Saving Your Life

“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”
― Melody Beattie

Melody Beattie has been such an important role model for me and countless others that deal with addiction and co-dependence.

She has a great page on Facebook with daily meditations. Today’s meditation struck me because I’m an avid journaller, I talk about that a lot here and in my book, This Way Up. In Beattie’s post, she talks about ‘Saving Your Life’ through journalling, such a great double entendre.  I know that journalling has saved my life, or at least my sanity, on more than one occasion.  Not to mention, I am saving my life, though words, a snapshop of my experience daily.

Beattie discusses why journalling is important to her:

Are you saving your life by writing about it in a journal?

Sometimes I use a file in my computer for my journal. If I’m rambling, ranting, or raving—writing something that could embarrass me if seen—I lock the file with a code. My words in my journal, whether it’s in a computer or a green Italian notebook, are meant only for me.

There are many ways to write in a journal. We can go on and on about whatever comes to us. That’s helpful, especially if we’re stuck. We can use our journal as a record, writing down what we did that day. It’s a good place to write our goals and to explore our fantasies and dreams.

We can write poems or short stories. We can write letters to God or our Guardian Angel, asking for advice. Or we can just say what happened each day, and then write how it feels.

People may think there’s a right and wrong way to write in a journal, but I don’t agree. There aren’t any rules about journals. It’s just a way to record and save our lives.

Do you think your life is worth saving? I do. If you’ve been neglecting to do that, ask yourself “why?”

God, help me be aware of and respect the details of my life.

Activity: Transfer your goal list to a journal, and begin writing your responses to the meditations and the activities as part of your journal entry for each day. Use your journal as a logbook, to record what you’re doing and whom you’re doing it with as you pursue your dreams. Or use it as a way of exploring how you feel, who you are, and what you want to do. Save your life in whatever way makes sense to you.

Such a great reminder to me, and I hope to you too, to journal today and everyday if possible.

I want to close with a video of Beattie discussing Addiction and Codependency.  I love her messages, they really hit home.  This vid is part 1 of 3; if you find it useful or interesting, I hope you take the time to watch all 3. Such valuable information on the subject.

 

 

I’d love to hear about why you journal and how it helps you; and would love your thoughts of the video. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

What is ‘Wrong’

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

– Leo Tolstoy


When I watch the news or read the paper, I think I can be forgiven for becoming somewhat distraught. The world is in such a fragile, sad place at the moment.  And after discussing this with my sister Karin, we both agreed that being “sensitive” women, open to the energy of the world around us, can be heart-breaking.  What are we doing to this planet? What are we doing to one another? Why is this happening?

And going a step further, what can we do about it?  On a large scale, it feels as though one small, insignificant person can do very little.  It all feels too big.  But that feels ‘wrong’ – I have to do something, even on a small scale.  One thing that may not seem significant on the bigger scale, but I feel is very significant, is too keep “cleaning up my side of the street.”  To stay clear and communicate through my own trials and tribulations to come out the other side.  I had a confrontation with a good friend.  It felt awkward and hard and it brought up a lot of old stuff for me, old childhood shame and feelings of being ‘wrong’ and bad.  My immediate instinct was to lash out at her, but I knew after years of therapy and my own work, that that was ‘wrong’. So luckily, this friend has also done a lot of her own work, so we talked, we communicated through it.  It was not easy or comfortable or fun, but it worked.  We worked through it, dug below the incident to what it brought up, in both of us, and got through it.  I still have some work to do around my own behaviour, but the communication through the difficulty, shattered the small prison of shame that I was sitting in.

This one small incident may not seem significant, and maybe it’s not, in the big picture.  But it was huge for me for a couple of days. And no I’m not saying that if we could all communicate better then everything would be peachy keen, but on a smaller scale, if people communicated better with each other, and were willing to be real with one another, I think the world would be in a lot healthier state.  But then again, I always have been accused of being a Pollyanna.

The short clip I want to close with may not seem to fit with this post, but I feel like it does, and I really liked it.  A short TED talk about Philosophy in Prison. I enjoyed the construct of ‘wrong’ – and more importantly it reminded me of my son Lukas who is studying PPE (Philosopy, Politics and Economics) and who has been away in Edinburgh studying for the past 10 months, and I miss him terribly.  So when I saw this clip, and I thought of Lukas, I smiled. So I wanted to include it here. After all in this very small universe that is my blog, I get to make the rules!

