Goodbye 2014! Hello 2015!

Goodbye 2014!

My time with you is almost over and I’m really ready for you to just go! However, I will give you a most proper and gracious send-off, just to show there are no hard feelings.

In honour of your departure, I have created a countdown clock that will represent something I’ve learned/experienced/realized/been challenged with/succeeded at, or grown from during my time with you.

Ready??

T-E-N….Words and actions from the heart contribute to meaningful and intimate connections with others. We may come across as an interesting, resourceful or smart person when we provide knowledge or information, but we exude kindness and beauty when we give from a spirit non-ego place.

N-I-N-E….The Greeks had two descriptions for time – Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is time we can measure and quantify. It’s the time we get obsessed and anxious about. It’s hard to manage, creates stress, and is used as an excuse. I am opting for living more in Kairos time. It’s purposeful, flowing and fluid and doesn’t have so many boundaries and expectations.

E-I-G-H-T…..We can waste a lot of precious time and energy hoping, wishing, worrying and obsessing about those things that we have NO control over in life. It’s better to just put that energy towards what we DO have control over. (As with most of what I’m reviewing about 2014, this is NOT a new insight. Just a reminder….sigh)

S-E-V-E-N…..When we experience those things we fear the most about experiencing in life, we can move into a different way of being. In some respects, we can become more liberated and more at peace. Whatever our fear might be – unemployment, death of a loved one, homelessness, a serious illness, bankruptcy, being a victim of crime – if we are always afraid of that event occurring, we can hold ourselves back from truly living. But once we’ve experienced the event, we can access an inner power and strength because we have gotten the so-called ‘worst-case scenario’ out of the way. We can acknowledge that this horrible event occurred and we’re still here to talk about it. We have survived!

(Note #1: this is not an invitation to manifest and experience all these events, but to know and appreciate that we may, and others have, and life still goes on! Note #2: I have experienced most of these things listed – and more – myself, and I’m STILL here to talk about it!)

S-I-X…..When we insert ‘how do I want to be remembered after I die’ into our daily thoughts, we can really alter the way we live. We can choose to do and have those things that are most important. We can be a person that holds those qualities and experiences that are most appealing and powerful to be!

F-I-V-E….There will ALWAYS be chores, errands and projects to do around the home. There will always be some person or some creature to take care of on some level. This is the price we pay for having a place to live and people and animals to love.

F-O-U-R….‘We can’t get blood from a stone’. Rather than focussing our hurts and frustrations on those who are not doing it ‘right’; who are not living up to our ‘expectations’ and who have done us ‘wrong’, we need to acknowledge and appreciate those who DO show up for us! We need to receive, respect and nurture those relationships that ARE available and loving!

T-H-R-E-E…..Our physical dimension always responds to our emotional and spiritual dimensions. Always! Our body will hold, react or expel whatever our mind and heart are experiencing. Whether it’s anger, worry and guilt, or contentment, peace and joy, our body is the container for our thoughts and feelings.

T-W-O…..Everyone has a story! Every One! When we activate our curiosity and open our heart, we’ll discover there are biographies that will alarm, charm, titillate, confuse, provoke, inspire and inform us of what another has really experienced in their life. Sharing our stories creates connection with others. It helps us to be more understanding and patient and to eliminate judgement. It offers a new level of realness, vulnerability and intimacy.

O-N-E…..Love and be loved. Because that’s REALLY what it’s all about!

Hello 2015!

 

 

 

 

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What’s Luck Got To Do With It? *spoiler alert*

Like many people, I am acutely aware of the things people say. Words have always been a big part of my life (journaling); work (workshops, reports, articles) and avocational pursuits (songwriting, comedy). I love words! Words have so much power to inform, educate and entertain us. They offer inspiration, hope, enlightenment, and reflection. They can help and heal.
But words can also do harm. They can be used intentionally as weapons of anger, intimidation, humiliation, guilt and shame. And they can also be used awkwardly, ignorantly, and insensitively – perhaps not to intentionally hurt another, but all the same, they can contribute to another’s distress and despair.
But I’m here to talk about luck, not words…..well……not really…….and yes really!

