Monthly Archives: January 2012

Design Your Life Terror

This week I am taking a course at MIT called Designing Your Life. It is taught by a professional life coach from the Handel Group. I have been so looking forward to this class. It is all about looking at your “life script” and deciding if you want to keep following what you have written or want to do some editing. I felt  it would be a great experience for me and give me a new perspective heading into the Brighten Your Light Seminars.

I went into the first class, yesterday,  confident that I was going to be aligned  with everything that was presented. I felt pretty sure there would be some people in the room who would struggle with the idea of owning where you are in your life, but it was going to be smooth sailing for me. Driving home I was rifling my glove box for a barf bag. What happened? Let me explain.

We were about 30 minutes into the class and the instructor was really pushing for audience participation. Why was I so terrified to speak up? My brain was on a time delay. I would have a comment formulated only after she had moved on to a completely different topic. Our instructor began talking about integrity. She explained if you say you will do X and you do X, you have integrity. Simple enough. If you say you will do X and you do Y, you do not have integrity. How do you handle that? She proposed three options. 1. You can own it. Say, “I was a bum” and I didn’t do what I said I would. 2. You can make excuses or lie. 3. You can feel bad. Number 2 and 3 are actions we choose to  get ourselves off the hook.

This was my big chance to participate. I said, “My name is Heather, and I do both, lie and feel bad.” Great. I participated and it wasn’t too painful. But wait, what is she saying, “Give me an example from your life.” Oh shit! Why did I say anything. Note to self, SHUT UUUPPPPPPP!!! “Okay, I was supposed to meet my friend for lunch but I lost track of time. When I realized I was going to be late I made up a little fib so she wouldn’t think I just blew her off.” I will never speak again. Except she is still talking to me, “So your homework for the next class is you have to call up your friend and tell her that you lied.”  So, I’m thinking there’s a pretty good chance you won’t see me on Wednesday.

I can’t really tell you a whole lot about the rest of class because I was mostly trying not to barf. I drove home with my window open, gulping down the fresh air. Man was it good to come home to my awesome family! I was starting to be able to breathe again. I told them about my homework assignment. My kids laughed and said, “That’s easy just go in on Wednesday and tell her you did it.” Houston, we have a problem. Is it possible that I do not live with integrity? Am I teaching my kids this? Maybe… After a lot of laughing and teasing, I started to get some perspective back. My life would surely not end if I called my wonderful, sweet, compassionate friend and told her the truth. I vowed to do it the very first thing- tomorrow.

Well, I did call and own up to my white lie to my great friend. She doesn’t hate me. Thank God. I’m pretty sure she isn’t going to hold it against me. She even suggested I go in and punk the teacher and tell her how much my friend hates me now. That her kids are throwing eggs at my house.  We had a good laugh and it was good to catch up for a few minutes. The word lucky doesn’t even begin to cover how blessed I am to have such a wonderful friend in my life. She is a treasure.

What did this experience teach me?

1. If it terrifies the crap out of you. It’s probably something that needs doing.

2. Own it. Do what you say you will do. If you don’t just step up and admit what happened. Making excuses and lying is, “giving away a part of your soul” according to the instructor. Who wants to take a chance on that? Feeling badly about it is so draining and time-consuming. These are two bad habits that can be broken. I am going to spend some time imagining what my life would look like if I didn’t have to spend so much time feeling bad for all of the stuff I haven’t done.

I am headed back to class tomorrow. I am a little less confident that it will be all rainbows and lollipops, but I am more sure than ever that it is where I need to be.

Check out Susan’s bio https://lifeandfriendship.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/meet-the-experts/refresh-your-plate/ . Susan will be leading our first seminar on February 26th with her Refresh Your Plate presentation. Susan is wonderful. You will leave feeling that you are doing more right than you knew, and primed to do more.  Check out the Brighten Your Light Series page for more info on all of the seminars. Click the link to my website to sign up  http://lifeandfriendship.com/brighten-your-light-series-sign-up

As always, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment, like me on Facebook, or email me at heather@lifeandfriendship.com


Would You Speak To Somebody Else Like That?

Join our group of fun, smart, real women as we laugh and learn together.  Our Brighten Your Light Sessions start on February 26th with a Healthy Living  Seminar. Susan will be teaching us about realistic and healthy changes we can make when cooking and shopping for ourselves and our families.  Check out the Brighten Your Light page https://lifeandfriendship.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/ for all the info.

