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.

 

 

Love is Easy; Love is Abundant

Question what you think you know about love.

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me.) Is love a mystery?

Remember M*A*S*H*’s theme song: Suicide is Painless.

That’s daft. No it’s not. That sentiment is a big fat, stupid lie. It makes a poignant song title because it’s so tragically ironic. And wrong. (Ask anyone who has lost someone to suicide-and that, unfortunately, includes LOTS of us!)

Have you heard, “love takes work” or “good love is hard to find” or “love hurts, love stinks”?

Trust me. These are also big, fat, stupid lies. We just believe them because we’ve heard them so many times and then when something happens (like we get rejected) we hear them again, only this time in our own voice.

Just because people say things thousands of times and we think them and we think life “proves” them right does not mean they are true.

Read that again. It can be a bit of a mind-twister.

If you give yourself one gift this year, let it be replacing these lies with the truth.

Allow me to be an example.

I spent years (believe me) struggling in relationship, convinced that giving 110% should yield a happy love (because everyone should give of themselves, compromise, and give as much as possible. This is what good Christian women -fill in that blank with whatever description applies to you- do, after all.)

This thinking and behavior never produced more harmony, or more love, or better intimacy, or any peace.

I was undeterred! I had plenty of evidence that I just needed to “work harder” and “love more.” I soothed myself with chocolate and mantras like “love hurts.”

I was, after all, really smart and I did not have the love I wanted so I concluded that people must not actually experience good love or at least not very often and therefore, “love is scarce” and “good love is hard to find.” This made perfect sense. I had years of proof!

I had plenty of supportive company and comforting commiseration from other people who also did not have a clue about how love works.

And then, something incredible happened.

I read the truth. Someone wrote, “Love is easy. Love is abundant. Love is not hard.” And even though I thought these were CRAZY notions, maybe even blasphemous, I allowed myself to entertain the possibility that what I knew about love was ALL WRONG.

It changed my approach to solving this problem. Instantly. I went from taking all those underlying beliefs for granted and operating on them to ASKING the right question.

How DOES love work?

Almost miraculously, in a way that felt almost like the heavens opening and the angels singing, and actually was one of those waaaaaaaaaa, low-effort, fantastic revelations, I made a shift in my thinking and it changed my life for the better for-EVERRRRRHHHH! I’m not kidding you!

This is why I am doing what I do as a therapist and life coach. This is why I KNOW I know things that can help and why I feel compelled to DO THIS!

I had no idea until I studied that there was scientific support for the claims that “love is abundant” and “love is easy.” Oh man, I have things to share! This stuff is gonna change YOUR life too. I’m singing at the thought of it and I hope you’ll give me the chance to teach you what I know.

Here a a few things to keep in mind:

  • It can be very difficult to come to the humble conclusion the way you’ve always done things AND the way you think about things MIGHT NOT BE right.
  • Making that shift is essential for growth. THIS is where growth happens: Pinpointing the untruth, examining it, and replacing it!
  • Just because something is simple, does not guarantee it’ll be easy.

That is what I’m here for: to assist you in implementing.

Give me a call or send an email!

 

Before you date again

What are the first things you want to know before jumping back into the pool of “plenty of fish?”

How to stay away from the slimy, stinky ones? Maybe you’re just wishing you could skip all the painful parts.

If you’re angry at all the advice about “wait a year” and “go find yourself first,” I’m here to tell you that is soooo normal! You should be angry! Who is this person telling you what you need to do? (here’s an example of a checklist for becoming self-actualized before dating again)

You are in pain!

It’s just overwhelming thinking about all the obstacles you must first overcome before you are going to get to the relationship you really want again! If it can ever work, that is!

Besides, when pain is your reality, a year feels like FOR-ehhhhh-VERRRRRR. (Sandlot, anyone?)

I bet you get equally annoyed when people answer your earnest question “when IS the right time to re-enter the dating world?” with “only you can answer that question.” That’s no help!

I might scandalize hoards of people, but truly, let’s cut to the chase about a few concerns:

Either you are wondering when it will EVER be an “appropriate” time to HAVE SEX again, (based on your values and this strangely shifting dating scene) or you may just want to stay away from any potential mates altogether.

Maybe you feel both ways in between secretly, literally, crying in your coffee. Maybe it’s easy enough finding willing sex partners but that has nothing to do with finding the committed relationship you actually want.

Everyone knows that late at night, in the cold dark of your single-occupied bed is THE TIME, no matter what, when you come painfully face-to-face with the reality of your new single-hood.

Have I said that sucks? It does!

Rather than assure you by saying “you will figure this out; you’ll know when the time is right” or give you a list of MUST-DO-FIRSTS, here are a couple of things that RIGHT NOW can be a small comfort.

  1. Keep in mind your pain is real. It’s normal. It IS painful. Oh man, it hurts! Sometimes it hurts to breathe!
  2. Put your pain in perspective. Humans get to experience pain. It is part of what makes us human. That said… (don’t get mad at me for this one-it comes from a really smart, sweet, older woman who had learned a thing or two by the time I heard her share it…)
  3. Tell yourself the truth about your pain: It’s not going to kill you; it’s only your own pain. Make it a sweet, soothing “mantra”, if you like. “It’s not going to kill me; it’s only my own pain.” (Bonus nugget of truth that helps lots of people: when you learn to experience your own pain instead of taking on everyone else’s or trying to AVOID IT,- through busy-ness or  denial- there’s actually LESS of it.) “It’s just my own pain.” Try that one on for size.
  4.  On the practical side, make your bed a sanctuary of COMFORT. Get new sheets and bedding, new pillows that DON’T smell like or remind you of your ex-lover. Make it YOUR space. And then sleep in the middle, thrash about with abandon and SPREAD OUT, man! if you need to cry there, go ahead. (This works for women  AND MEN!)
  5. Be grateful. Seriously. Count whatever you can. No matter what your spiritual approach and even if you don’t really engage one, noticing the good not only multiplies it (you notice MORE!) but it increases your daily satisfaction.

