Transforming My Life

one day at a time


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The Best Gifts to Say I Love You

IMG_0698Well, Valentine’s Day is only a few days away.  Every time I walk into a grocery store, I am tempted to buy roses or go down the chocolate aisle.   I love chocolate hearts –  I can’t resist buying those pretty little ones all wrapped in the silver, pink and red foil.  The Dove dark chocolate ones with the antioxidants make me feel like I’m eating something semi-healthy – or at least that’s what I try to tell myself.

Roses, candy hearts, love letters, gifts ….

All lead me to think about love.

“Love” is a word we carelessly throw around all the time, not consciously thinking about what it really means to us, let alone defining how we want to live, give, and receive love.

Learning what it means to love others really is a big deal.  We need to give this subject the attention it deserves.  Love is at the core of everything good in life.  It is our greatest need.  It is what connects us.  Each one of us longs to know we are loved.  When we take the time to look around, every creation is soaked in love.

Which leads me to a question you may want to think about, especially this Valentine’s Day, and everyday –

If you were to pick three ways to show someone you love them, what would they be?

If you are wondering why you lack that loving feeling, I challenge you to begin to change one vital thing –

Make some changes in the way you listen.

I know!  It seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  Contrary to how easy it seems, learning to really listen is like learning a new language.  It is not easy to do.

Learning how to listen to someone you love, is the greatest gift you can possibly give –  whether it be your spouse, your children or another significant someone in your life.

We all yearn to matter, to be heard, understood, valued, and accepted.  And yet, we often fail in our attempts to love others for who they are.  Instead, it becomes about us.  Rather than the conversations drawing us closer together they can become divisive.  When people say something we don’t like, conversations can become about who is right and who is wrong.  Before you know it we are yelling or off in separate parts of the house stewing over what is wrong with our parenting, or wishing we hadn’t married this person.  We desperately want to change or fix them.  And sadly, we miss out, because we didn’t take the time to get outside of ourselves enough to listen to what the other person was trying to say to us.

If you desire to radically transform a relationship with someone who matters to you, go to school on how to listen.

Here are three powerful ways to listen, that says,  “I love you”. 

1.  Listening with Words of Understanding.

I say I love you when I seek to understand where someone else is coming from.  Another way I think of this, is to practice being curious about someone else.

Being curious in order to better understand, says, “Tell me more.”  Seeking to understand reflects back what it hears.  “Wow, I hear you had a bad day.”  “That must have hurt.”

I don’t assume I know what you are saying.  I don’t jump in to give you advice, at least not yet.

I seek to understand first by creating a listening space for you and I keep my mouth shut.

Listening with understanding requires I slow down, am open-minded, rather than assuming I have the answer.

When I seek to understand you, I put my own opinions, beliefs and judgements on hold, and I fully accept you as you are.

I accept where you are in that moment.  If you are upset, I allow you to be upset.  I listen to what your upset is about.  This is not easy to do when I want someone to feel better.

When I listen and accept you as you are, you feel safe, and you will want to share more of yourself with me.

2.  Listening with Words of Empathy.

Saying I love you means I am empathetic.

Empathy says, “How you feel matters to me”, “Go ahead and cry.”  “Tell me about it.”  “I hear what you are saying” “You make sense.”  “I get it.”  “I have been there too.”

Empathy does not say, “What do you have to be sad about?”  “Get over it.”  “Don’t cry.” or “Enough already!”

Empathy is not dismissive, but instead takes the time to sit with you, where you’re at in that moment.

Empathy is patient, and kind.

Empathy does not try to “fix it” or give advice unless advice is asked for.

3.  Listen in Ways that Validate Feelings.

When someone listens with understanding and empathy, we feel validated, and in turn, cared for.

When we are “in the pit,” discouraged, or disheartened, understanding and empathy  validates our experience.

This creates a feeling of acceptance, comfort and calm within.

We feel less alone. Hope is created and somehow our problems do not seem as overwhelming.

Validation comes when a person is willing to just listen without judgment or offering advice.

Listening with words of understanding, empathy, and validation are foundational ingredients that connection, intimacy and healthy relationships are made of.  The next time I’m with someone I love, I am going to ask myself the question, “Am I listening in a way that shows this person they matter to me?”  

I have found in my life, when I feel disconnected from my husband or someone close to me, I am usually unwilling to connect with them in ways that require me to really listen.

Today, I am choosing to set my intention on cultivating love by practicing this language of listening, seeking to understand, show empathy, and validate how they are feeling.  No advice, or fixing allowed.  I am choosing to step aside and trust their process.  Now that calls for another blog post!

