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Little Green: Becoming Mindful in a Mind Full World

“Just a little green, like the color when the spring is born.
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow.”
— Joni Mitchel
When did you notice, REALLY notice, the magnificent transformation into spring? Did you smile when you saw the happy daffodils that popped up overnight? Maybe your skin delighted in the first kiss of a warm breeze? Perhaps the earthy aroma of freshly spread mulch ignited a memory? Possibly you haven’t paid intentional attention to these everyday, magnificent phenomena at all?

We tend to run on the high-octane fuel of MORE, BETTER, FASTER. Our minds become “full” of to-do lists, plans for the future and worries about the past. Over time “MIND FULL “ can cause stress, anxiety, burnout and depression. We unknowingly disconnect from the present moment and overlook the everyday magic and beauty around and in us.

Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention, in the moment, on purpose. When we choose to intentionally become mindful it improves our physical and mental health as well as our subjective feelings of well-being. Starting a routine of everyday mindfulness is as straightforward as an increased awareness of the metamorphosis of spring:

Challenge yourself to notice one or two new things each day. Look for trees starting to develop buds or bloom. Notice changes in others as the weather warms. Observe a subtle sense of renewal in yourself.
Take a moment to examine (as if you were a scientist) the intricacy of a flower, the magic of a smile, the joyful chorus of birds.
Savor the first bite of your favorite spring food. Deeply inhale the scent, notice its texture and color. Describe the taste and note the sensation as you chew. Attempt to use descriptive [...]

Calling Card

“My heroes had the heart, to live their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it’s no coincidence I’ve come and I can die when I’m done 
But maybe I’m crazy, Maybe you’re crazy, Maybe we’re crazy 
Probably”
                                                                                      —  Gnarls Barkley

I see crazy people. The crazy beauty of vulnerability buried beneath the aggressive challenge of bad-ass, hidden behind eyes cast downward in defeat, shrouded by the illusion of perfectionist control…thinking….I’ll finally be ok when…. The pull…attraction …desire to be known, really known, inside out known, good, bad, ugly known, overshadowed by the risk, pain, uncertainty, rawness of being known.

I feel the crazy grip of terror when spoken through a waterfall of tears as deeply mired beliefs of unlovable, not enough, irrevocably damaged bubble to the surface. The crazy hopelessness that EVERYONE ELSE has been given the Tiffany key… the golden ticket….the secret decoder ring with the answers to this thing…..called… life.

I honor the crazy courage to admit “I fucking don’t know, I fucking don’t care, I fucking don’t want to live……….another day, with the shame, the pain, knowing, hating, battling the thought “nothing….. will……. ever……. change.“ Destined, doomed, fate, karma, bad luck, life sucks and then you die.

I kindle the small, crazy spark of hope, the shaky voice that whispers “maybe,” the Little Engine That Could……of [...]

Mac and Cheese for 33 (with a side of nasty “b”)

“Am I wrong for thinking out the box from where I stay? Am I wrong for saying that I choose another way? I ain’t tryna do what everybody else doing, just cause everybody doing what they all do. If one thing I know, I’ll fall but I’ll grow. I’m walking down this road of mine, this road that I call home.”
– Nico and Vince
We have four options when faced with any challenge or painful situation

Solve the problem
Change your perspective
Radically Accept the situation
Stay stuck

The following is an example of my 11-hour journey through all four (and back again.)

A few weeks ago I agreed to host the entrée portion of our neighborhood progressive dinner. When I made the commitment, 7 people had registered to attend. I would prepare gourmet Mac and Cheese and Tomato Soup. I’m a casual, laid back hostess. Food and adult beverages are self-serve. I use only the best paper plates, bowls and plastic ware for easy, no fuss cleanup. What a simple, easy, fun meal to make and great way to meet new people. I’ve got this.

Countdown Mac and Cheese: the weekend before the dinner: The head count of attendees had grown to 33. A dear friend and neighbor offered to host ½ of the entrée crowd at her home. I’d supply Mac and cheese and soup. She would provide a salad (yay!) A frenzy of progressive dinner emails began midweek. Talk of linen napkins, floral arrangements, serving pieces, moving furniture and renting tables to accommodate the growing group ignited my “not good enough” belief. I acknowledged this well-worn, limiting bully in my mind and shoo her away with a rolling pin. I mentally shifted back to “I’ve got this” [...]

High Hopes

“Next time you’re found, with your chin on the ground.
There’s a lot to be learned, so look around
Just what makes that little old ant, think he’ll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant, can’t, move a rubber tree plant.
But he’s got high hopes. He’s got high hopes.
He’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes
So any time you’re gettin’ low, ‘stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant”
– Frank Sinatra – High Hopes

I cut my teeth on High Hopes. The silly, Pollyannaish lyrics and remedial melody resonated through the rooms of my family home. While never idyllic, my childhood was pretty good. My personal problems, COULD be overcome by hope, coupled with a dose of diligence. Until the stinkin’ rubber tree scored some Miracle Bloom and grew to momentous proportions.

