Transforming My Life

one day at a time


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No Shame On You

beautiful_nature_wallpaper_1920x1200“Love is patient” 1 Corinthians 13:4

 “Love never gives up” The Message Version

Most of us are familiar with the passage on love from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.  We hear it used at weddings, funerals, and in sermons.  We see these sentiments on plaques and anniversary cards.  These words can be so cliché that we don’t take the time to ponder the impact they can have on how we relate to others and ourselves.

I was reminded the other day how impatient I can be with myself.  Arriving at a school field trip to the Des Plaines River with my 7th grade daughter,  I had not realized I needed to wear boots and jeans.  I began to beat myself up as they were sharing how muddy it was, that we needed to douse ourselves with insect repellant and to make sure to check for ticks.  When they began to tell us to look out for the poison ivy and oak,  my face felt flushed and my heart began to sink.  I looked at the other Mom’s as they turned and looked concerned at my athletic skirt and cute, new sporty shoes I had just purchased last week!   I was so embarrassed.  I was reading their minds, “Doesn’t she read the parents page?  What an air head!  What was she thinking? How irresponsible!  Wow, and I thought I was disorganized!”  All these critical voices were shouting at me.  I had to remind myself to fight the shame.  Thankfully my daughter’s friend’s Mom(I have always liked her and now I really like her!) ran me by her house to loan me a pair of boots and jeans.  I was so grateful I could have cried.  I was tempted to beat myself up and try to save face by repeating how stupid I felt, but I didn’t.  I reminded myself to be patient with my shortcomings, to practice self-love and acceptance.  I gave myself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them.

Shame is toxic and we are no match for shame on our own.  We need safe, compassionate others to be patient with us on this journey.  We need to give ourselves the love and grace we desperately need when we feel shame rearing its ugly head.  Those of us who grew up being held to a standard of perfection, where criticism lurked when we made mistakes, are especially vulnerable to these shaming messages.  I often have to remind myself to be conscious as I parent my own children to not shame them when I am tempted to do just that.

Today I will choose to be patient with myself,

To love myself,

 To accept myself,

Right where I am today,

I will give myself the freedom to make mistakes,

to make things right when I am wrong,

I will choose to love myself apart from the approval of others,

and commit to giving and receiving the gift of patience and grace towards my shortcomings,

imperfections and inadequacies, knowing who I am is more than enough.

Today I will be tender with myself.

Today I will give myself the grace, compassion and self-love that I deserve.

For I am a child of God and

I am loved.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

 

 


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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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What do feelings have to do with it?

Why do we struggle so with feelings?  Often, when I am working with people, I find they are resistant to talking about what they are feeling.  Time and again, when I ask someone new to the world of feelings, what they are feeling, the response is often one of anger and push back.    It is almost as if I asked them what the color of their underwear is.   I once had someone ask me,  “What do feelings have to do with anything?!”  I get it.  Why do feelings matter anyway?  

When I first began to do my own personal growth work, I did not know how I was feeling most of the time.  If you asked me, I was sad a lot but underneath it, I was angry and didn’t even know it.  When we were children, we felt a lot of feelings, anger, sadness, happiness and excitement.  They were as natural as the air we breath, but as time went on, we learned in our families to shut down certain feelings that were not acceptable.  Some of us were shamed for feeling certain feelings.  Some of us experienced anger as scary because people in our families were irresponsible with it.  In the next several blogs, I want to tackle this subject around why feelings are important.  In order to transform our lives and relationships we need to know, accept and work through our feelings.  The result of feeling our feelings can bring us a deeper understanding and love for ourselves and a greater intimacy and connectedness in our relationships.

Here is part of an article written by Peter Bregman, where he talks about the difference it has made in his marriage to acknowledge his feelings…..

Do You Know What You Are Feeling?

“Over the 23 years since we met, my wife Eleanor and I have spent considerable time, money, and energy on our development. Individually and together, we’ve taken workshops, studied meditation, practiced yoga, written in journals, talked about our dreams, participated in training programs, and gone to therapy.

A few weeks ago, we were taking a walk along a rural road, questioning why we do it. Is all this inner work simply navel gazing? Or does it impact our lives in a real way?

Just as we were exploring the question, we turned a bend and heard a loud party at a house on the side of the road. As we approached the house we could see the deck was filled with about a dozen college-aged men joking around and drinking.

My body tensed and my emotions intensified. I felt a mix of fear, insecurity, competitiveness, and jealousy. I saw them as the kinds of guys Eleanor would be attracted to — big, alpha, confident — and I felt inferior. Which made me feel aggressive towards them. It took me about a minute to realize what I was feeling and why.

