Mercury Retrograde is in full swing, and I know that, for many of us, it’s been a harder-than-usual tumble through the cosmos these last couple weeks.
Being good allies to ourselves isn’t always easy, especially if we feel (or have been thrown wildly) off center.
And yet the practice of having our own backs (support) – and our own feet (ground) and our own hearts (compassion) – seems to be one of the lifelong questions.
When we’re hurting, how do we soothe? When we’re “off,” how do we find center? When we feel lost, how do we find the ground? (And again, some of us got a better set-up in life for these practices, and others of us "get to" learn as we go).
And so, today, I want to offer a simple tool. Something basic that won’t require too much hoop-jumping or fancy gymnastics for your worn and weary self.
Anger. Anger. ANGER.
I invite you to notice what happens for you as you see that word on your screen. Is there a warm embrace of it? Is there a contracting, a pulling away? All good either way – just notice.
Most of us learned in our early lives that certain emotions were welcomed, and others were not. This was often (but not always) gendered, with boys being taught anger was cool, but sadness or fear not so much, while girls were taught the opposite.
We female-identified folk may have been told, for instance, that there was something wrong with us for feeling angry, we needed to calm down and be “nice,” we should “get over it,” or we should simply “behave.”
Meanwhile, we struggled. We had big feelings for a reason, but no guidance on how to make sense of them or soothe those feelings.
The impact, of course, is that here we are going about our adult lives, somebody does something/says something we don’t like (at all), and even to this day, we might not even notice that we’re angry, but suddenly we feel deeply uncomfortable in our very own skin.
I spent the first 39 years of my life as a cultural and ethnic Jew, but not a religious one. I knew the people well, but not the religion.
When I uprooted from California and moved to Florida almost two years ago, that changed. I sought a sense of home, identity, belonging, and thus entered a temple for the first time. Temple, though I visit only occasionally, has since become a deeply sacred space of ancestral connection.
When the news hit last Saturday afternoon, I knew I needed to sit and to grieve with my people. To find solace in the company of shared stories, shared knowing, shared grief. To mourn not just the Tree of Life massacre, but the centuries of threat, fear, assault, massacre, the felt vulnerability of Jewish existence. When I learned the rabbi would be holding a special service on Sunday, I determined to go.
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The more time passes, the more folks I have the honor of working with in my coaching practice, I wonder: how much transformation can be sparked through coaching, or therapeutic techniques, alone?
When, if ever, is it helpful to turn our long-standing problems and deeply-entrenched dilemmas over to a sense of something larger, more powerful than you or me alone – to a sense of the sacred or the divine?
The longer I go, the more I believe: you and I alone are not in charge. The more folks I meet with, the more I sense: we are not the changemakers here.
While I regularly encourage my clients to practice self-listening, and while I'm a steadfast believer in the power of self-connection, there are some moments (and days) in which for all my self-awareness and personal growth tools, I can’t figure out what the heck is going on.
This weekend was “one of those days.” As many of you know, I moved from the metropolitan superstar land of the San Francisco Bay Area a little over a year ago to the relatively sleepy town of Gainesville, Florida, and I’m still adjusting. A life-long dance lover accustomed to boogying down in all kinds of dance classes with adults in Oakland and San Francisco, here, where the dance pickings are slim, I’ve resigned myself to taking dance classes with people less than half my age.
(Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mastery, and what it takes to become fully differentiated, fully self-soothed, fully capable of resting in the presence of another’s upset, fully able to stand on one’s own two feet in the midst of any storm.
Time and again, with clients, friends, and in myself, I find our struggles come down to this simple distinction I learned early on in peer counseling: “Me. Not me.” And the subsequent question of how on earth to remember “Me” in the face of “You.”
We are heart broken.
So many beside ourselves with grief.
So many struggling to make cognitive sense of the dissonant pieces - the images of horror, the feelings of devastation and of rage, all within a soft, fleshy body containing a heart that longs to love.
You are not crazy - no. The circumstances are crazy-making.
In the wake of this, it is tempting to shut down. To close up shop. To post a sign - "Gone fishing" - perhaps forever. Determined not to return until such acts are obsolete, and it feels safe again to rest back into our bodies and walk freely on the planet.
I write to you today from the middle of Iowa, where my partner and I have come for a wedding, and – unintentionally - to escape the hurricane in Florida. We are reading the news by the hour, following the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma over the Caribbean Islands, and awaiting updates of how close this hurricane is likely to be to our home when it lands in Gainesville, Florida this evening.
So much uncertainty. And I am practicing, relearning in every moment, how to be with that uncertainty – indeed, how to relax in the midst of it.
A couple months back, I sent out a questionnaire asking for your biggest “trouble spots” in this wild and bumpy road called Life, and the areas in which you most want support. An astounding 57% of you said, “Relationship with my very own precious self – self-love and kindness.” So today, I share this template for a new day as part of a series of three bite-sized messages for ye seekers of self-love and kindness, with a related offer at the end.
The journey toward self-love begins with noticing the ways and the habits by which we have left ourselves. Left being our own allies, our own best friends, and instead, succumbed to the lure of the disapproving judge.
Tonight, I was walking through the evening darkness, enjoying the rich smell of algae and earth and all things humid here in this Floridian summer, and yet feeling lonely. Wanting connection, I had called each of my best friends back "home" in California, to no avail. No one answered. Alas, I was alone with my aloneness, heart achy amidst the chorus of croaking frogs and cricket song.
And then I remembered this simple practice from Nonviolent Communication: noticing and naming my oh-so-frickin'-human need: in this case, connection.