My dad had his lung removed when I was 15. Prior to his surgery, I sensed that the implications of this event went beyond our predictably sad, yet hopeful, family discussions. Ear glued to the upstairs floor vent, I overheard plaintive late night conversations that chilled me to the bone.

Dad: “I don’t know how we’re gonna make it, hon. I get some sick time from work but not enough to float us.”

Mom: “ I’ll see what I can do, the kids are all in school, I can go back to work.”

Dad:   sounding choked up “I’m sorry hon, I’ll try my damnest to get back to work as fast as I can.”

Mom: “I can do this, Clarence, don’t worry, just YOU get through this.”

At 15, I didn’t grasp the economics of maintaining a family. I did, however, understand this was BAD (with [...]

Myths and Misunderstandings about Psychotherapy

She says, “Look, you come here every week, with jigsaw pieces of your past

It’s all on little sound bytes and voices out of photographs. And that’s all yours, that’s the guide, that’s the map, so tell me, where does the arrow point to?

“Who invented roses?”

 

 

“People who go to therapy are____________________ .“ (Fill in the blank with any term that discounts the courage and strength it actually takes to come to and work in therapy.) The people I see are brave and strong. They hurting and want to do, feel and be better. I worry more about those who pretend to have it all together and believe they know all the answers.

“Do I just lay on the couch and talk?“ While I do have a couch in my office, I don’t expect you to lie on it. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis was revolutionary for the time but these days most therapists don’t use free association or analysis. Helpful therapy is directive, strengths focused and skill based.

“Therapists have perfect lives. They have it all figured out and know the answers.” Therapists are flawed, vulnerable human beings just like everyone else. My life is full of ups and downs, joy and sadness, just like yours (and every other person on the planet.) Perfect is unattainable and perpetuates both anxiety and depression. I see my role as asking the questions that will lead you to find your own answers, not prescribing my own.

“Therapy takes a long time and costs a lot of money.” Therapy is an investment in YOU from the inside out. I have always found it curious that we freely spend money on external short-term fixes. However, we hesitate and hedge when it comes to investing in [...]

By |November 12th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments|

The Scientific Gardner of Well-Being

“Now I know a refuge never grows, from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.” Indigo Girls

Gardening became a love later in life. I appreciate the entire process. I can wile away hours at the nursery, admiring and selecting plants. Soil under my nails is a sweet reminder of an afternoon preparing and planting. Freshly spread cedar mulch light’s up my olfactory smile. I am in awe of the capacity for growth and resilience in these miracles of nature. Even pulling weeds is a cathartic end of the day experience.

While I adore my garden time, I am NOT skilled at gardening. I buy more plants than I need. I plant the wrong stuff in the wrong place. I forget to water my container plants. My garden is a hodgepodge of enthusiasm without education. The contrast was startling after I visited my friend Karen’s fabulous secret garden (it seriously appears to have sprung up effortlessly and organically.)

Karen is a bona fide Master Gardener. She spends considerable time and effort to honing her scientific knowledge and understanding of flora. Despite her wisdom, Karen is unassuming and generous when talking with others about her passion. She is my gardening coach (whether she is aware of this or not:-­?). I aspire to emulate her synthesis of science, passion and kindness in my career.

My professional garden of well-­?being is planted with evidence-­?based, science driven, “not-­?so-­?common sense.” Perpetual curiosity and life-­?long learning keep the soil of my mind rich and engaged. Heartfelt connections are the life-­?enhancing rain essential to thrive. My fertilizer is a blend of acceptance, observation and acknowledgement. This gardener allows the garden it’s own bloom vision.

A [...]

Try

Get your sexy on. Don’t be shy, girl. Take it off.
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you?
Do you like you?
You don’t have to try so hard. You don’t have to, give it all away.
You just have to get up, get up, get up.
You don’t have to change a single thing.
Colbie Calliat

The most enduring relationship we have is with ourselves. How much time and energy do we devote getting to know, value and respect US? As we clamor to fit in, earn praise and avoid confrontation, we lose our SELVES.

Self-esteem, in my profession, is a highly valued, often misconstrued goal. It sounds great in theory, but what is it REALLY? Self-esteem is the synthesis of self-respect and self-confidence. On the wild ride of life there are three levels of self-esteem that can be explored and practiced.