I turned to Eleanor and told her what I was feeling. She laughed; she also felt aggressive and had an immediate, instinctual, emotional response, but the opposite of mine. She saw them as obnoxious, uncaring, sexist, and unattractive. She felt superior to them. And resentful that they would probably end up having power in our world.

Two seemingly simple but actually incredibly difficult and crucially important things happened in those few seconds: we recognized what we were feeling, and we talked about it.

Simply being able to feel is a feat in itself. We often spend considerable unconscious effort ignoring what we feel because it can be painful. Who wants to be afraid or jealous or insecure? So we stifle the feelings, argue ourselves out of them, or distract ourselves with busy work or small talk.

But just because we don’t recognize a feeling doesn’t mean it goes away. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Not feeling something guarantees that it won’t go away.

Had I not talked to Eleanor about what I was feeling when we saw that deck filled with drinking college guys, I would have gotten clingy to her, looking for some reassurance that she loved me. And, if I had not received it — and why should I since she would have no idea what was going on in my head? — I would have become distant, resentful, and insecure.

But instead, we just laughed and focused on other, more interesting conversation. Apparently, all that navel gazing really does impact our lives in a real way. “

An important part of us – who we are, how we grow, what we want and need, is connected to our feelings.  May we have the faith to believe they matter, and the courage to feel and work through them in order to transform our lives one day at a time.

Grace and peace, Sheryl


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Disguised blessings

I had the privilege of hearing this touching story a few weeks ago from someone that means a lot to me.  She is a beautiful woman inside and out and I am grateful to have her walking through the ups and downs and lessons of  life with me.  Here is a little bit of her story, as she tells it, and how refusing to continue doing life alone, changed her life…..

“I live what I like to believe is a pretty great life.  I’ve been married for 21 years and I’m the mother of five children.  I have a nice home in the suburbs and a husband who works hard to provide for our family.  I’m part of a community of people who see the best in me and want the best from me.

My childhood was very different.  I grew up in a divorced home with very little stability.  Two parents trying to figure out their own lives after getting divorced, left me alone a lot with little guidance or support.  I learned not to rely on anyone and the way I coped was to try to create my own stability.  I would make dinner for my little sister, I’d do our laundry and I went as far as paying my own high school fees.  I watched my mom live her life alone, with out many friends and no community to give her the support she needed.  She was living her life just trying to survive.  Watching her is where I learned to believe it was “me against the world”.

I began living my life trying to hide my childhood pain.  I made a vow to myself that when I had my own children I would take care of them and do all that I could so that they would never experience the pain I felt as a child.  I wanted my children to feel secure.  What I did not give them was a sense of community.  I still believed I could do it all myself and not depend on anyone else.

Fast forward to 1997 and the birth of our third child, Nicholas.  Nick was diagnosed at birth with a rare syndrome called Cornelia deLange which affects him physically as well as mentally.  I was devastated with his diagnosis and this really re-enforced my beliefs that the world is against me.  We had just started going to church, but that didn’t change what I was saying to myself, “If God loved me, He would not have allowed this to happen.”

I knew that Nick was going to need help beyond what I could give him.  But I still managed to find a way to make it all about me doing everything for him.  I was going to get him all the therapies he needed so that he would have every opportunity in his life.   Throughout this process I began to see that the support Nick was receiving from his therapists was going beyond the mechanics of helping him physically and mentally.  They weren’t just loosening his muscles and teaching him sign language, they were rooting for him.  They wanted him to succeed.  It was the first time I experienced the power of community as being a place to feel loved, challenged, seen and cared for.

While I was able to seek out and accept help for Nick, I resisted it for myself.  I still believed that I could do my life alone.  As I watched Nick thrive in his community, I began to realize that I also had a disability.  Nick lives his life wanting to be with people and in community with others.   I began to want what Nick had for myself.  Becoming a part of the CLE community over fourteen years ago were my first steps in overcoming my disability.  I still fight it and want to believe I’m not relationally disabled, but I know this community is what I want and need.

One of my favorite verses in scripture is Matt 7:9-11, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Nick’s diagnosis has been the greatest gift God could have given me.  Far from a curse, it has been a blessing.  I needed God and a community that was accepting, loving and challenging me to be the best me I can be.  Through Nick, God helped me realize that I cannot live my life alone and through Nick, God brought me into community others.  I know there will be more stones in my life and I’m thankful that God will continue to open my eyes to see that stones, while they may cause some pain and stumbling, also cause me to reach out an grab hold of the steady hands all around me.”

Thanks Laura for sharing your story and reminding us of how much we need God and others in our lives to love, accept and challenge us to be all we were meant to be.

Grace and peace, Sheryl