So, I was thinking about all the mean things most of us say to ourselves all the time.  You know, how you would put on a bikini and enjoy yourself at the beach if you weren’t so darn fat. How you would love to try… but you are too shy. They don’t even like you anyway, right? All of these mean hurtful things we say to ourselves, but would never dream of saying to another living soul.  I have  a dim recollection of some show I watched on t.v., (it might have been “Ruby”), with a therapist type talking to this poor woman about how she had to imagine herself as a child. The therapist said, “You would never stand by and allow people to say the awful things to a little child that you say to yourself all the time.  Protect your little inner child just as you would any child you might meet.” You have to protect yourself and speak to yourself as if you were still that child. We try so hard to build up our loved one’s  self-esteem. I tell my two kids that they have to be their own number one fan. I have to question is that what I am modeling for them?

As I talk to people about the concepts behind Life and Friendship and the Brighten Your Light seminars I hear over and over, “But I don’t have any passion. I don’t know what I would want to do. I am not that type of person. I would like to try…but I am not that confident, smart, strong.” What?!!! Here’s the truth ladies. Your are all of that and a bag of chips! Slow down, listen to what you love. Where are you pulled? I am not necessarily talking about a career change. It could be that you love walking with your earphones on and the music blasting. Make it a priority. It could be that you get really clear that the big Sunday family dinners are a great idea but too much of a burden. Release it and create the family time and closeness in a way that works for you. Maybe you are always having the same fight with your husband, boss, kid, whom ever. Look at what it would be like if you could react differently. Or what if you could not react, at all? Any changes you make to live your life in the way that works best for you, no matter how unbelievably terrifying that may be, is what this is all about. It is your life after all.

I have a poem By Suzanne-Strempek-Shea on my Inspiration page and it gave me such comfort at a time when I was struggling with a lot of changes in my life. She wrote:

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for

a hundred miles through the desert,

repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours,

and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles

of the rain are moving across the landscape,

over the prairies, and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese,

harsh and exciting- over and over

announcing your place

in the family of things.

You are enough. This bears repeating. You are enough. Yes, you! This is such a comfort and lifts a huge burden when you feel it. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Trust me, you can find this place. At the time I found this poem I had settled my soft animal body into Bikram yoga four times a week. It was one thing I knew I loved and made me feel good. It was enough for the rest of the world to move on around me while I sweated and stretched and breathed my way through those classes. “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination.”

So maybe, right now, you don’t feel the passion. Maybe you are not the smartest, bravest, funniest, most outgoing person. That is not what is holding you back from having your life the way you want it to be. Your life is the way you want it. You have created it. You need to change what you want. You need to stop telling yourself you can’t and just do. Be kind, be loving, be supportive to yourself. Be your own biggest fan!

I am attaching a link to a great post on a blog called 12 months of creativity http://12monthscreativity.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/inspiration-surpassing-limits-achieving-goals/ . I love at the end of the post when she said her friend pushed himself to his limits only to find they were much further than he had imagined.


Book Club

Tomorrow night is my monthly Book Club meeting. Don’t tell anybody, but I didn’t read the book. It just never happened.  I am not going to hide and skip the meeting this time. I am going to cut myself some slack and go enjoy myself anyway. I was invited to join this Book Club by a good friend of mine. She had been telling me stories about the group for a while and they sounded like a great bunch of ladies, (and one book loving husband), but I really only knew my one friend out of the whole group. I wasn’t so sure that I would be able to find a place inside this community of women who had known each other and often worked together for many years.

Right from the start everyone was more than kind and accepting towards me. The meetings are increasingly elaborate with more cookies, cakes, drinks and laughs than the last. I tried to avoid being an anchor on more poor friend by making her drag me around all night introducing me and including me in her conversations. I have tried to relax and not let my anxiety rob me of enjoying the great company. Although I do still feel like a newbie, I did pass a milestone at our last meeting.

Last month was the Christmas Party. The tradition is that everyone brings an ornament that some how relates to one of the books read over the course of the year. The ornaments are then put in a pile and picked out in a Yankee Swap. Most of you are probably familiar with a Yankee Swap but basically everyone in the group draws a number and the gifts are chosen in that order. You may choose to swap your gift with anyone who picked before you. I happened to be seated next to the other new girl in the club when the ornament picking began. This should be fun, right? The only problem was these ornaments were really nice. Some of them were actually pretty fancy and I knew what was wrapped up in my box was nothing flashy! My neighbor and I looked at each other and whispered, “I thought these were supposed to be hand-made!”