I am one of those highly sensitive people (they have a name for this too apparently), who can be easily triggered by another’s comments – or in some cases, a lack thereof. A few comments that have been made to me recently have been stewing in my ‘mind pot’ and now they are bubbling over and I need to comment on the comments. Of course, this opens up the filing cabinet in my brain, whereas I am reflecting and reviewing all those comments in the past that have ever affected me in a potent way. However, for the benefit of those who are reading this, as well as my own sanity, I don’t think I’ll declare all those now, or here! 🙂

So, just what WERE these comments that started this discourse? Well first of all, I can tell you that they all had a theme, and that is, they all began with the words: “You are lucky that……”.
I suppose one would wonder why someone telling me I’m lucky would be such a provocation. Well, I shall explain.

When someone says to me: “You are lucky that…..”, and the item or situation of which they are referring to has little to do with luck, but more to do with effort – my effort – then I feel belittled and disempowered.
Here are a few examples, and ones that I’ve heard several times:

• Within the context of a financial situation: “You are lucky to have a husband who makes a decent income.”
• Within the context of not living alone: “You are lucky to have a man to help you with that”
• Within the context of living in Vancouver: “You are lucky you live on the West side.”
• Within the context of my vocation: “You are lucky you have work you love to do.”

When I hear these comments, I have to wonder what people think – or assume – is really going on in my life that I am blessed with such fairy dust. Do they think I don’t make a living, and that I’m lying on the couch eating bon-bons while my husband makes the bacon (or in our case tofu), and does all the chores and fixit jobs? Do they think I just walked through the magic door and my dream job appeared? Do they think I make a million dollars a year and therefore can afford to live on the West side of Vancouver?

I cannot, and will not try to understand what people really think, but what I would appreciate people doing more often, is thinking before they speak! If one were to consider how a comment like that could sound to another person, especially a person like me who is sensitive and who’s had many challenges to overcome in order to have certain things in life which are not associated with luck, they may (hopefully) realize it’s a put-down. These things that I am ‘lucky’ to have are the result of thinking, researching, planning, and lots of blood, sweat and tears – literally!

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
~Seneca

One of the things that pushes my buttons (and yes, we all get triggered by stuff, no matter how much therapy we participate in 🙂 ) is anyone, anything and any comment which jabs at my self-concept. I have spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to develop myself into a reliant, independent, self-sustaining, kind, industrious and interesting human being. I feel I have worked very hard at finding some form of contentment and peace, overcoming health issues, helping others and contributing to society. Yes, there is ALWAYS room for improvement and development, and so I don’t want to sound all preachy and self-righteous here. It’s just that those things that people are perhaps trying to give me credit for, come out in words that make me feel that it was all chance, that all I did was roll out of the womb like a pair of lucky dice, and voila…I had those things.

But that’s not how my life has been. Like many people, my life has (and still is) woven with threads of adversity. I have experienced violence and bullying. I’ve escaped one world of abuse, only to find myself in another. I’ve been attacked, sexually assaulted and robbed. I’ve been homeless, unemployed and alienated. I have been exposed to sick, depraved and troubled individuals and have had to run from jobs, people and places in order to find emotional and/or physical safety. I’ve been displaced, and lived on the street and in my car.
I have struggled with identity, self-esteem and destructive behaviours. I’ve had to start my life over many times. I’ve had acute and chronic health conditions that have rendered me unable to function. I’ve lost relationships, and possessions. I have known sorrow, discomfort and the feeling of being completely ALONE in the world! I have tried to die…more than once.

And in this age of disclosure, we are learning that many people have also been challenged with similar situations and experiences. We hear of the ‘survivors’ and the ‘success stories’.   They show up on Ted Talks and Oprah. They write books. They blog. They go out into the community and share their story, because EVERYONE has a story. Even me! So please don’t say: “you’re lucky…”, because, if you can really see luck in where I’ve been and what I’ve had to do to be who I am and have what I have in my life, you may not call me so lucky.

And yes, of course there have been situations and things that I would claim as being associated with luck – good and bad – on some level. But there are always the factors of having done something, or being somewhere in order for these events to occur. Maybe it’s more about that word (luck) for me, as I tend to prefer fortunate; serendipitous and coincidence as better words to explain those events that don’t fall into an obvious cause and effect scenario.

I also try to learn and understand people and their situations; to go beyond what ‘appears’ to be their so-called lucky or successful life. Most times, I have been humbled and awed when I find out how they’ve overcome and managed their obstacles and pushed forward with their passions, plans and goals. These people are MY inspiration to be a better person and to keep going on, even when I am plagued by issues and challenges (as I am currently experiencing again!)

