The Snapshots We Carry

There’s a photo of me in 5th grade sporting braces and a perm reminiscent of a poodle fresh from a blow dry. It’s 1980-something, a time when bigger meant better and this included the Linda Richmond-esque bifocal glasses with gold-hued stickers of my initials in one of the lenses’ corners.

For decades, I hated that skinny girl at the start of puberty. The one who begged her mom for a training brawe both know wasn’t necessary.

Yet over time, I started to look back at that photo and saw a completely different image staring back at me.

Snapshots Can Change

Hindsight offers the ability to see through the past with a different lens.

Think of any experience in your life — good or bad or somewhere in between. 

How we remember an experience affects our perception.

For years, I looked at the photos of me in 5th grade and saw a mess of big hair, huge glasses, and boobs that made Houston look mountainous. 

Now, on the cusp of fifty, I am able to see the tween I was less myopically. I’m able to zoom the mental camera out see the terrain of that time and place:

There I am, holding a baby in my 11 year-old arms. How cool is that? The neighbor, a mom of a 5 year old little girl and now a mom again, is trusting me with her kids. I get to babysit both of them regularly after school, and I’m so good at taking care of them. 

I move closer to my 5th grade self and speak directly to her:

You’re not skinny — you are thin. And it’s the 80’s — of course your hair is big!

Be kinder to yourself; no one has this thing called Life figured out. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up and get those boobs. Everything has its season and there’ll be plenty of time for boobs. Just revel in the stories you make up with your neighbor’s daughter each day after school. Trust me, all of these creative games you are playing with her will be something you’ll miss in adulthood.

The Illusion of Snapshots

Author and therapist, Lori Gottlieb (Maybe You Should Talk to Someone) writes about remains of our snapshots:

“People don’t always remember events or conversations clearly, but they do remember with great accuracy how an experience made them feel.”

We’ve all had that moment when we speak with someone from our past and they recall an event one way and we another. Since our perception dictates our reality, this makes sense — both people are correct.

We can look at the same snapshot — the same moment in time and see it differently because of the lens we respectively look through.

Perhaps the real illusion is believing there’s only one snapshot, one angle to view a memory.

Future Snapshots

We not only have the power to alter the filter of our past snapshots; we possess the ability to transform the mental photos on their way.

Instinctively, we do this with young children: seeing the wonder of who they will grow up to be while still wearing diapers.

One of the reasons parents possess so much power in those formative years is their ability — whether realized or not — to affect a child’s inner snapshots.

The great news: we can transform our inner snapshots at anytime to what we want to see.

I’m not talking denial or sweeping things under the figurative carpet. I’m referring to our ability to look at ourselves with compassion and unconditional love, embracing the fractured parts of ourselves to let in the light.

Imagine how the snapshots of your future will develop if looked at through the mental lens of self-compassion and willing vulnerability?

Talk about a Kodak moment!

The Most Dangerous Word

And why we need to catch ourselves saying it.

Friends invited me out for dinner. Weeks before, we’d originally had plans for them to head over for brunch.

“I’m making homemade waffles and smoothies,” I’d said.

Only the day of the brunch found me flying to Florida to see my father in the ICU.

Last night, at our dinner, I found the following words percolating in my head:

“I should be able to have them over by now. Why am I so tired? So overwhelmed?”

I didn’t say these words aloud. Keeping them silent only made a looming sense of failure inside of me fester. With my unspoken self-recriminations yakking away, I vocalized the following to my friends:

“You can come over for brunch next weekend. Let’s do that!

The Most Dangerous Word

Did you catch the word yet? Whether merely thought (as I had) or spoken, the word we need to be vigilant of is SHOULD.

Should arrives with verbal tentacles that carry guilt and shame.

Should is an emotional lever that heaps blame and obligation onto our psychological shoulders.

When we think from a place of should, we are subconsciously telling our psyches we aren’t enough. 

Should is the barbed wire of self-compassion, thwarting our ability to listen to our intuition.

Planting New Seeds

Should is a weed of a word, surreptitiously preventing our emotional garden from flourishing.

