Why is it so hard to stay in the moment?

Cell Phone

I want to start this by saying I love my Iphone. I love Facebook. I feel like I have been able to stay more connected with some people because of Facebook. The reality is I wouldn’t be calling many of these people on the phone but I love to see pictures of their children and their lives. The reality is this is a false sense of connection. There is no vulnerability involved in posting our happy pictures on Facebook. And vulnerability is where connection really lies. However, vulnerability is really hard for most of us. It is far easier to be checking our phones than to say to someone I had a tough day today and it was really hard for me to get through it.

While we all seem to be craving connection at the same time our actions seem to indicate otherwise. We want to connect with our partners but then we check our email ten times during dinner. We have a magical moment and our first thought is “I have to post this on Facebook.”  How many times have you been doing something you enjoyed but also struggling not to look at your phone while doing it? We have become a society really uncomfortable with being in the moment and having our feelings.

I often wonder as I have the impulse to check my phone while waiting in line for something what did I do in line before cellphones? I imagine I just stood there but the concept seems so strange now. But it shouldn’t be. I should be able to stand five minutes in line and think about life or breathe or just let my mind wander. It isn’t instinct to do that anymore though. It is an effort. An effort that I think is worth it. I believe the more we check out the hard it is to stay present. So it is important to find ways to stay engaged in the world. What about talking to the person in line next to you? There is some connection and it would probably even feel good for both people.

I am finding ways to be less cell phone involved and more present. I would love to hear the things that work for you in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Copyright: johan2011 / 123RF Stock Photo

Pet Grief-How To Cope When You Lose Your Best Friend

Dog and Cat Together

Losing our pets is one of the most painful experiences many of us go through. Part of the pain is having to make the decision to let them go.  How do we ever know when the right time is? And how do we not question that decision after it is made? Robyn Arouty a photographer has recently gotten a lot of press. She did a photo essay on the last day of life for a friend’s dog. Called “I Died Today” it is a beautiful tribute to one families’ love for their pet. One of the most touching aspects of this story is that this family adopted Dukey knowing he was sick. They had him for 3 years. Be warned reading it will cause numerous tears!

Robyn herself lost three animals in the last few years so she is no stranger to the grief of losing your pet. She has another post where she talks about that.

But I am going to quote it here because I think there is comfort in these words for anyone going through this experience. And I know people are starved to connect about this because Robyn’s site crashed because of all the visitors. Thank you to her for sharing her experience.

Her words on what she learned from her loss.

Dog Death, Dying, & Grief

What I know about doggie death, dying, & grief:

1. The time spent worrying about them leaving steals from the time you give them while they are here.

2. They leave when their mission is complete.

3. You can love again & again.

4. Experiencing death with your heart makes you stronger. You can overcome your fears. I’m living proof.

5. Letting them go when it’s time is the most selfless thing you can do.

6. Your soul is in your pet. Just look in their eyes & you will see it.

7. Loving hard means you will lose hard too.

8. Grief is only temporary.

9. They do come back. But you have to let them go first.

10. Animal lovers are a super special breed. Accept the love & support when you really need it. It’s ok.

- See more at: http://www.robynarouty.com/blog/#sthash.DUKIQCmE.dpuf

1. The time spent worrying about them leaving steals from the time you give them while they are here.

2. They leave when their mission is complete.

3. You can love again & again.

4. Experiencing death with your heart makes you stronger. You can overcome your fears. I’m living proof.

5. Letting them go when it’s time is the most selfless thing you can do.

6. Your soul is in your pet. Just look in their eyes & you will see it.

7. Loving hard means you will lose hard too.

8. Grief is only temporary.

9. They do come back. But you have to let them go first.

10. Animal lovers are a super special breed. Accept the love & support when you really need it. It’s ok.

 

 

What I know about doggie death, dying, & grief:

1. The time spent worrying about them leaving steals from the time you give them while they are here.

2. They leave when their mission is complete.

3. You can love again & again.

4. Experiencing death with your heart makes you stronger. You can overcome your fears. I’m living proof.

5. Letting them go when it’s time is the most selfless thing you can do.

6. Your soul is in your pet. Just look in their eyes & you will see it.

7. Loving hard means you will lose hard too.

8. Grief is only temporary.

9. They do come back. But you have to let them go first.

10. Animal lovers are a super special breed. Accept the love & support when you really need it. It’s ok.

- See more at: http://www.robynarouty.com/blog/#sthash.DUKIQCmE.dpuf

Copyright: pyotr / 123RF Stock Photo

Lean Into Joy

Power of Vulnerability

I am on a Brene Brown kick. I am listening to The Power of Vulnerability which is Brene giving one of her workshops. She is a great speaker with lots of good things to say. One of the things she talks about in this recording is leaning into joy. She talks about a scenario that goes something like this: Imagine it’s Christmas Eve and a family is in the car. The radio is playing Christmas carols and everyone is singing along. What happens next? Number one audience answer is-  Car crash. She talks about how we have become programmed to expect these dramatic and negative scenarios. How we don’t allow ourselves to “lean into joy”.

I found myself doing that this week. We are buying a new car. An exciting event and one that happens infrequently. The car is on order and we are waiting to pick it up. Have I spent the week thinking about all the exciting new features that are in my new care? No. What I have been thinking most about is how I am scared to drive my current car because we are trading it in. We got an estimate based on its condition last week. Which means I have to keep it in the same condition to get that money. So what I have found myself thinking about this week is how I could have an accident and not be able to trade the car in.

Now while that would be a cruddy thing to happen, focusing on my energy on thinking about a potential car accident is probably not the best use of my time. I could instead be imaging how I will be able to connect the music on my phone to play in my new car. How I will then be able to always be able to drive listening to my own funky mix of music. Or how this car will warn me if I leave my lane or how my gas mileage will almost double. I should be leaning into the happiness of getting a new car.

Brene talks about how when people suffer loss it isn’t the big things they miss the most. It is the everyday things. The grocery shopping together or watching that new series on Netflix. I am working on letting myself lean more into joy and to embrace the ordinary.

 

 

Is Fear Based Parenting Hurting Kids?

There is a very interesting article that has been making it’s rounds on social media this week. This mother left her son in the car when she ran an errand and was reported to the police. The story was fascinating enough on how the system worked and her story on how the situation happened. However, what I find really fascinating is how this mom talks about being the overprotective mom. She made this one bad decision but overall she reports she is a a hovering helicopter mom. She really talks honestly about how cultural values and parenting have changed enough that if you take your kids to the park and just sit on the bench while they run around you will be judged.

I know my upbringing was not so different from many middle aged people who were sent out to play. When you were sent out to play you were allowed to come back to use the bathroom and have lunch but other than that you were expected to play outside until dinner time. If something happened with another kid you dealt with it. If another parent saw you doing something you shouldn’t be they yelled at you and called your mom. And your mom thanked them for doing that. This attitude forced us to learn how to be bored, how to interact with other children, and how to be independent. All qualities that serve us well as adults.

Now kids are wearing helmets while on their big wheels. They don’t play outside they have structured “play dates”. If they aren’t involved in the thirty activities most kids are and they get bored they get given a device. Another parent would never yell at a kid that isn’t theirs because you can’t yell at children nor can you be involved with other parents children.

So what has changed? There has been a cultural shift where parents let their entire lives be run by their children. Parents are naturally afraid of making parenting mistakes so they are very susceptible to parental peer pressure. If other parents are doing it, whatever it is, many parents then feel like they should be doing it. But what if the “it” is wrong?

There are many safety things that are good for kids to learn. However, you cannot no matter how hard you try, protect your child from all danger. It simply isn’t possible. So the parenting focus should be instead on resiliency. Raise your child so that they can deal with failure, with danger, with adversity. That doesn’t mean you don’t protect them in every way that you can but it does mean that you also let them fail and take some risks. Protecting your child from failure is something parents do because they cannot tolerate their own feelings when their child has failed. That is done for parental gain not to raise a stronger child. Letting your child fail and take risks means as a parent you have to tolerate your own fears around them being hurt.

If you don’t let these things happen then when your child becomes a young adult they can’t tolerate failure. They can become anxious and/or depressed. The goal of parenting is to raise kids that become successful adults. Parenting from fear hinders that goal. Limits with children are great, just make sure those limits are there for the right reasons.

 

Let me know your thoughts on how to raise resilient children in the comments below.

