, just like when I move into fear – it’s not as scary or as painful as I’d anticipated. On the contrary, the further I step forward, the more they seem to dissipate – and I’m left with moments that just feel … real. Normal, even. The heart-racing sensation shifts into an inner calm as I notice I’m still breathing and that nothing terrible has happened to me. Part of this has been made possible by the deep commitment to self-love that I have made over these past years. I know that I have my own back – and that regardless of what happens, I will come away still loving and supporting myself. I may need to lick my wounds, but at least I am no longer denying they are there – that’s a big step in the direction I want to be heading. And you know what? I believe that if I can manage to stay open, even to my disappointments, that something else wonderful might come along to fill that open space – since I’m no longer stuffing it with the “it doesn’t matter” gauze.
Below is a video performance of a poem that I wrote called, Oh Awkward, My Lover. It is not in this book, but will likely be in a future collection. I want to warn you, should you decide to watch it, that it does mention a private anatomical body part. I’m embracing Awkward in my life as much as I can, which is not all of the time – but moving in that direction. Sometimes, we may need to run and hide from Awkward and rest and rebuild our strength. I do invite you to consider and explore your relationship with Awkward. It can be very rewarding. Also, as more of us embrace Awkward, it creates space for others to be themselves too. Can you imagine the wonderful world we could create if we all felt free and able to be and express our authentic selves?
I’ve got boundaries on my mind. It’s a topic I’ve contemplated for decades, but I feel like through a confluence of circumstances, I am finally stepping into my own truth and power around boundaries. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, but I am saying that I’ve come a long ways down this path from where I used to be – and a great deal of that has to do with having learned to hold myself sacred and love myself unconditionally. I’ve been working on those two things diligently.
Here’s the thing: when I hold myself (my life, my heart, my body, my sexuality, my time, my skills and talents, my training and experience, etc.) sacred, and when I am committed to loving myself unconditionally, then healthy boundaries become not only easier, but more clearly necessary and assertively expressed and defended.
Now, my expression of my boundaries is not necessarily “perfect” or “ideal.” I had an experience the other day where I may have been able to handle a situation better if I’d had time to think about it. In the moment, I was not afforded the luxury of time, so I just spoke my boundary imperfectly – and that’s okay. The essential thing is that I didn’t allow someone else to steamroll over me. I didn’t allow something that I found unacceptable to continue. I expressed that this wasn’t the time or place for what this person wanted to talk about. I set a clear boundary around what was acceptable to me. I was polite, but not people-pleasing or overly concerned about protecting the other person’s feelings (which had totally been my M.O. previously).
This happened in front of a group of over 30 people. I did express a few minutes later, openly, that perhaps I hadn’t handled establishing the boundary I needed as well or thoughtfully as I could have. However, the point to take away – is that the essentialthing is to express our boundary, particularly when someone is crossing it, no matter how well or poorly we do so. Our first obligation is to protect ourselves and our own interests. Other people get to take care of their own emotions and behaviors around whatever is being expressed. I can be as kind and considerate as possible, but it is most important that I express whatever boundary I need in the moment, that I stand up for myself and my needs and rights.
So, what are boundaries and why do we need them?
Simply put, a boundary is “a line that marks the limits of an area” (Google). In an interpersonal sense, boundaries are the lines we create that mark the limits of the various areas in our lives – what we are willing/not willing to allow into our lives, relationships, and experiences. Boundaries are expectations of how we want to be treated, and enforcing our boundaries includes how we handle it when someone crosses our lines. We can have boundaries in virtually every area of our lives – work, personal, sexual, family, friends, strangers, clients, community members, etc.
We need boundaries for a variety of reasons, particularly so that we can protect our own lives and interests. Other reasons include having a healthy separation between ourselves and other people. As the old saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Boundaries allow us to establish our own sense of self and to feel safe within our own domain – and to determine how we choose to interact with others. Boundaries help to ensure that we are not taken advantage of, or violated, or abused. Boundaries help to make it clear what we are willing to accept in our lives – and what we are not, so that people can know what is expected of them in their interactions with us. Boundaries help to create intimacy – because they allow the safe container of being able to express our needs, wants, desires, and limits – when we know that the other person respects/will respect our boundaries. Boundaries also help social and business interactions to run more smoothly.
So, a quick look at a few different types of boundaries. We may have work boundaries such as that we will only do work that we are paid for, we have certain salary requirements, we will not work “off the clock” or hours outside of our contract, or perform tasks that are outside of what we’ve agreed to do. These boundaries prevent employers or clients from taking advantage of us. We may have a boundary regarding not dating anyone that we work with – because we don’t want to risk having awkward feelings in the workplace resulting from a failed relationship attempt, for example. See, we get to decide how we want our lives to be. We get to be at choice about the experiences that we want to create for ourselves – and we get to choose what “rules”, “lines,” or boundaries we want to have. That is our right. We also get to choose how important various boundaries are to us – and how we will handle each situation if our boundaries are violated. More on that later.
Other boundaries could include how we allow our family and friends to treat us. We may have boundaries around other people expressing their opinions about how we should be living, what we should be eating, who we should be dating (or not), how we should be acting in our relationships. In fact, we may put a moratorium on “shoulds” and have a boundary along the lines of, “Respect me and my space and choices – and don’t tell me how to live or give me unsolicited advice if you want to spend time with me or be in my life.” There’s the line. Some people have had to clearly state boundaries with their families at holidays, “Don’t make comments or suggestions about what I eat or drink. Don’t say anything about my weight if you want me to show up. My weight is not up for discussion – and if it is brought up, I will leave.” You can be as clear and direct and firm in your boundaries as you like.