We can remove the “shoulds” in our garden and replace them with words that nourish like need and want:

Of course I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s not even a month since my father left this Earth. I want to make a brunch for my dear friends but now is not the right time for me. I need time: time to linger in my pajamas longer, time to curl up with a good book, time for long walks that go nowhere, time to devour a sleeve of Oreos.

By yanking out the albatross of SHOULD and replacing it with the seeds of WANT and NEED, I feel lighter and flooded with self-compassion.

Where Does Should Emerge in Your Life?

Where does the lurking word of obligation sneak up in your life? It may be something seemingly innocuous as:

“I should floss my teeth every day.”

But the statement, however genuine, lingers with the fresh scent of guilt. Instead, we can say:

“I want to floss my teeth every day.”

or

“I need to floss my teeth every day.”

I challenge you to observe the words you use, catching yourself when you use or think the word should. The word might seem innocuous, but it has the potential to subtly cause a sense of obligation, shame, guilt, or blame.

When we say:

“I need to…”

there’s a sense of responsibility.

Should takes that responsibility and serves up an unsolicited side of guilt.

What do you want to do? What do you need to do?

Empowering questions for an empowered soul.

My Therapist, Kenny Rogers

The late Kenny Rogers recently made an entrance into my life.

Maybe it’s because he knew I needed some help.

The singer and songwriter’s lyrics whispered to me like a forgotten dream:

“I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces, knowin’ what the cards were by the way they held their eyes. So if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.”

How’d Kenny know I was out of aces?

Kenny Roger’s Wisdom

To live means risk. Life hands us a deck of cards. Some of those cards are desirable; some are the kind you want to hide from the world.

The cards life deals us are always changing. And one person’s perception of fortune can be another’s confirmation of failure.

How we perceive life’s cards makes all the difference.

Kenny’s lyrics reminds us that our attitude affects a great deal of our outcome.

If we believe we are out of aces — opportunity or fortune, it will show in our body language.

The Problem

A family member called me a couple of times while I was at work to tell me:

“It’s your birthday soon. Here’s what you are going to do. Here’s when you are going to do it.”

It’s worth noting: I had told my family I had a big work event and not to call me that day.

This family member not only didn’t respect my reminder not to call that day; they called me twice, finally leaving a text message that their “plane tickets” were all booked and now they were waiting for me to book mine.

There was never any question such as:

  • Would a trip on this day at this place work with your schedule?
  • What would you like to do for your 50th?

My Therapist, Kenny Rogers

I was annoyed that this family member was dictating how I “should” celebrate my birthday.

There’s something about turning 50 that feels symbolic. It’s the chronological wake-up call to take stock of life, standing on the precipice of life’s past and the unknown future left.

“I don’t want them telling me what to do or how to celebrate my birthday!”

Thankfully, I had my dear therapist, Kenny Rogers to offer his gambling wisdom:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

And Kenny’s sage advice continued:

“Every gambler knows, that the secret to surviving’ is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.”

Mic drop, Kenny Rogers. Man does he know his stuff.

Life’s Gamble

The family member who made my blood pressure rise has a huge heart.

And here’s the truth: no one can make us angry unless we allow it.

An Australian army nurse, Elizabeth Kenny once said:

“He who angers you, controls you.”

We are all diamonds in this life, coming into this space and time with many facets. Sometimes, the less attractive facets shine brighter than others.

The facets we choose to focus on determine our life’s experience.

I could choose to focus on my family member’s controlling personality facet, or I could decide to lean into their big heart.

Our challenges are either “winners or losers”, depending on how we perceive them.

Kenny Helps Me Decide How to Play

Kenny helped me see that my family member is nothing more than a little child in a grown up’s body, so eager to see me and celebrate my birthday, they forgot things like:

  • boundaries
  • considering my perspective

There is no malice to this family member. I’ve often thought of them as bull in a china shop: opinionated, loud, and clueless to what they are psychologically knocking over in their wake.

This person puts everything into their family. And sometimes that means missing the forest for the trees.

