My family and I visit the South Carolina coast every summer to spend time with my parents, brothers, sister and all of their kids - every time with different configurations of cousins, aunts and uncles. Whatever the mix, it is always special and magical.
One of the things I love about going to Coastal South Carolina is the abundance of wildlife (and I'm not talking about the wildlife inside the house, LOL). We look over the back deck to catch a glimpse of bunnies and look for the occasional alligator in the marsh. We go for long walks on the beach looking for Hermit Crabs, sand dollars, sharks being caught and this morning, we even got the treat of finding loggerhead turtle tracks and alligator tracks on the beach. What a find!
But what about that 5 foot Black Snake that my husband spotted out in the front yard the other day and the Diamondback Rattlesnake that was spotted in the dunes? These are part of the wildlife, but not welcome finds at all. In fact, so unwelcome that every time I walk past that part of the yard I scan the area looking to find it. When I walk the boardwalk over the dunes I search for that Rattlesnake. You know, so that I won't be caught unaware and startled.
Of course it is fear that is causing me to look for these snakes. Naturally we should fear the Rattlesnake due to its venomous bite. But I was looking for the Black Snake when there was no inherent danger, maybe just a startle. This is when it dawned on me that the snake lives around here and has lived around here for at least the last 3 visits, yet I couldn't have cared less, because I was not aware of its existence. In fact, I was living in blissful ignorance. But now that I know that it is there, I just can't keep myself from looking for it.
So why am I so concerned about this snake and why do I search for it with a pit in my stomach? I look for alligators with curiosity and excitement and they are much more dangerous than Black Snakes. It is because I have assigned them a negative, scary value in my mind. Snakes are not good. Snakes are creepy. Snakes should cause me to recoil in fear and loathing. But in reality, snakes are creatures that should be looked at just like a Hermit Crab. What is the big differentiator? Snakes are wonderful creatures that keep the marsh rat population under control, for example. Snakes are not out to get us. Actually, they don't particularly want to be around us much, either.
The point of my story is that we all have unhealthy and fear-driven thoughts about things that lead to negative feelings and sometimes cause us to create a story for something based on a pre-conceived notion or learned behavior. Many of these thoughts have been ingrained in us from a young age of which we aren't even aware. I was unintentionally taught to fear snakes by my mother and grandmother from a very young age (sorry for outing you, mom). But what else were we unintentionally taught at a young age? That girls can't fix things? That men shouldn't do the laundry, unless you want pink towels? That since you didn't graduate from high school, that you are not smart? That a man is going to love you only until he finds something better?
When you start to pay attention to your reactions to seemingly innocuous things as well as major life events and become more mindful of why you are having these reactions, you will start to learn a little bit more about yourself. Take some time to step back from your brain every once in a while and become an outside observer. You may just realize that a snake is just a snake and will remain a snake minding its own business, regardless of how you choose to experience it.
As wives and mothers, we've got it all under control. We get the kids off to school, do all the shopping for the family, feed the family and pets, pay bills, do laundry, manage what seems like 17 schedules simultaneously along with 50 other things on a given day and still manage to find time to work out. Oh yeah, did I mention work full time?
As things hum along like a well oiled machine, you get the news that you need surgery and will be forced to take it easy for two weeks while recovering. WAIT, WHAT? In your mind, this machine has just gone blown a gasket, parts fly everywhere and you see a heap of steaming parts laying on the ground.
Fast forward to the day after surgery when you can go home. Your husband helps you make your way to bed, he brings you tea, the kids are in school, the cat snuggles up with you and all is well.... until dinner time. The daily-schedule-can-do-it-all-hero instinct sets in - it's time to make sure everyone is fed. While you know that by even siting in the kitchen you are doing way too much already, you start to get dinner ready and decide to instruct the teenager how to cook the meal (that's taking it easy, right?). 30 minutes later, while sitting at the dinner table, you realize you have hit the wall and have overdone it. But you promised the 6-year old to read her story (after all, she is worried about you, you were away for a night in the hospital) and so you head upstairs - stair for stair - to read her story. Then it happens. While the little one is brushing her teeth, tears start streaming down your face, and dammit, it even hurts to cry. But you read the story regardless and send your sweet angel off to bed. This is when you realize you have to give up control. It's not going to do anyone any good to continue on like this - no one likes a crippled Napoleon.
A week later, you realize that your husband has got this totally under control. Heck, he's even telling you NOT to do laundry and thwarting your attempts to have friends get groceries. Ok, so maybe you've eaten lots of quesadillas and meals from the freezer section. But in the grand scheme of things, no one has gone hungry, right? You have done a little bit of coordinating to get your child home after school, but your husband gets home soon afterward to make sure all is well at home.
