What If…

What if I try something on the menu that I usually don’t order and I don’t like it as much?

What if I say “yes” and I can’t meet the commitment or feel too overwhelmed or anxious about it? I can be socially awkward and it can be uncomfortable meeting new people and being in new situations. I’m such a homebody that sometimes I feel like the dad in one of the sitcoms that said, “Nothing good ever happens OUT THERE!”

What if I change jobs and I realize that I was really meant to teach, that nothing would ever be as rewarding? Epic failure! My mom always said, “The grass isn’t always greener.” She used this phrase so often that she recited it in a condensed version and didn’t even complete the statement with, “on the other side.”

What if I do what I’ve been talking about for so long and minimize my life in a really big way? What if I buy a much smaller home and move out of the home of my dreams? The place where my husband, my kids and I share so many memories. It really is the perfect house for us!

Does this sound familiar?

But, WHAT IF we try new things and they actually turn out better than we expected? What if we embrace change instead of fear it? What if we follow our dreams and if they didn’t work out we didn’t see it as a failure, but as a learning experience? What if we found the good in new experiences even if they didn’t turn out as planned?

I’m not saying that everything new you try will be a positive experience,  and I’m certainly not advising you to quit your job and sell your house.  But if you’ve been thinking about something for a long time, and given it careful consideration, you might want to give it a try.

Everyone has a unique set of circumstances and it may not be feasible to make some changes for very valid reasons, including financial and family responsibilities. It may take years of planning to make big changes that would impact your life in big ways.

Is there something you’ve been thinking about trying for a while and just haven’t made the leap? What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you would be able to manage the different outcomes, then perhaps it’s time to try something new. New experiences make new memories.

After nearly two years of thinking and talking about downsizing and moving along the minimalism continuum, my husband and I bought a house that’s one-fourth the size of our current home. We’ll sell the home that we’ve so lovingly remodeled to fit us like a glove and start over on a much smaller scale.  It’s both exciting and scary at the same time.

But I am ready.

We gave this decision careful consideration. It would actually be better for us financially, the same distance or closer to loved ones, closer to work for my husband, but a little further commute for me. I decided it was worth the extra 20 minute commute.

Even though our new environment will be completely different, we will still have what’s most important and what really makes a house a home. We’ll have each other and the people in our lives that we love.

I will also be taking a few of my most favorite outdoor plants to our new home and transplanting them there. One of them is a rosebush with yellow flowers that my husband so thoughtfully bought me in memory of my mom. I dug it up recently to get it ready to transport, took the tag off of it,  and noticed the actual name of the rose is, “Scent From Above.” Seriously?

When I took a closer look at it I noticed it wasn’t doing very well. It didn’t appear to have any new shoots on it like it normally does this time of year. I feared it was dead. Just as I thought it might not have survived the winter, I noticed a separate tiny plant next to the main rosebush that was sprouting up from the ground beside the old one!

I dug up the entire rosebush, carefully separated the new plant from the old plant and put it in its own pot, ready to be transported to its new home. I felt a little sad that the original plant didn’t survive, but I was relieved and very grateful that it had yielded new growth before it died.

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Just like me, my rosebush has outgrown this place and is ready for a change of scenery. Just like me, it’s never been more alive and ready to begin anew, branching out from deep inside!

The new, not abandoning the old, but an extension of it.  A continuation of its journey after a long winter’s nap.

Is there something big you’ve been wanting to try for a very long time? What would it take to move closer to your goal? Or perhaps you just want to order something different on the menu. Go for it!

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A Lesson in Self-Compassion

I don’t always see myself as others see me and throughout my life I’ve been my toughest critic. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized the deep extent of my poor self-image.

I have battled my negative self-talk as long as I can remember and I’ve learned to deal with it the best I can. I’ve been able to keep my feelings fairly contained, and, to my knowledge, no one saw past my confident, outgoing exterior.

The truth is, I wouldn’t treat a dear friend like I treat myself sometimes. With maturity, long-term loving relationships, becoming a mom and a successful teaching career, I have developed a fair amount of self-confidence, but this didn’t really translate into self-compassion.