So, I’ve decided to turn 50 in the location they’ve told — er, strongly suggested. My ticket is booked. I will get to be surrounded by family I miss like crazy.

I’ve let go of the need for this family member to be a “winning card” on my terms and accepted them for where they are right now.

I’ve let go of the need to “change my hand”, appreciating the family deck just the way it is.

For this round of life, I’ve decided to hold. And it feels pretty darn good.

*Kenny Rogers’ lyrics are from The Gambler

Starbucks Saves Lives


After 25 years working with one of the largest advertising (J. Walter Thompson) firms in the country, Michael was let go.

Twenty-five years of working in a culture that required energetic, young and aggressive employees who put work before family.

Twenty-five years of jumping where and when the company dictated you go.

Twenty-five years of reminders that the high-firm did not encourage or accept “praise memos” in case they had to fire someone.

At 55, Michael was no longer considered young. It didn’t matter that he produced and performed. He was expendable, replaceable.

So, after 25 years of loyal service and sacrifices of his time with family, he was suddenly unemployed, economically up shit’s creek.

The Starbuck’s Fairy

Michael’s life was falling apart. Despite growing up with a silver spoon, attending Yale, and landing a job with JW Thompson upon his Ivy League graduation, he was now:

  • 55 and jobless
  • needing to have brain surgery for an acoustic neuroma
  • divorced
  • without medical insurance

It was while Michael was sipping a latte in a Broadway Starbucks, wondering how his life fell into the toilet that his life began to change:

“They [Starbucks] were having what they call a hiring event. I was all dressed up with my briefcase pretending I was still a successful ad guy. A woman named Crystal walked over to me and said would you like a job? If I thought about it I would have said no, but I instantly said yes.” –Michael Gates Gill

The Success Behind Starbucks

Michael is one story of many whose lives were altered for the better through Starbucks. Their model works because it is based on respect and compassion.

Starbucks’ employees are referred to as Partners.

There is an understood mindset of we, not you or me.

Starbucks invests in its employees.

Medical, dental, and vision benefits are available to part and full time employees. There are stock opportunities as well as 100% tuition coverage available.

Starbucks cares about its community

It’s important for Partners to be happy and feel valued. When caring about others is a given, respect and self-respect grows. This sense of community extends to the customers. The result:

An unspoken understanding that we are in this life all together is fostered.

Michael’s Cup of Hope

Months into his employment with Starbucks, the former six-figure advertising exec discovers a happiness he’d never experienced in his “privileged” life:

“I could not deny the feeling of growing happiness in my heart. This new, quiet, inner happiness kept catching me unawares in the midst of a rush of serving a big line at Starbucks….No more fancy parties. I knew my parents would have wanted me to continue to join in with their view of a wonderful life in a perfect world lived at the highest reaches of the arts and society. I no longer had the energy or the will for. Thanks to…Starbucks, I no longer needed it.”

Starbucks’ theme of serving others brought Michael a palpable happiness in Starbucks never experienced in the corporate world.

Starbucks’ Opportunity to Grow

Whether it’s cleaning toilets, working the register, making the drinks, or bringing out the fresh pastries, to work at Starbucks means an opportunity to push past your comfort zone.

For Michael, this meant working the register.

But like a kind yet firm parent, there is a learning curve and with it, patience.

Terrified of giving back the wrong change, Michael tried to avoid the register at all costs.

Eventually, Michael faces his fear and discovers he can work the register. At the end of a shift, Michael tells Crystal (his manager):

“Look, I’m only three cents over!”

“Great. I knew you could do it, Mike.”

Crystal had more confidence in me than I had in myself.

Starbucks’ Lesson

People work hard when they feel:

  •  valued
  • respected
  • part of a team
  • supported
  • incentivized

Starbucks offers this to all of their employees. There is no sense of you vs. me. The ego is left at the door. 

Like a child, when an employee feels that they matter, confidence soars.

Starbucks doesn’t “cap” kindness and compassion. Breaks and time with family are encouraged. Education is encouraged. Health care and wellness are encouraged.