Lessons learned: a six year old can wash her own hair, you won't develop a case of scurvy from eating cheese and flour tortillas three too many times, and a grown man actually IS capable of making sure everyone is taken care of. OK, so you still manage the schedule from the couch and pay bills. But the cat is the happiest it has ever been because it can snuggle with you all day and you have learned that even when you are back on your feet, you husband will STILL be capable of running the show every once in a while. And now that he has proven it, you should make some more plans with your girlfriends on school nights.
Did you ever go fishing when you were a little kid? Didn't it seem like you could sit there all day long with wild unwavering anticipation of the next nibble? It seems like those days of infinite patience are long gone in today's age of technology. Most of today's cell phone users have never known what it is like to have all of your friends' and family's numbers memorized or made weekend plans days in advance with no chance of last-minute cancellations or plan changes.
Unless you remain mindful about it, patience and planning are almost by-gone virtues thanks to modern day technology. We can order something off of Amazon and have it to our doorstep in 2 days. We get instant downloads of a book we want to read. We get instant credit reports. The list goes on and on- you name it, it is to us faster than ever at the click of a button.
It's no wonder that when we embark on trying to change something in ourselves that our first instinct is to get frustrated and give up if our change does not happen immediately. This is where it is imperative to understand the need for separation. Instant gratification has its place, I am not saying that it is inherently bad. But when it comes to making a lasting change in your life, you will only sabotage your efforts if you expect instant results, or even results too soon. This is where mindfulness and patience come into play. You have to consider the scope of the change that you want to make or set your goal and make a realistic timeline for your desired outcome. Let's take it back to the fishing metaphor. Scenario 1: If you sit down to fish in a pond stocked with rainbow trout, you can expect pretty immediate gratification of catching a nice fish and you don't need to exercise great strategy or patience. BOOM. Nice fish on the line, didn't have to work much for it, you can go home and show off your prize. Scenario 2: If you sit down to fish in a natural lake (meaning no one has tampered with the natural ecosystem), you can expect that it is going to take a while to catch a fish, and you will most likely have to employ some strategy. After all, the fish aren't just waiting to be caught and may very well be busy feeding on some particularly juicy bugs on the other side of the lake. You can decide to sit on the same dock in the same place and expect the fish to come to you, OR if you want the prize, be willing to experiment with trial and error and a practice a great deal of patience. Eventually, you will catch a fish that you can take home and show off.
This analogy can be applied to so many of today's modern conveniences, but in the end, the outcome is the same - you get the fish, but which scenario will make you feel proudest? Which one did you really have to be patient with and learn from trial and error? The take-away here is so simple, but so profound: The greater the investment of time and energy toward your goal, the greater the pride in your accomplishments.
So if you want that fish, but need help planning your strategy and exercising patience, I'd be happy to accompany you on the way from the first step until you reach your goal.
You did it!
Congratulations! You made the decision to move on to bigger and better things! however, you may be feeling a bit nervous and uneasy. If you have expressed some uneasiness to your friends, how many times have they said, "But this is what you want, right?". Of course it is what you wanted, but in the end, it is new, it is unfamiliar, it is change. And it is scary. When you have a big unkown in front of you, you feel a great range of emotion. When the excitement abates, fear, doubt and uncertainty remain behind.
People from the outside only really see the EVENT. They see the move to a new city, the new job, the baby bump, the break-up. What they don't see are all of the questions in your head, the various emotions and the second-guessing you may be doing. Even though your friends and family love you dearly, they may tend to brush off your fears with the common response, "it's all going to work out great, you'll be fine!".
When uncertainty strikes, there are steps you can take to combat it. The first thing to do is identify exactly what it is that is making you uneasy. Is it really the move to a new place where you don't know anyone, or is it the fear of leaving everything that is familiar behind? The key to peeling back a few layers is to spend time expressing your anxieties, fears and doubts. It's best to talk them out with a trusted friend, family member or life coach- but choose somebody who isn't just going to listen- choose someone who is able to ask you questions to help you reflect. If that seems intimidating, try journaling until you are ready to talk to someone. Often there are underlying reasons to your fear that you haven't given conscious thought to and simply putting them into words may help you discover some themes you never really noticed.
Once you have identified the thing that is making you uneasy, continue to talk it through with someone who listens well and asks insightful, unbiased questions. You'll be surprised at what you discover - and from there, you can move forward with your fears identified and hopefully set aside so that the excitement of your new endeavor can again shine in limelight.