 

 

 

7 Misconceptions about seeing a therapist

Many people avoid therapy because they have some preconceived notions about what therapy is. Some of the ones I hear the most are

1. Therapists don’t talk they just nod their heads and say UM HMM. Now this I will admit is sometimes true. I have had clients see me say that their prior therapists never said anything. However, it isn’t always true. I interact a lot with people I work with. If it is important to you to have an interactive therapist then when you are looking for a therapist ask what they are like in the room.

2. I can just talk to my friends-why would I need to talk to a therapist? Friends are great. You want to talk to friends about what is going on in your life. Friends also will give you advice you may not want, try and solve your problems for you, and/or have some personal bias about the situation you are describing. Now those things can be positive. But there is something freeing about talking to someone who has no agenda, isn’t trying to fix you, and who doesn’t express any judgement about how you handle something.

3. Only crazy people see therapists. It is sad that there is such a stigma about seeking therapy. The majority of people in therapy are everyday people who are trying to learn to negotiate some aspect of their life better.

4. You have to go to therapy forever. This is generally up to the person seeking therapy. There are many times a person just needs some short term work to help them negotiate a difficult transition. Other times people are seeking problems to resolve long standing issues. A good therapist will work with you until you have met the goals that brought you to therapy and no longer.

5. You will just talk about your mother. Now again I will say that if there are longstanding issues what happened in your childhood is often very relevant. That is not to say you will spend your sessions talking about your mother. You will look at the patterns in your life and how they started as a way to create a different way of doing things.

6. What is in the past is past and doesn’t effect me now. This is one of the most common things I hear. I am over this incident. I don’t even think about it anymore. Now in some cases that may be the truth but often it just means you buried the feelings about whatever happened and spending some time dealing with those feelings can free up much emotional energy. Check out an earlier post I wrote about this.

7. I can’t afford it. Most insurance policies have some coverage for therapy since the Mental Health Parity Law was passed. Many therapists will also negotiate a sliding scale based on income. However, the real question here should be what is it worth for me to feel better? Therapy is an investment in your future.

 

 

Is Change Really Just About Acceptance?

Finding Acceptance Infographic

So I have really been working the last year and a half on being a calmer person. The life lessons I have had in the past few years have all shown me that it is so important to be both present and grateful. But I suppose like many people I was hoping to fundamentally change myself. I wanted to be relaxed and present and grateful. I wanted to be Cathy 2.0. What I have found out is that while I can be more present, relaxed, and grateful, that perhaps I will never be that “Relaxed Person” that I wanted to be.

So that really got me to thinking was my desire to be that relaxed person holding me back from being a relaxed person? Perhaps by judging myself and my personality I was keeping myself from being that person. A total Catch 22. So now as I continue with my goal of being more relaxed I allow myself not to be relaxed. If I get worried about something I tell myself it’s okay to worry. Lots of people worry.  When I allow myself to just be in whatever space I am in, it becomes okay. Okay if I am worried, okay if I am relaxed, just okay to be me.  And for me that is how the change will happen.

 

Finding Acceptance Infographic

Playing Forward the Liebster Award

Liebster Award IconAndrea Goldberg nominated me for the Liebster Award.  As she describes it in her blog on it.  

“The Liebster Award was created to recognize new blogs in a “pay it forward” manner. The word ‘liebster’ is German for ‘favorite’ or ‘dearest.’

The origins of the award are unclear and the rules have varied over time. In this incarnation of the award, the rules, as I understand them, are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the Liebster Award.
  • Answer the 10 questions posed by the person who nominated you.
  • Pay it forward by nominating 10 blogs with less than 3000 subscribers or Facebook fans.
  • Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer if they choose to accept the award.”

Thanks Andrea for recognizing my blog.  It is an honor.

My questions from Andrea Are

  1. What is your vision for your blog? What are you hoping to communicate via blogging?

I like the idea of sharing information.  I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from friends that have read my blog. I hope to get people thinking about things in a different way.

  1. Which of your blog posts is your favorite? Why?

My favorite post is is “How to Keep That Aloha Spirit-Or Not”.  I think it really captures my voice.

  1. What are the 5 things you like most about yourself?

Gosh I feel like I am on a job interview.  Great sense of humor, lots of empathy, persistence, loyal, and able to learn

  1. What is your proudest achievement?

A successful long term marriage.

  1. What is your greatest challenge?

Staying present

  1. What are you most grateful for?

family, health

  1. What do you do for self-care?

A lot-massage, chiropractor, acupuncture and exercise.

  1. Who do you admire and why?

Elizabeth Edwards. I admire someone who can triumph through such adversity, especially with such class.

  1. What are your favorite quotes?

Honestly I can never remember quotes.

  1. What do you hope to be doing in 5 or 10 years?

The same thing I am doing now.

My nominees are

Renee Beck, MFT

Victoria Marano, LCSW

Frieda Ferrick, MFT

Jim Walker, LCSW- The Shy Guy

Deborah Owens, Licensed Counselor

Alex Hoeplinger, MA

Michael Salas, LPC

Dr. Nona Owens

Rebekah Shackney, LCSW

and for a change and a non therapy blog

Non Stop in Flip Flops

 

Their Questions are  (and yes I did keep some of Andrea’s Questions)

  1. What is your vision for your blog? What are you hoping to communicate via blogging?
  1. Which of your blog posts is your favorite? Why?
  1. What was the most memorable response you got from a blog post?
  1. What is your favorite book?
  1. What is your greatest challenge?
  1. What are you most grateful for?
  1. What do you do for self-care?
  1. Who do you admire and why?
  1. Who is the person who influenced you the most
  1. What do you hope to be doing in 5  years?

 

The Science of Happy Relationships

Science of Love infographic

Happify did a recent infographic on the science behind a happy relationship. Seems to me that it isn’t really science at all but common sense. It boils down to couples that have positive interactions have relationships that last. It also stresses the negative impact having children has on relationships. This is something I see a lot, people underestimate the negative impact of children on the happiness of relationships. Obviously people are going to have children but I think we need to be more honest about helping parents prepare for what it means for a relationship especially when the children are young. When you don’t have children it is much easier to make your partner your focus. This means showing appreciation for all the little things that they do. So often when a marriage starts to get difficult it is because one or both spouses feel unappreciated. Say thank you even for the little things like taking out the garbage and see how that changes a relationship.

In regards to the things that make you crazy that your spouse does I suggest reframing them in your mind. What about thinking about how grateful you are to have a spouse that (fill in the blank here with annoying habits). Having worked with people suffering from grief they all say they would love to have the person they lost in their life doing said annoying thing. We so often don’t appreciate what we have until we have lost it. A happy life means we work very hard to appreciate what we have in the present.

Science of Love infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cost of Oppression on Mental Health

White only sign

Two days ago, February 12th marked the 10th anniversary since Gavin Newsom started the” Winter Of Love”. It was 2004 and marriage equality was thought to be a dream for most LGBT people. Gavin Newsom allowed marriages licenses to be issued by San Francisco City Clerks and over a period of a month over 4,000 couples from around the country came and got married. Mr. Newsom intended to put a face to the issue and did so at great risk to his own career. He was later blamed for John Kerry’s loss in the presidential election.

But Gavin put not only many faces to the issue but also allowed LGBT people to have hope. Hope that at some point in the not so distant future that they would be treated with equality in this country. He is a hero.

Gavin NewsomFast-forward to 2014 and 16 states and DC have legalized gay marriage. The court decisions in several other states have been all pro marriage equality and it is anticipated that once this issue reaches the Supreme Court again that they will legalize gay marriage in the entire United States.  It is only a matter of time.

So contrast the happiness of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the “Winter of Love” with a recently proposed law in Kansas, which makes it legal to discriminate against gay couples in every area, including government.  In fact in an article on Slate by Mark Joseph Stern he says

“But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.” This is nothing new, but the sweep of Kansas’ statute is breathtaking. Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples—not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government.”

White only sign

While I believe that this law will never actually go into effect it is stomach turning. Replace gay people with another minority; a person of color, an obese person, a Baptist, etc. and see if people are still comfortable with this law. In a free society if we let any one group be treated differently we allow the potential for any group to be treated differently.