Here’s the thing: you get to choose how you’re willing to be treated. You get to draw the lines. You get to say, “Here’s how far you can go with me” or “Here’s what you can expect from me” or “Here’s what I am willing to agree to.” And then you get to expect for your boundaries to be respected and honored! You get to expect the people in your life to treat you the way you’ve made it clear that you want to be treated – or to expect a change in the relationship. Now, some boundaries are more important than others – and there are some people to whom you may choose to give a little bit of leeway – but when it comes to important boundaries, I think that we need to deeply consider how much we are going to value and respect our own selves and lives, even if it means letting go of some relationships. Maybe letting go is what is needed to wake someone up – and you might choose to give them one last chance if they seem to have learned their lesson. But really, one last chance, otherwise they won’t believe you are serious about your boundaries – and they’ll come to believe that you’ll always forgive them and take them back. I think it’s a mistake to ever let anyone believe that.
Communicating our boundaries – not as hard as we often make it out to be.
Think about it. Why do we find it so hard to communicate our boundaries? I think that for a lot of us, people-pleasing is our default setting. Many of us don’t hold ourselves sacred and don’t truly feel the right to even have boundaries. Some of us don’t feel like we are important enough or deserve to have boundaries – or we worry that we’ll be “more trouble than we’re worth” if we have strong and clear boundaries around how we’re treated or what we’re willing to do/not willing to do. We may be afraid of losing jobs, relationships, approval, and/or respect if we speak up for ourselves and our own needs. We may be afraid of being seen as selfish or “high maintenance” or some other undesirable label. We are often afraid of disappointing or displeasing someone else – but what about how we disappoint ourselves? Is that okay? I don’t think that’s okay! I am the last person that I want to disappoint! I want to put myself first. Yes, with consideration for others, but managing my own life is my job.
I’m not waiting around for someone else to read my mind about what I want, desire, and need – and hoping they choose to give it to me. I’m also not going to silently endure mistreatment – or even being treated in ways that I simply don’t like – because I’m afraid to say no (for whatever reason). NO!
I only know this because I’ve spent so much of my life doing those exact things. I’ve endured years of being disappointed in marriages because I wasn’t clearly stating what I wanted, needed, desired, and expected. I wasn’t setting clear boundaries. I wasn’t saying, “No, that doesn’t work for me.” Rather, I was busy trying to protect his feelings, trying to make his life happy so that he would think I was the best wife in the world, trying to prop up his ego when he was disappointing me. I was protecting him, not myself – and actually, not the relationship either. Relationships don’t survive when we sacrifice ourselves and allow our needs to go unmet, or our (spoken or unspoken) boundaries to be violated.
On the rare occasions that I’ve worked for other people (I’ve been self-employed most of my life), I’ve accepted being grossly underpaid. I’ve accepted working off the clock for free rather than being paid the overtime they should have been paying me for the excellent job I was doing. I’ve accepted supervisors treating me with less than respect, talking to me like I was below them rather than like an equal human being. That is unacceptable to me. Looking back, I wonder why I wasn’t speaking up for myself and setting clear boundaries – and walking away from any relationship, job, or situation that wasn’t working out for me and my life. Why did I stay? Why did I put up with the things I put up with? Why didn’t I even speak up for myself? Why didn’t I hold myself sacred and have my own back? (Answer: I just hadn’t learned to do that yet. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” I’m doing better now. I am on a campaign of fierce self-love and holding clear and firm boundaries.)
What are the things that are holding you back from speaking your truths? Asking for what you want? Clearly and openly stating your boundaries?
What if you weren’t trying to seek approval from others?
What if you weren’t trying to protect someone else’s feelings?
What if you weren’t trying to manage someone else’s opinions/feelings/impressions of you?
What if you weren’t people-pleasing or over-giving?
What if you felt so protective of yourself (your time, your energy, your heart, your skills and talents, etc.) that it was easy to say “no” and to set parameters around what you were willing to do/accept – and not willing to do/accept? And to enforce and defend those parameters?
Same thing sexually and/or in relationships – what if you were so protective of your heart, your body, your sexuality, and your life – that it was easy to say “no” (and “yes”) and to set parameters around what you were willing to do/experience – and to enforce and defend those limits? And how would it feel if it were also easy to ask for what you do want – and respect and honor other people’s boundaries around whether they are willing to give you that or not?
What if you allowed yourself to stop caring so much about what other people think – and to deeply care about what you think and feel? (while respecting others’ boundaries, of course).
People ask, but wouldn’t that make you selfish and inconsiderate of others? No. It would make you honest, authentic, and a clear communicator – rather than fake, passive-aggressive, resentful, depressed, and all of the other ways we handle self-betrayal and an inability to clearly ask for what we want/need/desire, and effectively communicate our own boundaries.
Stop looking for outside approval! It’s an inside job! Your approval is the only approval you need! Yes, it feels nice to have confirmation/approval/validation from other people – but don’t ever rely on that or become dependent on that. Learn to trust your own counsel. Yes, be open to new ideas – but you don’t have to accept them – you get to consider and choose your own truth, your own path!
Don’t be concerned about being “right” – be concerned about being true to yourself, protecting yourself and your interests, and honoring YOU and your needs. We all make mistakes and are human. We also have our own unique perspectives, values, and desires for how things go in our lives. We can give ourselves and each other grace regarding this reality. And … we can pay attention to whether someone is making unintentional mistakes or whether they are consistently (and possibly intentionally) violating our boundaries. Also, boundary violations don’t necessarily mean that the other person is doing something “wrong” or “bad” – just that they are creating an experience for you that you don’t want or choose to have in your life. You do get to be at choice and to express your preferences – and if there is incompatibility with another person, you get to decide how you want to handle that.
Defending our boundaries.
Our boundaries are only as good as our ability to communicate them, defend them, and enforce them, aren’t they?
Before I continue with this thought, I want to offer you this reminder: we don’t have to like everyone. Not everyone has to like us. We don’t have to try to please everyone (or anyone) and we don’t have to take care of other people’s feelings. That’s their job. We are all in charge of taking care of our own feelings and lives. Yes, there may be many times when we want to consider the impact of our words and choices on other people – and we still need to be sure that even in doing so that we are honoring ourselves, our own needs, and our own boundaries.