Starbucks Saves Lives

Michael Gates Gill engaging memoir, How Starbucks Saved My Life offers a window view into a man’s spiritual pilgrimage of what truly matters in this life. Through his journey, we meet other Starbucks’ Partners, whose lives are forever altered — for the better — by the corporate cultural game-changer that is Starbucks.

Imagine how many more lives could be changed if other corporations adapted the Starbucks mentality.

My Date with a Billionaire

Peter* is handsome and the founder of a company that takes in over a billion in sales each year. He travels all over the world in luxury, meets with former US Presidents, and is in fantastic shape.

Asked Out by a Billionaire

It’s not everyday that one gets asked out by a billionaire. Perhaps it’s more likely for one to be struck by lightening. 

In the Age of Cyberspace, I was sent a Friend Request by a very handsome man. 

In the Age of Cyberspace, I was able to learn a great deal about this stranger before deciding to accept his request.

The Facebook Down-Low 

Peter loves to travel. He has one sibling and owns multiple properties. Peter has a full head of hair and likes to spend time on the beach. He’s a father. He’s the Founder and owner of a well-known company.

I decided to accept Peter’s request.

Those First Text Messages

Peter was over-the-moon that I had accepted his Friend Request. He wrote eloquently and asked me engaging questions before asking me out to dinner.

“I’m in my ________ home now, but I’ll be flying back to ________ and would love to take you to dinner.”

Peter proceeded to suggest 5 different restaurants, each one ridiculously expensive. He then offered to pick me up or hire a car for me.

“Thank you for the offer. I’ll meet you there.”

My History with Wealthy Men

Years ago, I was with someone wealthy. However, when our relationship didn’t work out, the wealth was used as a weapon:

What Wealth Feels Like

So, it made sense that my spiritual hackles were raised by Peter — an affluent stranger who asked me out on social media.

Still, everyone is different and everyone deserves a chance.

 To discriminate against someone wealthy is no different than discriminating against someone poor.

Our date was set.

The Little Pebble in Your Shoe

You put on your socks, step into your shoes and something doesn’t feel right. You walk around and try to ignore it, but it’s there, you can just feel that something is in the way.

Sometimes it’s the little pebble in the shoe that needs to be addressed.

My little pebble: the age difference.

Upon further internet browsing, I learned that we weren’t ten years apart as originally assumed, nor fifteen years, but 17 years apart.

Does it Make a Difference?

As a social experiment, I’m purposely not sharing which direction this age difference is. For example, is Peter:

  • 17 years younger than me?
  • 17 years older than me?

Why?

 Because it doesn’t make a difference which way the age gap falls, almost 2 decades of “Age Distance” in either direction is significant.

What Does Matter

There’s nothing like preparing for a date with a billionaire to remind someone of what really matters:

Heeding your own inner voice and guidance.

Easier said than done on the cusp of a date with a billionaire. Suddenly, everyone has to give their two cents (seriously, no pun intended;-) As Clint Eastwood says in Dead Pool:

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.”

And the unsolicited opinions arrived:

“Seventeen years isn’t so bad.”

“Just go out with him for the experience.”

“You’ll be taken care of.”

“Who cares if you have nothing in common — he’s rich!”

“Let him spoil you. You deserve to be spoiled.”

“When he’s that rich, who the hell cares about age.”

Going Inward

Advice aside, I needed to listen to what thought was important. 

At the end of the day, it’s what YOU think that matters.

When I got quiet, I could hear my voice above the cacophony of others’:

Money comes and goes. It does not make a person. Certainly, money makes life easier. But I do not want or need a man to make my life easier. I want someone in my age range to enjoy and experience this life with on equal footing. The uneasiness in my stomach felt every time I think of this date is my body’s intuition. 

This man seems kind. I do not want to waste his time. He deserves to spend time with someone who will look forward to his company, not one who is looking for the EXIT sign as soon as they meet.

While our financial bank accounts might look a world different, we each carry a mortal bank account and deserve to spend it wisely before our unknown expiration dates.