It’s not rocket science. Simple things can make a big difference. Of course, you know I’m going to tell you to find a skilled, trustworthy counselor or coach. Of course!

Depression is a wily snake

Maybe you know you’re depressed.

Could be your doctor gave you the PHQ9 and expressed concern at your result. Could be people in your life have noticed a change and wondered aloud.

It’s also just as possible you “feel uneasy” are “not yourself” or are “just blah” and it may never have occurred to you this feeling has a diagnosis, much less a treatment!

All around the globe, common depression symptoms include low moods, sadness, crying, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping, but that’s just for starters. Other symptoms (like decreased concentration, illogical thinking, or physical symptoms) and the very nature of depression can make it one wily snake to pin down!

(Another tricky thing about symptoms is they can be shared by bipolar, major depressive episode, or chronic depression as well as other maladies and it can take a trained professional time make an accurate, specific diagnosis…but enough talk about symptoms!)

What sufferers want is to feel better. Duh!

Nearly all practitioners, whether medical personnel, psychologists, counselors, or social workers, agree there are physical factors involved in mood disorders which- in the VAST majority of cases- will respond well to medication even if some trial and change is needed.

Let me be clear: a good practitioner won’t force meds on you even when they heartily believe in them. A good practitioner will take the time to explore your reasoning or any worry you might have. You’ll make a decision together and she’ll continue to respect your position and concerns each step of the way. (For 50 signs of a good therapist, read here.)

The good news is there is MUCH you and a therapist can explore as additional ways to feel better, cope better, and hopefully GET better. Therapy is no guarantee your depression will be cured or that life will no longer hurt. Good, productive therapy aims to point you toward solution and support you as you walk through the challenges. Just having that support can mean a significant improvement in your life!

Yes, you could tough it out some more. You could just try the meds your doctor prescribed. Or you can do more to feel better sooner. And no matter what your current state of mind is telling you, the TRUTH is, you deserve a good life.

This Buzzfeed article makes some good points about the downward-spiral and vicious-cycle-perceptions that keep people trapped in depression. Gently intervening in these “thinking distortions” takes the safety and skill of a trustworthy therapist.

Of course I’m going to promote therapy as a solution. I’m definitely biased toward therapy! I’ve seen it make a positive difference again and again and again and again and again…

You get what I’m saying.

If you have energy to do just one thing this week, let it be reaching our to connect with a good therapist. If you’ve landed here and finished reading, it means you’re already well on your way.

midlife love couple

Midlife Dating, Mating, and Relating

What makes Midlife Love so challenging?

You’d think midlife love would be a piece of cake. After all, we don’t have the same naivete we possessed as young 20-somethings just starting out. Now that we’re a little older, we’re supposed to be wiser. Yet, honestly, for many of us, we’re not sure we actually know what we’re doing.

We might feel wounded by life and the reality of circumstances. And we’re afraid the landscape has changed in ways we don’t understand. Maybe we think we’ve never been good at this stuff. Maybe there’s a long, awful track record of heartache and pain. Maybe it has ALMOST become easier to give up than to actually try for what we want.

Love and attachment, the forming of bonds, romance, sex, relationship… often a mix of fulfillment and pain. It doesn’t matter how old we get, romantic love is still a huge factor in life satisfaction.

It’s not too late!

Even though you don’t need the census bureau to tell you there are scads of single women and men (of all preferences btw) still longing for love, let’s start with some facts:

In Cincinnati alone there are 120 thousand men and 120 thousand women.  About 61 thousand of each have never married. About 13 thousand men and 16.5 thousand women are divorced. Sad stat?  About 33 thousand of each gender are currently married and separated. Chances of staying married 20 years or longer is still about 50/50 for both genders.

What does this mean?

Midlife love is statistically still possible

It means if you’re single at age 35 and beyond, the available pool is back to what it was in our early to mid-20’s! No wonder there’s a boom in baby boomer dating, mating, and relating! And there’s a plethora of advice about how to go about it.  That’s the good news.

What’s the flip side?

It means people could use some help finding, keeping, and relating to a mate! I have a theory that healthy relationships last. That’s why coaching in this area is a five phase process including: Preparation, Attraction, Connection, Evaluation, and Relationship.

If you are ready to actually be in a relationship with someone who can be a partner in life, I am here to help! Or if you want help in any of the areas listed above, even in a long-term marriage or relationship, it’s what I do!

Look for FREE wisdom in the blog because I’m not stingy. I’ll share some good stuff that will cost you only the time to read.

Of course, you can READ about things and TRY STUFF til you’re worn out. And for some of you that will be sufficient for you to get where you want to go!

But if you find yourself stuck, or just in a hurry to get where you want to be – no matter what you suspect might be getting in your way – we can do some very good work on-on-one. And no matter what your situation, if you want a good mate, there is someone for you. I can help you get there. Read more about the process of individual coaching here.

Ready to start? CALL to make an appointment or schedule your FREE 15 minute in-person consultation. 513-530-5888

demographics taken from American FactFinder, US Census, available at: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk