Is Change Really Just About Acceptance?

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

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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?

 

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The Science of Happy Relationships

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cost of Oppression on Mental Health

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

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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,

 

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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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Tolerance Isn’t Enough

I was both happy and saddened to read about the drama in the Cheney family. Mary Cheney has long been out as a lesbian and is in a long term marriage and has children. Her parents have supported her and her dad even came out pro gay marriage while still in the Bush administration. Not my favorite guy but I give him props for doing what was right.

Liz Cheney, Mary’s sister is currently running for a Senate seat in Wyoming. I would say overall her political party affiliation is Tea Party Republican. As such she has come out against gay marriage. Mary claims that she didn’t know her sister’s view on this until her recent public comments.

This past week Mary Cheney’s wife Heather Poe had enough and said this on FaceBook:

“I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say “I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”
Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 – she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.
To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least
I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.
I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.”

This was the part I was happy to read about. Mary Cheney’s politics have been confusing to me to say the least, and it was good to see her and her wife stand up for their family. At the same time it saddens me to see her father struggle between his daughters. The rift is so big at this point that the sisters are reportedly not speaking.

I believe Liz Cheney loves her sister. I even suspect she has positive feelings towards Mary’s wife and family. But that is not enough. Especially when you are in a position of power to change things. I have heard the “love the sinner hate the sin” line before. However, it doesn’t work that way from this side of it. If you cannot fully accept part of who someone is, nor accept that they have the right to choose whom they want to spend their life with, then you don’t really love them.

Many of us live with some version of the conflict Mary Cheney finds herself in right now. We have been treated differently by those who say they love us. Sometimes we get treated differently by people that support us and marriage equality. It is a tough place to be in.  There are many different ways to cope including cutting off family contact, lying to family, and keeping it the big unspoken elephant in the room. We all have to find our way. To those that think it is okay to say they love their LGBT friend or relative but they still can’t support marriage equality I want to say to you it is not okay. It may allow you to reconcile things in your mind but your family member is caused pain by your lack of support. They know that you don’t really fully accept them.

Perhaps that knowledge won’t change anyone’s mind. People have the right to their beliefs, but you also should own how your beliefs might affect those around you.

 

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Appreciation

This hasn’t been my best week. I have been a bit grumpy overall. I tried to do what I encourage others to do and allow myself my mood without having a judgment about it. Easier said than done of course, but I was doing okay with it. Then I got a phone call. A call that was both unexpected and very positive. Someone called to thank me for some help I had given them. They told me how that help had paid off for them and they were very excited. I learned both that it is very hard to be grumpy when you are around others that are happy and excited and it is also hard to stay grumpy when you have been given a compliment. My mood totally shifted. I had to get in the car to go somewhere and I sang along to the radio the entire trip there.

I write a lot about gratitude and being thankful for what you have. But I realize in those posts I have never written about the importance of sharing gratitude. It is very easy to receive help from someone and not take the time to say thank you. And easier still to not to take the time to explain why you are thankful for whatever they helped you with. It is also really easy to underestimate the value of words to others. I am not sure what the other person expected from her call to me but I bet she didn’t realize how it would affect me.

I try to be grateful. I work hard to say thank you a lot. However I recognize I am better at doing it in some areas of my life than others. I also can forget how powerful words can be. So I am going to work harder to be aware of how I need to share my appreciation more. The bonus is that I know it won’t just make the other person feel good it will make me feel good too.

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Putting it into Perspective

A few weeks back I was heading off to work. It was a beautiful morning and I had plenty of time so I decided to treat myself to some coffee and a pastry. That’s me the person who knows how to live large. I left the coffee shop feeling positive and relaxed.  I drove towards the freeway entrance and looked into my rearview mirror to see a policeman on a motorcycle with his lights on. He waved me over to the gas station. I of course, first did the universal gesture for -”you want me to pull over?”  Yes-he wanted me. Crud. I pulled into the gas station and he said almost apologetically “38 in a 25 zone”. I sighed and pulled out all the necessary documents and he went to write me my ticket.

I took my ticket and drove on to work. Then I do what people do when faced with such unfairness, I posted about it on Facebook. Of course, I then heard the place I got pulled over was a known speed trap and other friends had gotten caught there. There is something reassuring about knowing you aren’t the only one to do something like this. I looked at my ticket to see what my financial consequences would be and saw that apparently they copy everything from your driver’s license onto a ticket, so to add insult to injury there was my weight written on the ticket. This spawned a new set of Facebook posts and responses.

I finished my work at job location one and headed out to job location two returning via the same street where I had the morning mishap. I drove 25 the entire way.  I was passed by four cars. Yup a speed trap. It would have been easy for me to get caught up in the injustice of being caught in a speed trap. It is going to cost me several hundred dollars when I pay the ticket and do traffic school. And I am bummed about that. But what I have been working on in the last year is keeping perspective. The money isn’t going to cause me to not have food on the table or pay my utility bill. An oversimplification perhaps, but it is only money. As I hit middle age I have seen more and more people experience losses that are breathtakingly difficult it has helped me to put my own life in perspective. At the end of the day what really matters are the people you love.

It may all seem a little clichéd but the lesson here is to try and take the cards you are dealt as gracefully as possible because many people would rather have your problem rather than the one they are facing.  And you should always be aware of the posted speed limit.

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What are we teaching our children

The day after the Trayvon Martin verdict I saw a picture of a young African American boy holding a sign saying “I am Trayvon Martin”.  Seeing that picture hit me in the gut.  This child’s parents were going to have to have frank discussions with him on a multitude of topics such as how people may react to you if you wear certain clothes or how you need to respond if the police stop you. And even though the child looked to be about 10 my guess is that those discussions have already begun with him.

I think about what a burden these parents have to carry. They have to teach their children that they are always at risk of being treated differently than others. And not only that but by being different their life maybe at risk. I listened to a mom on tv describe how she was teaching her teenage daughter how to respond if a boy she was with was stopped by the police. She was teaching her ways to de-escalate the situation. In order to keep their children safe, parents of children of color have to teach them hypervigilance and de-esclation skills.  And I can only think of how sad that is.  For the parents, for their kids, and for society as a whole.

There are no easy answers here. I can only hope that recent events have started a meaningful dialogue. I know that this dialogue is scary for people. But I challenge people to find a way to have these discussions.  Even when it is hard. Because nothing will change if we can’t own that there is a serious problem here and it is a problem that affects all of us.

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