These people fill me with hope and gratitude. At times, there is a part of me that almost slips to THAT place – the place I am referring to in this article: “Well, you’re lucky because……..or…”it must be nice…..”, but then I stop and catch myself, because I KNOW that these thoughts and words are not a sincere compliment to their efforts, nor are they empowering for them…………or for me!

 

 

Learning About Life, People and Love (Part 1)

There are so many opportunities to learn about life, people and love. Some people travel. Some people read. Some people watch films.

I learn so much about myself and others through grief work. Being there to witness and walk beside those who have lost someone they loved or cared about deeply is incredible. People in grief are so present and so real! There is no B.S. when people are sharing this experience! It’s deep.

It’s unfortunate that many people can only show up this way when they are experiencing loss. Not a judgement, just an observation. Besides, who wants to experience loss or death anyway? It’s morbid, depressing and icky.

Losing someone we love, BREAKS OUR HEART!

It breaks it wide open to feel the pain, AND……….. it breaks it open to feel connection, compassion and empathy…..IF we allow it.  

And, we can learn about life, people and love from loss. It provides new perspectives.

It can offer a truth about our relationships and who will walk beside us when we’re suffering.  And will they show up to DO what needs to be done and not just offer empty passive generosity, “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know”. “I’m here for you”. And they do not avoid us, or change the subject or talk about themselves “oh, I TOTALLY know what you’re going through, cause for ME……blah blah blah”.

Those people who show up do not try to pacify us or feel sorry for us, or pat us on the back and say: “there there, don’t cry, she’s at peace”, or offer THEIR beliefs such as “she’s in a better place now” – meaning WHAT exactly? In the ground? In an urn? Sprinkled over the ocean?

Yep! There is definitely A LOT of opportunities to learn about life, people and love when someone has died.

A Special Request

Treat  yourself with respect!
Treat others with respect!
Treat animals and all of nature with RESPECT!
Strive for personal excellence.
Be aware.
Take risks.
Laugh.
Feel for others.
Help save this planet.
Dance in the moment.
Live a healthy life.
Explore your creativity.
Be honest.
Make a fool out of yourself.
Get over it.
Cherish being alive.
Question everything.
Respect other’s beliefs and experiences.
Be positive.
Don’t complain.
Don’t explain.
Stop making excuses.
Find your life purpose.
Dream.
Make a plan.
Take ACTION!
Have faith.
Forgive.
Make peace with the past.
Make a difference.
Do some good every single day.
Give lovingly.
Receive graciously.
Be the best YOU, you can be!
 
 
©CmcNewell 2001
 

RELATE-sionships

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me, and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.
 
Listen! All I ask is that you listen,
not talk or do – just hear me.
 
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
And I can do for myself; I’m not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.
 
But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then
I quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding what’s behind the
feelings. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
 
So, please listen and just hear me. And, if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn, and
I’ll listen to you.

~Author unknown

The quality and health of our relationships –notice the word ‘relate’ in there? – depend considerably on how well we are able to communicate with each other. Being in the world of people, depends so much on how we connect with these people, most of the time through words. We know that we live in a communication age, but are we really effective at communicating?

So what IS effective communication?

On the non-written level, it’s pretty basic; we send and receive a message from one person to another. The sender has the responsibility of initiating and delivering a message. To be effective as a ‘sender’ there are many things you need to consider. There are levels that you need to be aware of and attend to, as I will highlight here.

The First Level: This represents the tone of your voice, clarity, language (cultural and generational), brevity, being aware of jargon and acronyms that are not universal, and how well you ar-tic-u-late.

The Second Level: This is about being mindful of what your face and body are doing, the so-called non-verbal language. What expression, posture, and positioning of the body are you demonstrating? Is your body in alignment with what you are saying? Are you averting your eyes, or engaged in another task while you are talking to someone?

The Third Level: This represents what is going on inside your mind. What beliefs, judgements, knowledge, philosophies, and assumptions might be interfering with your way to convey a clear, honest and kind message.

Just an FYI peeve of mine: I just hate it when someone is doing something else when they are talking with me, either in person, or on the phone. This could be texting, moving about the room, doing chores (I get this when I’m on the phone with someone and I can hear them clanking about), or whatever! I understand there are times when someone is engaged in something, like driving or eating, but I mean when they are trying to actually DO something else while they are talking to me, then I feel a little slighted.

There are many levels that we need to consider if we’re going to send a message in an effective way. And by effective, I mean that the message is getting to the receiver with the expected intention.

