Why I love this Monday

Many people think Sundays are the beginning of the week, but for most of us we think of the beginning of the week as Monday.  Monday is the day we go back to work or school.  So we dread Mondays.  For some reason today, I began thinking of today as anything is possible day.

I started thinking of the series Girls which is sadly ending shortly.  I’ve come to think of the main character, Hannah, as my gateway into the minds of young women today.  So many possibilities and choices, it becomes very hard to choose.  But I can see some of myself in every character.  I can see my fragility in Shoshana.  I can see my selfishness in both Jessie and Marnie.  Jessie is beautiful and passionate and dramatic, and Marnie just creates alot of drama, so of course I’d wish to be more like Jessie. I can see myself in Hannah’s mom Loreen, having to begin life again in upward middle age, and thinking I’d be alone forever, and sex was a thing of the past, the fear of starting over alone.   But I think most of us are the most like Hannah, doing the best we can, and still making a mess of things.

I was going to go to yoga this morning, but I had 15 minutes, so I decided to try to throw a lovely porcelain vase on the wheel.  Ok, I had closer to 30 minutes, and then something happened as I was trying to throw this pot.  I thought to myself, what if this pot today is my yoga?  Can’t yoga really be just anything we concentrate on 100% and put our best effort into?  So I started trying to throw a pot made from really well wedged porcelain clay.  I always tell beginners to do what I never do.  I say “the quality of what you throw is based on how well you prepare your clay before you throw it”, but I rarely do what I tell them.  No, I force that clay.  I use all my strength and leverage to force that clay into the shape I want it to go to.  I get done with a reasonably acceptable piece, that looks to the novice like I know what I’m doing, but I know and other experts would know as soon as they picked it up that it’s far to heavy for me to know what I’m doing.  And isn’t this the way we live alot of our lives?  Trying to force things into the shapes we want them, using all our might?  Recently, even though I’ve been doing clay as a hobby for 15 years, I’ve begun calling myself an amateur.  When I first started, I used to try to be the best and worried about impressing everyone around me with what I was doing.  I think I finally have it right.  I’m a beginner. We’re all really just beginners.  We’re all really just beginners at navigating this thing called life, and each day we’re starting over again.

So why I love Mondays?  Everything is beginning again.  What if we just said to ourselves, I’m just a beginner so it’s ok to say when I don’t know something.  It’s ok to ask for help.  It’s ok to ask for forgiveness. It’s ok for me to ask you to show me the way to do something, or even just to show me the way you do something that is different than the way I go at it.   Maybe today I’ll just play with saying “yes” to everything like Shonda Rhimes.  Maybe today I’ll just play with saying “no” to everything, just to see what that feels like.  That’s living life like you’re doing yoga, being in the moment.  Then Mondays can be  wonderful;   you just have to  give yourself permission.

Why I love this Monday

What Footprint are you Leaving?

Each day we live our lives, we leave a footprint of some kind.  We leave an impression of some kind in many of our interactions, or sometimes none. Sometimes we’re just living life on autopilot, pre-occupied with our thoughts or our concerns, and not really paying attention at all.

I’ve just gotten done reading two books on Irena Sendler.  (“Irena’s Children”  “Life in a Jar” ) I had never heard of her either, so if you haven’t, you’re not alone.  This woman was a social worker in Warsaw Poland during World War II.  It was clear, she couldn’t do much to save many adults, but she gradually built a crew of trustable acquaintances that saved 2500 jewish children.  Many of them are older now, and a number of them don’t know about their pasts.  Records were dangerous to keep.  Many in her network were murdered for participating.  Following the German occupation, Poland was occupied by Communist Russia.  Much of the same behavior as far as anti-semitism and punishment for thinking differently still went on.  Those who resisted the Germans were also considered criminals by the Communist Russian regime.  So many hidden jews continued to live their new lives and it wasn’t safe to talk about.  Eventually Poland became free of Russia, and some high school girls in Kansas discovered a paragraph about Irena Sendler in a rare historical volume, and did their history project on her.  Their writing to a number of places eventually helped them unearth the whole  story about Irena, and now there are many history books about her. Irena says she did what she did because she had to listen to her heart.

