Category Archives: awareness & action

Get Out of the Car

Standard

bentley-1422953_960_720

“Get out from your house, from your cave, from your car. Get out from the place you feel safe, from the place that you are. Get out and go running, go funning, go wild. Get out from your head, get growing, dear child.” Unknown

Last week, I vlogged about our minister getting a nudge from God when he asked what to do next with his life. He “heard” go to a football game, get to know people, and talk about relationships, especially the one with God. It sounded simple enough until he pulled into the stadium parking lot and drove around and around instead of going in. That’s when he heard another message, “Get out of the car.”

The very next day, I blogged about my urge when I’m in pain … to get in my car and drive to California. A friend drove the point home in just a few words when he commented on the post, “Procrastination thrives on pain.” He’s right. It sure does, which means if we plan to do anything except drive in circles or drive to California, we have to get out of the car.

So, what does getting out look like?

public-parking-2287718_960_720

Ever since I wrote a post, “Letting Go … what it looks like,” in response to a friend asking about that topic, I’ve thought how helpful it’d be to do the same with every plan of action. Getting out of the car looks different for each of us, but we typically find common ground that either keeps us in the car or gets us out.

Getting out of the car looks like …

balloons-1331564_960_720

First, I acknowledge I’m in the driver’s seat. I’m responsible, so I think about the next easiest step I can take. I think “incremental.” I ask what one thing I can do today and I do it. I don’t add it to tomorrow’s list like I’m tempted to do. I don’t do five other things before the one thing. I don’t exhaust myself by procrastinating. Okay, sometimes I do, but this is even more reason to do the next right thing. Distractions are how we tire and frustrate ourselves. If I’m overwhelmed, I ask, “What feels manageable right this second?”

Second, I stop stalling and start doing. I stop talking about getting out of the car and telling others to get out of their cars. I stop reading books about it and watching one more webinar unless it helps with momentum. Wynn Godbold, a friend, speaker, and John Maxwell team member, said, “You don’t need another course. You need to write your book.”

I pay attention to nudges (and shoves) from friends and mentors like Wynn. The simplest first step out of the car can be the hardest, as well as the most significant.

Third, I review my goals every morning like recommended by virtual mentor Michael Hyatt. Before a week was up, I found myself thinking, I remember my goals, so I can move on. However, remembering isn’t the point. Motivation is. Each time I read my goals, I’m more determined to accomplish them. I don’t know why it works, but it does.

Fourth, I mark off one personal goal and one professional goal daily before I check social media. Not really, but it’s a goal toward my goals. The good news is I’m doing it more days than not, which means my Fitbit is working hard and so am I.

Fifth, I rein in reacting. I’ve given little attention to how often I put my goals to one side until noticing I put my blog aside in April and for no good reason. I wasn’t helping anyone, only worrying about them. The same happens when I try to avoid being judged, steer clear of making mistakes, and dodge negative attention – I’m not helping anyone and it’s bothersome to scrap my goals. And notice I said “try to avoid” because, unlike goals, judgment, mistakes, and negative attention have lives of their own and happen anyway. Goals only happen when I risk those things and get out of the car.

Until I wrote down these tips, I’ve been hit-and-miss at following them. From now on, though, I’ll practice intentionally since I know what to look for. Are there one or two that may help you get out of the car?

In This Together,
Kim

2017, A Great Year

Standard

great-271100_960_720

“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness

The day before our son received a cancer diagnosis in late February, he wrote a rare post on Facebook, “New job, new city, and bringing a new life into our family … 2017 is shaping up to be a great year!”

He’d texted me earlier that month to say the year was off to a great start because Clemson University, his alma mater, brought home the 2016 National Championship.

At the end of last year, I overheard him telling his dad about 2017 being great since he and his wife had several promising things in the works.

My stomach tightened each time I heard “great,” and not because I didn’t think 2017 held a lot of possibility, but because sometimes we don’t perceive great in the same way God perceives it.

Almost a decade later, I still remember my “great” year that brought me to my knees. I wrote about it here, “The year was 2008 …

Great typically requires footwork, and a lot of it. It means change and not always the kind we want. Coming into greatness often means walking through trials and feeling emotions we hadn’t factored in when we did our planning.

Great means being in relationship with God, in relationship with others, and living our purpose.

I had doubts about whether our family had worked out matters of the heart enough to usher in greatness. Like in Romans 2:29, the verse says “heart matters” are the heart of the matter for God. Since I didn’t think we’d gotten that far yet, I questioned what it’d take to make it happen.

What would “great” cost us?

I was bothered enough to mention my son’s text in February’s blog post, “It’s Always Something.” Even though I trusted what I wrote, I still felt uneasy about the messiness I mentioned, “My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because it is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.”

For one minute, I wished I had not prayed long and hard for us, asking for realness and restoration and godly relationships minus the things that sometimes come alongside like devastation and humiliation. I’ve held my breath while we have skirted those last two.

Just before our son’s biopsy confirmed stage 1 cancer, not the result we hoped for, he and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, had a baby scare. Thankfully those test results turned out well.

Less than a week after my husband John and I returned home following our son’s surgery, John’s 87-year-old dad took a fall, hit his head on a brick stair, and was rushed into surgery. Doctors did all they could over the next fourteen days, but last week we said goodbye to Pop Pop. He died the day before Easter.

In light of reassuring calls and messages, friendship, and signs that life was happening as intended, my stomach calmed down and so did my spirit.

Historic Great Cross at St. Augustine, Florida at sunrise

 

I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I was witnessing the price of greatness.

While John listened to his dad’s surgeon talk to the family in the Neuro-ICU waiting room, he leaned close and whispered, “Is this what great looks like?”

I believe it is, and we notice it most during times like these.

Great is recognizing our dependence on God.

Great is cherishing others’ demonstration of God’s love.

Great is acknowledging God’s goodness when we have to let go of things we want to control and keep.

Finally, great is learning the lessons God teaches by way of suffering, grief, and letting go because He calls us to the emotional journey before He allows us to take the action journey.

In other words, He prepares us for the great things (great according to Him) that He’s put in front of us to do.

How great is your year? It’s not so much about our surroundings as it is about coming around to Him.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks, Pixabay, for photos of the Great Wall of China and the historic Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida.

I Can Throw A Tantrum Too (a long political post my daughter said I had to write if we want to sell our house)

Standard

angry-1256467_960_720

“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” Unknown

Although I’ve objected to adding additional political rhetoric to the pile, I also don’t want to die. I sound theatrical, I know, but almost dying is intense, painful, and terrifying. I came too close when I shut up and shut down a few years ago. I’m not going back there. #selfcaringin2017

While I admire friends who seem not to notice the turmoil while posting puppies and pansies, I don’t want to imitate other friends who post flowers I suspect have root rot. I’m sensitive, so I can almost feel through the screen their misery of having to keep up a pleasant image and people pleasing while pretty much hating half their friends. I especially don’t want the latter. I’d rather pile on the rhetoric.

So, I took some time and decided how to throw my own tantrum, convincing myself it’s okay since Jesus turned over tables in the temple. If He can get angry, so can I. As well, I tried making my tantrums as harmless as possible, not attacking individuals, and meaningful. I want to make a difference, not just a bunch of noise. My daughter heard a missionary say the opposite of cynicism is not what we’d think, which is being positive.

The opposite of cynicism is taking action.

I contacted Nordstrom’s to remove my name from their email list, to let them know to keep their reward points, and to count on me to participate in the “grab your wallet” campaign at their competitors’ stores since the movement swings both ways. I sent a second email with a link to an article about Target’s faltering sales the company blames on online shopping. I, on the other hand, credit Target’s decline to getting involved unnecessarily in politics.

I left three messages on Belk’s Facebook page telling them they’d made a mistake joining the political movement, cancelled my Belk credit card, and searched for stores that carry lines like Clinique and department stores that steer clear of offending shoppers who’d prefer not to hear about their politics. I didn’t like that I got snippy with the fellow who cancelled my card, but he kept on (a little) reasoning why I should stay signed up. I overly thanked him at the end to make up for it.