“The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.”
― Douglas Adams

 

 

I’d love to hear from you about how you handle ‘wrong’ in your life.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Women and Men – maybe not so different after all?

“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”

– George Carlin


Ok, so I have to admit it.  I have learned so much from this recent argument with my husband. I guess I can even say that I appreciated the argument!

Yes absolutely men’s and women’s brains work differently.

There are fundamental variations between male and female brains that mean we communicate and respond to situations differently. In a relationship, these differences can unintentionally cause misunderstanding and conflict. It’s generally accepted now that women tend to be wired towards empathy, whereas men develop stronger interest in systems, or how things work and that impacts on how we speak and deal with people.

Neuropsychologist Dr Anne Moir, who featured in the video I posted about men and women being wired differently, believes that a better understanding of how we are wired differently will help us argue less. Well it certainly helped me move to a place of compassion.  After doing research and having a better understanding of how our brains differ, I was able to soften toward Jeff and better understand where he was coming from.

It also helped incredibly having a wonderfully rich and fascinating discussion with my dear friends, Jan and Trev.  They are both interested in neuroscience.  Jan with her background in Psychosynthesis; and Trev with an eclectic background and a wide range of studies, both helped me untangle and look at this stuff in a new way.

But actually the experience that really catapulted me into understanding was a situation I had with my own sister.  We had a disagreement about something, and she pointed out accurately that I went straight to my head about the situation, while she went to her heart, and emotionally she did not feel met.  I felt judged by her (as Jeff had said that he felt judged by me) and my sister said she felt like we were in completely different places while trying to communicate (the same thing that I had said to Jeff.)  It was fascinating, and yes, rather uncomfortable.  I had to really back-pedal on so much that I had laid on Jeff!  What an incredible learning experience.

I have several videos that I found educational and enlightening that I would like to share:

There is an educational one just describing an fMRI and how it works.

 

Then there is an intersting video from animal planet about male and female brains

 

There are also two interesting videos from talk shows, Jane and The View that feature the Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Amen, where he describes fMRIs of men and women and points out the differences.

 

 

 

Maybe you’ll find all of these videos overload, too much information.  But I found it incredibly helpful. And navigating relationships is tough in the best of times.  I can use all the help I can get!

I’d love to hear what helps you navigate your relationship. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Feminization of Leadership

“Great necessities call forth great leaders.”

– Abigail Adams


Recent studies highlight a long-held suspicion about the brains of males and females. They’re not the same. I’m fascinated by the fact that men and women’s brains operate differently.

When I first started researching this, I wanted to learn more about how this impacted me personally, in relationship to the different communication styles between my husband and I. But the more I read about this, the more interesting it became on a much wider level.

A recent study showed Six Things Women Do Better Than Men. 

  1. Women handle stress better
  2. Women are better at sustaining relationships
  3. Women are better at communicating
  4. Women are better at grooming themselves
  5. Women have sharper memory
  6. Women are better with finances

Now of course this is a tendency, not a rule, and there are lots of things that men tend to do better than women. But this list interested me when put in combination with a discussion of a change in leadership style that is happening globally as the Baby Boomers retire and Gen X and Gen Y take the helm. A recent studey reported on CNN shows:

The rise of women into positions of power will create a “feminization” of leadership which will be reflected in the increasing importance of emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility. The demands of the X and Y generations are aligned to the skill-set of female leadership styles.

Hanna Rosin, author and journalist, gives a fascinating TED Talk about the Rise of Women. She talks about Women’s skill sets and the new economy.

What the economy requires now is a whole different set of skills. You basically need intelligence, you need inability to sit still in focus, to communicate openly, to be able to listen to people and operate in a workplace that is much more fluid than it used to be. And those are things that women do extremely well as we’re seeing. If you read management books now, a leader is somebody who can foster creativity, who can get the employees to talk to each other, who can basically build teams and get them to be created. Those are things that women do very well.

I don’t know if this is really The End of Men, as Rosin’s book proclaims, but it is a fascinating theme.

 

 

Have you experienced The Feminization of Leadership?   Please take the time to share your stories.  And as always, thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Are Men and Women Wired Differently?

