Self Care Is Not Optional

Self Care Is Not Optional

Rte 6A meanders effortlessly on the north side of Cape Cod, the bay side. It is a road seemingly untouched by time, now gracefully stark and barren in the depths of winter. It’s a road I’ve inconveniently yet intentionally travelled for many decades.

Intentionally, mostly when I need some time to just be me. Not a husband, a son, a brother, a dad, a friend.

Just me.

Silently observing, reflecting, recharging.

I can always count on the serenity and simplicity of the flowing miles between Sandwich and Orleans to help me rediscover the serenity and simplicity I often forget are available within me.

May we all take the time to prioritize those places which allow us to reconnect with our most authentic, deepest self.

Self care is not optional.

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.

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

I’m sure you’ve heard it.

“Be present.”

It’s the only moment we really have, they say. Because if we’re living in our past, we’re re-living the pains and regrets of yesterday, and if we’re living in the future it can be a fearful and worrisome based vision of the uncertainty which lies ahead. The present moment, we’re told, is the sweet spot between the two.

But what if the present moment sucks?

Because sometimes it does.

Then what do we do?

The present moment has been marketed as the safe space between our past and our future. An emotional oasis of sorts. But just because it’s the present moment doesn’t mean it’s always a peaceful moment.

Being aware that the present moment sucks is a good thing. It means you’ve been able to step back from your inner emotional turmoil to assess and determine that, yes, this moment actually sucks. Much like a first responder needs to assess the situation on scene before going forward, our self awareness is the first step for us to move beyond the suck.

Sometimes the suck is just a temporary moment. Sometimes it’s much bigger than that.

Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do in this suck moment is give yourself the time and the space to let the present moment suck.

To accept it as it is.

To allow it to be as it is.

Not beating yourself up because it does.

Not shaming yourself because it does.

Because when the present moment sucks, the last thing you need is to be in an abusive relationship with yourself.

You’ll find a way through.

You always have.

Who Owns Your Happiness?

Who Owns Your Happiness?

Goodbye, New Hampshire!

Moving day. The truck was loaded and we were ready to head a little south. After a brutal winter of construction delays our new home was finally ready for us to move into.

We loved our apartment, but moving into your own home is extremely exciting. Especially your first home. A real sense of ownership, a place to call our own. 

Owning is better than renting.

When it comes to real estate.

When it comes to peace and happiness.

Have you ever wondered who owns your peace and happiness?

I think we’ve all had similar experiences of linking our peace and happiness to things outside ourselves. Of needing certain results or outcomes. Of needing certain people. Of needing certain people to act in certain ways. Of needing certainty.

On my path I’ve gone down many a road looking for that elusive peace and happiness, convinced that this time I was on the right one. Once I got to where I told myself I needed to go I would recognize in short order that it was just another dead end. Whatever I told myself I needed to achieve or attain, once achieved or attained I would eventually feel that all too familiar sense of frustration and disappointment. I thought it was supposed to fix everything.

It never did.

The same can be said for relationships. How often do we need people to be and act in ways which make us happy? Sure, it’s great when that happens, but what happens when they stop? What happens if they change? What happens when they know what we need from them and it is purposely withheld? What happens if they leave?

It’s just renting happiness, and renting provides no emotional equity.

Because we don’t own it.

When we look outside of ourselves for peace and happiness we never own it. If we are fortunate to think we’ve found it, just wait. It’s inherently temporary. Just like renting. Even a lease isn’t forever, and the price of outsourcing your happiness can get rather emotionally expensive. And since the emotional landlord sets the emotional rules the relationship is never one of equals. 

I was quite apprehensive about the idea of owning my peace and happiness. It intrigued me but I didn’t think it was possible. After all, wasn’t I the one convinced it was all outside of me? That’s where I’d been looking for the vast majority of my life.

In having tried many external options, I’d come to realize the one place I’d yet to look was inside of me.

Becoming the primary source of your own peace and happiness was a lot more work than I thought it would be. My relationship with me wasn’t always a good one. Quite abusive at times, actually. I wasn’t ready to love me, so I just started to like me. More like a friend. I started to compassionately work with me and not against me. I started to prioritize me, my wants and my needs, my own wellbeing. From the inside out. 

