“The Calculus of Relationships”

Calculus

Relationships can make your life feel like heaven and a relationship can make your life hell. You cannot avoid relationships and how happy you are in your relationships, impacts your family life, your career, even your health. Relationship skills are not considered important learning for life and mostly left up to default learning from your family growing up. The result? Yeah, you’re living it.

In college, I found calculus to be very confusing until I realized the correct answer would only be obtained when I solved more than one factor. Once I learned calculus was not a linear process, solving calculus equations become a challenge I knew I could solve. Solving relationships problems is a lot like calculus-there’s always more than one dynamic to solving the problem.

Here’s an example of what I mean by the calculus of relationships. You know those fights you have with people where what you are fighting about isn’t really what you are fighting about? Yeah, on the face of it, you’re arguing about whose turn it is to take the dog out. When really what you’re arguing about is how you’re mad at him for going out with his friends instead of you last weekend and he’s mad at you for paying more attention to your friends than him. Grrr.

So what to do when you’re in relationship trouble?

1. Control does not equal strength nor power when it comes to relationships. A common mistake in relationships, this one will get you in trouble every time. Control in relationship presumes power over another person and no relationship will last nor be happy without mutual respect and sharing of power. Control takes many forms-from controlling the information you share with your spouse to controlling what your child is allowed to make choices about. Relationships need trust, respect, and courage to flourish or they become prisons the person being controlled will make a break from.

2. Change your channel from complaining to creating what you want. Complaining may make you feel good, even powerful at the time, and can become a bad habit you indulge in. Complaining has the additional bonus of making it seem as though you are doing something, but in truth, you are keeping safe on the sidelines instead of taking action for making things better. Instead of complaining about how the romance has gone out of your relationship, make it your personal mission to make date night romantic again. It takes just as much effort to be miserable as it does to be happy!

3. Speak up! The power of small is in voicing what matters to you. By this time in your life, you’ve most likely been told to speak up, that others cannot read your mind. Yet I bet there are still times you hold back from sharing with your best friend or your spouse when they’ve hurt your feelings, or speaking up about where you’d rather go to dinner. You tell yourself it’s not a big deal, stay silent and then find yourself in a funk or being a bit bitchy. Yeah. When you don’t speak up for yourself or what matters to you, your relationship with those near and dear to you will suffer as will your self-respect. That voice within you telling you to stay quiet is not your friend!

4. While it’s true it takes 2 to make a relationship heaven or hell, playing chicken with who “should” make things better, who should change, is a dangerous game. Relationships may initiate through chemistry, but what keeps a relationship happy and healthy is maintaining trust, respect, and empathy with each other. If you find yourself distrusting, disrespecting, or not caring for the other person, action is needed for tending the relationship before lasting damage is done. All healthy long-term relationships-be they personal or professional-go through cycles of change and renewal. To expect a person or relationship not to change is to not only invite unhappiness, it invites the death of the relationship.

Look for my next article on relationship ghosts. If you find yourself in an unhappy relationship, don’t despair nor cast aspirations on yourself or the other person. Not unlike realizing your body is unhappy, choosing to take action for tending and mending yourself is what makes you better, not blaming others nor berating yourself for being sick.

“Are You Going to War for Peace?”

peace

Don’t worry, this is not a story of the often sad and scary news in our world today. This IS a story about how choosing not to go to war for peace will grace your life with the integrity and the peace you are seeking in life and the world.

10 years ago, my marriage of 25 years ended and I found myself alone with 3 children, the mortgage, and marital assets made unavailable through creative accounting by people considered friends-ouch! Person after person challenged me to go to war (court) for getting back what was mine, misconstruing my reluctance to do so as fear.

So what was my hesitation if not from fear?

I knew what my former husband was capable of (I’m a fast learner), but fear was not what was holding me back from going to court with my former husband. It was my clarity about the price my children would pay if I were to focus my time, energy, and resources on battling in court with someone who wanted a war. My children needed their mother to focus her time, energy, and resources on their needs as children, including peace in their home and in their family. My children needed me to choose war or peace.

I was faced with the choice to go to war for making peace with my finances- knowing my children would pay dearly for this choice- or making peace with life having a different plan for me. My wounded pride and sense of betrayal were romancing me onto war and yet silent on the true cost of doing so. Sound familiar? How many times have you found yourself at war for soothing pride injured or feelings hurt by someone you love? And only later, realized the cost to you or the relationship?