So why write about this on my counseling blog? What does this have to do with a person’s well being? A lot it seems. There has been research done on use of mental health services post Proposition 8 passing in CA (Prop 8 took away the right to marry in CA) and it was found that they increased. Receiving messages that you are less than and undeserving of equal rights is devastating to one’s psychological well-being. And in this Kansas case it isn’t just an inability to obtain equal rights like marriage equality it is taking away your right to call the police or go to a community hospital or buy things at any store. This is no different than laws used to oppress racial minorities. It is a step away from separate bathrooms.

I get some people don’t like that there are gay people. Fine. Everyone has a fundamental right to his or her beliefs. What truly perplexes me is the total lack of empathy that laws such as this show. It basically says that gay people aren’t human. I don’t understand how one person can treat another like that and even more so when religion is used to justify the behavior. I know over the weeks to come I will be talking to my clients on ways that they can cope with seeing laws like this pass (which is predicted to do). How do you walk through the world not being angry when you hear such things?

I would encourage those who read this to speak out and spread the word about such laws. friends. Trust it matters to your LGBT friends when they hear you speak on their behalf.

***Since I wrote this post things have changed. When I wrote this post this bill had passed the House by a vote of 72-49 and was headed to the Senate and believed to be something that the Governor would sign. However, given the huge backlash this caused the Senate decided to kill the bill so it will never go into effect.People speaking out does make a difference. 2/16/14

The Challenge of Expectations

I started reading Ken Follett recently. I have never been a big reader of historical fiction but a friend recommended his books and I immediately got into two of his series. So when one of them World Without End was on Netflix I was pretty excited to watch it. Sadly I started watching it right after finishing the book. Big mistake. While one could say that the movie was based on the book, huge liberties were taken. I gasped in disbelief quite a bit. Especially since in my opinion many of the changes weakened the story. Apparently I was not alone, just read the reviews for the DVDS on Amazon.

But that did lead me to the idea of expectations. I obviously anticipated a video that closely mirrored the book. Since it didn’t I was disappointed. Had I just watched the series, a few of the characterizations would have still annoyed me, but I suspect that I would have enjoyed it more. It is harder to like something when you are yelling at the tv “No. That’s not the way it happened.”

It made me realize how expectations can otherwise hinder what might be a good time. Having negative expectations can make a bad situation worse. Enter a situation feeling like things will go wrong and you start at an angry place, which then makes it more likely that things will go awry. You will also cope with the results in a different way since your mood will already have been irritable.

It is hard to go through life with no expectations. That is why it is important to stay in the present moment. This allows us to enjoy our time without comparing it to what might have been. And time is to precious to waste yelling at your tv,

 

Coping with Holiday Expectations

Once again the holidays are here. And once again many of us feel overwhelmed and like there just isn’t enough time in a day to get everything done that needs to be done. And perhaps there isn’t. Which is a message to us that we are doing to much. Many of us go into the holidays trying to recreate the holidays of our past. Or perhaps trying very hard to not have any duplication of past holidays. Regardless we often put immense pressure on ourselves and the holiday which can end up disappointment. We also dread doing parts of the holiday preparation. I myself found myself falling prey to this. I make holiday cookies every year. I give them to my near and dear and people love them. That being said as I get older standing on my feet in the kitchen for eight hours straight is not such a good idea anymore. Last year I got smart and made a few batches of dough a few days prior and then I had less to do on cookie day. Much easier. This year the holiday season seems shortened with the late Thanksgiving and the first two Fridays of the month (cookie day is on Friday which is no client day) so I can’t get to the cookies until the 20th. I found myself dreading both cookie day and the two day training that was changing my schedule.

Then I stopped to think. I want to go to this training because I think it will make me a better therapist. It will be intense and tough but I know I will learn a lot. And I want to make the cookies since for me it is an act of love. So why was I letting myself dread doing this? Because I had let the cookies become an obligation instead of something I enjoy doing. Once I was able to reframe this in my head I was able to once again look forward to cookie day. I love this time of the year and I don’t want it to turn into obligations rather than a time of happiness. I think that is what often happens to people.  Think about the drive to do certain things this time of the year and evaluate whether they are obligations or fun which has turned into an obligation. When you can you either eliminate the task or look at it differently.

Unreasonable expectations are the number one killer of holiday joy. Let yourself do the things that feel good and let the rest go. People don’t remember the meal or the gifts or the decorating much past New Years. They do remember the good times had with family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

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