Receiving The Gift Of Receiving

Receiving The Gift Of Receiving

It was a priceless, transformational moment.

I was sitting on one of the player benches, just trying to catch my breath. The family and I were at the local ice rink, enjoying a couple of hours of ice skating just after Christmas. As a kid, ice skating was a regular weekend activity during the fall and winter months. My skating skills were never that great, but I managed to do OK. Now, some 40 years later, my daughters’ interest in skating has gotten me to lace up the skates once again.

Time has not improved my skating skills.

Apparently, Kyle thought I was pretty good at skating.

He said I was an expert.

I have no idea who Kyle is. He looked to be about 10 years old, enjoying some skating with his family. As I was sitting on the bench, exhausted, Kyle stopped and asked if he could tell me something. Surprised, I said “sure”. He said “you’re an expert at skating. I’ve been watching you skate and you’re really good…like an expert.”

Kind of stunned by what I heard, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

I’m glad I didn’t respond as instinctively as I often do.

My initial thought was to somehow try and convince Kyle he was wrong. In my mind I’m really not that good at skating. But instead of doing what I’ve often habitually done, I did something different.

I simply smiled and said “thank you”.

How often, when someone expresses an unexpected compliment toward us, do we find a way to try and minimize it? As if we couldn’t possibly be what the other thinks we are?

For me, I’ve noticed that had, in fact, become an instinctual response.

As we go through our life journey we develop a story about who we are. We listen to others, often those we look up to, and their comments, either intentionally or not, greatly shape the vision of who we think we are. We also learn about the power of comparison and how that can further shape our limiting beliefs, further eroding our worthiness and solidifying our vision as someone who shouldn’t be on the receiving end of complimentary words.

And it works both ways. Think about how often we offer someone a compliment or strong positive feedback only to be met with a response somehow trivializing our opinion. If you take the time to notice, you’ll see it’s quite prevalent.

I’m certain that my skating skills are not close to being at the expert level. But in his mind, I was pretty damn good at it, so much so that he actually approached me to tell me what he thought of my skating. With his honesty and sincerity, I felt Kyle deserved a “thank you” and not an explanation as to why he was wrong.

I was touched by Kyle’s actions and words. I hope he continues to express his positive opinions to others when he sees fit. I didn’t want to ruin this experience for him. I didn’t want to show him through my own words what minimizing yourself looks like.

Thank you, Kyle, for helping me be better at being me.

Sometimes allowing yourself to receive a gift is more important than the actual gift itself.

photo credit: Ben White via Unsplash

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

It’s been a couple of weeks now since Mom passed. Expected yet unexpected all at the same time. It’s not something you can ever fully prepare for.

Recently, I found myself back in my old hometown and for some reason I felt called to visit the chapel Mom would quite often visit.

Mom was a woman of deep Christian faith, a guiding and comforting source for her throughout her life. Mom was also a prolific candle lighter, and Our Lady’s Chapel was the place she would light them. For family and friends in time of need or distress, Mom lit candles for us all.

It was my turn to light one for her.

After the candle was lit, I found myself sitting in the back pew of the Chapel. Just sitting. Observing. Remembering. Decompressing. A small boy sitting a few rows in front of me wandered away from his Mother and playfully pushed back the curtain to the Confessional located just to my left. His Mom was not at all pleased, but his actions got me to thinking about something I’ve not thought about for quite some time.

Growing up Catholic, I’ve certainly spent my share of time in the Confessional. As a boy, I’d kneel fearfully in darkness awaiting the priest to open the screen and I’d tell him of my sins for the week. Mostly about the number of swear words I’d used that week (I did my best to quantify my transgressions) and the occasional taking the Lord’s name in vain. Then, with nervous anticipation, I’d await my penance which usually involved a great deal of praying in the back of Church.

Spiritually, I’ve meandered a bit over the years. I’ve confessed a great deal over the years, just not in a Confessional.

Confession is the first step in forgiveness. It’s reflecting upon and acknowledging your actions, or, at times, the lack of them, and asking God to absolve you. In the secular space, I, too, have asked for the forgiveness of others for the times I’ve not lived up to my own Higher standard, for the actions I’ve taken or the lack of them.

Others have also occasionally asked for my forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is always granted, as the weight of holding grudges is more weight than I choose to carry, especially as I get older. I know I’m still far from perfect myself and I like to think I afford others the space to be less than perfect as well.

There is one person, though, I’ve often had a difficult time forgiving.

Me.

Funny how it’s often easier for us to forgive others than it is for us to forgive ourselves.