The real impetus that put me onto the path of self-compassion was when I Iooked in a mirror and uttered, “I hate myself.” Out loud. In front of other people. And there it was. I had just had a difficult conversation with a friend that I really cared about. The conversation didn’t go as planned, at all, and I felt as if I really screwed up.

I’ve read that shame can’t survive the light of day (Brene Brown). That, once we talk about our feelings and shine a light on them, they tend to have less power and control over us.

In my case, this  vulnerable moment was just what I needed to begin a process of healing and learning about the importance of self-compassion. Even though this was a very difficult time, I’m grateful that it’s brought me to where I am today.

“When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.”

– Kristin Neff

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Being our authentic, imperfect selves makes us more relatable to others
  • People tend to be more comfortable around us when we are honest about our shortcomings
  • Negative self-talk does not motivate us to do better, in fact it has the opposite effect and can cause depression and anxiety
  • Self-compassion and forgiveness helps us to be more compassionate and forgiving towards others
  • Setting boundaries in our lives is an act of compassion, since when we fail to do so, we end up resenting others (I love this one!)

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned and excited to continue my journey!

I just signed up for  an e-course with Brene Brown and Kristen Neff on self-compassion. Brene’s  work and her words have been so helpful to me. I’ve read several of her books and taken one of her e-courses. She’s smart and compassionate, and her work is research-based, which really appeals to me. You’d think I worked for her (I wish!), but I’m just a fan!

Here’s the link for Brene Brown’s courses if you are interested:

http://www.courageworks.com

Take care and Be All There!

Love,

Jeanne

 

Self-Love

Self-love or self-compassion seems to be the best kept secret to happiness.

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I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but I never really gave much thought to the importance of self-compassion. I mean I’ve heard the expressions, “You have to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else”  and “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will,”  but, it never  dawned on me that this was a “thing” until recently.

From what I’ve learned, it’s a pretty big “thing!” As mentioned in my previous post on vulnerability, things don’t always go well when we put ourselves out there. When we are reminded of our imperfections, we must treat ourselves with compassion.

I would say that in general, I like myself. I think I’m a pretty good person and I’m as kind as I can be to others. Isn’t that self-love? After all, if I paid any more attention to myself, I would just be conceited, right? I guess I’ve been focused on others and how to draw my attention outside of myself. Not anymore.

How do we treat ourselves?

When I really took stock of my negative self-talk and how unforgiving I can be with myself, I realized that I am my own worst critic. As painful as it is to admit, I’ve even felt hatred and shame for parts of myself.

I didn’t realize how damaging this could be until I read Kristin Neff’s work  on the subject(selfcompassion.org).

Dr. Kristin Neff says that there are 3 core components to self-compassion:

  1.  Self-Kindness
  2. Common Humanity
  3. Mindfulness

To practice self-compassion we should treat ourselves with kindness rather than harsh, self-judgment, understand that our imperfections aren’t “abnormalities” that separate us from others, rather they are part of the shared human experience, and identify and accept when we are suffering in order to give ourselves the compassion that we need.

Although we may think that being self critical of ourselves actually motivates us to do better, Dr. Neff’s research actually shows the opposite.

Self-criticism actually undermines motivation.

This concept really intrigued me and gave me hope that I had the power and the understanding to change my negative thought patterns!

You can read about it in more detail on selfcompassion.org  if you’d like, but Dr. Neff explains that being self-critical actually causes a fight or flight response (the threat is to our self-concept) where we attack the problem, which turns out to be ourselves!

She goes on to say that, “Self-compassion has been connected to decreased depression, anxiety and stress,  and greater happiness and connectedness with others!” Yes, please!

Self-love = Overall Mental Health

With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.

~Kristin Neff

Self-love is not about being self-absorbed or narcissistic, its about self-preservation.

Let’s show ourselves some love!

XOX

Courage

It’s been 18 months since my unraveling, I mean, since I began my journey of self discovery, and I made it my New Year’s resolution to pause, reflect and regroup in January. I felt a much needed break would give me an opportunity to learn more about where I might want to venture next.

Here’s what I’ve learned that keeps me less stressed, tired, anxious and depressed and more happy, confident, energetic and excited about life:

  • simplifying
  • presence
  • gratitude
  • intention
  • setting boundaries
  • nature
  • writing
  • eating a plant based diet
  • fitness
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • perspective taking
  • not taking things personally

I feel like I’ve come a long way and have experienced some real growth and lasting, positive changes.  This month I decided I was ready to learn more and dig a little deeper. That yearning brought me to Brene Brown and her Living Brave e-course (brenebrown.com).