Each of us does leave a footprint in what we do, even if we’re not aware.  And every day becomes an opportunity to leave a different kind of footprint.  There are days life is too hard or we’re too upset to try, but there’s other days that are mercilessly routine and uneventful, and those days can become opportunities to make them much more meaningful and contribute much more to the world. Most of us will never come close to accomplishing anything like Irena did, but there are small things we can do each day to make our lives and others’ better.

We’ve had some rough political times lately (yeah, an understatement), yet by joining some group email and contacts, I get daily reminders both of the things we need to work on in our world, and reminders of what our collaborative protects have accomplished.  It helps me be grateful for the many numbers of unknown people out there who also take a stance.  I often wear my “Nasty Women don’t stop fighting” or “Founding Member of the Persisterhood” T shirts, and I love how many people in stores comment on how they like them.  Sometimes walking down the street someone hollers out to be and gives me the “power” sign.  It starles me sometimes!   I’ve forgotten what I’m wearing.   But taking a stand and publicizing it lets others who agree with me connect with me, as this blog does.  Connecting with each other is powerful stuff.  When we do, we accomplish something together,  and I thank all of you who take a few minutes here and there to do or say something to make the world a better place. You remind me of just how wonderful most of us are.

Sometimes I just decide this will be a day I will try to give to others in some way.  I’m in a good place mentally and I can offer out.  I try to be friendly with the new person in yoga class.  I reach out with a patient who hasn’t been in lately, or whom I know was in the hospital, and just say “hi”.  I try to spend an extra moment here and there being a little kinder.   If you want to leave a kinder footprint, the best gift you can ever give someone else is to acknowledge what they’re doing.  A little validation can be a magnificent gift.  I know I will never find peace in my conflicted relations with my parents, but my precious cousin, commenting as she does acknowledging how hard I work to find peace in the relationships, goes a long way.  It means alot to me.

Rub your hands together back and forth until you can feel the heat you build up in your hands.  Now put your warm hands over your heart.  Lead your life today from this warm place.

There are many questions we will never answer.  There are bad things that happen for no reason.  But I know that if I spend as many days as I can trying to leave a positive footprint, there’s no stopping how much each of us can change the world.

What Footprint are you Leaving?

Growing Through the Pain

When Black Bears, Brown Bears and Grizzlys are approaching winter, they try to eat alot and store as much fat as possible to prepare them for the long hibernation of winter.  They do this and then sleep a long long time, and boy, are they sore and grouchy when they wake up.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a caterpillar that one days builds this cramped quarters around themselves and then wakes up a completely different creature, but if that happened to humans, we would surely be very afraid.

What we have in common with both species is that we are also exposed to periods of our lives where we are either in alot of mental or physical discomfort,  and this can be both terrifying as well as uncomfortable.  We aren’t aware how much self awareness insects have and we’re just learning about emotions of other animal species, but what is true about humans is that we have more choices about what to do when we’re going through painful times.  When we are in emotional or physical pain, time becomes distorted.  If it’s a pain we’ve been through before, such as a broken bone, we know this is temporary and that it will get better.  Even heartbreak, when it has occurred enough times, is something we can learn to recover from easier as we practice.  For myself, it has helped for many years that I studied psychology and crisis intervention theory.  Crisis intervention theory has showed that we generally adapt to the most difficult losses to a point of a new normalcy in about a 6 week period.  So when a young man broke my heart, I knew that generally I would be feeling much better in 6 weeks, and usually this was true.

But Crisis response is very different from depression, or even from pathological grief.  With pathological grief the response to a loss can last much much longer and even into years as a response to a loss.   The person becomes stuck in the acute grief response.  Perhaps it’s possible they don’t even want to recover from that grief, because letting go of the grief would be letting go of the relationship or person they’ve lost, and they just don’t want to.  We all grieve on our own timelines and in our own ways.  We’re all entitled to do so.  It’s only a problem when it’s extended because that person isn’t living life in the present anymore at all, so they need professional help to get out of that space.

