Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the irony of people pleasing

When you're too hooked in to people-pleasing and worrying about how other people feel (and how they feel about you), the irony is that you will mirror your moods based on their reactions or the energy they're putting out.

You may walk into a room happy and content, but they immediately start grumbling about how bad their day was, or worse, something that you did that they're unhappy about. Immediately, you shift your energy from lightness and joy to match their grouchy, murky negative energy (at least I do...or did...or am trying not to.)

Other days, you might find that you are SO happy and SO ebullient that you walk into a room and you don't even care about the energy of others. So what if they had a bad day? You didn't! And so you are yourself and you are shiny and happy and, guess what? They might get a little of that shine on them!

Being empathetic and compassionate and tuned into others is really a gift, but it can definitely be taken too far.

The more you try to make people happy, the more you might match their energy and both depress/suppress your own and also take on some of their negativity. Protecting your own energy and staying in your own joy NO MATTER WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THEM will help. And, the irony is, it helps more people!

You think that by pleasing people, you are doing good. You think that you are solving problems and keeping people happy and having a positive effect on their lives. But when you let them suck you down instead of spreading your joy and maybe even affecting them with it, less people are happy! They're still not happy, and now YOU'RE not happy! Why not own your own joy and power and light and allow it to infuse every room you enter? Who cares if other people are annoyed by it? And they're probably not!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

on shining your light even when people are mad at you

I've been reading Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell. I resonate with the idea of being a light worker/light bearer. (And, by the way, as soon as I say that about myself, what immediately comes up for me is "Who do you think you are?" Which clearly means I have more work to do around shame: Brene Brown says that shame has two scripts: "Who do you think you are?" and "I'll never be good enough.")

Anyway, I DO think that I am a light bearer of some kind. I've always wanted to be, from the time I heard the Counting Crows song "A Long December" and the line

All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

Okay, so I've now shared way more than I meant to about myself than I meant to...guess we're really getting at the heart of vulnerability here! 

But what I really came to write about today was the struggle I have with continuing to let my light shine when I've messed up, or when someone is mad at me. I'd like to try to break this down, and maybe we can all learn from it. Here's what happens when I mess up (unintentionally):

1. Think everything is fine.
2. Find out everything is not fine (and someone is blaming me for it not being fine).
3. Feel like a fool/a failure/I should have known better/how could this happen?
4. I don't deserve to shine my light. Bad Sarah! Go hide in a room, nobody wants to see you.
5. Lick my wounds; run a tape of defensive thoughts in my mind (But I didn't know! I did my best!) Or admit where I was wrong or mistaken, and still beat myself up about it. I should have known better.
6. Eventually pull myself out of self-loathing and gradually polish my lamp again and get back to shining (and this process can take hours, days, or weeks, unfortunately.)

I'd like to get to the point where it doesn't take so long for me to shine the light again. I realize that the only person who can control this is me. Even if I messed up, it doesn't mean I have to completely extinguish my light. I can continue to shine and still work on solving the problem, or I can realize that just because someone is unhappy with me, it's not actually all my fault and it's quite a bit about them. 

The main point I want to get to is the it's not up to other people whether or not we shine our light. We need to keep shining even if we messed up. Even if we were wrong. Even if we were completely misguided. 

If I could tally up the amount of times in my life that I put out my light because of what other people were thinking (or what I thought they were thinking -- ugh, see how exhausting it is to be in my brain???), I would be able to cover walls and walls of my house with tally marks. I mean, I seriously do this. 

I know this starts with self-love. Even as I began this post, this famous quote from Marianne Williamson started running through my mind:


I have loved this quote from the moment I heard it (even mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela). It's hard, but we can do it! Our job is to keep shining the light! It's OUR LIGHT! No one else's. So let's keep shining.

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These thoughts are a major work in progress...I'd love to know what you think! What do you think about your light? What are your tips and tricks for keeping your light shining even during difficult times? I'm sure I'll be writing more about this in the days to come, so I'd love to integrate your thoughts and comments as I continue to think about this. :) 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

a flash of insight about food

What I eat impacts the way my body feels, not the way my mind or my heart feels.

