Choices and Guilt

Call him an old soul; we do sometimes.

What would you give to be free of shame and guilt? I bet you’ve been on a few guilt trips in your lifetime.

My son, age 22, speaks precise truths that took me 45 years to learn. The hard way. Well, okay, maybe 40 years. And my youngest son helped me learn.

I can’t quote verbatim because his words are more precise. They hold in their brevity more than I can possibly capture. Here’s my best try:

“We only have so much time on the planet. I make choices by asking myself  ‘will this add value to my life or to the life of someone important to me? Will it matter?’ If the answer is no, I don’t waste my time.”

And he does not feel guilty about his choices. That also is a “waste of time.”

HE DOES NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT HIS CHOICES. EVER.

He allows that he doesn’t have to make perfect ones, after all. He does not have to never miss out on something. He doesn’t even think that way, in fact. He shows up for his own life and lives it. I know part of this is the way he’s made and it comes easier to him than to some of us.

I love this about him.

I know some of the hard he’s experienced in life encourages such vision. I wouldn’t wish it on others even though he has grown into a fine man (whose frontal lobe probably closed about 4 years ahead of schedule!)

I love this about him too.

Such perspective is rare for his age, but it’s a good one we can learn at any age – even those of us who’ve spent years responding to the pull of shame and the leverage of the guilt trip.

And those of us who have actually repeated such techniques on others can (and will almost naturally) STOP doing this to others when we stop doing it to ourselves.

Magic almost. Miracle, if you prefer.

Health! Ahhhhhh yes.

There’s enormous freedom in living like this. And I’m convinced it doesn’t have to feel like artful tight-rope-walking between self-centered asshole and sappy, people-pleaser doormat. It does get comfortable.

As in, true-nature-comfortable, not zero-conflict-ever-comfortable.

Be encouraged!

Because sometimes there IS fall-out from living like this. At least until other people get used to the change. You’re upsetting relationship status, after all.

And for some of us, this means learning to carry our own pain and to NOT shoulder others’ pain. The good news is our own pain is not going to kill us. It’s only pain.

Everyone else’s pain piled on us might kill us.

It might cost us more than we can afford to pay. It might keep us from being awake for the good. It might cost us our very selves.

Taking responsibility for our own lives, knowing, allowing that our choices will not be perfect is the beginning of healthy relationship.

Far from being selfish, making choices that honor our limits and respects our own values frees others to do the same. Then, when we connect with those we love, it’s a healthy decision and a joyful experience, free from the weight of obligation and guilt.

Saying all this is easier than weathering the weight of guilt the first time you do something different. I realize that.

Still, I know what it’s like both ways. I know which is better. You will get over the guilt when you realize it keeps you trapped. And you will allow the shame to drop away and never attach to you again when you realize how much life and freedom awaits.

Need help getting there? It’s my job. Let’s get started.

 

 

drops of water tears of loss

Grief sucks; this helps

One woman’s Grief Story:

“The other night in my dream, my sister wasn’t dead. She came back into town and had found a way to live with her terminal illness. She had aged in the ten years since I last saw her, but she was obviously healthy.

I couldn’t understand why she had simply gone away to find this cure instead of taking us with her. She left her husband and a daughter too and the husband had since remarried. In fact, he married someone my sister had suggested.

The daughter had been angry about it and still struggled with her relationship with the step-mother. I felt so conflicted after spending years trying to help my niece adjust only to learn my sister had basically abandoned her. And me.

Grief Gets Complicated:

“In the dream, I felt happy to see my sister and very lost. How could she possibly have just gone away and been living elsewhere happily? It was a betrayal, though a soft one, tempered by my relief at seeing her.

I wanted to tell her all the things I’d missed telling her these past ten years, the epiphanies and revelations I had had growing older as a woman, a thing we always thought we’d do together. And yet, it felt hollow thinking that all that time she had, in fact, been a phone call away, not dead and in Heaven or wherever else I’d been telling myself she was all along. She just had not given me her forwarding telephone number.

When I woke up, I felt even worse, remembering she was no where on this earth. We were permanently separated by an impassable chasm, a chasm I didn’t any longer know if I even believed would be bridged after my own death. I carried that empty feeling with me all the rest of that day.

I swear, it has been years since I had one of those dreams where she is alive in it and then I have to wake up and lose her all over again. Every other time I’ve dreamed of her, I’ve been simply happy to see her in the dream. For as far as I’ve come after losing her, I would think these kind of painful things would stop happening.”

This story (used here with permission) highlights some of the realities of bereavement.