I know that for most of my life, I have not clearly communicated my boundaries to other people. I have been too shy, too afraid, too worried about hurting someone’s feelings, or too unclear about my own worth to have clearly stated what I wanted, what I didn’t want, and what was important to me. I suffered through many situations simply because I didn’t say what was true for me or what I needed.
For example, I was a caregiver for my Mom the last four years of her life. She became increasingly disabled and needed more and more help. It wasn’t until the end when it became too much for me to handle that we hired another caregiver to help me take care of her. The thing was, long before that point, I was overwhelmed and I not only wasn’t asking for help, I wasn’t setting any boundaries. Mom wanted to get up early, so I “had” to get up early every morning, make her my first priority, and do all of the things that she wanted me to do before I started my own day. That was incredibly depressing for me – to never feel like I got to spend any mornings the way I enjoyed spending my mornings – like my life was just this series of obligations and totally out of my control. It didn’t occur to me back then to negotiate terms that would have made that situation more livable for me. I could have suggested hiring another caregiver sooner. We could have talked about letting me sleep in a little bit some mornings – and how we could work that out so that her needs were met, while allowing me a little freedom. We could have asked my siblings to participate more in her care. There were so many things we could have done differently that would have made the burden easier on me – but I never asked.
So, step one is to realize what you want your boundaries to be – and communicate them to the necessary people as needed. Pay attention to your own needs, desires, wants, feelings, etc. And realize that all of those things may change from moment to moment, so keep checking in with yourself – and keep communicating how you’re feeling and what you would like or how you would like things to be. I believe that a big component of this, once again, is to love yourself and hold yourself sacred. Many of us would totally stand up for someone else we love – but fail over and over again to stand up for ourselves. We need to develop that same passion and fierceness in standing up for ourselves.
Once we’ve clearly communicated our boundaries, the next step is to honor them. By that, I mean that we pay attention to our own boundaries – and defend them as needed. If I’ve made it perfectly clear to someone that I don’t want to be called before a certain time of the morning – and they keep calling me before that time, then I have to choose how I handle that. In the beginning, I may gently remind them of my boundary. After a couple of reminders, I may get more firm and say, “Hey, I’ve asked you to not call me before 8:00 am, but you’ve continued calling me before then. If you do it again, unless it’s an emergency, then I’m going to block your number.” That may be more extreme than you want to be – you get to choose how to handle it. My point is that there are consequences when I’ve clearly asked for my boundary to be respected and someone keeps ignoring/violating that boundary. I don’t need/want someone in my life who isn’t going to honor boundaries that I’ve clearly expressed.
Depending on what the boundary is, you might choose to have increasing consequences. Often, parents do this fairly easily: “If you do that again, we’re not going to get pizza Friday night. Keep doing it and you’re going to lose your phone and computer too – and push it again and that will be for the entire weekend.” It seems like parents feel like they have the power to set limits … and I wonder why so often, we don’t feel like we have the power to set limits in our own lives. That’s something that we could contemplate – a whole other rabbit hole I don’t want to dive into right now – but definitely power dynamics seem to play a role in this.
So, what are the consequences going to be if/when people violate your boundaries? I mean, it’s worth considering whether your boundaries are reasonable and fair. If you come to the conclusion that they are, then what are reasonable, fair, and enforceable consequences if/when those boundaries are violated? When someone doesn’t accept your “no” – what are you going to do? How far will you let them push you?
Here’s what I notice: if I speak up for myself immediately, without hesitation, I don’t have time to get angry. I haven’t sat in resentment about how this person is violating my boundaries, so I’m already not as emotional as I would be if I waited to say something. So, I try to say something right away – even if I haven’t thought of the “perfect” thing to say – or haven’t had time to think it through completely – or even if I haven’t clearly expressed a boundary previously and find myself needing to do so now. I just need to say something, no matter how inadequate or unrefined that may be. It can be helpful to have some phrases handy that you don’t even have to think about, such as:
“This isn’t working for me. We need to figure out a different arrangement.”
“That isn’t going to work for me. Let’s talk about how we can adjust it so that it works for both/all of us.”
“I’ve been clear about ________, and this isn’t okay with me. How are we going to fix it?”
“This isn’t what we agreed to, and this isn’t okay with me.”
“I don’t like that. Could we try this?”
What other phrases can you think of that you could use to express that you are not okay with the boundary violation in progress? Collect some applicable phrases for yourself so that you are ready to speak up for yourself as needed – without the sort of anger and frustration that so often erupts from feelings of helplessness and despair because we don’t know how to – or are unable to – speak up for ourselves. People who can calmly and clearly state their needs and boundaries don’t often tend to (or need to) get angry. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with anger either. Anger can be a strong signal that someone has violated your boundaries. Some situations deserve anger.
Finally (for now – this is just scratching the surface of this topic), you get to choose how serious each of your boundaries is for you – and what the consequences are if someone doesn’t respect them. There can be smaller consequences, such as, “If you don’t plan ahead and give me at least two days notice, then my answer will be no.” Or, “If you are more than 15 minutes late without giving me the courtesy of contacting me, I will leave.” Those consequences can escalate however you want them to. For example: “If you are late again without contacting me, I will not make any future plans with you.” Some people don’t care if someone is on time or not. For some people, it is very important to them. We get to decide. If it feels to us like an important part of respect and consideration for our time, then we probably don’t want to have someone in our life who repeatedly disrespects us and our time by repeatedly being late without even bothering to check in. If we decide that the person is worth the aggravation, then we can adjust our boundary for them, accept them as they are, and bring a book to entertain us while we wait. I can’t say that, though, without thinking that we teach people how to treat us by what we tolerate. Think carefully about what you are willing to tolerate – and ask yourself if that serves you and your life.
A little over four years ago, in a freak accident, I fell and broke both of my arms. Rods and screws in both wrists, the works. People tend to expect some crazy story – because, really – how does someone break both of their arms at the same time? Well, I was simply walking through a parking garage and stepped in a small hole I hadn’t noticed, lost my balance and fell forward. I caught myself with my arms out in sort of a push-up position (something that I had actually done many times before in my life with no injury at all) and watched with a sort of disbelief and horror as both of my arms visibly snapped above my wrists.
The reason I’m bringing this up today – is that I fell in virtually the exact same way this morning. I was helping my friend move some stuff in her driveway. I stepped on an uneven part of the pavement and before I knew it, I was catching myself with my arms in front of me. Just like in that parking garage, I hadn’t had even a second to think – I just instinctively landed with my arms like that. There were some metal bars that my hands landed on and it stung for a second, but I walked away from the experience uninjured. I immediately felt like there was a message for me there – partly to do with trusting the Universe and partly to do with nothing happens that isn’t meant to happen.
When I was a kid, I was a rough and tumble athlete. I fell on purpose regularly, practiced falling, imagining myself a football or baseball hero. On the tennis court, I reached for a ball or even dove for a ball many times, landing myself in a tumble. No harm done. And then there were the many times that I rolled my ankle wearing the slide shoes that my mom always told me to stop wearing because they didn’t provide enough support … and I kept rolling my ankle and falling. I am no stranger to falling – I know how to take a fall, how to roll out of a fall, how to catch myself. And yet, that one time, that ONE time, I had a very serious injury. WHY? Also, I’m older now. Why didn’t today’s fall hurt me? (I mean, I’m grateful that it didn’t, but it got me thinking.)
I learned a lot of lessons when I broke both arms – lessons that I wouldn’t have learned if something so extreme hadn’t happened. I learned who was there for me in my life and who wasn’t. My best friend at the time was someone who I had helped in multiple ways over the previous years, giving her money, babysitting for her, feeding her and her child regularly, doing all kinds of things for her. I found out the true state of our friendship when I was completely helpless. She was not willing to lift one single finger to help me. Ours was a one-way friendship. I could have seen that earlier, honestly maybe did see that, but ignored it because I loved her child so much. Nobody could have told me. Words would not have convinced me. How she treated me when I was in such desperate need was the only thing that could have made me see the light. After all I’d done for her and all of the meals I’d made for her, when I didn’t have the use of my hands … there were no meals for me, there was no help for me – she had nothing for me.
I was renting a room in the house she shared with her baby’s father at the time of the accident. I actually had to leave and go stay with someone else because my “friend” was so unwilling to help me. Can you imagine? Even so, after I’d healed and returned “home,” I let it all slide and allowed her to continue using me for another year. When her car died, I let her borrow my car all of the time, at my own expense and inconvenience. I rearranged my life for her to make her life easier. I clearly hadn’t learned yet at that point to have healthy boundaries. So, the Universe sent another painful lesson.
She found some other people, a couple, who would take her in, help her out financially, and provide her with transportation, so she took her child and left the house we were living in to go live with them. This wouldn’t have been so bad, I suppose, except that she abruptly cut off all communication with me and refused to allow her son to interact with me. This was a child who had spent almost the entirety of his first five years of life with me up to that point and I loved him like my own, we were very close. Now, he wasn’t allowed to even wave at me or look at me if we saw each other in the neighborhood, much less talk with me. It was a very painful and confusing time for both the child and me. Fortunately, his father and I remained friends and I’ve remained able to have contact with my godson through him. Now, what were the lessons there?
For starters, I learned to not ignore the signs of relationships being imbalanced or unfair. I learned to develop boundaries around how I was willing to be treated and valued in any sort of relationship (I had more lessons in that arena with a very disappointing business relationship after that, but it’s all lessons – I learn and grow). I learned more about myself, actually, and how to prioritize myself more in my own life and relationships. I learned that I needed to cultivate more mutual relationships – and that I needed to be able to receive as well as to give. I also learned that when I have needs, the Universe provides – often in completely unexpected ways.
See, when I was completely helpless, an angel who was a retired nurse stepped up to help me. At the time, she was more of an acquaintance than a friend – we didn’t know each other well. Still, she took me into her home and took care of me for two months and became one of my dearest friends. I one hundred percent believe that friendship unfolding as it has was – and is – Divinely orchestrated. A very important lesson for me in that situation was to learn to receive. That’s a lesson that I still struggle with a bit, because I’m much more comfortable with giving than I am with receiving. I like to be generous. I like to help people. And the reality is that I’ve always struggled with being able to accept other people’s help and generosity. A core fear from my childhood has been that of being “more trouble than I’m worth.” So, I’ve tried not to be any trouble at all. I’ve tried to be helpful, useful, worth having around.
The Universe has brought me to my knees multiple times in the past several years, where I’ve had no other choice than to accept help from others – even when I’ve had nothing to offer in return. When I was having cancer treatment in another state, several friends stepped up to take me into their homes and give me sanctuary and healing space. When I couldn’t even hold a fork, my friend fed me – nourishing not just my body, but my spirit. I’ve struggled financially over the past few years and I’ve had friends rent inexpensive rooms to me in their homes. And now, during this pandemic, when I’ve been unemployed and come to the point of having no money to even pay a little rent, family and friends have taken me in. It’s been humbling and not easy for me emotionally, but I have to say that it’s also made me feel loved and valued for me – not for what I can do for others, but just for me, just for existing. That is a lesson/message that I didn’t even know how much I needed. I’m still processing that one.
So, back to this morning. The fall that didn’t hurt me. The message that the Universe has got me and that my life is Divinely Guided. I’ve spent these past many months looking forward with some fear and trepidation and, honestly, despair. What would become of me? How was I going to survive? I didn’t see a path forward for me. I’m only 56 – was this going to be the end of the road for me? I haven’t been able to find a job since my job ended last June – and not for a lack of trying. I started this online healing/counseling practice on my own, but it isn’t even close to supporting me (yet). I’ve been worrying how I was going to make it. And then I got this message this morning.