Depression can include components of biology, loss, self esteem issues, social isolation, failures, and many other factors can be involved.  Us humans are very complicated and we mostly live in our minds, and to some extent we can alter our own moods and our own recoveries.  Hope is very important.  The hope has to be there that there can be a recovery, that this terrible awful feeling won’t last forever.

That’s hard to visualize when you’re young and experiencing a first heartbreak or a first close death.  It’s hard to imagine that eventually you will adapt to the new normal of you without that person in your life.  Perhaps a way to visualize this possibility is to think of yourself as a caterpillar.  This awful pain is happening because you’re going through a change.  This loss can destroy you, but not if you don’t let it.  If you let it be, and keep on trying, this pain will lead to a new you.  Don’t fight the tears, let them flow.  That’s part of the metamorphosis.  It’s part of what we do to become stronger and change.  Change is painful, but try to remember this pain is your path to your becoming that butterfly as long as you stay alive, keep breathing, and keep flapping those wings.

Growing Through the Pain

Turning goodbye into Good Bye

I was in yoga this morning.  Often we are encouraged to have an internal mantra with in our in and out breaths to help us turn off the Monkey Brain (internal chatter) and have a more Mindful practice.  My yoga practice is primarily to help my mind, so I try to do this.  I have often internalized the mantra “No thing” from the word nothing, which I’m trying to practice, I’m trying to turn off my outside thoughts to focus on nothing.  The break up of that mantra into  “No thing ” because I’m trying to think of no-thing led me to my mantra this morning.  This morning I was thinking about goodbye, then “good” bye, what is a “good” bye?  I have a close friend about to take her 5th attempt into moving away.  The last 4 have led to her falling apart emotionally and taking months to repair.  I have been there to help her heal each of those times, but when she’s just started feeling better, this seems like the wrong time for the 5th attempt.  I always tell patients not to make any drastic changes when they’re coming off a major stressor.  This friend is creating her own stressor, because she’s had this fantasy of living away and having a grand adventure, whether this actually suits her temperament or not.

Someone else close to me also returned from a grand adventure recently.  She took months off work and went traveling with a friend.  She came back early, and without her friend.  Being away from all the structures that prop up our worlds can be difficult.  Eventually she just craved quiet and privacy, and her friend took this personally.  She returned to her world, and returned to work with a different perspective.  I don’t think the trip created the internal peace she had wanted it to bring her, but she did have an interesting time. I’m sure she will travel again, but I doubt she will fantasize of taking as long a trip as she did again.  What we fantasize doesn’t always turn out to be what we expect.

So I was thinking about goodbye.  Either way, I have to tell my friend goodbye.  I love her but I can’t watch her destroy herself again and again, kind of like when you love someone who has drug problems and they keep making the same mistakes.  I have to walk away.  I can’t keep being the one to prop her up and worry about her.  The pain of watching her destroy things around her, destroy herself is no longer something I feel able to watch.  So either way I have to say goodbye.  I will hope she is successful this next time.  If she is, our relationship won’t be the same anyway.  She will be away and i will rarely feel that hug that I need from a close friend.  I have to say goodbye either way to the relationship we’ve had.

But can I turn this into a “good” bye?  I think that’s our ultimate goal with this life.  All of life is about embracing and letting go.  None of us likes to say goodbye, goodbyes are painful,  but there is no life worth living without goodbyes.   If we don’t risk loving, then we will never feel the pain of goodbye, but that would be a hollow way to exist.  We hate letting go, but we still have to do it, so is there a way can we do it with more grace?