Realities of Grief

Even after what seems like a long span of time, the subconscious mind – here at work in the form of a nighttime dream – expresses its anxieties. If you’ve lost someone important, you’ve likely experienced this as well. Even if that loss is through a break-up or divorce.

Dreams, songs, smells, emotional life events…all of these can trigger sadness, longing, and deep melancholy. As in the dream above, they can also trigger more complex emotions: bewilderment, betrayal, or relief tempered by anger and confusion.

It could be that when things like this happen, as my friend experienced, you feel like you “should be further along” or this kind of thing shouldn’t really be happening anymore. You may have expected this kind of thing (and even been told it would happen) during the first year or so after a loss.

But if it has been a significant amount of time since you experienced the loss, this could feel like a senseless intrusion and it might make you wonder if you have “gotten over” the loss.

Helpful Reminders in the Grief Process

Whether you had support when your loss was fresh or you just got through it and it got gradually better, it’s never a bad time to remind yourself of a couple realities that can help you through the grief process.

  1. Grief has many stages that do not occur in a linear fashion. Kubler-Ross’s Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Sadness, and Acceptance don’t just happen once. Perhaps you’ve arrived at acceptance and thought you’d never see or smell or taste any of the other stages ever again. It’s okay. It’s normal.
  2. If you got to a place of Acceptance, you realized this loss was now part of your reality, a portion of your story the facts of which would never be altered. You probably breathed a sigh of relief when you experienced this. If you never have experienced this Acceptance, tell yourself it’s coming. And read on.
  3. Allowing, or letting something be is a technique in Mindfulness that can help with Loss. Briefly described, it happens when one allows pain, unpleasantness, ill-feeling (or good feelings as well!) to wash over one’s consciousness. One sits with the feeling and notices. One experiences how the feeling shifts…and it will. This can be a powerful way to learn that the human experiences of life do not have to wash us under.
  4. If you are past this stage of intensity in your grieving, remember the days when it was worse: when you could not stop crying, when you experienced more sadness than you felt able to handle, perhaps you could barely function. Maybe you were hit with wave after wave of those ill feelings washing over you and it felt like you might drown in them. If you ARE past those days, notice! It isn’t as bad as it once was, is it?
  5. If you are right in the middle of that wave-upon-wave survival, be assured, this will change. It will not stay this intense forever. And keep reading.
  6. If it has stayed too intense, do get some support, whether from a therapist who can give you individual attention and guide you through dealing with your specific experiences, or in a group setting. Being in one or the other does not have to last a long time. Many loss/recovery groups have a specific duration. If you’ve never done this, you will likely be surprised how healing it can be. If any of your feelings seem too big or not safe, get professional help.
  7. If there is a time to take good care of yourself, this is it. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Do things that are important and nourishing for you. It is not enough just to pay attention to others – children, perhaps other grieving family members- although many people do this. Care for yourself as a first priority.

The reality is that Grief and Loss sucks big time.

It hurts like no other human experience. And yet, it is a human experience. Many people navigate it and continue to live a rich life. All of us are vulnerable to the tenderness of Loss cycling around again when we least expect it. If you haven’t been able to get this far in your process, maybe now is the time to sit with someone who knows how to help.

I’d love to help you through your grief process.

Call. Email me. Scroll down and leave me a comment.

Just Right for Love

Today, it’s “Ladies, listen up” and “Gents, listen in.” There’s stuff for each of you here.

Guess what, Beauties? You’re perfect for love. Right now. You are not too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too weird, too old, too much, too little, too in-debt, or too broken for love. You’re NOT! You are just right.

Think about it. What is that thing you’re telling yourself you’ll DO before you open your heart to love again?

Lose 20 pounds? Get your children perfectly reared and out on their happy way? Establish a secure retirement? Afford Botox, or microdermabrasion, fix your varicose veins, try laser hair removal, get a make-over, run your first half-marathon, attain top management in your job, save the world?!

Do you tell yourself (and others) you’re too busy to date? Your girlfriends are where it’s at right now. You’ll just focus on your children and grandchildren. All the good men are taken and if they’re not, you’ll believe it when you see it?!

Two things keep us trapped. One is the belief we must meet some ideal just short of perfection or we are going to be rejected and overtaken by younger, thinner, taller, (or more petite) more demure, and cunning women. In short, we must be perfect.

After all, everyone knows a man is comparing the real women in his life to the women in a magazine! (More on this in just a minute.) How pathetic, we think. To get to this age and have men still judge us on beauty and sex appeal and helplessness. It’s hardly fair.