I continue to limit my trips to Target, down from my usual three to four a week to a couple of times a month. I spend a quarter of what I used to in their stores, and not because they’re attentive to transgender people, but because they’re not attentive to conservative customers as well. Target had their chance to be sensitive without being offensive. The company had an opportunity to set an example, to offer a solution as simple as adding unisex restrooms to their stores that don’t already have them. My cousin recently took a corporate job with Wal-Mart, so I’m considering ditching Target altogether.

I left a message thanking Steinmart for staying out of politics, which shows respect for us all.

For me, this isn’t about a brand of clothing I’ve never tried on or where the clothes were manufactured. My issue is with respect and showing it for the silent majority that voted in a drastically different administration for the next four to eight years. At least half of our country either agreed enough with policies to vote Republican, opposed the opponent enough to throw up a roadblock, or felt disregarded, scared, or angry enough to allow into the White House what some see as a bizarre choice. However it came about, I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in at least four years – I’d been given back the right to be conservative. The next day, though, I got scared again because of raging and riots. I wondered for a second, “Can I change my vote, please? You know, so they’ll be nice again.”

ad-nauseum-1562850_960_720

I’m not naïve about tantrums. I’ve wanted to throw my own, but, like I said, I’m conservative, so I’ve kept how I felt under wraps. I, and others too, pandered to loose beliefs so we wouldn’t be called judgmental, racist, and uncaring. However, when you blatantly fly in the face of what I believe strongly enough and ignore me long enough, I’ll either get so afraid, so angry, or both, that I’ll finally throw my own version of a tantrum … quietly.

On my blog.

At the polls.

At the register.

It dazes crowds when quiet people start grunting and groaning. It’s like, “Where’s that noise coming from?” And then it’s, “Wait a minute. You have no right because you’re supposed to be quiet.” Finally it’s, “I’ll shame you back into being quiet.”

This explains, in part, why November’s election results were shocking. Half the country busied themselves either with complacency, talking up one person and talking down another, or shaming the group that planned to vote differently while the other half waited our turn to speak up … at the polls. Not that we weren’t bashing too, but we just couldn’t gain enough momentum to be heard until there was a hush over the country when the unexpected candidate won. A hush, and then a hedonistic uprising that looks destructive instead of purposeful. I hate being divided like this. I’ve read friends’ posts, some of the same ones posting pansies, who say let’s not talk about our country this way, but I can’t deny it and die.

I had a friend say, “I like you, we get along well, and I think you’re smart, so it’s hard to believe how you vote.” We no longer get together, and it’s not because of how either of us votes. Her arrogance is loud, and it permeates everything. It flies in the face of everything I believe in and everything I like. I’m not wholly humble, but I want to be more that way. I also want to sit across from someone who agrees that neither one of us has the right answers, but we know how we feel, so we talk about that.

Since my emotions are all over the place, I’ve taken drastic-for-me actions and cancelled a credit card, left messages with businesses that have stepped into the political arena, and written about it here because that’s what I do to heal and move on. I’ve put aside wanting to rise above talking about politics. I’m talking about it.

That way, I’m less scared and now maybe we’ll sell our house. I’ve convinced my grown kids that if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you stay stuck. We’re showing the house tomorrow, which is why I’m posting back-to-back blog posts. I think this is what I’m supposed to be writing, and so does my daughter, so maybe we’ll get an offer. #unstuck #lecturedbymychild

talk-to-me-993309_960_720

It’s unfortunate retailers like Belk (ranked the number one department store where conservatives shop), that claimed to be listening to customers, can’t discern that they’re only hearing the screamers. This is unfortunate everywhere. I’d like people to understand that not everyone who has an opinion is talking about it. The election proved that.

Too, it’s trending these days to be liberal and loose. I’ve had short jaunts in it myself. The candidate I said I believed in, spoke up because of, and spent hours campaigning for landed in federal prison even though he was a dynamic force while running for office in the 70’s. Then there was Jimmy Carter in 1977, and Obama, who I didn’t vote for, but I believed once he was in office would ease tension and set an optimistic example. I talked him up for a little while until I felt let down.