One of the cornerstones of her philosophy and research is vulnerability and, although it takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable, the potential for growth and connection is profound.

Sounds pretty intense, yet my response was, “Sign me up!” Perhaps deep down I knew that this was exactly what I needed.

The courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

We often look at vulnerability in others as courage, but inadequacy in ourselves.

~Brene Brown

Truth.

I’ve noticed that when I’m vulnerable, more often than not, others feel comfortable enough to do the same with me and this creates a real sense of shared humanity. A real human connection. These interactions really fill me up.

I went to the dentist recently for a routine cleaning and was greeted by a hygienist whom I’ve never met. My appointment wasn’t with her, it was with my regular hygienist. With my regular hygienist, I knew how the appointment would go. She wouldn’t use that excruciatingly painful water pick, she would compliment me on my dental hygiene and we would talk about work, our husbands, our homes and our pets. Sounds silly, but some days sitting in her chair I could actually relax.

Apparently there was a last minute change and my hygienist couldn’t make it in that day.  When I realized this complete stranger wasn’t just showing me to my room and was actually going to clean my teeth, I went into a full blown fear-of-the-dentist-anxiety state of mind.

THIS WASN’T WHAT I EXPECTED!

I instantly formulated two options in my brain, I could leave and reschedule or work through my anxiety and just get the appointment over with. I decided on the “big girl” option, it was unpleasant at best (she used the painful water pick AND tutored me on the proper flossing technique the entire time), but I made it a point to speak with the receptionist after my appointment and request that I be contacted prior to any changes in the future.

As I approached the receptionist, I became nervous and doubted what I was going to say. I was afraid I would seem silly, demanding or worse yet, a little unstable. I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and work through my vulnerability, unsure of the outcome.

Boy was I glad I did. As I began to politely and calmly share the anxiety I felt due to a change in hygienists without advance notice, and the fact that I would like to be notified of said changes in the future, something unexpected happened. Instead of an annoyed, judgmental reaction,  I received one of understanding, kindness and compassion.

The receptionist repeated over and over again that she completely understood and then went on to share her own story of her recent health issues, her experiences with a variety of health care providers and how unsettled and anxious she feels when her appointments change or don’t go as expected.

I left feeling completely understood and respected. Not at all what I had anticipated. We had shared a sacred space called common humanity and, rather than feeling abnormal, I never felt more connected.

If you decide to let your guard down, put yourself out there and allow yourself to be more vulnerable, it takes courage, since it may not always work out. Brene Brown cautions that we must be mindful of when and where we are vulnerable and who we decide to share with. A crowded office party after a couple of beers is definitely not the right time or place.

Only you can decide if you’re willing to take that risk. So far I’m one for two, not a bad average.

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Grateful Longing

Can we feel gratitude and longing at the same time?

I had a mix of emotions this morning. As I walked through my home I was feeling extremely grateful. I’ve paired down what I have so that my most favorite things are clearly on display. Pictures of people I cherish, cards from loved ones, items that represent past family vacations and several things that belonged to past generations. These things bring me such joy!

I’m so grateful for the deep love that I share with family and friends and the meaningful life that I have.

I carried this feeling outside with me as I walked my dog (SO grateful that he’s healthy at 17 1/2) into the crisp autumn air. Thinking about my intention this winter to get outside more despite really disliking the cold, even the cold didn’t deter my grateful feelings.

Funny how a simple sound could bring on a wave of sadness. As a dove fluttered from branch to branch I instantly thought of my dad and my mom. I really miss them.

My dad raised homing pigeons and I was around the sights, sounds (and smells) of them my entire life. Doves are white pigeons and so hearing them squeak as they flew from branch to branch brought back a wave of memories and emotions.

I looked up into the trees so grateful for all the years I had with my parents, yet longed to spend time with them this Thanksgiving. As the tears rolled down my cheeks and I glanced down at my dog, I noticed a tiny feather floating down from above. As I caught it in my hand, I smiled, grateful once again. Thanks dad!