Dependent self-esteem is contingent on praise or validation, as well as comparison to and by others. We see ourselves as worth more when others acknowledge our accomplishments or when we assess ourselves as superior and see ourselves as worth less with the inverse. This mindset can stifle individual thought, belief and creativity in favor of pleasing and/or outperforming others. Dependent self-esteem frequently usurps the amazing discovery of authenticity in favoring of pleasing others. Relative comparison can foster rigid categorization of others into “less than” or “better than” and lead to unhealthy competition.

Independent self-esteem focus is on defining and acting in accordance with our own internal attributes. We measure our value by noting and validating individual improvements, scaling our accomplishments over time and comparison with our past selves. When independent self-esteem is fostered, we are more intrinsically motivated and prone to [...]

Hard

Imagine that a magic spell of anonymity has been cast on you. For the rest of your life no one will know about the wonderful things you are doing in this world. You can transform the lives of millions of people around the world, volunteer in your community, help the needy, yet no one will know that it was you who did these things. You, and you alone, will know how good you are, how successful you are. In such a world, what would you do?

If I could see you through the night. If I could help you see yourself like I do.
I’d find a way to lift your courage higher, like you lift mine.
And I’d have something more to say, then what I’ve said a thousand other times.
I’d tell you there’s a new train running and the balance keeps us both alive.”

“It’s very hard to sit and watch you now. It’s very hard to know you’re on your own.
It’s very hard to move through unfamiliar worlds I’ve never known.
It’s not enough to make some sense of it. It’s not enough to even comprehend.
It’s not about the life we’ve left behind or the life that leaves us spinning in the end.

Grey Eye Glances
I-96 from Grand Rapids, MI to Ann Arbor is 132 miles one way.  My sweet VW Golf transported me along this mind-numbing stretch of highway, twice a week for 12 months of grad school. Ending a marriage I had hoped would last forever, struggling to reinvent myself with a leap of faith. This predictable free “mind-time” perpetuated both self-doubt and terror that my crazy leap would end in a broken spirit and bruised ego. Fortunately, [...]

We

This blog originated as a result of the following assignment in my positive psychology course:

Write a letter to a friend explaining to him or her about the components of thriving relationships (hard work, knowing and being known, allowing for conflict, and positive focus). Elaborate on parts that you think are particularly important.  The timing coincided perfectly with my wedding anniversary.

“When I’m with you, it doesn’t matter where we are,
or what we’re doing. I’m with you, that’s all that matters.
Time passes much too quickly when we’re together laughing.
Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever.
Only the beginning. Only just the start.” Chicago Transit Authority
My Dearest Yoram,

“Beginnings” by Chicago Transit Authority was one of the first songs we listened to (on vinyl 🙂 I discovered in you, a kindred musical spirit, despite the fact you are a melody guy and I’m all about the lyrics. The melding of my Maggie’s and your Just Be Loud’s produced sounds more beautiful than the sum of their woofers, tweeters and quasi-ribbon magnetic-panel technology. As a result of our melding, we too become bigger and brighter.  On our anniversary, I pay tribute to the healthy qualities of La-rom that shape our sublime union (in musical form, with lyrics included, just for you.)

Above all,  In this house there’s Love. (Boxing Gandhi’s) Everlasting love is our aim. This house is built on the solid foundation of friendship. We prioritize and enjoy time together.  In this house, we honor Sacred Date Night, Bombay Sapphire Martinis, Breaking Bad, Sports Cars and “to sheet or not to sheet.” Yoram and Laurie’s most excellent adventures create our love map of memories and meaning.  Planning and rehearsing the “destined to [...]

One Friend

“People come and people go. They take and they give. Build you up, just to let you down, that’s just the way it is. But all I need is one friend, to get me through the day. One friend, that never goes away. Only one friend to understand and never let me down” — Kep ‘Mo

Feeling connected, being known and deeply knowing, is to me, as vital as air.  Friendships have guided me toward who I am and challenged me to stretch and evolve. I live my best when engaged in meaningful, heartfelt conversation. I value and eagerly anticipate friend-time. I hold amazing memories, in my heart and mind, of experiences shared with friends.  I am not yet, as good a friend as I aspire to be.

Mary Eller and Carol Dunleavy were my first BFF’s, the template for all future friendships. We discovered our selves and each other at Woodward Elementary School. Our connection grew over time until I thought of us as a tribe, a posse,…..MY everything. We tentatively shared innermost thoughts and deepest, darkest secrets. Together, we conquered the fear and confusion of school de-segregation, trials and tribulations of solo and ensemble, frustration and pain over the unfairness of life, profound grief when faced with death, and eventually the wonder of new life.

In Senior High, I made a terrible friendship error; I prioritized a boy over Mary and Carol. I was enamored with the idea that a boy found me cute. I neglected sacred friend-time in favor of boyfriend time. I morphed into an inauthentic version of myself in a lame attempt to please. I told the boyfriend what he wanted to hear instead of what I truly thought.  I believed that [...]