Again, it’s about how I feel, and emotions can kill us when we won’t talk, or think we can’t. #selfcaringin2017

I care about blogging through this political mess until I get to the creative place I want to be, and I hope it’s helping some of you to get there too. Feel free to share here constructively about how you feel unless, of course, you want to tell me you feel nauseous. A reader did that to be disdainful, and it’s really not cool. Also, feeling nauseous is not an emotion. #keepitkind #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #inthistogether

In This Together,
Kim

Love the pix, Pixabay.com. And thanks to my daughter for the most interesting couple of days. I appreciate your wisdom, guidance, and friendship.

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

Standard

angry-1296476_960_720

“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

defiance-1948023_960_720

I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

apple-570965_960_720

So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Where Have I Been???

Standard

blog-where-have-you-been-all-my-life

“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.

questions-1922477_960_720

Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.

shield-1784661_960_720

 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

It’s Not About Being Grateful

Standard

 

just-do-something-370229_960_720

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

In a book study years ago, a group leader chose a topic each week for us to discuss. Gratitude came up often, especially around Thanksgiving. Everyone gushed gratitude until my turn when I’d say, “I’m grateful I don’t have to be grateful for anything.”

So, when the story came up in church about the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the one about 10 of them being healed, but only one coming back to thank Jesus, I thought, I’m good with this now. I’ve had a change of heart and I’m all about gratitude. 

That was, until Rev. Stu Boehmig said, “The story’s not about being grateful.”

Huh? Then what is it about?

It never occurred to me the nine men who were healed from leprosy were, of course, grateful. After all, their healing meant being spared isolation. They were allowed to again worship in the synagogue, allowed to hug spouses and children who they couldn’t touch prior to their recovery, and given a second chance at life instead of physically deteriorating.

gratitude-1201945_960_720

 

However, only one made the effort to come back. Only one chased down Jesus and thanked him. Only one lived out his gratitude. Here’s what Biblegateway.com has to say about Ten Lepers and a Samaritan’s Faith when only the foreigner returns to give thanks, “Now what Jesus praises here is the Samaritan’s initiative.”

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

The story’s about action.

And it reminds me of a funny tale about our daughter’s former friend. He didn’t do much, but I’d come to his defense anyway and say, “He has potential.” It turned into a witticism when my father-in-law asked, “Potential to do what? It’s not helping him much.” From then on, we’d say about anyone who wasted their time and talent, “But they have potential … ”

Since the sermon, I’ve thought about my own healing from “leprosy” – a couple of years of isolation and deteriorating mental health due to depression – and how grateful I ought to be. Some people aren’t given a second chance when they suffer a debilitating mental illness. They disappear into alcohol or a pill bottle, an institution, or a grave.

I’ve also thought about turning my potential for gratitude into a practice of gratitude. I am grateful, just like the nine lepers were grateful, but it’s the tenth one who put his potential into practice. He took action.

Intentional. Deliberate. Purposeful.

And here’s the enlightening (and Twilight Zone-y) part of all of this for me. I glanced through the church bulletin to fact check this post when I noticed, after years of reading it, the name of the final prayer the congregation prays together – Prayer of Thanksgiving. No wonder I get choked up every time I say out loud, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you … ”

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

My heart’s known for a while I’ve needed to do “thank you” instead of mouth it. And you know I’m going to tie this into getting our own lives, right? Gratitude is our way forward.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Lighten Up, Literally (a post about emotional eating)

Standard

hunger-413685_960_720

“There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.” Carnie Wilson

This last decade, I’ve gained an average of two pounds a year – this was the least painful way to express it. The weight added up so gradually, I’m not sure if the gain started in 2005 after Dad’s death or when we moved to the beach about three years later. I used to walk daily, a practice I started when I was 25 and pregnant with my firstborn. People in town would ask, “Aren’t you the lady that walks all the time?”

When we moved 700 feet from the ocean and near an almost constant breeze, I stopped walking. Crazy, right?