The better I got at taking care of me, the less I needed things outside of me to take care of me. The better I got at taking care of me, the less dependent I became on others to take care of me. More emotional equity means more freedom, and that freedom is quite empowering.

My peace and happiness are now my responsibility. I know me and I know what I need from me. Sure, I still enjoy favorable outcomes and favorable people, but the equity I’ve built in owning my emotional well being doesn’t make them necessities. 

I just don’t need things or people to be anything other than they already are.

Yes, I still get angry and disappointed at times. I simply don’t allow myself to stay there

When it comes to your peace and happiness, are you owning or renting?

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.

Sometimes You Just Have To Put Yourself First

Sometimes You Just Have To Put Yourself First

It’s one of the reasons I sometimes wish I never grew up.

Snow days.

I miss having snow days, those unexpected days off from school because Mother Nature dumped enough white stuff to close the schools. Even the anticipation the night before, watching the weather forecast intently hoping that come morning we’ll be getting that call telling us to stay home.

It’s too bad us adults don’t get snow days. We could all use an unexpected day off from being adults sometimes, can’t we?

Recently I treated myself to a snow day. An all-day meeting I had scheduled on a personal day off from work was cancelled. Because of snow. The responsible adult in me contemplated going into the office, but the kid in me saw this as an all-too-rare opportunity to honor the kid in me.

The kid won.

My unexpected free time lead to a very welcomed day of being unscheduled and somewhat invisible. How often does that happen to adults? Unscheduled and somewhat invisible is as awesome as it sounds. My adventure took me to some of my favorite places, long drives through yet-to-be-plowed roads with everything around me covered in a thick blanket of still-falling snow. My meandering took me to snow covered beaches, dramatically different than when I visit them in the summer yet equally as beautiful. Snow meets sand. Silence and solitude. It felt as if I were in a meditative state, observing and appreciating the world around me and the peace I felt within me. All I needed was some hot cocoa.

The little kid in me was quite happy.

Occasionally I would glance at my phone, but for the most part it was just me and the snow. Working with my team, any work responsibilities had already been delegated the day before in anticipation of me being out of the office. Home responsibilities had also already been covered and I was actually home an hour earlier than usual.

Juggling career and home and parental responsibilities leaves very little time for ourselves. There is always more to do. Always. And when we sometimes do find a few moments to ourselves we’re not quite sure what to do with them. Our default setting is that we should be doing something, and that something is almost never about doing something for ourselves.

I’ve become much more aware of my need to recharge me, to take better emotional care of me. There always is more to do, but I’ve learned to include and prioritize my own well-being on that list. The better I am at being me the better I am in all areas of my life.

Becoming invisible for a full day isn’t always an option. So I’ve actually been scheduling time for me to take care of me, blocking out even a few moments of time to just tend to me. Even if that means getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual. Meditate, stretch, exercise, read. Or simply doing nothing. It doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is that you do something for yourself.

Self care needs to be prioritized and scheduled, otherwise it simply won’t just happen. The world isn’t going to do this for you as the world often feels as if it’s conspiring to prevent you from such self-indulgence.

When was the last time you gave yourself some time just for you to recharge and reconnect with you?

Self care isn’t a luxury. It’s not self-indulgent. It’s not selfish. It’s a necessary component of your physical and emotional health and of you becoming the best version of you.

I think you deserve to be the best version of you.

Don’t you?

Losing My Yoga Virginity

Losing My Yoga Virginity

Sensing I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, she invited me to move my yoga mat closer to hers…

I don’t recall the names of the positions or poses. I do remember diving into something I knew nothing about and doing it anyway. Trusting and allowing, even after the yoga instructor repositioned me right in front of the class so I would be better able to follow along with her instructions.

Yoga!

How did I find myself in this situation? I actually took a day for me to do something for me. A self care kind of day. Taking time off for me isn’t something I can often do. Maybe if I was a better organized person or if I wasn’t so good at making excuses, maybe then I would have found the time to do something like this sooner.

My day was spent at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health which on the surface doesn’t Continue reading “Losing My Yoga Virginity”