It doesn’t help us like ourselves. Or men for that matter.

Secondly, we have embraced to the fiber, cell, and breath of our being the belief we do not need a man in order to be happy! By God, we are going to do it ourselves! We do not need a man! And we will prove it until our dying breath if we must.

In our weak, tender, lonely moments we think, well, if a truly good man were to prove his worth to us by artfully pursuing us atop his shiny, white steed, maybe, maybe then we’d reconsider. If he did all the right things.

As it is, he doesn’t call when he says he will.

We thought we were the only one he was dating just to find out he was seeing two other women at the same time.

He cleaned off my car windshield without even asking?! What is he trying to say? Does he think I’m a helpless girl and can’t do that myself?

Welp, there’s a good reason he’s divorced, we think aloud. Another creep bites the dust.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some creeps in mid-life dating. There are absolute rule-out, do-not-consider-for-another-minute-no-matter-how-great-the-sex red flags. And some of us are ignoring these, hoping to reform a 50-some-year-old Boy into a Good Guy.

That does not happen, ladies.

And it’s not our job to fix them. Let’s do let these boys be boys. We’re interested in Real Men, in the Good Guys, right? They exist.

Some of us can’t recognize a Real Man from a Boy.  And that’s not his fault.

Here’s a hint: Boys actually DO expect middle-age women to be in supremo, tip-top physical condition. They ARE still evaluating women based on how good she will make him look. They DO think women should look like the ideal of beauty they’ve been fed. Here’s a newsflash, ladies. These men do not understand relationship yet AND they don’t even really like us. They have issues.

(This is not to say men don’t want us to be attractive, but Real Men who like Real Women actually DO find us naturally alluring and beautiful. In lots of different shapes and sizes and colors. Trust me, there’s a man who will love your female form, I’m sure of it! And, I’ll help you find him.)

Meanwhile, we’ve got our own issues.

We have very good reason for the belief we do not need a man. We’ve been hurt and disappointed, heart-broken and confused by our lack of success in love. We’ve grown up in the era that saw the bra burned and wages stay unequal. We were some of the first women to actually have it all only to watch it crumble when he had sucked all the life out of us or stopped seeing us altogether or cheated and left.

We have very good reason to believe we need to be perfect before we deserve to be loved. We are smart, after all, and this must be the missing piece of the puzzle. It couldn’t possibly be something simpler.

Or could it?

What if the pain inherent in our experience with love and dating were relatively easy to shift? What if it’s just a matter of healing in a few key ways? What if it’s not about trying harder and doing more and being better? Would you invest a little time and energy and money in learning that?

I would.

I did.

But before I found answers, I invested a whole lot of heartache and anger, trial and error. I invested years of my life (and my children’s lives) trying harder to do better and be better and fix everything. Then I found something that actually helped me see and recognize Boys, leave them behind and appreciate wonderful, quality men so I could enjoy good, peaceful love.

It’s my mission to help you find a way to enjoy a healthy love too. No matter where you are right now, I can help you get to relationship with a Good Guy that works.

I know things that will save you pain, time, heartache, anguish, & embarrassment and actually attract a good man capable of loving you well. I’ll share lots of it right here, so follow me and get alerts when I post about this topic.

Don’t wait! Register NOW and come have dinner and drinks; bring the girls and your smart, sassy self! No matter where you are right now in your readiness for Midlife Dating, Mating, and Relating this Girls’ night out is seriously going to be a blast!

Is it time for help?

Only you can determine if now is the time to get professional help (for yourself or a child.) Your doctor, a family member, or a trusted friend might say so. They could be right and it can be helpful to get “outside” feedback from those you trust. Still, we are so accustomed to “doing it ourselves” or feel we “should” be able to handle this or figure it out that this strong belief can muddy a relatively simple decision.

Definitely get help if you or someone in your care is experiencing or expressing suicidal or homicidal thoughts no matter how “serious” you think they are or are not. Definitely get help if you or someone in your care is hurting her/him-self in any manner, no matter how “mild” it seems. Definitely get help if you recognize that you or someone in your care is hurting other people verbally, emotionally, or physically.

That said, sometimes it’s not that clear. After all, there are multiple things to READ and try on the internet or in books that are self-help and promise a cure. And you haven’t yet tried everything! Plus, you’re resourceful, smart, and have gotten this far.

So when is it time?