The security of the money that I used to have was an illusion. It’s all gone now. It didn’t protect me. And yet, here I am. Still alive. Still have a roof over my head. Still am not going hungry – food is being provided for me. My life is still good even though I barely have any money (super grateful for the survival checks!). I could start panicking if I look a few months ahead and wonder if I’m going to be able to keep making my car payment or if I’m going to lose my car too. But I’m not going to do that. You know why? Because I’m going to trust the Universe. Because when I fell and didn’t get hurt this morning, the message I received was that the Universe has me – and that everything happens for a Divine Purpose, in the right way and at the right time. The Universe has always provided for me, and even though from my limited human perspective I don’t see how that will happen in the future, I do expect that to continue. Nothing happens that isn’t meant to happen, and what’s meant to happen, happens. I may not always understand it, but I do have faith in that. I’m holding onto that faith.
I’m working on a lot of projects, both personal and professional, and I wanted to share some links to some of what I’ve got going on. I’m more active right now on my blogs than on my IG accounts, but there’s some good content you might enjoy on all of the following links.
I’m excited to introduce a new blog that I’ve been thinking about doing for over two years now. It’s about my journey in managing my blood sugar naturally after a diabetes diagnosis. It isn’t just what supplements I’m taking, what foods I’m eating, how much I’m exercising, etc. It does (or will) include some of that too – things I’ve found helpful, recipes I like – but it’s more about what’s going on with me in various aspects of my life as I navigate this path – and how I’m dealing with my emotions and mental health, which have also been impacted by this diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed, I was scared and confused and didn’t know what to do. I’m hoping this blog, My Dance With Diabetes, will help people feel less alone and offer some good ideas.
On my personal blog, I share about different things that capture my attention as I move along this path of life.
On Instagram, I have three accounts:
Red Flags In Relationships – which is just like it sounds: thoughts about what signs to look for in relationships as warnings that you may want to pay closer attention to whether or not this is a beneficial relationship for you – and what part you may be playing in those dynamics. I also have a workbook out on Amazon, based on these red flags, that helps you to assess your own relationship/s and how they are meeting/matching up with (or not) your relationship goals and desires.
Thanks for reading. I’m just trying to do my part, as I’m inspired, to create a little more love, compassion, pleasure, joy, acceptance, space, and happiness in the world. I hope you find my work/writings helpful. Take care!
A few years ago, I was at a business conference where a friend introduced me to her friend, with whom she was sitting with during a dinner break in the hotel restaurant. My friend had told her friend about my product/invention and her friend wanted to try it. Sure! I said, and ran out to my car to get a set of Driving Wedges. I came back with them, showed her how to use them – and in less than a minute, she said she wanted to buy them. I was a little surprised at that very fast, very sure commitment to buying them, but then she explained: she had a prosthetic leg and the wedges gave her immediate pain relief by taking the weight of that leg off of her hip. That was an application which I’d never even thought of!
Although I was finally awarded both utility and design patents for the Driving Wedges, due to a variety of circumstances (cancer, falling and breaking both arms, etc.), I ran out of money and ended up closing my business. Sadly, Driving Wedges are no longer for sale or in production. I was thinking about this on a 12 hour drive I had the other day. I am so grateful that I have a set of Driving Wedges! They were expensive in terms of how much I spent to get them patented and produced – but so worth it! I don’t know how I’d make the drive without them! They keep my legs and hips comfortable and aligned. Without them, my legs would get cramps (especially around my left knee), and my hips and lower back would ache. I even used to get cramps in my upper shoulders on long drives before I started using the Driving Wedges. When the hip alignment goes, the whole back suffers.
What’s happening now is that I have five or six cases of them sitting in the basement of a friend’s house – and I need to get them out. I have nowhere to put them. I don’t have my own place and I can’t afford storage right now. I can’t sell them because I no longer have a business license and can’t afford to get one. At this point, I am happy to donate them, just so they go to good use. I have around 125-150 sets that could help people! They could help anyone who drives a lot (or sits a lot) – but what I’d really like to do is find a clinic or two where the doctors would like to test them out on their patients – see if they help. I was thinking for people with prosthetic legs, but I’m also thinking that they could help significantly with anyone with hip pain/problems. It’s worth a try! That’s where I could use your help – connect me with some doctors/clinics that might be interested in receiving this donation so that I can talk to them about this opportunity. Who do you know that is dedicated to helping people get out of pain?
Here is the Facebook page that can give you a lot more information about them. Here is a You Tube video about them (note: the website referenced at the end is no longer active). And here is a Quirky podcast interview I did about the wedges years ago. These really have the potential to help so many people! I’d like to at least give away the ones I have to someone who could help people with them.
Please comment below or email me at email@example.com. Thanks in advance for your help!
A long time ago (like 40 years or so), I first heard the concept that people who choose suicide don’t usually actually want to die – in fact, they want more life, more for their lives – they want to be more alive! It may have been a line from the movie Ordinary People. At any rate, that concept always struck me as true. I think it could also apply to other mental/emotional health issues, such as anxiety and depression. When we feel these things, isn’t it just possible that we are out of balance with ourselves, with what we want – and even need – more of (or possibly less of) in our lives in order to have our lives feel fulfilling and to feel peace within our own selves?
Now, I’m not a mental health professional – and I do realize that sometimes it is brain chemistry or other issues that are causing problems. However, I am trained in energy healing and in observing the energetic flows and impacts of various influences on our bodies, minds, and emotions. For example, I can feel areas in the body where chi (energy) is blocked. I can feel places in a home where the energy is blocked. Clutter is not without energetic consequences to your body, mind, and emotions! Holding ourselves back from our passions blocks energy. Trauma often gets locked in the body tissues, impacting our bodies, minds, emotions, and lives in countless ways that we may not even be aware of. Internal conflict about difficult decisions can paralyze us mentally and emotionally, causing us to feel tired, hopeless, and/or depressed. The list of emotional states that can impact our mental health and general vitality is extensive.