All my old worries rose up. I was about to be exposed as a cheap, back woods loser who couldn’t even pull it together to buy a decent ornament for a Yankee Swap! Thankfully my wonderful new friend said I will pick your ornament and you can pick mine. What a wonderful humanitarian- salt of the earth- got your back- call me in a pickle woman she is! Sure enough, on her turn she opened my box and didn’t she act like this was the most clever thing she had ever seen. I hope I did the same for her. I can’t completely remember as the relief I was feeling sent me into a mild state of shock.

There is nothing like a good friend, even one you hardly know.

In the end my ornament was actually swapped a time or two. It just goes to show we are hardest on ourselves. As I sat back and watched as the rest of the ornaments were opened it was wonderful to listen to the laughter of these great women. Women who have faced some of life’s worst agonies together and found true comfort in one another. Women who have chosen to be together rather than alone. They are strong, brave and inspiring. The love, support, and grace embodied in this group is more than powerful it is palpable. I am lucky to have been invited to join their tribe. Even if they do lie and tell you everything is just “home-made”. I went home that night and said to my husband, as I do after every  Book Club  meeting, “They are just such a great bunch of ladies.” What more can you ask for?!

You can still sign up for the upcoming Brighten Your Light seminar series starting at the end of February by clicking this link http://lifeandfriendship.com/brighten-your-light-series-sign-up

Check the upcoming events page for more information about the seminars. Also check out the new Bio for our Dress To Be Your Best expert, Maria Cella, on the Meet the Experts page.


Everywhere you go, There you are

The place you are right now

God circled on the map for you.

                                                                 -Hatiz

The reason for this blog and the Life and Friendship seminars is not to fix anyone or give them the answers to Life’s struggles. We are all at the perfect spot in our lives. Exactly where we were meant to be. No matter what that place looks like.  The reason for starting Life and Friendship is to breathe life into the primal memory deep inside all of us that we are not alone on our path. Our own self doubt, fear, and ego cause us to doubt this knowledge.  When times are tough we can turn inward and compress ourselves into scared shells of who we could be. We become lost in overwhelming feelings of anxiety and worry. If you find yourself here for minutes, hours, days, or years know you are not alone. Reach out to the world around you and the support you need will rise to meet you. Fill yourself with all that is being offered. Don’t fixate on the solution you believe to be right, but trust the path that is unfolding in front of you. When times are going great we can get caught up in our ego and swell up to such a size that we are taking more than we need from those around us. We can forget to have gratitude for all the universe has set before us. If you need you must take if you have you must give.

Life and Friendship is about trusting this knowledge. That we are all connected and the success of one is a joy for all. The pain of one is a hardship for all. Maybe your taking is having someone use their contacts to get you an interview,  watch your children so you can go on a date, or sit and listen when you need an ear. Maybe your giving is sitting quietly and sending your love out to those who need it, donating to a charity or supporting a friend with a dream to change her life.

There is a song I love called For You by Peter Bradley. Part of the song is:

If your fortune ever fails you

and you’re down without a dime to see you through

there’s still luck that you can find

you can have a peace of mind

yeah, I’ll make a wish for you.

If your lover ever leaves you

you don’t have to be alone

take the road that leads you home

and I’ll be waiting there for you.

You are just where you should be. You are just who you should be. Trust this. Lean into the universe it is there to hold you.

I have posted a link for sign up through Pay Pal on the Brighten Your Light page under Upcoming Events. This is an easy way for you to join our group beginning on February 26th.

If these words ring true for you please post a comment or share this blog with some one you think would appreciate it. I would love the feedback and the help in spreading the word.

Also, I am working on putting together a questionnaire to send out to women who are living their dreams. I think it will be fun to hear how they went after their goals and jumped the hurdle of self doubt. If you have any recommendations for questions please post them in the comments section or email them to me at heather@lifeandfriendship.com


Keep It Simple

I have been buying and checking out a lot of self-help type books to try to prep myself for beginning the Life and friendship seminars. I want to familiarize myself with the terms and concepts relating to self empowerment. I guess I have been trying to find the words to explain the concept I have had kicking around in my head. The problem, for me, with self-help books is I never seem to make it much past the first chapter. I find the exercises to be sleep inducing and the general concepts can usually be summarized with three words, “Stop. Breathe. Listen.” I’d rather go to yoga than take a nap with most of these books.