Grateful Longing

May you all feel grateful even as you long for your loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

Silver and Gold

“Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

My mom used to sing this to me as a child when I would go crying to her with friendship troubles. Be it hurt feelings, confusion, not sure where I fit in, feeling left out, jealousy, or a variety of other emotions, my mom usually had the same advice:

“Keep the peace, keep the relationship.”

Since we were changing so quickly, getting our emotional bearings, and our lives with our friends were so intertwined on a day-to-day basis when we were kids, I could see her point.

As adults, we may be experiencing some major changes in our lives. A new job, divorce, marriage, grief, an empty nest, a big move or retirement may spark a personal journey inward.

Perhaps you are on a journey to slow things down, be more present, and discover (or uncover) your authentic self. An unexpected result of living with “wholehearted authenticity” (Brene Browne), presence and simplicity may be a shift in our relationships.  They may fizzle out or crash and burn, or some may even deepen. You may also find that you are making some new connections as the result of the new you!

For those relationships that aren’t working for us anymore, it’s difficult to follow my mom’s advice and continue to maintain them on some level. We have a finite amount of time, we don’t live close to many of our friends and we’re trying to simplify our lives, not complicate them. But it may also be difficult to let them go.

If you’re having difficulty letting go, these 6 things may help:

  • Know that if it isn’t working for you, chances are that it isn’t working for the other person. As we grow and change, so do our relationships.
  • Refrain from trying to find fault and blame to make a case that it’s not working, just let it go.
  • Be honest, loving and compassionate with the other person, and yourself.
  • Forgive. This may take time, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
  • Know that you did the best you could while in the relationship. No one is perfect.
  • Moving on does not constitute a failure. Be grateful for all that you have learned from the relationship.

I just finished reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, and his words have helped me develop a sense of freedom in my personal relationships. I highly recommend his book!

Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements:

    1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD
    2. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
    3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
    4. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST

I hope this helps you create a sense of freedom in your relationships and it gives you the courage to continue to do what feels right and to release that which doesn’t quench your soul.

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

Love, Light and Positivity (Mostly)

How do you know that being all there is actually working and having a positive impact on your life?

Personally, I’ve noticed that I’m less anxious and more plugged into life and people, in general. I’m more patient and I feel that I’m able to focus more on people’s good intentions rather than get frustrated by some of their behaviors. A few days ago I was checking out in a craft store and before I knew it the cashier rang me up, my husband swiped his card to pay, and the transaction was over. It was actually TOO FAST for me!

Not too long ago the world was moving way too slow for me. Cashiers, drivers, the internet, the workday, etc. just weren’t fast enough.  I was so taken with this realization that  I didn’t even mind that I didn’t have time to present my teacher ID to receive a discount. I’ll be prepared next time!

I’ve noticed that I have some periods of time when  I’m able to focus on the present, incorporate my self-care routine regularly, and I feel pretty positive. But there are also times when I have to work extra hard to stay on track and not get dragged into the past or carried away by the future, especially when there are several different factors present that can potentially impact me negatively.

Beginning of Fall

I went back to work recently, had to say goodbye to my summer vacation and all of the time spent socializing that I cherish so much. The weather will be getting colder soon, the days shorter, and I’ll feel less inclined to spend time outside. I’ve noticed that I’m dwelling more on personal relationships and hurt feelings (yes, I’m still sensitive). Rather than surrender to these feelings, I’m choosing to do the best that I can to continue to use what I’ve come to realize are my coping skills.

I can really identify with this quote from an article I read recently by Bhava Ram:

“Negative emotions are like splinters. They pierce your consciousness, inflame your mind, and consume your thoughts.” – See more at: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/how-to-cultivate-positive-thoughts-in-negative-situations#sthash.85NkWkx6.dpuf

 

I felt pretty overwhelmed and emotional yesterday, but instead of sleeping all day, I lit a candle, did some yoga, went for a run (and then took a nap). I was really tired! Even though  I’m finding it more difficult to be present, I’m still meditating, journaling, reaching out to others, practicing forgiveness (and asking for forgiveness, when necessary) and eating nutritiously, because I know  from experience that these things will help me feel the best that I can.

Yoga Space

Even though I’m not full of love and light lately, I’m mostly positive, and that’s good enough for me!