So, what do we do if we find ourselves feeling trapped in our own minds, stuck in our lives, too tired and overwhelmed to move forward? Well, first of all, being evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional to rule out physical causes is a good idea. Beyond that, though, what can we do to help ourselves shake off the doldrums and the lethargy that have us unable to move in directions that get us closer to the lives which we want to be living? We need to reach for MORE.
Motivating. We all need to find or create positive things in our lives (relationships, places, experiences, music, dance, foods, play, etc.) that make us want to get out of bed in the morning, that make us want to keep breathing, that fill us up inside. What motivates you? Make a list of everything you can think of, big or small, that makes you feel motivated. In business, trainers often ask for your why? For many people, their why includes things like taking care of their family, their children particularly. But in addition to that, I’m asking you to just consider your Self for a moment. What motivates you? What brings you aliveness? What brings you joy? What makes you laugh? What gives you reasons to continue on? What are the things that drive and motivate you? What are the things that bring you pleasure along the way?
Maybe your list includes writing (or finishing) a novel. You are motivated and want to get that done. But maybe that’s too ambitious for you today or you feel stalled on that at the moment. Personally, I don’t find it helpful to keep pushing. If I’m forcing myself, then I’m not going to count that as something for which I feel motivated or something which is motivating me. You don’t have to force yourself to do anything that you truly feel motivated to do! I believe that it’s healthy to wait for the motivation (or muses) to come back. Until then, to get through the day – or even to start the day – I may need to go with something smaller. I can’t count the days that a delicious breakfast has been my motivation to get out of bed. Giving myself a tranquil morning of pleasure can be the impetus I need to get moving in other, more productive directions (not that productivity is always a mandate either, but that’s a whole other subject).
Sometimes, we are rushing off to work and we need to be creative about the ways in which we can provide ourselves the sort of motivations that get us through our days. For many of us, our commute is a nightmare. How can you make it pleasurable for yourself? Whether listening to your favorite music or podcasts, taking a more scenic route (if that’s available), or stopping on the way for your favorite bagel or coffee or other treat, what can you do to allow yourself to feel excited as you go through your day? At work, do you have co-workers with whom you enjoy talking, laughing, collaborating? What are the moments that make you feel grateful to be alive (in addition to whatever you are accomplishing)? Wherever you go and whatever you are doing, you need to find what is motivating for you. And perhaps some things in life are just what you must endure – even then, what motivates you to get through that? What can you hang onto until you can reach better times ahead?
Orienting. It’s easy to feel disoriented in life – especially during a pandemic or other major and even minor life crises. Everything is changing all of the time – and although we hear that all of the time, we often don’t grasp the emotional impact that has on us. Our jobs change. Our living situations change. Our relationships shift and change over time. The people that we thought would always be with us – the relationships around which we have created our identities – may fall away. People die, divorces happen, friendships struggle and sometimes end – and there we are, often feeling like we don’t even know who we are anymore. Especially when someone dies, life feels surreal for a long time. When important relationships shift or end, we can feel set adrift. Who are we without that person in our lives – or that relationship defining who we are? When children grow up and stop being the center of our lives and focus, then what? There are so many times and ways in which we feel at a loss to move forward.
When we don’t know how to move forward, maybe we need to just give ourselves a break – and a heaping dose of grace – and allow ourselves time to be still. We actually continue to be here – to exist – as improbable as that may seem. Our breath is still moving in and out of our lungs. The clouds are still floating across the sky, the wind still blowing through the trees. Let us find the things that can orient us, ground us, connect us into this life.
What are the things that orient you? What can you do to feel happy to be alive regardless of if anyone else is around? For some people that may be yoga or hiking or simply sitting by a creek. For some people that may be baking or gardening or meditation. For some people that may be painting or drawing or riding a bike or motorcycle. Those activities that fill you – those non-activities that allow you to breathe – they all help orient you to life. They all help you feel connected to life even when a lot of things don’t make sense and you could easily get lost in your mind in grief or despair or other painful and confusing emotions. Not that we want to avoid those emotions – on the contrary, we must feel to heal – however, even as we do our work of feeling and healing, we must also find ways to stay connected to the threads of what helps us feel oriented to ongoing life.
Recharging. Sadly, our society doesn’t value relaxing and recharging as much as those necessary components of our lives deserve. Our constant push for productivity, both at work and even in play, has created a society where a lot of people have no idea of how to just be, much less how to recharge. Many people tend to feel guilty when they are just sitting around doing nothing – they’ve forgotten how to simply be (if they ever even knew that state of being). Do you remember lying in the grass as a kid, watching clouds float by? Did you even ever get to experience that? Or playing kick the can or freeze tag or 4-square or some other made-up game with the neighborhood kids?
It seems like nowadays, there’s always pressure to have even leisure be organized. Games are turned into competitions or organized sports. Everything in exercise is measured rather than enjoyed for the fun of it. People are chastised for sitting around reading for fun and pleasure, or for other “unproductive” things. Even though most people spend a significant amount of time watching TV, we are made to feel guilty about that – and oftentimes, people just check out, not even really paying attention as we scroll through our social media feeds while paying only marginal attention to what’s happening on the bigger screen. I’m not saying that any of that is “bad” per se, but that it isn’t necessarily recharging. Do these ways in which we spend our leisure time actually fill us back up? Do they give us energy? Rejuvenate us? Fulfill us? Make our lives better or more enjoyable? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I’m just asking you to take a look at what recharges you … and also, what drains you.
Sometimes we may feel like just checking out with some mindless TV. Sometimes we feel like a silly movie that makes us laugh. Sometimes we’re up for a deeper movie that makes us think. For many people, spending time outside in nature is restorative. For others, being outside at any time may feel stressful. While it is certainly advantageous to try a variety of things, I don’t think it is of benefit to ever force yourself to do something that you really don’t enjoy. The things that recharge you will appeal to you, not stress you out. Recharging isn’t about adding things to your “to do” list – on the contrary, it is about giving yourself the time and space that you need to fill your own energy batteries – physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual – in the ways that resonate with you. That may be naps. That may be long walks in nature or wherever you have access to safe paths. That may be laughing with children. That may be sitting by a lake and watching the water move. That may be pulling oracle cards and/or meditating. What fuels you? What recharges you? Pay attention to how your energy feels and you will learn what you need.