I did just pick up “The Dark Side Of The Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford. In reading the first few pages I felt a light bulb go off. This is what I have been trying to say for so long when I talk about shining the light in the dark corners. She begins with talking about unmasking what psychologist Carl Jung called the shadow. “It contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny…The message we get from this hidden place is simple: there is something wrong with me…We believe that if we look closely at what lies deep within us, we will find something horrible…Instead of trying to suppress our shadows, we need to unconceal, own and embrace the very things we are most afraid of facing…It is by embracing all of who we are that we earn the freedom to choose what we do in this world.”

Amen.

Now, I am only on page 7 so I can’t say if this book also contains coma producing exercises or if it continues to deliver. I will say that I believe in a simple way to access and embrace this shadow. Stop. Breathe. Listen. When you feel afraid, intimidated, angry, sad or any intense reaction just stop and breathe. You can slow down the reaction process over time and decide if you want to continue reacting in the same way. Where your body goes your mind will follow. If you are completely terrified to do something, do it anyway. Your body will adapt to the fear and gradually your mind will begin to let go of it’s firm belief in impossibility.

What are the sentences that are on a loop in your mind? I am always late. I am so intimidated by him. I will never be in shape. Now,  put on your tennis shoes, leave your house 10 minutes early and go look him in the eye and tell him just what you think. You will be uncomfortable, sweaty and terrified. Guess what? You will get used to it.

When someone quits smoking, they don’t actually quit by talking about it, or thinking about it. They don’t quit by reading articles or putting on a patch. Those things may all bring someone to the point where they are ready to quit. But they actually quit by wanting a cigarette and not lighting up. They stop. They breathe. They listen. How do they feel when they survive the urge without giving in? How do they feel when they do light up? As their body learns to survive the cravings they can begin to feel the possibility of change.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t go to therapy, acknowledge traumatic life experiences or investigate any treatment that feels right for you. I am saying that it is easy to get trapped. Treatment can become another way to put your life on hold until you get to some magical place where you become “okay” or “healthy”. Whatever your life experiences have been for better or for worse they are not who you are. As we begin to change the way we are in the world to an attitude of possibility we become more confident. We become less afraid to look into the corners and see our shadows for what they are.

So, keep it simple. One breath at a time.

If you have any relatable experiences  which you can share please post a comment. I would love to hear what people are thinking. Also, I have just posted the dates for the first seminar series. Please check out the Brightening Your Light page under upcoming events for more information.


I Believe In Moments

New Year’s resolutions and blanket statements about change are just one more way to stay stuck. The idea that on a certain day we can wake up and be a completely different person is laughable when you stop and think about it.  Am I saying that we should just give up on ever letting go of habits and beliefs that don’t serve us? NOOOO!!!

Just notice the moments in your life when you are really present. When life gets intense how do you feel? How do you react? Let go of judging your reaction and just notice. What is going on in your body, in your head?

I am working on letting go of gossip. To be honest, I kind of love gossip. I love feeling like I am in on a secret. It is a kind of power to have some knowledge about someone which they wouldn’t want you to know. But, that is not who I want to be any more. I don’t want to traffic in dirty secrets and hurtful, jealous whispers. I want to be proud and clean and kind.

How can I be those things and not be a pious bore? What the heck will I have left to talk about? I am finding my way, moment by moment. When I bite my tongue and don’t engage in hurtful banter how do I feel? What do I talk about instead? When I realize I have slipped up and been catty. How do I feel? I trust myself and move away from those things that make me feel bad and guilty. Is it a magical leap into a new life? No. I may be working on this forever. Life is a process not a destination.

My Hungarian sister-in-law is this gorgeous little whirlwind of a woman. She cooks with whipping cream and real butter. She drinks whole milk and has a major sweet tooth. Somehow she is only a wisp of a thing. I have begun to believe it is because she does not hold things in. I will always remember one moment in her kitchen when she really let me have it.

There was the usual family drama going on. You know the stuff that you  all complain about every time you are together. This time she was done. She was furious and let us have it because she wasn’t going to sit through another conversation about the same old baloney. It was great. When she gets mad she gets this really thick accent and starts swearing like a Hungarian sailor.  “I cannot take dees stoopid bullsheet anymore.” Hysterical!