This was my hardest challenge so far in life and many were the days I did not know if I was capable of making a victory from what felt overwhelming and devastating. Yet embracing my faith and demanding grace be made tangible in my life had previously transformed my chronic illnesses into good health, my infertility into 3 children, and being without a home into a lovely abode.So was having 3 children to support, a mortgage, and no job the challenge given by life to break me or simply sacred faith in my integrity and faith?

There is a price for every choice you make; the choices which cost you are the choices out of alignment with your values. Your mind may convince you “it’s ok, it’s just this time, it’s not a big deal”, but your soul knows your integrity just got dinged and your self-respect pays a price. It’s how we find ourselves in a world which considers going to war an acceptable means for creating peace, with civilians and children-the regrettable, but acceptable-cost of peace.

Where in your life or relationships are you living at odds with what you truly want, compromising what is true in your heart and soul?

Where are you going to war and telling yourself it’s for peace? Do you offer yourself reasons practical or personal for doing so, selling yourself or life short? Take it from me, it’s the little choices you make each day which build the muscles and courage of your integrity…..the integrity which gives you the strength and faith for when life challenges you to choose war or peace.

“Love More Care Less”

love more

There is a deceptively simple suggestion I offer to people working on themselves or their relationships –”love more, care less”. At first, most are surprised, for being told to care less is not what they are expecting from me. Yet, as I unfold more of what I am inviting them into, their bodies relax as they begin to feel the invitation into more love and less care-taking.

We’ve been taught good people care … good children (take) care of a parent’s happiness, good people (take) care of other people’s feelings (even if it means lying to do so), good people sacrifice themselves for (taking) care of others (often creating resentment towards the person they are caring for), etc. Yet did you know the root meaning of the word “care” is “to lament”? Often, caring carries the shadow of lamenting what is wrong with a person, a situation, whereas love offers compassion, patience, tolerance.

To love more care less brings love’s clarity and courage for true (vs taking) care of another-to receive another as a divine being vs holding them as somehow lacking. Loving more and caring less became my mantra when my elderly and scared parents needed my care. Not as their child still reacting to them emotionally, but as a strong woman offering compassion and tolerance. Loving them more and caring less about what I thought best gave me a new compass to navigate caring for people who needed my best, not my history with them nor my reactions to their fear and anger at their growing old.

So how do you love more and care less in your life?

 

  1.  As with all wisdom you embrace in life, apply to yourself vs telling others to do so. Offering yourself more love-more kindness, more compassion, more patience, more support, more acceptance – benefits you as well as serves to model and invite others to “want some of what you ordered”. Care less whether you are doing things right, the best, perfectly, are enough, and watch the benefits spill over into your relationships as you judge yourself (and others) less and enjoy your life and the people in them, much more.
  2. Let go of your expectations. Expectations are where you hold yourself, others, and life to desires which often have less to do with reality and more to do with your own inner critic and secret desires. Expectations in a relationship-be it with yourself or another-lead to nowhere happy, wreaking havoc with being present to when and where life offers you opportunities for love, connection, and joy. Too many relationships begun in love end up as power struggles destroying the love.
  3. Realize the lens through which you view the world is not the same lens others are viewing the world through. The story of 3 blind people and an elephant illustrates well this wisdom.3 people blind were asked to describe an elephant and each did so from their experience of holding a different part of the elephant- trunk, leg, and ear. No two descriptions of the elephant were the same and yet all 3 were describing the same elephant. Consider how often you care that you are “right” when the truth is we are all right from what we have experienced. Learn to become more curious and less interested in being right.
  4. Loving more offers more space for curiosity and discovery and less need to care and defend who and what is right. The world of once far-away countries is fast becoming a world of neighbors appearing quite different from us. When we care more about who and what is right and wrong, differences assume greater power. And when we offer love’s gifts of inquiry and curiosity more, we realize more how much our neighbors and have in common with us, be it the desires for our children, for health and happiness in life, having the basic needs met for our family, and a common birthright as human to a life with dignity and respect.
  5. Love is kissing cousins with respect, appreciation, honor and (taking) care is kissing cousins with control, judgement, and assumptions. One of the exercises I often engage in with my clients is clarifying what are truly their values for crafting a life with integrity to their deepest values. I have yet to have a client choose the values of more control, more judgement, more fear and plenty of clients excited about the values of more respect, more honor, more gratitude in their life. Love is the parent of values timeless in their power to inspire, to uplift, to joyfully live a life on purpose.