But the receiver has responsibilities as well. You cannot just be passively taking in the message when someone is talking. On the first level, you need to be actively listening, clarifying and asking questions if necessary. On the second level, you need to be aware of your body language and how open you are to receiving this message.

Are you holding yourself in a defensive way, or looking particularly hostile, bored, disinterested, or angry? Are you absorbing what is being said, without external distractions – noise and/or movement by others – or internal distractions, such as your own potentially limiting thoughts, beliefs and opinions.

We have a lot going on around and inside us, so to be able to avoid any of these potential ‘barriers’ to communication would be quite difficult. But we can be aware of them and make efforts to manage and correct them.

I think two things that can contribute to a very effective and wonderful communication exchange with another, are listening and asking questions.

Really listening to someone, without interrupting, changing the subject or finishing their sentences (or correcting them, another peeve of mine :-o), is an incredibly powerful and respectful thing to do. It’s a gift. It shows that you are 100% interested and available to receive what that other person has to say. It shows you care!

And asking questions is also a gift. To some, this may be uncomfortable, but I don’t mean that you have to interrogate or grill someone. It’s more about curiousity and about wanting to understand more of what they are telling or sharing with you.

You notice that I used the word ‘understand’ rather than ‘know’ or ‘learn’. I feel that we can get caught up with information, with ‘informing’ others about something, and about receiving ‘information’. In this, we can lose sight of the real message, and the feelings associated with this message.

When you ask sincere and thoughtful questions, you show you are engaged. You show you care about what the other person is talking about; you make them feel important, because you are showing them how truly interested you are in what they have to say.

So, be mindful of your relate-sionships, The power of this amazing skill we’ve been given, should not be used lightly or abusively. It should be used responsibly, lovingly and honestly.

A Search for Meaning

The title of this article is borrowed from the title of an enduring bestseller by the great Viennese psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl. If you have not read his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, then I highly recommend that you do so, and to read it more than once! If you don’t know who Viktor Frankl is, click: http://tinyurl.com/pchtyox

I personally collected from Frankl’s incredible story, psychology and wisdom, a formula that I feel has helped me make sense of my life in the past. Right now, as we march into a new year, I am accessing it again, hoping it will help me make sense out of the present, and future.

The formula looks like this:

Hope  >  Choices  > Values  > Consequences  =  Meaning

The description starts this way…..

We need to have hope in order to keep living and moving along our path of life and existence.

What is hope?

To me, it represents the expectation of a desirable outcome, which is the opposite of fear; the anticipation of an undesirable outcome. I think most of us can relate to both these states. Sometimes though, we may travel too far in either direction, which isn’t necessarily healthy or functional. If we live in perpetual fear or hope, we won’t get anything done. We need a healthy balance of both.

To me, hope is different than faith. Hope comes with the energy, discipline and willingness to make things the way we would like them to be. Faith on the other hand, is a more passive approach. It requires putting our trust and confidence in something or someone else. (Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure I could do that, even if the someone else is me.)

What is choice?

To me (and once again, this is my definition), choice represents an awareness of potential options of things we have the ability to decide upon. We may not be able to control the situation or person, but we can control what we’re going to say or do.

I’ve had many discussions about this word, and many people have challenged me. They say they ‘have’ to do this or they ‘have’ to do that and that they ‘have no choice’. I can go into depth with what I identify and believe as choice, but perhaps I’ll leave the comprehensive examples for another article, or I’ll never finish this one. 🙂

What are values?

This should be easy for everyone to identify, as we all have values. We might not be thinking of them daily or consciously, but we know we have them.

But how often do we actually check in with our values? Do we know why certain things and people are important to us? Are we aware that most of our decisions are based on our values? Are we aware that the things we put our attention to, many times, are those things that are most important to us? Are we aware that values are our blueprint for decision-making (choices)? Are we aware that if we don’t put our energy towards our values and priorities, we suffer?

Once again, possibly a topic to be expressed more deeply in another article. 🙂

What are consequences?

Many times, people identify consequences as a negative thing. To me, it’s just the outcome. There are desirable and undesirable consequences. Everything we say or do, has an outcome – a consequence. We are the ones who apply the ‘good vs bad’ or ‘right vs wrong’ part of that outcome. But in order to avoid inserting judgements into the process (which we all can do), I prefer to just say ‘desirable vs undesirable’, or ‘favourable vs unfavourable’.