The point is she was right. She had been in this situation before and she’d had enough. She changed her behavior and got a different outcome. When I get that helpless, backed into a corner feeling I think of her. What can I change about my behavior or my thinking that will change the outcome? When you start to react to someone or something in an intense way make a note. Put a sticky tab there and look it up in a quite moment. Forgive yourself if you didn’t handle it well. Focus on what you were feeling.

These highly charged moments in our life can hold the keys to some of our most frustrating challenges. Why do I always date losers? Why am I always broke? Why do I always feel left out? Whatever your questions are, you have the answers. Make the time to tune in and listen.


A Word About Fear

I have always loved stories about people who are, shall we say, quirky.  I love peeking  in the window and seeing a bit of how their minds works. Obviously, I am not alone as evidenced by the explosion of reality t.v. showcasing the signs and symptoms of any number of mental health issues. Let’s table the discussion for now of whether or not we should even be watching these shows.

What I am always struck by in these shows is the fear. These poor people are terrified! Never mind that what they are afraid of is throwing away a Wendy’s wrapper from 1982. They are completely stricken. I watched one of the bravest women I have ever seen walk herself through that fear to get to the place she had been dreaming of.  I  actually witnessed the progression of her dreaming of a clean home for her family, dipping her toe into the idea of what she would have to do to get there and shutting down. DENIAL!! No way, no how was she going to get rid of anything. End of discussion. But that lady walked right back up to her fear and faced it down. It is not a pretty process.  It generally  involves a fair amount of crying, swearing, foot stomping and  raging. But, it is a beautiful thing to behold. It was made all the more special because she was able to allow others to help her. How hard is that? I have to admit to myself I have a problem and now I have to tell other people?

It’s enough to make the bravest among us run for the hills. To lay bare your fears and failures to others is to make yourself completely vulnerable and helpless. Or is it? By owning up to these deep dark parts of ourselves we begin to take away their power over us. By staying with the scary bits and working through them we can come out on the other side to something beautiful. By allowing others to share in the experience we gain their wisdom and support.

I can think of nothing more amazing than those magical times when one person allows another to cheer them on to reach their goals or extend an act of kindness. Perhaps you’ve seen someone like me with tears in their eyes at a marathon when the fans are cheering on that runner who is so desperately fighting to go on.  I was driving with son when he pointed out a group of three elderly men. “Mom, look. That guy is doing up the other guys zipper.” Yep, water works. How sweet is that to allow your friend to help. No words. No embarrassment. Just love.

Be strong. Be brave. Face down your fears and ask someone to hold your hand when you do.


Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

One of the main goals in starting this blog is to share my vision for the Life and Friendship seminars.  I have decided to start with a bit about the evolution of the whole concept. I am going to attempt to start at the beginning and hit the key points along the way.

Growing up I often felt like a bit of a shadow. Always hovering around watching and listening. I see now that I was just as interested in what wasn’t being said and in how these people were connecting. I would imagine being in their shoes and how it would feel to be loved, hated, teased, adored and how they came to be in that position. It was probably a little creepy and I clearly remember one girl on the school bus who definitely did not appreciate my attention.

As I got older I continued to watch people but a new dimension was added. More than a bit of self-doubt and dare I say self-hatred came into play. I would see the great qualities that others possessed but none of my own.  I am sure most people can identify with feeling this way at some point in their lives. Eventually I became overwhelmed by anxiety and had difficulty connecting with others. I had few close relationships and knew something had to change.

Gradually it began to dawn on me that I was the one who had decided I was a shy, nervous, insecure person. I could decide to be different. Again my observations of others changed. As I observed these amazing qualities in other people I would stop and think, “Do I want to be like that?” “What would it feel like to be that confident?” “How would I walk if I felt great about my body?” I began to try on these different qualities and see how they felt on me. I felt what it would be like to feel this way for a short time. Some of these ways of being felt great to me and I wanted to keep them. This involved a little more than just pretending. Now I had to think what would I need to change to make this stick.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this process was a powerful lesson for me. I began to discover the powerful potential inside of me and to begin to let go of the jealousy and insecurity that had me locked in a place where I could never feel good enough. I also found my lifelong habit of observing others had honed my skills. I had developed a strong ability to see gifts and talents in those around me and to imagine new possibilities for them.  This sparked the idea that groups of women in a supportive, fun and open atmosphere could help each other let go of doubt and begin to imagine the possibilities.


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