My Decision

Once I realized that it was better — for me — to cancel our date, I took action.

Peter was a perfect gentleman, writing that he understood and wishing me and my family a Happy Thanksgiving.

My decision to cancel the date wasn’t personal to Peter; it was personal for me.

Peter “got” that. No doubt, he will meet the perfect woman for him.

The Fallout 

As with any decision we make in this world, there are reactions from those well-meaning people in our lives with their buttholes — er, opinions.

When people are disappointed in your decision, remember that it’s about them, not you.

Peter wasn’t offended in the least. He knew my decision was not about him. The age difference was my issue, not his.

My dear family and friends (not all) were overflowing with their opinions regarding my decision. I felt like I was a sport’s team, and they hadn’t liked my last play.

At the end of the day, our life’s choices are ours to live with.

Had I gone on the date or had I maintained my decision to decline doesn’t matter to anyone else — it doesn’t affect anyone else.

People who are close to us often mistake their opinions as ours.

When we are close to someone, we can easily lose ourselves in the story told to us.

But we are not someone else’s story. We can choose, at any time, to get back into the driver’s seat of our life and decide what does and doesn’t work for us.

The Good and Bad of Opinions

Opinions offer opportunities for us to consider other viewpoints and challenge our own. 

The danger of opinions, if we aren’t vigilant, is that they can stealthily morph into our own until we are living the life someone else wanted for us.

Vigilance is key. Paying attention to our body’s reactions to another’s advice. Questioning our reactions yet trusting them to guide us.

There is no wrong decision when it comes from our intuition.

*Name is altered for privacy purposes

Thankful of Steroids

And why it matters

Want to know a secret?

Whether you think life is awful or wonderful, you are correct.

The good news: we each have the power to alter our perceptions at any moment.

Live Like My Little Sis

I’ve just returned from the gift of spending time with my younger sister in NY. Well…my sister and her family. During my time there, the following occurred:

  • the bathroom mirror literally started to peel off the wall like a Reflective Tower of Pisa
  • a washing machine began to “chew” clothing reminiscent of a toddler with teething issues
  • the brisket splattered EVERYWHERE (leaving a sticky-savory trail from the oven to the floor — the dogs were smitten)
  • children needed to be taken to doctors while work emergencies erupted

And yet, my little sis’ remained calm and easy, all while preparing a thirteen person dinner party to welcome me home.

Humor as Medicine

Listen, I’m sharing a “sample platter” of all the “dishes” my awesome sis’ handled in the days I spent at her home. This chica has A LOT going on. 

Were there conflicts that arose? Absolutely.

But Little Sis’ handled whatever came her way with humor and grace.

Humor is an undervalued form of medicine. 

Humor makes life’s challenging arrows more palatable. 

When we are able to find humor in those tense moments, we alter our perspective. Life’s challenges and heartaches don’t seem as sharp.

Humor softens our focus, working as a balm to our pain or unease.

We Become What We Think

After creating the first and second platters, my sister had the same reaction each time:

“This is so much fun! Look at how cool this is? I love this!” 

My Little Sis’ was literally jumping up and down each time she completed the platters.

Her eyes danced with delight each time she completed another step creating her cornbread, her lemon zest ricotta cake, her rosemary and apple-infused turkey — you name the dish, she was lit up more than a tree at Rockefeller Center.

When challenges arose, she de-escalated the issue immediately by:

  • focusing on what was working
  • offering a helpful suggestion 
  • bringing her infectious humor

Little Sis’ loves serving the people she cares about. She loves making a difference, loves challenging herself to create new things.

Take it from Oprah:

“What you focus on expands and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.”

Focusing on the Good is Contagious

We are all energy. So it’s no wonder that my Little Sis’ family “caught” her warmth and love throughout my visit. And, of course, I wasn’t immune either.

Appreciation is a form of meditation.

I started to notice how long my nephew’s eyelashes are when he looked down to focus on the board game we were playing.

I noticed the sound of my older nephew’s laugh made me think of a warm sunrise.