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other.  Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”

– Katherine Hepburn


I just had the most delicious conversation with my dear friend Tam.  She and I have been friends for over 30 years.  When we talk, we go straight to heart level, which I value so much and crave so deeply.  As a woman, this need for deep heart connection is so important to me. And this brings me to the essence of this post,  yet another layer of stuff my husband and I are working through. 

I won’t go into the full background of the latest turmoil, it’s more than a argument or disagreement – it feels like a deep mis-understanding of the sexes.  Our communication feels like he’s trying to connect from the head and me from the heart, and I end up feeling like a bleeding mess in a puddle in the corner and he is trying to analize why and how it happened and what exactly was said to get there and what words can deal with it. 

After talking to Tam and to my sister and a couple of other friends, I noticed once again, not surprisingly that men and women really communicate differently. So I decided to do some research, and I found that it’s not surprising that we communicate so differently because research shows that men’s brains don’t work the same way that women’s brains work.   There is so much new research out there showing us beyond a shadow of a doubt that men and women are wired differently.

According to psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, the female brain is wired to empathize and the male brain is characterized by its tendency to systemize. The male brain seeks to develop a set of logical rules that guide another person’s behavior. When a man can’t understand someone else’s behavior through logic, he tends to become confused about how to proceed.  Women, on the other hand, may be more empathetic because their brains’ mirror neurons are more sensitive than men’s. Mirror neurons cause us to imitate emotions and actions that we’re exposed to. One theory is that women’s mirror neurons allow them to more easily hone in on another person’s emotional cues.

This quote just made so much sense to me!  I get so frustrated because it feels like my husband is trying to understand me “logically” – and does not understand emotional cues.  But if he’s not wired to do so, can I hold this against him?  Ah there’s the rub.  So I guess we just keep trying to find the common ground, and to work through this morass called relationship.

This video clip is a long one, well over an hour, but if you are interested in this subject, please do take the time to watch it, it offers some fascinating information on the brain differences between men and women.

 

 

I’d love to hear what helps you communicate better and how you make your relationships work. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell


As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!

 

 

Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Willing to Disagree and Facing Conflict

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is difficult to do for most of us. I can say for myself, it used to terrify me.  I was the peace-maker in my family, the one who tried to make everything OK when anyone in my family was arguing (and trust me, there was a lot of arguing in my family!)  And when my husband, Jeff and I used to argue, it terrified me.  My fear of abandonment surfaced and I shrank.  The fact that Jeff is about 6′ 2″ and I’m just over 5′ added to the whole paradigm of shrinking back.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give into every whim, but I didn’t like to face the conflict and sort through the disagreement.  My usual MO was to punish with silence, to walk away and not talk and make him suffer (yes I know, not the most mature approach!)  But as I said, conflict terrified me and I did not like being around people who disagreed with me.

It was only after years of therapy and reading lots of books that I came to value myself enough to not fear standing my ground.  And by realizing that I would survive fine without Jeff,  my fear of abandonment started to dissapate, and I became stronger in my willingness to face conflict head on, and as a result, our relationship grew stronger.

I’m not that afraid of conflict anymore, and this brings a delicious freedom.  I don’t necessarily go looking for an argument, but as a 50+ year old woman, I am pretty good at standing my own ground now!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Margaret Heffernan in this fascinating TED Talk, Dare to Disagree.  She describes constructive conflict as a fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.

“So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all . . . it means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to  find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think, really, that that’s a kind of love. Because you simply won’t commit that kind of energy and time if you don’t really care.”

I love that statement that we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.  It’s true, we usually surround ourselves with people who agree with us and show disdain for those who do not.  But in reality, as Heffernan points out, conflict often leads to creativity:

“Yes, there was a lot of conflict and debate and argument, but that allowed everyone around the table to be creative, to solve the problem.”

I agree with Heffernan, we must be willing to disagree with each other, to face conflict and work through it.  In this TED talk she explains the importance of disagreement in organizations and globally. But for me, I can only confirm how liberating it is personally.  As Napoleon points out – the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. Daring to disagree takes courage, but in my opinion, it is essential.

 

 

Please tell me about the times you have dared to disagree.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Present . . . even on an emotional roller coaster

“If you hold back on emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get beyond them, you’re too busy being afraid.”

– Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie)


The past couple of weeks have been incredibly emotional. My husband, Jeff left for a year to work with The British Council doing teacher training in Borneo!  Working with developing countries in the field of education has been a goal of Jeff’s for many years, a goal he put off to be present with his family, be a good partner, be a good dad, be responsible.  So for the most part, I’m thrilled for Jeff!  It’s going to be a fantastic year for him, amazing experiences, a great job, etc. AND, I’m bereft and in pain.  In the weeks leading up to Jeff  leaving, I was blown away at the emotions flowing through me.  And I’m so grateful that I’ve done the work I’ve done regarding my own personal growth, so I could be present with the intense emotional roller coaster.  Often, I would be doing something quite mundane, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with sadness and I would sob and feel intense grief just flood me.  But the interesting thing is when I was present to it, allowed the sadness and tears to overtake me, the emotions would rush through me, in waves, then dissipate and be gone.  Whereas when I tried to push them away, and stay “in control” and try to cover them up and stay busy, I would get a knot in my stomach, feel sick and feel overwhelmed and completely drained.  It was only by letting the emotions come, when they came and flow through me that I was able to keep going.

Emotions are fascinating to me.  To think that they are just part of our brain chemistry is a weird thing to get my head around. Neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms does an interesting short TED talk where he demonstrates a new way to use fMRI to show brain activity — thoughts, emotions, pain — while it is happening. In other words, you can actually see how you feel!  Kind of an interesting way to look at it.  I’m not sure what would happen to those brain waves and chemicals that become our emotions if we try to push them away and pretend they are not there.  But from my experience, I know in my body, it is not good to struggle against my emotions.  When I allow them, they move through me fluidly and I can stay somewhat sane!  When I deny them, I get sick and feel crazy.  And that is a good enough reason to stay emotional for me.

 

 

Please let me know what how you deal with emotional roller coasters.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

The Power of Music

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

– Aldous Huxley


My friend Tam sent me a beautiful video recently about the power of music.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I was thinking about it yesterday during a Creative Empowerment Workshop that Deb and I were running – I looked around watching the participants do their art, all listening to music.  Many were listening to the music that we supply, softly playing in the background; a few others had their own music playing on their ipods, but everywhere I looked people were immersed in some sort of music.  Near the end of the workshop, one participant said: “I really like the music you play during the workshop, I feel calm when I listen to it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”  Too harsh perhaps?  But reading this article in one of my favorite blogs, Daily Good, I am moved to see Nietzsche point.  The article describes music “bridging life and death.”  It is an interview with the woman who founded  The Threshold Choir, Kate Munger.  In the article Munger describes the beginning of The Threshold Choir.

“In November of 1990 I was invited to spend a day with a friend of mine who was dying of HIV Aids. He was comatose, but very agitated.  I sat down by his bedside and didn’t know what to do. I waited and waited. All I knew to do, to calm myself, was to sing. So I sang one song and I sang it for two hours. I sang it over and over again. I watched his breathing slow, and he got much calmer. And I got much calmer, because it was a song that was really soothing to me personally. So as I got comfortable, he got comfortable and at the end of the experience I felt like I’d touched something very deep.”

Attached is the video that Tam emailed to me.  A lovely representation of the power of music.

Please let me know your thoughts on this video, and I’d love to hear any stories you have about the Power of Music in your life.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Cooperation . . . we can make beautiful music together . . .

“We could make beautiful music together. “

– Gary Cooper


As I thought about my last blog post, Our Need For Connection, I started to wonder what is it that helps us connect, or fail to connect.  The first thing I thought of was communication. We need to communicate, to listen, to be present  with one another to find connection.  When we don’t communicate with respect, we fail to connect.

Someone once said: ” The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value.  Communication and respect.

And then I thought of cooperation. We need to practice cooperation, working together with respect.

I think this music video by Walk Off The Earth is a brillian example of cooperation.  The song is pretty, the words are fine – but it is the cooperation between the artists in this video that, in my opinion, is absolutely stunning!  Watch how they work together.  It is Awesome!

 

I hope you enjoy this music video, and if you hadn’t heard of Walk Off The Earth before, watch them on YouTube, they are great.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.