As I reflect about forgiveness, I realize that self-absolution has never been easy for me. The grudges I chose not to hold towards others I would easily hold against myself, mercilessly holding me perpetually accountable for my actions or lack there of.

Maybe you can relate to not giving yourself the space to be imperfect? To allow yourself to reflect and acknowledge the times in your life where you wish you responded differently, or had taken another path, and then forever beating yourself up for it.

Much of this changed for me when I was able to change the most important of all relationships.

The one with me.

The compassion and forgiveness I so easily dispensed to others? I threw a little of that my own way. I cut myself some slack. I accepted that no matter the result, I did the best I could at the time. I compassionately questioned why I’d befriend others yet wouldn’t extend that same level of friendship towards myself.

I stopped emotionally kicking my own ass.

I’m certain my issues with self-forgiveness can be traced back to the self-identity narratives which were created, nurtured, and perpetuated many decades ago. Many of them based in limitation, steeped in unworthiness, rooted in insecurity. What we are willing to accept as true for who we think we are impacts just about everything.

But narratives can be changed, if we are willing to question them.

It’s a conversation worth having.

It’s the most important conversation I’ve ever had.

Perhaps The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give Yourself

Perhaps The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give Yourself

“Dad, there’s something wrong with the lights.”

My daughter came to me in a panic. The bathroom lights suddenly shut off. Couldn’t turn them back on either. After some investigating, apparently the wind driven rain was getting into one of the plugs on the Christmas lights outside causing the GFCI to engage. 

GFCI is a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor used primarily in wet areas in and around the home. You probably have these in your home, too. Should any moisture be detected within the electrical outlet the GFCI responds in 1/40th of a second and disables the outlet immediately preventing any damage from being done.

Once we fixed the problem outside I hit the reset on the GFCI and the bathroom lights went back on.

The whole key to the GFCI is awareness. Once it knows of the potential danger involved it’s able to prevent a potential catastrophe.

I wish I had one of those in my mind. An emotional circuit breaker which could sense any negative and disempowering thoughts I may have and disable them before doing any damage.

How life changing would that be?

Our thoughts and words are powerful. Often when we are triggered by outside forces we can habitually react in ways which harm us, either by what we may say to others, or equally as important, by what we may say to ourselves. Specifically, it’s the negative self talk and those habitual responses reinforcing limiting beliefs which damage us more than we realize. 

But how do we train ourselves to respond differently?

It all starts with self-awareness.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been very good at self-awareness.

With no emotional safety valve in place, challenging situations were always allowed to run their course. For better or worse. And it was usually for the worse. I didn’t know I had the choice to respond any differently than I always had. I just automatically harshly reacted to the difficult and uncomfortable events in my life which simply perpetuated more of what I’ve always done.

My lack of self-awareness meant nothing would change. I wasn’t even aware there was anything to change.

At some point on my life’s path I had heard about the concept of being an observer of your life. Sort of like stepping outside of your physical self and just noticing what life really looked and sounded like. Without judging what was noticed. Just observing.

Eventually, and with very low expectations, I gave it a try. Mostly out of curiosity. As I stepped outside of me I began to notice how I would habitually respond to what showed up in my life. Especially the difficulties. I remember what I saw. The anger and the frustration. The intense bitterness of disappointment. Even, at times, a tendency to blame. Maybe I actually was what people had told me I was. As I was able to develop some sense of self-awareness, the real challenge for me was doing so while not judging or punishing myself for the things I discovered I didn’t like about myself.

We all have the ability to be cruel and unforgiving towards our self, don’t we? I was quite good at that.

Noticing how I was judging and treating myself, though, was in itself an extension of my own self-awareness. I was now aware of my habitual responses and also aware of how I felt about myself for having such responses.

We can only hope to fix the things we know are broken. In my lack of self-awareness world, I was never the one who was broken. But at some point I realized that, in fact, I was, and a more self-aware version of me has done a great deal of work to address it. There is still more work to be done. But subtle changes have lead to anything but subtle positive results.

Simply put, self-awareness has made me better at being me…kinder, gentler, more compassionate, especially when dealing with myself.

Self-awareness has become a vitally important part of who I am these days. It’s become my emotional GFCI allowing me to observe what is going on within me, enabling me to disable and negate the reactions and responses which no longer serve me and replace them with ones which do. I may not respond in 1/40th of a second, but being able to monitor my own emotional state has allowed me to better deal with challenging situations I often find myself in.