I didn’t know how crazy (I was) until I looked back at my declining mental health, the downward spiral of our finances and marriage, and my lack of purpose because my kids didn’t need me anymore. I needed something to numb the pain and fill my soul’s hole. I also needed protection because I felt emotionally unsafe. I could have turned to God. Instead, I turned him into an enemy because he wasn’t intervening like I thought he should, and I turned to an old habit since childhood, emotional eating. My mom kept a candy drawer stocked with PowerHouse candy bars, Baby Ruths, and Little Debbie snacks. She baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Making s’mores for her and snacking on the dessert together is my fondest memory with her.

For a long time, I was okay with my weight gain. I’m sensitive, so the more I padded my body, the more I protected my emotions, or so it seemed.

Even though I felt safer from the world, I suspected I was letting myself down like I wrote about in my last blog post. Overweight wasn’t something I wanted to be and when, in a workshop about healthy eating, the speaker compared our fat to carrying around several five-pound bags of sugar, I couldn’t shake how heavy and tired I felt. I’ve never had good posture, but I starting slumping. For comfort and because of the weight gain, I wore sports bras instead of regular ones. I walked with a drag instead of a bounce in my step. To top it off, try trying on a pair of pants or dress you thought looked good on you, and imagine shoving bags of sugar in the outfit with you. It got tight in there.

I’ve had my moments of exercise and weight loss the last 10 years, like before our daughter’s and son’s weddings, but mostly my routine back to a healthier and lighter lifestyle has been start, stop, start, stop, start, stop, stop, stop.

It’s interesting that we never know when enough is enough. We don’t know when we’ll get sick of ourselves and make a change. Sadly, we can’t manufacture the mood, but when it happens, we know it.

My husband, John, and I ate a perfect meal at our favorite mountain restaurant. We walked down the street to an open-air market with freezers full of fresh made food labeled with directions for reheating. He said, “What are we doing about dinner?”

Something snapped. I could almost physically feel it. I felt irritable and anxious and really heavy. We left there and bought four cupcakes at a dessert place. They’re big and with a lot of icing, so after dinner, we ate all of them. After that, we talked.

“We have to figure out fun things to do besides eat,” I said.

“I know,” said John, almost like it was his fault.

It wasn’t. We both had gotten lazy, gained weight, and given into a boring routine. I thought back about a video shown to alcoholics in rehab when I was working at The Commission for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The speaker in the video said God gave us two natural pleasures, eating and sex, but not to abuse. To enjoy. This is stressed with addicts in recovery because they can seldom answer, “What do you do for fun?” That is, unless they’re honest and say they drink or drug.

fork-558805_960_720

Looking at our empty cupcake box, I related a little too much to the addicts in rehab. Life wasn’t as fun now that I substituted eating for other enjoyable things like evening walks, hiking, and walking for miles in downtowns when we’d take daytrips. We swapped all that for driving around to find the closest parking space to restaurants and bakeries.

I was irritable the next few days because I was coming down from a sugar high and having to face why I gained weight in the first place. I wanted to change several habits, but, at first, I hated doing the work and the workouts.

However, like I said, something snapped. Since then, I’ve made a few adjustments to detox from junk food and junk living. And, no, I didn’t give up all white foods made with sugar and flour because I’ll never stick to that kind of diet.

I committed to reasonable things I would actually follow through on like …

  • Going to the gym, walking outside, or both at least five days a week.
  • Walking with John at least one evening a week.
  • Aiming for an average of 15,000 Fitbit steps daily.
  • Tapering off chocolate.
  • Eating one brown sugar cinnamon pop tart for a midnight snack instead of more calorie-intense sweets. (Don’t even think about suggesting fruit or yogurt.)
  • Cutting down on bread since it’s not a favorite food anyway.
  • Drinking even more water than what I already consume.
  • Making a list of fun things to do besides eat. #GettingYourOwnLife
  • Speaking up when I need to, so I’m letting go of junk instead of eating it.

Mostly, I’m overriding a thought I’ve let discourage me for years, “What’s the use?” Since pounds don’t drop off as quickly as they used to, I’ve given up easily the last few years. This time around, my new and improved saying is, “I’m not responsible for the result, only the effort, so keep moving and making healthy choices.” Also, I’m dealing with my emotional stuff, and you can read all about that in past posts if you haven’t already.

weigh-689873_960_720

 

After all this heavy talk, I’ll leave you with a funny story about a bathroom scale and my three-year-old granddaughter, Claire. I took her to a friend’s bathroom and when she spotted the scale, she wanted to stand on it. It registered 28 pounds.