My husband is away this weekend and so last night I had a great idea to buy movie theater popcorn from the theater but to bring it home and eat it while we had a movie night. (I actually do still think it was a good idea, and the movie night overall was a good idea.) Whenever I eat a ton of popcorn (and I don't seem to be able to have it around me without eating a ton of it), I do not feel well. Even as I write this, I'm sitting here on the morning after with a rumbly tumbly and a low-grade, salty headache.

I realize, especially with eating things that I know will put my body into distress later, that I'm eating to try to change how my heart feels, or how my mind feels (thinks), and it doesn't work. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with it (and it can even be an alert that something is going on that I'm not even conscious of yet), but eating the food that I think will make me feel better generally backfires.

I'm learning that it's not what I eat or don't eat that impacts how my heart feels. That's a different matter. If my heart feels like it needs buttered popcorn and red wine and leftover Easter candy, what does that really mean? It probably means that I wish my husband were home, not away for the weekend. It means that parenting alone makes me anxious and overwhelmed. It means that maybe I wish I were hanging out with some girlfriends who have kids, too, so that we could all be in it together.

Some of those things I can work with. I can't make my husband stay home -- he needs to travel and I travel quite a bit, too. As for parenting alone, I know I can do it. I prefer to parent as part of a team, but I'm capable of doing it alone. I can reach out to friends to get together today and tomorrow now that I've realized that's something that I yearn for. Those things, I can work with. They require me taking some action and being conscious, but following up on those realizations could actually get me somewhere. Buttered popcorn isn't going to do those things for me. I have to do them myself.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

on ditching figuring out my purpose. or letting it be reeeeeeeaaaaallllllyyyyy broad

I've been super cranky today. Because I got stuck in this circle of trying to find my purpose. Not a cycle, not even a swirl, a CIRCLE. Like a chasing-my-tail, about-to-fall-over circle.

All it did was put me in a bad mood. What is my purpose? Am I living it out? How can I live it out? Can I live it out before I FIGURE it out? Will people around me assign it to me before I figure it out for myself?

Then I talked to my husband, and in his normal irreverent way, he said some bad words about having a purpose. He told me to forget it. He said he doesn't have a purpose and he's totally fine with it. He said he thinks people who are super-sure about their purpose are lying and possibly misguided. Or maybe they're totally cool. But it's not because they figured out their purpose, it's because they're just chill anyway.

Then I thought about what I love to do. I love to love people. I love to be open-hearted and have my arms wide open and shower people with love and affection and unconditional positive regard. I love to listen to people and know their whole stories. I love to sit with people and try to surround them with comforting energy and be fully present with them. I love to learn and grow.

I do NOT love to try to make people do things. I am not a coercer. I am not a motivational speaker (well, possibly I am but only for people who want to be motivated, and then I think sometimes they hear what they want to hear.) I do not love to organize people or plan events. Ack! Freaks me out.

So, those are some simple distinctions.

Today, I either have no purpose, or my purpose is to love people. That's the reeeeeeeaaaaallllllyyyyy broad purpose: love. At one point, I thought my purpose was to be a healer, and that might not be too far off. But for today, I need it to be even broader. True, I probably can't monetize it to make 7 figures on the Internet. It's the kind of purpose that will lead me to jobs that also have me putting myself out there in ways that might mean I get hurt a lot, too. But I think it's right for me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

if the only reason is because of what people will think, that's not good enough

My son declared that he's wearing the same shorts to school for a third day in a row. My reaction on the SECOND day was that it's not okay. However, this kid has a will of steel and battling with him is not high on my list of fun things to do. So, second day okay.

On the cusp of this third day, I am thinking the thoughts I had about the second day, only magnified.

What will his teacher think?
What will his classmates think? Will they go home and tell their parents that Jackson wore the same shorts for the third day in a row?
What will you all who are reading this think?

Honestly, those are the only reasons to confiscate the shorts and refuse to allow him to wear them. '

They're not THAT dirty (no, I am not going to smell them.) The eyeball test makes them look practically clean, except they've got a distinctive belt that proves to me that they are indeed the same shorts from the past two days.