What would a “good” bye include?  I can make it a “good” bye for me by holding onto and cherishing all the wonderful memories we’ve had during the years.  I can make it a “good” bye by opening myself to the possibility of something new, either a new BFF coming along, or an older relationship that might be nourished because I have more time and energy to spend on it, or maybe even to a new different relationship with my old friend.  I can choose to make it a “good” bye by choosing to think positively and wish her well.  I can choose to make it a “good” bye by trying to make sure I don’t add more obstacles to her chosen path. I will try.


Turning goodbye into Good Bye

What to do about all the hate:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Eight Ways to Stand Up to Hate

–by Elizabeth Svoboda, syndicated from Greater Good, Mar 06, 2017

There’s no denying it anymore: Hatred is erupting all over the United States, after having long simmered beneath the social surface. In less than one week, the Southern Poverty Law Center has tallied more than 400 incidents of “hateful intimidation and harassment”—and millions of Americans now fear becoming victims of verbal and physical assaults, possibly thanks to some very threatening and violent language coming from the very top of our society.

In the face of such upheaval, how can you prepare to protect those who are being threatened—to stand up for the worth and dignity of every person, even when it’s uncomfortable or scary? It all starts with mentally equipping yourself for such action, and for the consequences that come with it.

“For anyone to become an active, everyday social hero who does daily deeds of helping and compassion, that journey and new role in life begins in one’s mind,” says psychologist Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect and founder of the Heroic Imagination Project.

While few of us will witness an actual hate crime, anyone can be confronted with hateful language—at work, on the street, or even over Thanksgiving dinner. Here are some strategies you can use to turn your mind toward everyday heroism—and to act in ways that reflect that commitment.

1. Educate yourself

Most of us would like to believe that when we see someone being attacked or harassed, we’ll quickly rush to their aid. But while heroic intervention can certainly arise out of empathy for others, it’s more likely to be successful when you’ve had some nuts-and-bolts real-world training.

If you don’t yet feel confident in your ability to protect someone, seek out a course or workshop that teaches how to engage in effective bystander intervention. A few good places to start: Green DotHollaback!, and Response-Ability. In a 2011 University of Kentucky study, people who took part in Green Dot training reported intervening more actively when they saw someone in trouble. (Another perk: You’ll get to meet plenty of other people who share your values.)

2. Be the first to speak up

Classic social psychology studies reveal that people typically look to those around them for cues on how to behave—and that they tend to trust those cues even when doing so leads them badly astray. In the Asch conformity experiment, for example, participants were shown a picture of a line and asked to state which of three other lines equaled it in length. When other people around them chose the wrong answer, the subjects often went along with the crowd’s flawed judgment.

But if you’re aware of how people’s conformist tendencies operate, you can try to harness them for good. In a variation on the Asch experiment, people were far less likely to follow the crowd’s lead when there was just one other person near them who chose the correct line lengths. When you speak out about injustices happening in front of you, you can help tip the social balance toward truth.

By taking such a stand, you can influence people on social media, too. NYU researchers reported this year that when people using a racist slur on Twitter were scolded by a highly followed user in their “in-group,” the offenders cut way back on their use of the slur.

3. Practice being conspicuous

To defend someone who’s being threatened, you have to be willing heed your own conscience above all else. But resisting social pressure takes serious guts, and it helps to do some trial runs to feel more at ease.

When he was teaching at Stanford, Zimbardo used to walk his students through an exercise he called “Be a Deviant for a Day”—which could mean, say, drawing a giant circle on their foreheads or wearing a pair of pink bunny slippers around campus. It’s a good way to learn what it feels like to go against the grain. “If you can practice when it’s safe,” says Australian educator Matt Langdon, founder of the Hero Construction Company, “you’re going to be more likely to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

In addition to honing your overall nonconformity game, it pays to rehearse for specific uncomfortable situations you’re likely to encounter. How are you going to react, for instance, if you see a passerby getting attacked in public—or if a friend makes a casual hateful comment at a dinner party? Psychologist Lynne Henderson’s “social fitness” research suggests that if you come up with a plan and practice it (perhaps in a role-play with a friend), you’ll be better prepared to put it into action when it’s most needed.