“Aw, Mammy. It’s broke,” said Claire. “I one, two, three years old.”

When I stood on it, she said, “Wow, Mammy. You’re old.”

That’s when I explained that scales measure your weight, not your age. While washing my hands, she got on and off of it enough that it showed an E for Error, which she thought was a 3.

“Oh, good, it’s working. I three years old,” she said.

stainless-878332_960_720

 

That kid and Erma Bombeck (her quote’s below) can even lighten up coming face-to-face with my bathroom scale. And I need to lighten up figuratively and literally. It makes getting your own life so much easier.

“In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”

 

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.

 

Enabled to Stop Enabling

Standard

IMG_6165

“We cripple people who are capable of walking because we choose to carry them.” Christie Williams

Enabling is one of the surest ways to assure not getting your own life.

Enabling goes hand-in-hand with not setting boundaries – two sides of the same coin. Like the quote says, we have to say “no” or we do damage. We cripple people, and usually the ones we love the most.

What is Enabling?

Here are definitions of enabling, which sound harmless until we recognize we’ve signed up to run someone’s life besides our own, and we may be signing up to run it forever.

  •  To make (someone or something) able to do or to be something

 Twelve step programs typically define enabling as …

  •  Doing for others what they can do for themselves.

Like the times I did my son’s chore of raking the backyard. I didn’t think I could watch any longer while he balanced the handle of the upside down rake in the palm of his hand, and then walked all around the yard still balancing it in the air. I felt like crippling him with the rake long before my enabling did damage.

I didn’t equate raking for a 13-year-old as enabling until I looked up the word in an index of one of my daily readers. I thought I was doing a friend a favor. I planned to pass along insight from the pages about how she could stop enabling her older teenaged son.

As I flipped through, I noticed the only two pages on enabling belonged to my husband and my son. The pages happened to fall on their birthdays.

While trying to dismiss the correlation, I forgot about helping my friend. I spent weeks mulling over how others enabled, and how I didn’t.

I knew …

Parents who did their children’s homework, parents who ran items to school every week when their children forgot them at home, parents who fought with teachers and administration to defend their children every time they got in trouble.

Parents who allowed grown children to live at home, not work, and run up whopping debt for cars and education and wardrobes.

Women who worked two jobs because their husbands worked none.

wheelbarrow-523784_960_720

And I was worried about raking? Seriously? Raking?

I thought, What’s the harm in helping in the yard when he can’t get it done? You know, because he’s practicing his balancing act.

I asked these same sorts of questions about my husband and my daughter. All the while, I justified enabling as helping and I minimized the size of my enablement. I told myself, “It’s just raking.”

Justify it or not, minimize it or not, experience confirms we get better by taking small steps in the right direction the same as we get worse (more irresponsible, more immature, and more helpless) by taking small steps in the wrong direction, which includes your mom raking for you when it’s your chore.

There’s a fine line between being a wife and a mom who helps or being an enabler who harms. Unfortunately for us, we enablers are the ones who have to draw these lines (remember from a previous blog post, if you’re in the most pain, you’re the one who has to change). The person being enabled isn’t going to stop us.

And we each draw our own lines. What’s acceptable for one person may be enabling for another.

For me, the line where I’m enabling is …

  • When I’m resentful about what I call “helping.
  • When I don’t want to do what they ask, but I do it anyway.
  • When I put my life on hold so I can do what they want.
  • When I grumble about the person I’m supposedly helping.

Maybe you’ll recognize this rant.

“Do you know what happened today? My (family member, friend) asked me to (fill in the blank). Can you believe that? I did it, but I won’t be doing it again. He/she didn’t even thank me.”

The funny (funny interesting, not funny ha ha) thing about enabling is next time he/she asked, I did it again. I complained again. He/she asked again.