Loving more and caring less is not a call to not care and only love. It is a call to what holds power and insight in a world whose dynamics and truths are quickly changing from “power over” to “relationship with”. Love’s true nature is less the Hallmark version of sentiment and nostalgia and more akin to Mother Nature-vast, beautiful, powerful, caring beyond reason, and willing to die so life may continue. More and more I realize how critical it is for each one of us to become aware of what we are willing to die for, of what you commit your precious life to. We were born for the times we live in and fear and despair are calling for us to transform them into your devotion to loving…. more.

“What Frogs are Boiling in Your Life?”

Frog

“The Boiling Frog Syndrome”(BFS) is an anecdote about how a frog placed in boiling water will jump out immediately but when a frog is placed in cold water which is then slowly heated, froggie will not perceive the danger and will boil to death. Although science disproves the truth of BFS, it’s cautionary tale of the cost of ignoring the small and subtle messages you feel of something being off, is truth.

Women’s history of being told to “behave and make nice” for being safe in life and love means women often dismiss and deny what they are feeling and noticing. Especially when paying attention to what they are sensing will “make waves” with people they love or are dependent on. Yet ignoring what you are sensing does not keep you truly safe in either life and love. Ignoring what you are sensing only keeps you from taking action in time to attend to what your wisdom is telling you is wrong.

More than one woman has come to me angry with herself for not listening to her feeling of something being”off”, for time had proven what she was sensing as correct. A women will often ignore her innate “early alert system” for not “rocking the boat’ in a relationship or where she fears reprisal for speaking up. Yet ignoring messages from the powerful sensitivities you possess as a woman can land you in troubles you could have prevented or mitigated.

So, just how do you balance speaking up and standing up for what you know with your desire for safety and acceptance in love and life?

1. Commit to learning about and loving yourself as a priority in your life. Learning about yourself is not optional for being happy and fulfilled in life. When you know what makes you happy, what you love, what’s important to you in life and relationships, you can care for your needs consciously. Expecting those you love to be your primary source of approval and support only places others as a parent with you as the child. And while we all need a little help from our friends, learn to love and support yourself as a job you are the best at and your privilege.

2. Update your relationship with anger. Anger is the element of fire offering its power to protect you as well as transform what challenges you. Instead of smothering (ignoring/fearing) your anger or letting it become a wildfire, develop a conscious relationship with your anger. Anger is not wrong nor bad; only when you do not tend to anger’s presence does anger cause you problems. Denying your anger for “not making waves” does not keep you safe in relationships nor in life. Learn to receive and decipher your anger, for within your anger is wisdom seeking to protect you and transform what IS dangerous to you.

3. Learn the difference between your sensory system and your intellect (aka your body never lies).  The sensory capacity of a woman is intimate to her biology as a woman and offers women sensory information for her protection and for deep wisdom. ( No, I am not saying women are better than men, rather different and viva la difference!). Ignoring your perceptions and receptions of information is a cultural norm, not your innate capacity, and gets you in trouble. Choose to honor your sensory capacity, take action informed by your sensory information and perceptions,  and watch your happiness blossom.

4. Get help outside of your family and friends for making the changes you want in yourself or your life. Family and friends at their best are your cheerleaders in life…. and family and friends can resist you changing. Just as cheerleaders do not serve as coaches for their team, don’t expect your cheerleaders in life to be your coaches in life. Your decision to take up your challenges as your opportunity for personal growth offers you being inspired by doing so.

The new normal in our world is change change change. One big change is relying less on outside of you for direction and support, and trusting in yourself more. Change can be really uncomfortable and challenging and going it alone is no longer a sign of strength. We all need help dealing with the angel and the devil on our shoulders. To live your life with heart, you need the strength of your soul….a soul clear and strengthened through transforming your challenges in life. 

“The Peril of Lacking Integrity with What is Sacred to You”

Healing Your Legacy

Almost 40 years ago, I sat down in a yoga class, closed my eyes, and opened up to the world within. I was a reluctant participant to the new age of ancient spirituality, wisdom, and healing, not always inspired by the way “being spiritual” was being used to bypass the sometimes hard work of relationships and life. Yet my own experience of transformations and healing through engaging ancient technologies taught me to not throw the new age baby out with my judgement of others…..funny how life teaches us at times!