Nothing BAD is going to happen to them from wearing them. If the other kids in his class pick on him for wearing them, that's something he's got to deal with. I don't want to layer on top of it by asking, "What will your friends think?" I've got enough issues; I don't need him to have the same ones some day.

It's kind of gross. Maybe even REALLY gross. But it's actually not that big of a deal. I'm not going to go into a spiral on mom-guilt about laundry, because the truth is if I could get them off his body (and he has actually showered each day and put them back on...so I guess you could make the argument that if I were quick enough I could've snatched them and taken them to the washer while he was in the shower) then it would be an epic battle. I am SO TIRED of epic battles with this beautiful boy. I just want to love him and hang out with him.

So, the only reason I would forbid it is because of what other people think. And that's not a good enough reason to battle.

It's a reason that I do or don't do a lot of stuff. It's been a reason pretty much since I was 3, I think. It's kind of getting old. I'd like to quit it. So I'll start by protecting my son from my neuroses (in this case). And I'll try to learn from it myself.

Monday, April 04, 2016

you can't always say something to make it all better

First, a disclaimer: both the book and the article I'm going to link to in this post got me riled up in such a way that they led to me writing this, but I don't necessarily consider this post a critique of either one. Also, I have no idea why the fonts got so nutty after I quoted the other article. Right now I'm trying to hold myself to getting my thoughts out there without too much worry about formatting, so that's why I'm not fixing it :)

A few Saturdays ago, I was reading the wonderful book Tattoos on the Heart  by Father Gregory Boyle, and as I was reading, I found myself getting more and more agitated about a situation that happened in my life/family/ministry/community. Unfortunately, because in some ways it's ongoing and in other ways to describe it would be to call people out, I can't go into the details. Broadly, I can say that it involved a family (not mine), a transgression, and my desire to offer forgiveness.

So I'm reading the book, and it has all kinds of profound anecdotes about conversations that have happened between Father G and the homies with whom he works, and I start imagining that I'm going to go to the home of this family and I'm going to extend myself and we're going to have this profound conversation and the youth who committed the transgression is going to see my boundless compassion and I'm going to make an everlasting impact on his life. (Yeah, I can see that when I write it out that my thoughts are straight up delusional.) And then someone rings the doorbell and asks me for a ride to precisely the neighborhood where this family lives and it feels like a sign from God that I should go talk to the family.

We get there and I go to their apartment and things start going really differently. First, the youth in question is not home. Second, I realize as I launch in to referencing "the incident" that there is not one flicker of recognition on his mom's face. Then, I realize that I am probably in the role of informing her what happened, and she doesn't even know. And finally, she denies that he had any role in the incident whatsoever, which then leads me to doubting myself and the information I've received.

Long story short, it went NOTHING like any of the profound conversations in the book.

Then this morning, I read this post, which is lovely and also profound and I'm not criticizing at all, but when I read this passage, I found myself wanting to scream:

This past week while volunteering I met a man who told me he’s only been on the streets for a short while. His 12 year old son was killed in a car accident the prior year and the grief and magnitude of the situation literally ripped his family apart. He lost his job, home, wife…and is now on the streets. When he walked in to the kitchen I asked him how his day was and he said “it’s been a really bad day, unfortunately”. I told him we were going to change that, led him to his seat for lunch, and told my friend Kristy to take extra good care of him. He was served a nutritious meal of top sirloin with onions and mushrooms, asparagus, butternut squash, baked potato and dessert. As he was leaving, I asked him if his day had improved… with his eyes brimming with tears, he said “You absolutely do not know how happy this made me. Thank you.”
We went on to chat and his attitude and outlook had changed dramatically from when he first walked in the door. Food, and the chance to be nourished with a hot meal, can change lives. It truly can.
Now, I absolutely believe that this story is true. I absolutely believe that the man said what he said, and that it had an amazing impact on the author. At the same time, what I want to say is that even if the man's day had not become better, even if he was entirely ungrateful for the meal he had received, or if not ungrateful was just sort of ambivalent about it or even unresponsive, the act of serving the meal would still have been worthwhile.
And so I worry that stories like this one, and like the ones in the book, are setting us up to expect something from the recipients of our compassion. And when we don't receive that something (gratitude; awe; profound conversation; lives changed), we think our act wasn't worthy, and then maybe we won't do it anymore.
And at the same time, if I'm really honest, do you know how much EGO I had tied up in the hypothetical conversation I thought I might be having on that Saturday a few days ago? I was thinking that I was going to say these amazing things to change the hearts of everyone in the family. I was going to make a profound impact. I was going to have just the right words to say to elicit the hoped-for response.
Well, guess what? I didn't. I didn't get any of that. And so I left feeling like kind of a big dummy. I left feeling foolish and like I had just told a secret that wasn't meant to be shared yet and utterly confused by it all. And I may even have done more harm than good, truthfully (I actually don't think so in this particular setting, but it was possible.)
We have to try, yes. We have to reach out and do the right thing, yes. But we can't always say something to make it all better. When people are sad, bereft, in denial, lying to you and others, and in any other number of varied circumstances, your words might not have an impact. And you have to live with it. You can try your best, and sometimes your best doesn't have an effect. What happens then is that you become humble, and you learn, and you reflect. And all of those things are good to do. 
And next time something similar happens, I hope you go right back out there to try again. I have to, it's part of my job. And we all should, as part of our job of being human. But maybe we shouldn't set ourselves up to think we're going to get a giant pat on the back for everything we do. There's something about US wrapped up in that kind of expectation. Other people are entitled to their own responses, even if we don't like them. We have to keep being ourselves, and keep putting ourselves out there, but not trying to bend others' reactions to our will, because then we're not doing anyone, ourselves or the other people, any favors.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

my jeans felt tight today

I have ONE pair of jeans with the number 6 inside the label. ONE PAIR! (Honestly, I also think it's a fluke; they're "girlfriend jeans" which means they're oversized and meant to be a little extra schlumpy but not quite as schlumpy as "boyfriend jeans.") And today they fit tightly.

This is after a week of working more on intuitive eating, and eating without restrictions  and also, interestingly, starting to work out again.

I've been holding off on working out because the Bright Line Eating program recommends that you eliminate workouts while you're on the weightloss plan -- both because really you don't have enough calories on the plan to give you the energy for workouts, and also because apparently, working out can mess with sticking to the plan because your sneaky brain wants to rationalize that you should eat more because you worked out. All of this is actually fine with me for the moment; it may be flawed, but at the same time, I see the reasoning. However, I have actually recently been CRAVING working out!

Monday I went running because I felt like I had so much nervous, jangly energy that I really wanted to run it off. Running was harder than I thought it would be, though at the same time, I guess I sort of did better than I thought I would. I set the timer on my phone for 30 minutes so that I stayed out there with some sort of objective measure instead of calling it before I should, and I ran as much as I could for as long as I could and then switched to walking until I felt ready to run again (rinse and repeat.) And I didn't run for as long as I would've wanted to, but also made myself run up a hill toward the end while battling the part of me that was chanting, "I can't do this," and countering with, "Yes I can! Yes I can! Yes I can!" That was part of working out that I remember liking -- my body showing my brain that it COULD do something that my brain was saying it couldn't do.

Then I worked out with a trainer and did a strength-training routine on Wednesday, and then repeated it myself yesterday.

So perhaps my jeans fit a little tight today because of the inflammation from workouts. Perhaps because I'm at a low enough weight that I can't maintain it without being really strict and careful.

Last night I had a cheeseburger and a few drinks. I also finished off the last of a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Certainly none of that has a place in Bright Line Eating. But I'm also trying to lift restrictions, and so all those things have a place on the list of foods I crave. Then today I ate rather haphazardly and ended up with fish, Brussels sprouts, and salad for dinner. So, is this intuitive or a return to restriction? Only time will tell as we see it on a continuum of eating and behavior.

Thanks for following along and listening in! This promises to be an interesting ride, and I'm glad you're accompanying me on it.