And if you ask me, speaking this new language of love is more rewarding (albeit a little more challenging) and meaningful than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyday,

Sheryl

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How to “Make it Through” Thanksgiving Truly Thankful


Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

If your Thanksgiving is not a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, well, welcome.  You are in the right place.

For many of us, we dread the holidays.  They can be tons of fun and they can be tough.  Holidays have a way of reminding us that things are not what we want them to be.

Relationships are strained.  Our Mother-in law irritates us.  Uncle Al, scares the kids, and to be honest, well, he is creepy.

If you have young kids, they  tend to be unedited and honest about these things.

” Aunt Eleanor’s food always tastes bad. And her eye looks funny.”

We want to hush them up, especially if they are really little and say what they are thinking out loud.

Have you ever experienced the discomfort of a relative wanting to hug and kiss your child?  They come in with arms wide open and bend down, only to have your three-year old run away and say,

“No, no, I don’t want you to hug me!”  And then they add why, or they make a bad face and push them away.  Embarrassing!

As adults we can feel the same way, only we don’t say it out loud.  Let’s just admit it so we stop making our kids bad for telling the truth.

We want to be grateful.  We really do!  I mean, we all know that being grateful is highly rated.

We have the evidence.  The studies have been done.  It even changes our brains for crying out loud!

Most of us listen to Oprah.  Some of us even have gratitude journals.

For those of us who are God fearing, …isn’t it a sin to not be thankful?  Even ungrateful?

If you are reading this and your family is awesome, I am a little jealous, well maybe a lot jealous, and that is a good thing.  You are blessed.  And so are those of us who are in the other camp, the camp of “making it through”.  Or do we?  Do we really just have to “survive” it?  Isn’t there a better way?

We are responsible for our lives.  We have no one else to blame if we are unhappy during the holidays, not our Mother-in-law, not Uncle George, or the mean cousin.  We create our own happiness and our own experiences.

Some of us just need to work a little harder about how we navigate through the holidays.  And the choice is ours.  Will we be miserable or will we choose to create the Thanksgiving we want?(no guilt intended.)

I want to share with you strategies that I have learned to use in my life while navigating through the holidays.  I was tempted to call them survival strategies but that is a defensive statement.  Let’s instead live on the offense.  Instead of reacting, let’s have intention to create what we want.

These are life-giving practices we can all learn to cultivate in order to have greater satisfaction, joy and peace not only during the holidays but on a daily basis.

1.  Be proactive.  Take the time to be intentional to think and plan ahead of time.

What do you want your Thanksgiving to look like? ( no matter what the circumstances may be at the present moment).

Write it out.  Be specific.  If this is tough, sometimes it is easier when we think about what we don’t want.

Are you tired of “doing it all?”  Ask for help.  Have others bring something.  Buy some food dishes already made.  Do you want help setting the table?  Do you like to have someone in the kitchen with you to keep you company?  Play some music.  Music has a powerful way of changing our environment and creating fun and joy.  Take time to ponder those things that bring you joy.  One of the activities that brings my husband and I joy is to take a walk in the morning together and to play a game as a family.  Whatever it is, be intentional and set yourself up for success.

If you are going to someone else’s house, what are some situations that might arise that can trip you up?  Do you have an irritating relative that really gets on your nerves? How can you take care of yourself?

2. If you are married, have a conversation with your husband.  How can you support one another? If you’re not married think of someone else that is supportive.  One year, my husband and I had family over for the holidays and we switched roles.  Historically, he was the one who was in the corner grumpy.(I hate that) I was the one who would plaster a smile on and try to make up for his grumpiness. (Also known as “over-functioning”.  It is exhausting and  a great set-up for being resentful!)

Which leads me to my next life changing practice…

3.  Change it up.  Do something different.  As we reflected on the usual roles we play in  our families, we decided to do it differently.  We talked about how I  wouldn’t over-function and be “phony” as my husband called it, and he would stop being a “jerk” as I called it.  (And by the way, we have not over-come this, we have to regroup at every family event.)  We decided to make a game of it.  He focused on being more cheerful and I fought the urge to over-function.  Strategize on those things that are not working  in your family.  If your husband isn’t open, look at what you can do to more effectively engage with others.

4.  Have compassion. Understand where others are coming from.

I don’t mean to tolerate unacceptable behavior.  I am talking about looking at other’s behavior through a different lens.  Why does Aunt “So and So” go on and on talking about meaningless things?  Could it be she is hungry for attention or affirmation?  Why is a family member grumpy in the corner?  Maybe this is how they learned to protect themselves in the family.  I am not wanting to make excuses here, but realize that most of the time it doesn’t have to do with you.  Don’t take it personally. If you find yourself taking it personally, think about what you want or need to do about it and then work on letting it go.