Any one (or more) of the following over a span of two weeks or more mean it’s worth finding a real, live professional to lend a hand:

  • your situation keeps you awake at night or
  • wakes you up in the middle of the night or
  • is on your mind first thing in the morning
  • your work feels significantly more stressful than normal or
  • you’ve received feedback that your personal life is interfering at work
  • a friend or colleague has tried to end a conversation when you need to talk
  • you don’t take pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • your children become depressed or anxious
  • your children develop stomach aches or act out at school
  • you’ve been researching solutions on the internet
  • you purchased a self-help book or people are “gifting” them to you
  • people are giving you (solicited and unsolicited) advice about how to manage
  • anything you’re experiencing is uncomfortable enough to make it significant to you
  • you have a question about your specific situation (or a bunch of them)

Life happens to all of us. Loss happens to all of us. Unfortunately, you don’t get a gold star for handling it better than someone else or for NOT asking for help. You also won’t get a gold star for including therapy or coaching as your go-to resource.

You’ll get more than a gold star and you’ll get it sooner.

The rewards of good “therapy” are intrinsic: reversal of symptoms, access to a warm, knowledgeable, and specifically helpful human, validation of your process, skills to manage in the best ways known to man, an ongoing resource for any future disruption.

It can be risky. Growth can be painful. Change is hard. Trust is hard for some of us. Meeting someone new and sharing wounds is hard for nearly everyone. Pain is pain. Grief surely sucks no matter its shape or source.

The way through is not always simple or easy, yet it’s worth trying to find the right trained person.

Your resources of time, energy, and (probably) money are limited, so you want to know you will connect with someone you 1. like  2. trust and 3. know is skilled to help in your situation.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and help you skip to the perfect connection. (If you didn’t already see this, I’ve provided some quick guidance here with links to a couple other articles.)

I know I’m not the right person for everyone -though I wish I could be- so it’s also not a matter of me just saying, “come here; I can help.” But if you hear me saying that to you, well, then do come here and let’s connect!

Most importantly, if any of the above list fits your situation, then it IS time to find a professional someone to help.

green grass symbol of choosing the right counselor, psychotherapist, or life coach

Finding your right counselor or life coach

The right counselor or life coach.

You’ll invest time, energy, and probably some money finding the right therapist or coach. Timing-when you’re right in the middle of a crisis or need to feel better fast-can make it even more stressful. Don’t worry. Your natural process of selection is at work no matter what. Follow these three tips and it will be even smoother:

1. Trust yourself. Listen to your gut.

If you get an uneasy sense or bad feeling, trust it. That’s your gut instinct talking to you.

I’m saying this first because you may or may not have a developed sense of your own instincts. You may have a habit of ignoring them.

And if you are good at listening to them, now is the time to pay attention. I promise you this: the gut knows; it will not steer you wrong. (Need help identifying this or paying attention? We can work on that!)

2. Engage yourself. Do a little thinking.

You already know a ton about how you’re made and what you need.

If you take time to write down what you know, your chances of finding it increase tremendously. (It almost feels like magic, but research supports writing it down works!)

Stuck? Ask yourself two questions:

In past relationships with doctors, dentists, teachers, athletic coaches, yoga instructors (whoever has been in a position to help with your health and achievement) what has pissed you off? Seriously, think of your pet peeve in those situations. Is it someone bossy? harsh? arrogant? hyper?

Now think about the best relationships in that context if you’ve had them. What was good?

Was it a gentle dentist? Did your doctor really listen? Did a teacher do a good job explaining why?

Use the good and bad information to help define what you’re looking for.

For example:

  •  I need a good listener, who can communicate understanding, who doesn’t do all the talking.
  • I don’t want someone to stare at me blankly while I try to figure things out on my own.
  • I need someone with an easy sense of humor.
  • I need someone I know cares who will challenge me when I need it.

By all means, once you have prepared by doing this work, share your list of needs with a potential therapist. He or she should be able to tell you if and how they can be that for you. It also gives them a chance to let you know they can’t.

3. Honor yourself. Your feelings matter.

It’s normal to be nervous about entering this kind of relationship. It’s normal if you’re scared. It’s normal to feel incredibly vulnerable and uncertain.

Of course you feel that way! You are preparing to spill your guts about the hardest parts of your life with someone you don’t even know yet.

Because you matter, keep in mind these three things:

  • know your feelings are real and normal
  • put some thought into defining  exactly what you need (in writing is best)
  • trust your gut and go with it.

Be encouraged; you will make a good, helpful connection. Your healing and growth depends on it! A little preparation, a little action and you will definitely find your person. Let me know if you think we are a good fit. You’re the expert on you and I’d be honored to join you. Give me a call.