For me, the line where I’m enabling is also …

  • When I hear them not only asking for help, but also expecting and insisting on it even when it’s something they can do for themselves.
  • When I notice they’re regressing and I feel like I’m dealing with a child in a big body.
  • When there are visible signs of trouble like excessive drinking, running up debt, laying around for days, acting irritable, making irresponsible choices.

Enabling feels similar to a hostage situation. Once we’ve taken responsibility for their lives, they take over our lives. We feel trapped. We may not know how to stop the progression. And they probably won’t want us to.

It took several (okay, more like several hundred) times of reviewing the two enabling pages before I took the words to heart and put them into action.

It took experiencing the crippling effect with my own family when their list of expectations grew longer than my to-do list.

It took seeing the crippling effect like watching more than one elderly couple work overtime to provide for their unemployed adult children.

It took hearing a mom share about her alcoholic daughter who died from drinking. She said, “I literally loved her to death. I knew better, but I couldn’t stop trying to help her in unhelpful ways.”

 So, why’d I do it?

 Oh, I had my reasons.

 Here are a few from my long and scary list …

 1.     I was afraid.

 2.     I was fearful they really couldn’t do it, whatever “it” was.

 3.     I was fearful they wouldn’t do it.

 4.     I was fearful if they didn’t do it, they wouldn’t be okay, which would mean I wasn’t okay.

 5.     I was fearful if they weren’t okay, it’d be my fault.

 6.     I was fearful they’d die and our last time together would be when I set a boundary and said “no.”

blog tips

What’s the solution?

Stop enabling.

Stop even if it seems insignificant like raking for your 13-year-old.

Find a friend who understands and talk with them. Make an appointment with a counselor. Attend a 12-step meeting. Reach out to someone who’s in your same situation.

Help the people you’re enabling by helping yourself. Find something to put in the place of enabling like #GettingYourOwnLife.

It’s easier said than done, I know, but “stop enabling” is the only solution. And it’s why I’m writing about it. Y’all are the group I’m reaching out to.

In This Together,
Kim

Image of rake compliments of Pixabay.com.

Disclaimer: This blog post is from my personal experience and is not expert advice like you’d receive from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or medical doctor, although I do have advanced degrees in the counseling field. When dealing with serious issues like addiction and depression, be sure to engage a support system, one that can help you set boundaries, prepare you for consequences when you stop enabling, and offer assistance to the person you’re letting go. 

They Needed to Get Better

Standard

text-1318187_960_720

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” Carl Gustav Jung

For years, I convinced myself I’d have time and energy to accomplish something impressive if only my family would get better. I blamed my lack of motivation and creativity on their issues. I imagined what I’d do when I was out from under the pressure and concern I had for my husband, my children, my parents, and my sibling.

building-blocks-456616_960_720

That’s a lot of people to worry about.

If only my husband quit smoking, went into business for himself, took off additional time. If only he learned to relax. If only he’d listen to my suggestions about straightening out his life, our marriage, and our backyard fence.

If only my son and daughter learned to keep up with their belongings, take responsibility, express gratitude. If only they’d do their homework, care about school, score a soccer goal or a point in tennis. If only they’d find the right place to live, the high paying job, the perfect marriage partner.

If only my family of origin celebrated new ideas instead of being afraid of them. If only they talked about something besides weather and health problems. If only they laughed and went outside sometimes.

With my husband, I gave full commentaries about the dangers of cigarettes, making healthy choices, and communication.

With my kids, I helped find keys and shoes and half-finished job applications stuck under cushions. I advised about homework, friendship, and courtship.

With my family of origin, I changed the topic of conversations so I’d be comfortable and told stories that weren’t funny.

I understand now why I felt stuck.

psychologist-1015488_960_720

I counseled my family, but didn’t go into a counseling career like I planned. I talked about pursuing a career in inspirational speaking, but I was talked out at home. I dreamed about writing a book, but determined it was more important for my family to realize their dreams.

When I heard about a friend’s outburst after a mutual friend gave her advice, I laughed because she could have been talking to me. I’d distracted myself from my own life (again) by hoping family would get better. She said, “Your children will get better when you get better.”