5.  When you find yourself criticizing others, ask yourself, “Where is the log in my eye?”

Take full responsibility for how you play a role in whatever dynamics there are in your relationships.  You are not a victim.  Think about this one.  What could you do different in the way you respond to others?

Live a life free of blame.   How would you respond if you could not blame the other person. Believe me, this is hard to do.

6.  Allow other people to have their reactions.  They are only reactions.

Just like we desire to have our own opinions and reactions, allow others the same respect.  Does your Mom think your kids are out of control or makes comments under her breath?  What is true about it?  Fight the urge to be defensive.  Stand back objectively.  “Hmm…maybe she is right.  The kids are a little wild.  They are excited, and I don’t agree with my mom on how to discipline.  That is okay.  She can have her opinion and I can have mine.”  Once I started seeing the truth in what my mom said, and quit defending (well, half of the time), it lessened the tension.

It went something like this, “The kids don’t help you around here.  You are doing everything.”  Me – “You know what Mom?  You are right.  I don’t ask them to do enough.  I need to work on that.”  BAM!

7.  Have a sense of humor.  Lighten up and hold things loosely.

Humor keeps us from feeling like something is happening to us (victimhood).  Humor helps us to accept what is.  Humor lightens the load and the desire to control those things we can’t.

8.  Accept the present reality.

This is probably the hardest for me and the most painful.  Acceptance requires I sit in the discomfort of “what is”.

Hurt.  Anger.  Disappointment. Loss.  Sorrow.  Grief.

But, this is the place where we can learn and grow by practicing gratitude. (This calls for another blog entry).  Without struggles, conflict, pain or plain irritation, we wouldn’t need to grow.

Thanksgiving and practicing gratitude requires we look outside of our circumstances, and look to how we can be transformed from them.  

All of us are in the process of becoming…through our circumstances, whatever they may be…

Who will we choose to become?

Grace and peace,

Sheryl

 

 

 


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Be the hero of your own life

40-strength-in-hard-timesComplaining,

We all do it.  We moan, we complain, we blame, we gripe.  But it never feels very satisfying does it?  Ok, well for a while it does.  Let’s just tell the truth and come clean here.  It feels like they are getting away with something doesn’t it?  It can feel like we got the short end of the stick, right?  And life can just well, feel plain hard.  And you know what?  You’re right.  Life is hard.  They are getting away with something, and yes,  your feelings do matter.  We need someone sometimes to say to us, yeah, I hear you.  I understand.  You’re pain is real.   How you are feeling makes sense.  You make sense.  And, I can see your pain, your suffering and that you are tired and worn out.  BUT, and this is a big BUT

We can not stay there.  We need others desperately, not to tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear.  We need to know we are not alone.  We need validation ,to know we are heard,  understood and THEN, we need to pick up our mat and walk.

You are not a victim.  We all have choices.  Feel your feelings.  Grieve, be sad, allow yourself to heal.  Express your pain.  And share your hurts with safe people.  It may take some time.  But staying there is not really loving yourself.  Feeling justified in our pain, and licking our wounds for too long, stunts our growth.  It actually keeps our hurts from healing .  Have you ever thought about how an animal keeps licking a wound and it never heals?  That’s because it needs air to breath and time to form a scab.  A scab may leave a scar, but scars make us stronger.  Others can look at our scars, our battle wounds, and see that we have made it through and believe that they can too.

Don’t blame others.  You are 100% responsible for the outcomes in your life.  It is not the hand you are dealt, it is what you choose to do with the hand.  Play it.  Don’t play twos, play aces.  If you are unhappy, figure out what you need to do to change it.  Ask for help.  Make a request.  Get the support you need but don’t blame somebody else.  Stop making excuses.  You are the author of your own life.

Be grateful.  I know, sometimes we get sick of hearing that.  Why?  Because being grateful works and sometimes we just want to stay stuck.  But staying stuck is not an option unless you want to be miserable.  It will never change you.  Have you ever been with a constant complainer?  It is draining.  Nobody wants to be around Debbie or Danny Downer.  Who do you want to be?

Believe, Visualize and Take Action.

Who do you admire?

Who are your heroes?  Have you ever noticed that our heroes are usually the ones that have overcome incredible obstacles?

We cheer for them!  We get energy from them.  Because they have overcome!

Heroes give us life.  They give us hope.  And, if we’re honest, we all want to be a hero.

I want to allow God to use my pain for good.  And I want to see His power at work within me.

It is our choice…

So how will we choose to live?

We create the life we live.