4. Ask for help when you need it

To stand up for someone in trouble, you’ll have to push past your own fear of making waves. Still, it’s important to strike a balance between courage and caution. You should only put yourself in danger as a last resort, after you’ve ruled out all other reasonable options. If a harasser is waving a gun and threatening to shoot, rushing into the fray probably isn’t the best idea.

“You can be an effective social change agent only if you know when to act alone, in a team, or not at all,” Zimbardo says. “When you size up a situation as dangerous, call the police or fire department or others nearby to help you do the right thing, aware that doing nothing is always the wrong thing.”

If the danger level seems low but you’re not prepared for direct confrontation, try starting a friendly conversation with the person being harassed (“I love your scarf! Where did you get it?”), which can help defuse the situation.

What to do about all the hate:

“Say Your Truths & Seek Them In Others”

It’s never too late to say I’m sorry.  It’s never too late to say I love you.  Maybe the words you say today won’t produce the response you wish to have today, but they help to heal you and create a path towards healing yourself and the other person you wish to connect with.  Eventually, your words could sink in on the other side, and create a path to restore your relationship.  We are most of us  fragile beings, and we all make mistakes, it’s what you do following that which creates your value and character.


–by Elizabeth Lesser, syndicated from ted.com, Feb 25, 2017

https://embed.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lesser_say_your_truths_and_seek_them_in_othersLike many of us, I’ve had several careers in my life, and although they’ve been varied, my first job set the foundation for all of them. I was a home-birth midwife throughout my s. Delivering babies taught me valuable and sometimes surprising things, like how to start a car at am. when it’s degrees below zero.

“Say Your Truths & Seek Them In Others”

“When I grow up, I want to be president and the biggest asshole ever!”

All I can think of this last week is that this is really what little Donny aspired to all along.  Yes, he grew up with everything.  We know what happens to people who have everything, they want a little bit more, and sometimes they don’t really grow up at all, and sometimes they rebel.  It took Paris Hilton being locked up to grow up a little.

So all I can imagine is little Donny being so loved and doted on by his paid nannies, and all he wanted was a little time from mommy and daddy, but he didn’t get much, so that made him angry.  But still they said to him, “Donny, when you grow up, you can be anything, you can be the President of the United States!”  And Donny thought, “Yeah, and when I’m President, boy will I make them pay!  I’ll show them!”

So Donny used all that borrowed and inherited money and waged a giant PR campaign.  First he tested his method by making a TV show about himself being obnoxious and mean, and he was right!  People loved his being obnoxious and mean!  It was a success.  Now Donny said, “if I have converted all these couch potatoes into being angry and mean and loving that with me, now all I have to do is pretend to be really conservative.  I can go far with the conservative crowd, just like all the banks that continue to lend me money despite the bankruptcies, they’ll forget I’ve been married 3 times and make young ladies parade around half naked and everything else. And if I can’t get money from the US banks, China and Russia will give me lots of money. And I’ll lie alot and make everyone angry and the little puppet conservatives will go along because I’ll make them afraid not to, and I’ll just lie and tell them what they want to  hear and they’ll believe it because I’m rich, and they’ll go along with my charades because they want the power more than anything”.  And they did. And they elected him.

“hmm, now I’ve won, what can I do now for fun?”  he thought.” I know, I’ll create lots of controversy and chaos and while I’m distracting everyone with that, I’ll put alot of people in power who will destroy democracy as we know it.  I’ll make America First just like Hitler promised the Germans and Lenin promised and no one will stop me.  What fun!  And then I’ll own the world.And everyone will have to bow down to me, and they’ll all be afraid of me then!  No one will make fun of me then.” And he tried.

What are we going to do to stop him? If you’re not already doing something, if you’re not paying attention, please start.  We have alot of resisting to do and we need as many of you as possible to be involved in every small way you possibly can.  Whatever you do, don’t shut up because then he wins and we’re lost. Our future depends on you.

“When I grow up, I want to be president and the biggest asshole ever!”