I noticed the comfort and easiness, the vulnerability and strength between my Little Sis’ and her sweet hubby.

The Gift of Slowing Down

As we approach this holiday season, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on slowing down, not speeding up. I want to relish the gift of this life, honoring my reactions and impressions along the way. 

We will never get “there” because there is no final destination.

There is only the precious moment of now. And when we choose to focus on how amazing this moment, and the next moment is, our lives grow evermore awesome.

I Just Overdosed

On too much well-meaning advice

Ah, friends and family. Those well-meaning people in our lives who offer advice like candy on Halloween.

The problem?

 Taking in others’ advice is like sampling from an apothecary.

Opinions and Asses: Everyone’s Got One

Whether it’s when to leave a career or how to best file income taxes, opinions abound. We are not talking about those rare issues that offer very little gray area.

Nope. We are talking about those hem and haw mental challenges where we just aren’t certain what to do. Situations like:

  • whether to take a Gap Year after high school or head straight to university
  • plan a huge wedding or get married on the beach with only your immediate family and friends
  • have another child
  • change careers midlife

The Stealthy Side Effects of Advice

My issue was dealing with someone who was regularly hell-bent on making my life miserable. 

When we are in a painful or anxious place, we are more vulnerable to other’s well-meaning advice.

Everyone who cared about me offered up their opinions:

“Fight them in court.”

“Whatever you do, don’t go through the legal system. Only the lawyers win in court.”

“Ignore ‘em.”

“You need to see a therapist.”

“You don’t need a therapist. You need to go for a massage.”

“You need to keep busy and not think about it.”

The side effect of all of this mental and contradictory advice: my heart and head felt incapable of processing.

Here’s the danger of heeding others’ advice: the more you listen to others’ mental medicine, the less you can hear your own inner wisdom.

Word Drugs

It’s one thing to hear what another person has to say; it’s quite another to take in that advice.

Some of us are sensitive and not aligned (at the time — this too can always change) with our inner compass, so that even hearing the advice isn’t healthy for us.

When I’m not feeling centered, all I have to do is read the side effect warnings of a drug and the placebo effects begins.

But when we heed the opinions and suggestions of others, we are reneging our intuition to someone else. 

Accepting the opinions of others as your own is a form of mental ingestion. Digest enough of those varied words as yours and you’ve just mentally overdosed.

The Best Prescription

The best prescription when you feel uncertain about your next move is the one that arrives from within.

I’m not suggesting to stick your head in the sand like an ostrich (besides, that would be me giving you advice;-).

The best prescription is tuning into you. 

Maybe that means going for a walk or baking or meditating. Maybe it means drawing or taking a siesta for a couple of hours.

When we tune inwards for guidance, we find balance; we are better equipped to then hear the opinions of others without ingesting them.

Snowflake Humans

Humans are like snowflakes. Each of us is unique. And just like a snowflake, each of us is going to offer a perspective that is a one-of-a-kind-by-product from the alchemy of our environment and genetics:

Because a snowflake’s shape evolves as it journeys through the air, no two will ever be the same. Even two flakes floating side by side will each be blown through different levels of humidity and vapor to create a shape that is truly unique.-BBC

So, centered, it doesn’t surprise me that my friend who was, at one point, a victim of an abuser, gave me the advice to “Fight ’em in court.”

A family member who thankfully cannot relate to my situation but is perpetually burning the midnight oil, suggested I just “get a massage” and “don’t think about it.”

Everyone’s advice came from a loving place. But the verbal drugs they were offering were created in the lab of their own perspective.

Overdosing on others’ advice made me both fatigued and anxious. Without realizing it, “swallowing” their advice pills, I lost my way.

It wasn’t until I got quiet (lots of walks and naps:) that I realized what I needed to do — for me.

Signs of a Potential Overdose

Wondering what a potential Advice Overdose looks like? Here are some that I encountered:

  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mental fatigue
  • upset stomach

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning

Joking — don’t take two of anything from me. (I’m not a doctor, though I play one on TV;-)

Be kind to yourself. Journal. Reflect. Take deep breaths. Do whatever you can to slow down and honor that voice always residing within you.