Matthew Fox, a renowned theologian, wrote “ I seriously question the spirituality and ethics of anyone whose integrity in life has never gotten him or her into trouble”. In my work with couples and families, I find a lack of one’s integrity often lies at the root of pain and conflict in their life and relationships. Taught as children love equals not hurting the other, what is to be done with feelings, thoughts, and desires you fear will hurt or cause rejection from those you love? Too often the answer is to become silent and not risk sharing with those you love, judging them as what is holding you back from living what is sacred to you.

What is sacred to you is intimate, tangible, and known by the priorities of your life. What is sacred seeks sharing with those you love, forming the foundation of the intimacy and security of relationship you long for and all too often, confuse with control. What is sacred invites those you love to share what is sacred for them with you as well, offering safe harbor for the power of our vulnerability to be shared. Scary? Can be. Yet without the courage to risk sharing what is sacred to you with those you hold sacred in life, the pain and rejection you fear you will create. Ironic. (Irony I have come to understand is the sacred’s way of reminding us of the limitations of human’s linear logic ).

What is sacred in your life will test you, will challenge you, will demand change you fear and are afraid to make. These trials and tribulations are not proof something is wrong with what you hold sacred in life-quite the contrary. What tests you in life is simply reminding you to engage with faith and courage, what is sacred to you, an intimate reminder of the faith and trust the sacred has in you….trust and faith when extended to ourself and those we love, creates the integrity of intimate relationship that is sacred as well.

Spring’s Call for Letting Go and Letting Grow

This week, while interviewing a perspective client, I had an ephiphany about why change-even when it would bring pain relief-can prove to be challenging. While the woman’s sorrow and pain were valid given the challenge of the situation, the expert opinions and studies she offered to support her despair were not. My epiphany was not how our beliefs keep us from the happiness we want, or how fear of the unknown (change) can be more powerful than the pain we are in.  My epiphany was how much faith we place in the authority of others and how little faith we place in our divinity.



People come to me with their trust and for my faith in their ability to create more happiness, health, or harmony in their life. Our process begins with assessing how they support themselves, how they care for themselves, and how they create their choices. Together, we discover where they claim their authority for creating their life and where they are blaming others for what they lack in life. Clarity of what to grow and what to let go begins the process of creating more of what they want in their life.

If you want more happiness, health, or harmony in your life, here are a few suggestions to begin the process:

“Learn the difference between the facts of your mind and the truth of your soul” Our mind loves information, control, being right, and fear feelings as unsafe. Our soul loves freedom, is playful and curious, knows feelings bring wisdom, and wants our vast magnificence to be expressed. A conscious relationship between our mind and our soul is the foundation to creating happiness and success in life.

“Become aware of where you give away your authority to experts outside yourself and where you discount your own truth and wisdom”. Life brings us challenges and questions in trust we will share and express OUR answers for creating our world. While information can be useful as a beginning, the answers to our challenges and questions in life rest in our heart and soul.

“Essential to successful relationship is the willingness to extend respect, compassion, and tolerance for understanding each other”. Being happy and successful in life requires honoring yourself as a dynamic relationship between earth and ether. As with a successful relationship between people, a successful human honors both their humanity and their divinity as essential to being human.

“Understand all through compassion or misunderstand the situation”. Our heart is where our soul and our Self meet, our infinite spirit and our limited lifetime. When we take our conflicts, our unknowing, our confusion “to heart”, we invite the resources and wisdom of both our divinity and our humanity for a creative alchemy for solution.

We are learning how to live our divinity for our humanity and how essential the soul of our life human. We are being called to no longer separate ourselves from our divinity, often through transforming what we call impossible into possible. Life does not set us up to fail, simply we need to learn how to reclaim ourselves as the experts of our life and honor the relationship we are as humans as the magnificent alchemy of heaven and earth.

In the words of Hafiz, a 14th century Persian poet whose wisdom is timeless:

“We have not come here to take prisoners of ourselves and others but to surrender even more deeply to love and joy,  We have not come into this exquisite world to hold ourselves hostage from joy and beauty,  Run run my dear from anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings,  Shout to your reason “O please O please come out and play,  For we have not come here to take prisoners or to confine our wonderous spirits,  Rather to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine freedom, courage, and Love”.                                          

                                                                                                                     

What’s love got to do with it? Choosing love in the good, bad, and OMG! of our relationships.

Women have long been considered responsible for relationships and while this can feel a bit like responsibility assigned without consent at times, even science is validating women’s innate biology for skills and prowess in relationship. (Check out this article!)  Soooo, if we are the masters of relationship, then it would follow we are all experiencing only happiness in our relationships…not!