Energizing. Beyond recharging your human batteries which may be running low from work or emotional stress or life stress or the countless demands on your time and attention, what are the things that truly energize you? I’ll tell you how to spot those things. They are the things that excite you. Pay attention and you’ll notice them. Write them down. Make a list. Keep that list handy. Do those things as often as you can.
Here’s how to recognize them. Pay attention to the energy level in your body. It’s kind of easy to spot the things that drain you. Ever get invited to do something and suddenly everything in you just wants to take a nap? Conversely, ever been literally lying down on the couch with no energy to even move, then you get invited to do something and suddenly you are up and ready to go with all of the energy in the world? That latter thing? Yeah, write that down. That is something that energizes you. That is something that you need to fill your life with as much as possible. When I say “as much as possible,” I don’t mean all of the time. You still need to pay attention to your physical limits and energy levels. Your human body still needs down time, rest and recharge time. But do notice what makes you want to jump up and get going!
So much of the time, we dull our enthusiasm. We get in our own way. We stop ourselves from doing the things we want to do, from saying the things we want to say, from having the relationships we want to have. We tell ourselves before we even try that we can’t have that. We convince ourselves not to try, then we sit on our own energy and desires – and wonder why we feel tired and depressed. We trap ourselves in lives that don’t feel meaningful or happy or fulfilling to us because we become too afraid to reach for something more – or because we’re out of touch with what is our MORE. We wait for permission from someone else to take a chance or to be invited to do something we want to do. What if we stopped waiting? What if we started recognizing what is our MORE – and started choosing to create our lives going forward with those things in mind?
Let me leave you with one final thought about MORE. Being human isn’t easy – it never has been, it never will be. Give yourself a break. Give yourself lots of love and grace. Let yourself make mistakes and do things imperfectly. Let yourself speak what is true for you in the moment, even if it feels awkward and you don’t know how it will turn out. Be willing, to the extent you can, to take chances, to be authentic, to allow yourself to LIVE! And when you need to hide, hide. When you are ready to come back out and try again, let yourself. Support yourself in whatever ways you learn that you need. Do what you need to do to claim your MORE. If you ever need professional help, reach out for that. There is no shame whatsoever in seeking out mental/emotional health treatment! The truth is that most people would benefit from that – wise people are willing and open to get the help they need. Whatever helps you to carry on, to make it to the next day, even to keep breathing in this moment – just allow yourself to have that MORE which sustains you.
Like I said, I’m not a mental health professional, but if you would like some coaching in regard to finding your MORE or in helping to identify energetic blocks and releasing them, I am available. You can find me here. My best wishes to you for your happiest, most fulfilling life!
I spent my youth and a significant part of my adult life with the attitude that being self-critical – and even hating myself – was somehow “cool” – that it made me “deep,” “edgy,” and interesting. I actually thought it was arrogant and embarrassing to ever say I liked myself, thought I did a good job at anything, or heaven forbid, loved myself!
When my daughter was born, I somehow innately knew that if I were to give her the love she deserved, that I was going to have to learn to love myself. My self-love journey began. I read a ton of books, did a lot of journaling, attended workshops – and over the years, learned to deeply love and support myself. Today, I have no problem saying I love myself – even though I still have faults and flaws, I love ALL of me.
The workshops that were most helpful to me were the HAI (Human Awareness Institute) weekend workshops. Somewhere along the line, I started to think of that critical voice droning on inside of my head as “the imposter” (I believe that concept was from a teaching at a shamanic de-armoring workshop). I began a campaign of fierce self-love and unconditional self-acceptance. I wrote love letters to myself regularly – and in them, I included embracing and loving the parts of me that aren’t so spectacular. I still do that. What I’d like to share with you here are some paths that I have taken over the years to self-love. This is not a comprehensive list. There are many paths to self-love – but here’s a start.
Make a pact to have your own back, to be in your own corner. It seems so basic, but don’t say negative things about yourself. (Pro-tip: refraining from even saying negative things about others helps you in this endeavor – because when you’re critical of others, that condemning, judgmental energy tends to come back and get you too). Many of us say harsh things to ourselves that we’d never say to anyone else. Don’t allow those cruel voices in your head to continue unchallenged.
When you find your mind going down those familiar roads of self-criticism, you can: 1) Say to yourself, “Stop. We’re not talking like that to me anymore.” Make your boundaries clear to that imposter voice inside your head, “This is not how we’re doing business anymore. You do not get to talk to me like that. I am a sacred being.” 2) Fill yourself up with love. “I love you – even when you are not doing as well as you would like (that sort of thing, whatever it may be) – I love you!” Give yourself that love and appreciation on a regular basis.
Note: You don’t have to “earn” your love, value, worthiness – you are those, you have those – these are integral to your existence. You have nothing to prove or earn. You deserve love.
Don’t tolerate negativity from other people about who you are. If other people are negative toward you, don’t let that in! Have your own back. Defend yourself as necessary. Sometimes defending yourself means walking away and protecting your own energy. You can admit if you’re wrong or if you’ve made a mistake, but being wrong and making mistakes just makes you human, not a bad person. You can adjust things that are wrong or ineffective or not beneficial in ways to be more beneficial for you and others in your life, but there is no reason to be self-critical or to allow anyone else to belittle you. “I’m not always as considerate or thoughtful as I would like to be. I’m not always the person I would like to be, but I still love me deeply and I’m still worthy of love and of being treated with kindness and respect.”
Know your worth. Respect your boundaries and your unique beingness. You matter. You are worthy of love. Know it. Own it. Live it.