I have no trouble admitting that I love sloths. Most of my friends and family are aware of my strange love affair with the Bradypus mammals and quite honestly, they just don't understand. But I just... can't.... help it! I am magnetically drawn to their seemingly peaceful and satisfied demeanor. I can gaze into that sweet little face all day long. Maybe I just long for that same sense of peacfulness and carefree attitude that the sloths seem to embody.
Which brings me to my topic. I was given a small book called Sloth Wisdom for Christmas this year. This book is full of cute little quotes that you could imagine a sloth living by. One that struck close to home for me is from Maya Angelou:
Each person deserves a day away
in which no problems are confronted.
No solutions searched for.
Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which
will not withdraw from us.
Is it because I am a working mother that this resonates so loudly with me? Because I am always thinking about the next dentist appointment, tonight's nutricious dinner, whether I can make it to school before my little one gets shuttled off to aftercare or the next birthday present for... which classmate was that again?
Honestly, everyone needs to take care of themselves. We all know that, but many of us, especially busy moms, have a hard time giving ourselves permission to take this much-needed time. So take this advice: it is not a crime to tell the kids to entertain themselves for a few hours. Who cares if the laundry sits for another day in the laundry basket (that is what the steam setting is for, right?). Your significant other can take care of the kids/household/pets/grocery shopping while you escape, even if that means going out into the back yard with your headphones and a good book.
If you still can't get past the mom guilt, it's time to get together, because you need to figure out how to honor yourself as well as your family. And it's okay to do so.
My five-year-old stopped me dead in my tracks with one single word last month. She has heard it countless times on YouTube Kids, on TV and from the mouths of her Kindergarten friends, so how bad could it be? Grave mistake, oh innocent one.
Little did she know that by uttering that fateful word, she would receive the death stare and a very firm motherly lecture. Throw a little five-year-old sass into that mix and you got yourself a doozy of a "chat" with mom. I quickly informed her that directing that single word, "whatever" at another human being was one of the most disrespectful things you can say to someone. It says, "I am totally discounting what you say and your feelings about the matter. As a matter of fact, I don't give a shit about what you think".
Until I explained my number one pet peeve to her, I realized I had never really broken it down into its full meaning before. When she asked me when it was ok to use the word, I said that she can use it toward a bully or someone who is not being nice to her, but never to a friend or someone you love and especially not your mother if you know what is good for you.
But for my readers with cognition beyond a grade schooler I want to take this one step further. Next time you are having some thoughts to yourself about a challenge in your life or even about yourself and you catch yourself saying, "whatever...", think about this: why would you disrespect yourself this way if your own mother would chew you out for talking to her like this?
Well, it's that time of year again. The time to find the thing or two that we want to change about ourselves or our lifestyle. It seems to happen over and over again, year after year. We resolve to eat better, to exercise more, to lose x pounds, to stay in better contact with family, to be a better partner or mom. But THIS time, yes THIS time, you are really going to stick to it. Yada yada yada.
How many of us actually stick to that resolution for more than two months? Most of us end up going back to our old habits feeling like total losers because again, we just weren't able to do it. But don't give up just yet: there are a few key reasons why we fail over and over again at our resolutions. First off, resolutions are easy to spout off when everybody else is doing it, too. It's what you are supposed to do, right? If we are going with the theme of losing weight, we all know we have to eat healthier and exercise more- after all, Less than 3 percent of Americans meet the basic qualifications for a “healthy lifestyle,” according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. That leaves 97 percent of us guilty of enjoying the unhealthy processed foods, spending too much time on the couch and finding the excuses to keep on doing these things that leave us feeling like sapped of energy.
If our goal is to improve a relationship, we know that to maintain a better relationship we need to become better communicators, listen more, judge less, be more empathetic, etc. Easy to do. Got it. Yet within a few months, there we are, back at square one- arguing just as much, throwing our hands up in frustration, wondering where the magic went and maybe even quesitoning the integrity of the relationship.
So why do allow ourselves to keep failing? I mean, it should be easy to just eat healthier, right? It's easy to start an exercise program, right? Of course if you are a programmable robot that just needs some new coding and a reboot, it's a cinch. But we are human and the root cause of these repeated failures is that we are not finding the correct motivation and we haven't reached deep enough inside ourselves to find the things that will work for us individually.
So here's one huge tip: YOU NEED A REALLY SPECIFIC PLAN to start. Without direction, you will fail. Sorry to be so blunt, ya'll. This goes for New Year's resolutions and for most changes we want to undertake at any time. If you want the changes, but really don't want to feel like a loser again, reach out. You'll find the success you have strived for year after year. And you WILL thank yourself.