Biology alone does not determine how we experience life.  Our beliefs, choices, and our interpretations factor into how we respond to life and people. Believing people are either good when they behave as we want or wrong when they do not, is choosing control as our premium value at the cost of our relationships.

Measuring life-and people-with the yardstick of control leaves little room for the treasures offered by the unexpected in life. Being human is a sacred process,  passion, and purpose, not a product, perfection, nor power over others. “Either-or” thinking may keep our limbic brain happy about not being eaten, but it will not honor our power to choose compassion, to heal history, and to learn more about ourselves and “the other”.

 So the next time you find yourself reacting to the unexpected in someone, consider:

  •  Taking a few deep breaths in and out before saying or doing anything. Deep breathing brings us into our more neutral core and gives time for the less reactive parts of our brain to come on-line in our processing of what is up.
  • Remembering we always have a choice to immediately react or to pause and then respond when people do the unexpected or undesired. Choosing to respond is taking responsibility for our emotions and fears as we are being triggered by another.
  • Being inquisitive about what is being triggered within brings gifts in ways unexpected. While we may believe we know what we need in life, life’s gift of messing with our knowns, shows us the love and beauty the unknown in conflict offers us.
  • Self-love is the foundation of love we offer others and a lack of self-love shows up in judging, blaming, and shaming others. Taking time and care to love our imperfect selves is crucial to being able to love others when imperfect.

Contemporary relationship invites us into a deeper and richer experience of relationship than simply meeting needs and control. Contemporary relationship chooses healing our family and history, tending to our emotional wounds, and happiness over being right.  Tending our heart and honoring the heart of others is the foundation of contemporary relationship…a choice for peace, joy, and happiness for ourselves and our world.

 

 

 

The Power of Contemporary Women….Are You Exercising Yours?

Women have been given valuable social approval and currency for using their power to care for others first and tending to themselves second. This dynamic is partly innate and partly through generations of learning how being “nice” and “good” was preferred by others.  Changes initiated by increased access to birth control and financial created more choices and opportunities for contemporary women….and often our deepest integrity as women was absent in our choices and changes.

One of the challenging truths my clients-men and women-hear me offer is how avoiding exercising our power often derives from a case of the “pleaser first, me seconds”.  And while we may truly believe a lack of conflict equals safety for ourself or a relationship, avoiding conflict is avoiding exercising power.  Not knowing how to exercise our power constructively we often choose instead to suppress expressing ourselves with integrity.  And we all know how well THAT works as a strategy! Conflict is natural, necessary, and an invitation for our power (expression of ourselves) for informing, illuminating, and uplifting ourselves and the other.

So how do you know if you are challenged with exercising your power?

  1. You tell yourself it’s not a big deal when a friend or family member puts you down in front of others-again!-and you don’t speak up (for yourself) for that would not be nice. Instead, you spend the rest of the day silently seething and fantasizing about moving to where nobody in your family will ever find you!
  2. You long for more intimacy with your lover than watching TV together every night and tell yourself to be satisfied and not “rock the boat” as you pour yourself yet another glass (how many is that tonight?) of wine.
  3. You find yourself drawn to tending those at the end of their life, but finding a training program for hospice care that doesn’t interfere with the soccer carpool has been impossible.I mean, how can you ask others to put themselves out with helping you? What calls to you (heart and soul) will just have to wait until the kids are grown up and people don’t need you (never!).
  4. You grew up learning how important making others happy was for making those around you happy in life, so pleasing others is easy. But as you sit in a yet another meeting at a job you truly dislike, you wonder is this really as good as your life gets?.

There is not a woman alive who does not experience insecurity at times with exercising her power…..when to speak up, where to show up, when to stand up.  What creates security and certainly in our expressions of power is new (really old) learning, practice, and the courage to honor power inside as well as outside. Exercising power as contemporary women requires our time and care for listening, trusting, and taking action from wisdom of the silence within ourselves. This is not the power we learned of control over others ….this is the power of the clarity of our wisdom, the courage we commit to living our convictions, and the compassion we offer ourselves and WITH the others in our life.

We live in a time of rapid evolution, our gift of a lifetime for our souls to evolve the sacred marriage of life as human. Whether we live in fear or live in faith and trust depends on our choices of beliefs, skills, and integrity we engage as we navigate our days…..days calling for living our grace in ways practical and for honoring the grit of life as sacred.