So let’s take 100% responsibility for our lives.

Figure out what we want,

and Create the outcome.

Get angry.  Fight the good fight!

Be a living testimony.   Be courageous.

Don’t just complain.  Do something!

One step forward.

Don’t look back.

Get rid of what isn’t working.

Create something new.

Make a request.

Ask for what you need.

Let us not think we can go it alone.

but let us reveal our scars to each other,

So we can all be beacons of hope,

Shining lights out in the darkness or at least in the rain,

Taking the ashes of  life and making them beautiful.

And asking God to give us the strength.

Hope and Peace,

Sheryl

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A Screaming Heart to….

shhhhBe Heard…..Listened to…..Cared About…..Accepted…

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.

Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
 you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham 
in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.  
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
 but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can
 and need to do for myself,
 you contribute to my fear and 
inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
 that I feel what I feel,
 no matter how irrational, 
then I can stop trying to convince 
you and get about this business 
of understanding what’s behind
 this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are
 obvious and I don’t need advice. 
 Irrational feelings make sense when 
we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people – because God is mute, and he doesn’t give advice or try 
to fix things. 
 God just listens and lets you work
 it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me. 
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
 for your turn – and I will listen to you.

Author Unknown


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The Greatest Gift We Can Give

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I just left a friend after pouring my heart out about doubts and insecurities with my own value and self-worth.   I am so grateful for her willingness to simply listen without criticism and judgment.  I didn’t need her to “fix it” or tell me how valuable I was.  I just needed a safe friend to hold space for me in a time of discouragement.  I needed to feel heard and understood.

 I believe this is the most loving gift I can give to others and to myself.   A listening ear and the freedom to express feelings is a priceless offering I want to give to my children, my husband, and to others.  This can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar when I find myself unwilling to accept my own feelings.  I often judge and condemn my feelings or pretend they are not there.  I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong with feelings.  They are what they are. The gift I can give to myself is the courage to risk opening up and sharing those parts of myself that I want to hide when they are screaming to be heard.  I need grace and compassion from others when I am unable to give it to myself.  I don’t need to be criticized or shamed.  I can do a good enough job with that on my own.  I often just need to get clear around what I am feeling.  At times like these, my thoughts get all jumbled up and I feel like I make no sense.  In these moments I tend to catastrophize.  Sometimes I need to yell and cry.

I love how Brene Brown says it in her book, Daring Greatly, “Empathy is a strange and powerful thing.  There is no script.  There is no right way or wrong way to do it.  It’s simply listening, holding space, with-holding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of  ‘You’re not alone’.”

Empathy and understanding is what my family needs most from me.  They need to know I am a safe refuge for them to share themselves vulnerably.  Unfortunately, I have not always done a good job at this.  The more I am willing to be vulnerable with my deep flaws and accept and love myself, the easier it is to accept and love others.    The path of vulnerability is the place where I am learning to heal and find wholeness. When I love and speak truth to these parts of myself  I silence the Critic that lives inside of me.  If I can be a voice of love, acceptance and encouragement to my children when they are feeling ugly, messy and discouraged it will change the course of their lives.

Today when I left my friend, I had a huge weight lifted that was holding me down.  Life no longer feels all doom and gloom.  I am connected to myself again.  My thoughts are no longer all jumbled and I make sense.  Each day I am committed to loving and accepting myself for who I am because that is valuable and I am worth it.  You are too.

Love and Grace,

Sheryl


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If we were to change the world….

Blue-Nature-wallpaper

If we will awaken to the possibilities of new life, we will open our hearts to a greater understanding of who we are.

If we will open our hearts to a greater understanding of who we are, we will experience the false self we are up against.

If we are willing to experience the false self we are up against, we will choose to take the journey towards humility or not.

If we choose to take the journey towards humility, we will hunger for grace and truth.

If we hunger for grace and truth, we will learn to love ourselves.

If we will learn to love ourselves, we will be willing to surrender to all that holds us captive.

If we are willing to surrender to all that holds us captive, we will be willing to release our fears of abandonment and trauma.

If we are willing to release our fears of abandonment and trauma, we will experience a peace that surpasses all understanding.

If we experience a peace that surpasses all understanding, we will  be touched by God.

If we are touched by God, we will realize we are not alone.

If we will realize we are not alone, we will learn to love.

If we will learn to love, we will desire God’s will.

If we desire God’s will, we will be transformed.

If we are transformed, we will change the world.

If we change the world, the world will return to God.

May we all have the courage.

Grace and Peace.

Sheryl

Concept of this poem taken from the book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, written by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.  I changed the words to fit for me based on the poem, The Stages of the Work.