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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In my last blog post I wrote about Bronnie Ware’s essay on people’s regrets at the end of their life. Number 5 was I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I did some additional research on happiness in America. I found a Harris Interactive poll from 2011 shows that 33% of Americans are very happy and 50% are somewhat happy  There were pieces of the research that were no surprise. People with a college education along with people that made over 100K a year were happier. What was more interesting is that women were happier than men. African Americans and Latinos were both happier than white Americans. And people over the age of 50 were happier than younger people.
So the research shows that privilege can increase happiness but it doesn’t always. Ms. Ware’s experience was that at the end of their life people believe that they themselves were ultimately responsible for their own happiness. While I believe the socio-economic factors play into happiness, it is hard to be happy when your basic needs aren’t being met; I also believe that how we react to situations is a large factor in our own happiness.
We have all met people that always seem to be a victim. We have also all met the person that no matter what happens seems to be able to find happiness. While temperament and past experiences play into our reactions some of it is also each person’s choice on how they want to live their lives. This is not referring to people who are clinically depressed but to everyday people. We all get upset sometimes but whether we wallow in it or bounce back from it is ultimately up to us. What choice are you making to allow yourself to be happy?
I will confess that I was born and raised in NJ and I have the East Coast Type A personality that 20 years in CA has not been able to beat down. But I want to be that relaxed person you read about; the person I am not sure I have ever totally met but have heard about so often. So after a recent vacation in Hawaii, a wonderful place where people are just calm and unhurried, I tried to bring that Aloha spirit home with me.
Yesterday when I was driving to work I ended up trapped in a situation where only one car could go through each change of the traffic light. I could write another blog post about how the people that design traffic intersections in the Bay Area apparently only ride public transit, but that would only really be therapeutic for me and not very Aloha. So as I sat there watching the lights turn green and then back to red again while being unable to move forward I worked hard on finding my Aloha spirit. I took deep breathes, I reviewed a gratitude list in my mind, I sang along loudly to music and I thought I had it. But then as I crept closer to getting through the intersection the person a few cars up totally stopped. And it was still a green light! Before I could take a deep and cleansing breathe my hand slammed down on that horn. Mr. Construction Guy to my left looked at me sadly as I hung my head in shame. Mr. Construction Guy to the right tried to get the next person to go through the light, but they couldn’t understand the complicated set up so they sat there. And there we went through another round of lights.
I tried not to berate myself as I drove on to work. I worked on trying to understand what happened. I was only really held up about 10 minutes and it was on a day that I had left early for work so I had plenty of time. I just think it came down to the core NJ girl popping out. I strongly believe in being your authentic self and apparently right now my authentic self is an impatient driver. So I will look today for another way to move slower and more peacefully through my day, knowing that for a Type A former NJ resident that may look a little different that my CA friends expect. And I am okay with that.
I was recently told about a communication model that starts with the words “assume best intentions”. I began to wonder what the world might be like if we all acted upon that premise. Many times we make assumptions about the reasons behind another person’s behaviors. When we make those assumptions they are often negative. We decide that a person did something because they didn’t like us or didn’t care about our feelings. However, if we pursue the true intent of people’s actions they are often coming from a positive place, regardless of how it was received.
How different would the world be if we just assumed good intentions behind what people say and do? If someone says something that hurts our feelings we simply say to ourselves they had good intentions and they just didn’t express things well. Responding to a hurt from the place that the hurt was made unintentionally makes a difference in how we receive and thus respond to things.
Try it and see if it changes your perspective.
In Minnesota there is a new project to offer FREE EMDR to as many as 100 war veterans. A local reporter tells the story of two people who received EMDR, a veteran and a woman who witnessed a shooting at her job. They filmed part of an EMDR session with the veteran. It is a very accurate protrayal of how EMDR works.
To see the video and more on the story click here