Now that I’ve deconstructed this formula, I’m going to build it up again to show you how it can help us to make sense out of our life, or as Frankl put it, to search for meaning.

When I open myself to hope in having something I desire; and I make my decisions from the options available (choices); and I honour what’s important to me (values) when making those decisions; I will be faced with a consequence. From this outcome, I have an opportunity to find meaning. My ‘hope’ is that this consequence will be desirable, or not cause me any pain. However, it might, and that is also part of what can offer meaning.”

Meaning, as we sometimes forget, is not always about the good stuff, it’s about growing pains and suffering. Meaning can be accessed in everything we experience, if we open ourselves to being curious about it.

However, having said all this, searching and finding meaning can be elusive. We sometimes can get draped in a cloak of invisibility (like the one in Harry Potter), except it’s a reverse cloak, where we can’t see ourselves; our accomplishments, our purpose; or where we’re going in our life. When this happens, we have to (or choose to), find the strength and courage to access those things and people who can provide us with laughter and love. Why laughter and love?

Because, as Frankl referred to in his book:

“Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

“The truth – love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire….the salvation of man is through love and in love.”

Bye for now,

Chris

 

Never Complain. Never Explain.

“Never Complain. Never Explain.” ~Katherine Hepburn quote.

Part 1

Given that I work in a field where people tell me their troubles and issues, it may seem a little insensitive to write an article about complaining and explaining. But let me explain…….. 🙂

I think it’s probably a big part of human nature to complain about things. It could be the weather, taxes, rude people, bad drivers, politicians or bugs. This is sometimes our way of starting a conversation in order to find a common ground with someone, because many times we feel we are speaking about something that they may also find uncomfortable or annoying.

Yet for some people, complaining is more than just initiating or maintaining a conversation, it’s the only way they know how to communicate. We talk about the proverbial broken record (sorry, dating myself here), but this analogy is a perfect way of describing when someone is stuck in a groove. The rut where they keep saying the same thing over and over and over and over again. 

So why do people complain? Why do some people complain more than others? What is the pay-off for complaining?

I don’t know that I have the answer, although I have some theories.

Perhaps some people really do have a hard time managing specific things that are happening in their life, and so their way of trying to deal with them, is to complain. Perhaps they just don’t know how to effectively manage their thoughts and feelings about these things. Perhaps they feel that if they vocalize what’s bothering them, that some magical event will happen to change the situation and improve it for them. They can default to a place of repeating the issue, but they do not seem to be aware that they’re doing it, or they’re aware, but just can’t stop themselves.

I can attest to this. I know when I’m complaining, but I’m like a moth to light, I just can’t seem to stop myself. I know that making certain statements that have no real productive solution or positive outcome are pointless, but I keep doing it! You may have heard the quote: “the definition of madness is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.” Perhaps………we are all just a little bit mad.

I do think it’s important that when we verbalize our thoughts and feelings, that we take responsibility for them. By this I mean, we are aware of what we’re saying and why. We understand our intentions, reasons and expectations for saying what we’re saying, and we are aware of the potential results and consequences. With this, we need to really identify that what we’re saying has a purpose. Is it making a positive difference? Is it solving a problem? Is it creating a good rapport with another, or is it distancing them? Are we aware of other people’s reactions when we complain? Do they just sit and listen attentively; roll their eyes; change the subject; ignore us; or challenge us?

Communication – effective and healthy communication – is a two way street. If it’s just one person talking or downloading on another, then it’s not necessarily effective. (I’m talking about a regular conversation with someone, not a specific format such as a counselling or instructing).

So, be mindful next time you hear yourself complain about bad drivers, lack of time, your weight, finances, aches and pains, being single, being married, having children, the weather, the traffic, the noisy neighbours, the government or the prices of avocados. Pay attention to the energy in the space and what affect these words have on your psyche, as well as how others may be reacting and responding. Identify if there is another approach you may need to take in order to release those things that are stressing or frustrating you. Perhaps you need a coach or counsellor to help you move through the issues of those things you are chronically complaining about or struggling with, and look at solutions.  (Hey, pick me!) Either that, or find acceptance. Yep, those are the two options that are best. Or, if you just need to ramble, then make sure that it’s to the right person at the right time and that they are prepared to just listen and be with you in that place, without judgment, and without fixing.

Part 2, ‘Never Explain’, coming soon.

Bye for now

Chris