“If that’s true, who needs to get better for me?” I asked. I was “sort of” joking.

I figured I could blame others for a few more years or I could get better by finally getting my own life. I did some of both.

In the meantime, my husband and children got better before I did. They also got their own lives before I did, which, as focused as I was on them, didn’t surprise me. I’m still taking some credit for their betterment, though.

I like to think I’ve helped them and me get better since giving up my habit of dabbling in their lives. And since #GettingMyOwnLife #whileLovingthePeopleinIt. And since writing about it.

I’d love to hear from you about how you can get better so your family will get better. Ideas from you help all of us.

In This Together,
Kim

Unless something pressing comes along (sometimes I have to blog on a topic before I can move on), my next blog post will be about setting Boundaries and why they’re good and necessary.

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

What Happened That Was So Bad?

Standard

 

in the muck of it

“The real violence, the violence I realized that is unforgivable, is the violence we do to ourselves when we’re too afraid to be who we really are.” Unknown

While a friend and I talked about depression, she asked about my past and said, “What happened that was so bad?”

Although whining and blaming are unattractive, I didn’t mind a chance to tell my sad story. I launched about details I had never told her. Fortunately for you, I won’t share all of it here.

Emotional, religious, and sexual abuse contributed to what happened that was so bad. I knew better than to talk about my abuse with my parents because it wasn’t as bad as what Mom had been through, so I tried to help fix hers. The more I encouraged her to let go of her past and live happily ever after, the more strained our relationship became. She wanted sympathy, not solutions, but I needed her fixed.

My parents being unavailable and unpredictable contributed to what happened that was so bad. Dad spent nine months out of the year at the beach, running the family business. Mom either numbed out at home or couldn’t handle her emotions. I lived under threats like this one when I didn’t act like she wanted me to, “You’re lucky I didn’t do anything to hurt myself.”

Living around mental illness contributed to what happened that was so bad. Before Dad left for Vietnam, he moved Mom, my younger brother, and me in with my great aunt who raised Mom and her siblings. After Dad returned home and retired from the Air Force, we stayed put. It wasn’t long before my mom’s brother moved in with us. He walked around in stained t-shirts and with his pants unzipped, burned carpet and furniture with his cigarettes, and made sexual overtures that Mom ignored until he’d get so out of hand she’d temporarily commit him to mental institutions around the state.

I thought a sympathetic ear about my past would be comforting, but the more woes I shared, the worse I felt. What happened that was so bad was not about what someone else had done to me, but what I was still doing to myself. My family was long gone, but I still lived and talked about their crazy legacy.

Vivi, the alcoholic mother in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, describes it best in a conversation with her daughter’s fiancé. She said, “I know she blames me. Of course she does, just like I blame my mother. I didn’t screw up her life any more than my mother screwed up mine. She almost did. But all the real long-term damage … I did to myself.”

So, what really happened that was so bad?

  • I repeated my past by setting out to fix my husband and my children just like I tried to fix Mom. Even when a friend said, “Your family will get better when you get better,” I kept focusing on them. I felt overwhelmed (and still do sometimes) by focusing on/fixing myself and living my own life.
  • I doubted my decisions and myself all along. Self-doubt makes it hard to stand behind my commitments, as well as hard to enforce boundaries I’ve tried to set. Self-doubt makes taking care of myself almost impossible. I give in and give up instead of standing up for what I want.
  • I self-destructed because whining, being lazy, and blaming others come easier than practicing a healthy routine. I eat too much chocolate, stay up too late, and overlook opportunities to live a sensible and happy life. I defer to fear if things get hard. I’d rather wallow around with a problem than research a manuscript. It takes a lot of work to get well. It means #GettingYourOwnLife.

1897956_604694759619972_963187282_n

I acknowledge the power of messy pasts and the power of destructive family patterns. I also acknowledge how powerful it is to take responsibility for what we’re doing to ourselves and to make a decision to do something different. I hope you’ll join the Conversation and the Change.

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for the swamp photo, Joel Carter. It looks as desolate as my life felt for a while.

Thank you, Rhonda Hensley @ Inspiration Images and Media, for the photo of balloons. They represent change.