Write yourself love letters and love notes. I have a sample love letter on an Instagram post. When you write, be sure to include the parts of you that aren’t ideal. It’s easy to love the parts of ourselves that we get approval for out in the world, but what about the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden? Your anxious self needs love too. Your anger, your insecurity, and everything else that is a part of you needs love too. Really, deeply think about you and all of the parts of you that make up you – and write your unconditional love for yourself.
I found that doing this not only helped me to love me, but also helped me to overcome shame over any part of me – and to truly OWN my Self. This is not to say that I never feel a twinge of shame or the pain of not being accepted as I am by others, but that my recovery time is much faster – and I get back to self-love and a good place much quicker than I used to. In fact, when I feel hurt, my remedy is some love words to myself – a short note, or a longer letter, whatever I need to work it out that I am loved, that I love me! Reaffirm your love for yourself constantly. “I love me ALL the time!”
Gaze into your eyes in the mirror; do “mirror work.” This path to self-love, I learned at HAI workshops. Looking in your own eyes in a mirror, work up to five minutes a day – while connecting with your own eyes/soul in the mirror, say, “I love you” over and over again. You can elaborate if you like: “I love you. I love the human being that you are. You are worthy of all good things. You are worthy and deserving of love, of kindness, of compassion, of empathy. I love you so much.” Say what you need to hear – but most of all, say, “I love you.” Give that to yourself.
Once you’ve got that really down, you won’t need to spend five minutes doing that every day – but every time you look into the mirror, smile at yourself. Smile into your eyes and say, “I love you!” at least once a day – give yourself that reinforcement. “You and I are in this together!”
Make a commitment to yourself – kind of like marriage. I got this concept from a HAI workshop as well. You can write something similar to marriage vows to yourself if you want. You are, after all, going to be with your Self until the end. Don’t you think you might want to make some promises to you? “I love you and I will be with you until death and beyond. I love you and I will do everything in my power to protect you and to make your life joyous and happy and playful and loving.”
Take some time to write down all of the commitments you’d like to make to yourself. Yes, you can adjust them over time as you change and grow. In fact, renewing your vows at least every year (on your anniversary?) is a good idea! You can even do a ceremony. Light some candles, have a mirror. Say your vows to yourself. Make it holy. Make it sacred. Hold yourself in sacred reverence. “I have a sacred reverence for you, my beloved.” Make that true for your life.
Note: Every once in a while, I have an imposter voice butt in and demand, “Who do you think you are to think you’re so wonderful?” Well, who I think I am is a human being just like everybody else! – and we ALL deserve love and compassion and kindness. Return again and again to a deep and abiding love of the Self.
Say “I love you” to yourself multiple times a day. Make it a normal part of your self-conversation. Just throw it in regularly. Be your own BFF, best friend forever. Be your own champion. We spend so much time seeking love and approval from outside of ourselves. Be that love for yourself. Do nice things for yourself. Be considerate of yourself and honor your own needs and desires as much as you can.
I record a lot of voice memos because ideas occur to me at times (like while driving) when I can’t write them down. No matter what the topic, at the end of the voice memo, I say, “I love you, Kat.” Because I feel like I’ve been talking to my Self – and I want to, just like I would when I’m talking to anyone I love, express my love as I’m ending the call. Why not? Express your love for yourself regularly! Cherish yourself. Truly!
I’m going to talk about self-love and relationships in another post – there’s too much to say here – but your own self-love (or lack thereof) affects all of your relationships as well. More on that coming soon!
Embrace your body, your nudity, and your sexuality. We have an epidemic of poor body image in this world. This is by the design of people and corporations that profit in multiple ways by keeping us living in fear and shame regarding our natural bodies. We don’t have to accept that. We can choose to embrace our bodies, to love our bodies as they are, to become comfortable in our own skin, whether we are clothed or nude.
Take time to appreciate every bit of your body from your toes to the top of your head. Appreciate the miracle that is you – and be sure to include your genitals, your breasts, and your belly – any and all parts of the body about which we’ve been taught in so many ways to feel inadequate and ashamed. Love and appreciate the color of your skin, whatever it is. Everything about you and your body is a sacred miracle. Hold that space for your body and your Self.
Becoming comfortable with our own nude body is a very healing thing. Becoming comfortable with the consensual nudity of others is also a very healing thing. It’s important to understand that nudity and sexuality are not the same thing! I would totally recommend spending time at nudist beaches, resorts, and campgrounds – because when you can see that we’re all just human, and you can accept your own humanity and that of other people, it can create a peace inside that is beyond words. If you decide to check out social nudism, check in with AANR, the American Association for Nude Recreation, so that you can find safe, family-friendly places to go.
There is a huge gift in accepting your sexuality as it is – accepting what gives you pleasure – and what does not – and not feeling shame around that, either way. Being able to feel joy and ease regarding your sexual pleasure and sexual attractions is wonderful. “This gives me pleasure and I’m attracted to (whatever/whomever).” How would it feel to embrace your full sexuality, including whom you love, and with whom you want to be sexual, and what your attractions are, and what your attractions are not, and the ways in which you do NOT want to be sexual? Make it all okay, whether you want to be very sexual (consensually, of course if other people are involved) or not sexual at all. Can you imagine? No shame? Just sexual joy? Or nonsexual joy? Whatever your preference?
Give Yourself Some Grace: We are only human. We will have good days and bad days, celebrations and challenges. We will make mistakes – even in love, even in self-love. It’s part of life. We need to allow space for ourselves to be human, and the grace to keep returning to love. Loving ourselves is a worthy endeavor that not only improves life for us, but also for everyone who loves us – as well as for everyone with whom we have any connection or even passing interaction. Because when we love ourselves, we spread love in the world. Loving ourselves is not selfish, it is necessary. I like the term, “self-full.” Perhaps we should examine the nuances of the word “selfish” – and understand that while altruism can be admirable at times, looking out for our own needs and well-being is also essential. We need to look for ways to create situations that are beneficial for all concerned – and we can start by being aware of what is beneficial for our own lives. Self-love is a good place to start. You deserve it!