What about you? When life squeezes you just a little too tight, how do you habitually respond? Have you ever taken the time to just step back and observe? To simply notice? 

It could be the greatest gift you’ll ever give to yourself.

It’s a great day to be you.

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

Imaging what life could be like if we could simply stop carrying around our own backpack full of what we think is wrong with us. How much lighter would life feel?

What if they established one day per year where we could take all the things we consistently trash ourselves for and we could simply let them go? Put them down and walk away. To forgive ourselves for what we’ve done or not done, for who we are or who we think we are supposed to be, for what we haven’t yet done with our lives?

You know. Those gnawing feelings we get about ourselves. Those little voices reminding us of who we think we really are. Our short-comings, our failures, our doubts and fears, our thoughts about not being good enough. What if we allowed ourselves the opportunity to simply forgive ourselves and start new?

Amnesty.

Emotional amnesty.

The good news is today is Emotional Amnesty Day. Today can be the day to gather up all the limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging habits you don’t want to carry around with you any longer. The stuff that keeps you feeling stuck physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The guilt. The shame. The unworthiness. Continue reading “It’s Emotional Amnesty Day”

What Impact Will You Have In Your Radius Of Love?

What Impact Will You Have In Your Radius Of Love?

The local shops were packed. An important holiday shopping day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was rebranded as Small Business Saturday a few years back. The goal was to encourage people to do some of their holiday shopping at the small, family-owned businesses in their communities. And on this day, business was quite good.

Supporting locally-owned businesses has a huge impact on the local economy. It provides jobs and incomes for many families, and much of that income stays within the local community, which perpetuates even more economic activity.

Shopping local makes a big impact in a community.

It works the same way with love.

Draw a one mile radius around where you are. How much love can you give locally this holiday season? How much impact can you make on the lives of others right around you?

There are opportunities everywhere.

Maybe it’s checking in on someone who is alone this season…just to remind them that they aren’t really alone. Maybe it’s cooking a meal for a family going through a rough stretch right now. Maybe it’s volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Or donating a toy to a child who may go without one unless you do. Maybe it’s just being kind and patient during what can be a very stressful time of year for some. Maybe it’s holding a door for someone. Or maybe it’s just offering a smile.

We can give away a smile, can’t we?

Love is the one gift which is always needed, always the right size, and the giver is always happy when it gets returned. There is no greater gift than love, and there is no limit on how much love we can share with the world.

Or in our neighborhood.

Make your impact felt this holiday season.

It’s a great day to be you!

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

Thursday was a big day for Danielle.

11 months sober.

I didn’t even know sobriety was an issue for her.

You could feel both her pride and apprehension in her Facebook post informing her friends of her milestone. Apparently she’s been down this path before, she knows it’s something she is taking one step at a time.

It was great to see the love, support, and encouragement her friends posted in reply. Her replies to their posted comments indicated she, too, was quite happy for the love being sent her way.

Danielle bravely decided to publicly share her struggles with those in her social media world. Bravely, because our world tends to look down on struggle, leaving many of those who do struggle to struggle in silence, battling their own demons alone. Struggle often Continue reading “This One Assumption Can Save A Life”

Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?

Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?

It sounds rather simple.

And it should be quite easy.

But in reality it’s often a very difficult thing to do.

Loving yourself.

After all, how could you love you? You know everything about you, the good and the bad. Especially the bad. There are no secrets in your relationship with yourself. And that little voice in your head is always quite good at reminding you of your mistakes, regrets, and shortcomings. How could you possibly love such a person?

Maybe love is too big of a first step.

Good relationships take time, especially if that relationship is between you and you. My Continue reading “Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?”

The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself

The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself

The road to finding peace and happiness is never straight. At least it wasn’t for me and those I’ve known who’ve spent years of their own meandering on a similar journey.

None of us are born angry, miserable, weak, unworthy, afraid, anxious, or insecure. Those are things we can become. Sometimes you can define the catastrophic moment when the world rose up and took away the peace and happiness you entered this world with. Sometimes, though, we look back and can find no specific reason why the peace and happiness we are looking for ever went away in the first place.

It’s surreal walking through your empty life surrounded by everyone else who have their lives all figured out and are moving forward. That’s what I assumed…everyone else Continue reading “The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself”

This Will Make You Think…#21

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

— Mother Teresa

The words that we speak can have a profound impact on the people we are speaking to. Your words of kindness, love, and compassion will uplift and inspire those who hear your voice for many years to come. Perhaps even for a life time.

It’s a great way to change the world.