Our feelings offer a powerful guide in this life. When we slow down, we are more likely to pay attention and notice what feelings are coming up. Acknowledging them is the first step in finding the best self-prescription.

Oreo Cookie Thinking

The anxiety-driven thought process that isn’t good for anyone.

Oreo Cookie Thinking only feeds anxiety.

The homework assignment was easy enough: multiply each number by two.

My niece: I got this, Mom! I don’t need your help.

So, my sister left her daughter to work solo.

When the Problem Isn’t the Problem

My niece had completed the assignment correctly, multiplying each number as directed. But she had also added up each number — something that wasn’t part of the assignment.

When my sister pointed this out, all hell broke loose.

Forget it! I’m bad at math. I hate math. 

The problem wasn’t the math itself or my niece’s ability to do math. The real issue: all or nothing thinking.

It didn’t matter that:

  • my sister had pointed out what a great job her daughter did on the math homework.
  • my niece had, in fact, gotten all of the multiplication correct 

All my niece “heard” was the all-or-nothing inner dialogue waging war on her self-esteem:

  • I’m horrible at math.
  • I hate math.
  • The issue must be me, but instead of acknowledging this, I will hide behind hating math itself.

Oreo Cookies Are Only Good for Eating

Black or white thinking is a form of cognitive distortion that we all have to some extent. Believing that things are all good or bad, right or wrong. 

If we think of black-or-white thinking as an Oreo cookie, it helps us catch ourselves when we fall into the mental quicksand of dualistic thinking.

Oreo cookies are delicious to eat, but we don’t want to dwell in a black-or-white mindset.

When we keep Oreos in our kitchen pantries and not in our minds, we offer ourselves, and the world around us, greater compassion. 

The Skittles Life

Taste the rainbow of wonderful possibility with Skittles Thinking.

You know those high-fructose corn syrup rainbow candies? Now that’s the mental candy lifestyle that fosters a more flexible mindset.

Accepting our inner and outer world as colorful, ever changing, and perfectly imperfect allows us to grow more empathic to ourselves and others.

Life starts to look a lot more forgiving and wonderful when we see through the lens of kindness.

Oreo Thinking vs. Skittles Thinking

Oreo Thinking sounds like this:

  • I didn’t get chosen for the play because I have no talent.
  • He didn’t call because I’m unloveable.
  • I failed the test because I’m stupid.

Skittles Thinking sounds like this:

  • While it’s disappointing I didn’t get into the play, I look forward to joining the crew.
  • I miss talking to him; I’ll send him a text to say hello.
  • I know the material but allowed my nerves to get the best of me. I’ll speak to the teacher and ask if there’s a way for me to demonstrate my understanding of the material.

Fun with Food

Cognitive distortion sounds so serious, so off-putting to kids (and adults). The analogy of food makes cultivating awareness of cognitive errors much more palatable (and downright fun:-)

So, the next time you find yourself growing anxious about something, ask yourself:

Am I entering into Oreo Cooking Thinking?

Chances are, if you are feeling stressed or upset about something, there’s a strong likelihood you’ve entered into the all-or-nothing quicksand.

No worries — it’s never too late to put down that mental Oreo. 

And the great news: if you are flying high and in an easy-peasy mood, it’s likely you’ve picked up a mental bag of Skittles.

The choice is always in our cognitive hands.

Are You Easy?

Calling all self-proclaimed “people pleasers!” Peace is a direct manifestation of living in alignment with your intuition.

I was twenty-five and had just found my husband dead.

Someone had recommended a therapist for me. I called and the receptionist answered.

“Is this an emergency?”

“Uh, no, no, it’s not an emergency.”

We scheduled a first appointment to see the therapist a good week later.

What We Think Matters

Back then, my inner dialogue went something like this:

I don’t want to make waves. I want to be easy, not a burden for others. This therapist obviously has a lot of patients to see if she can’t see me, a new patient, in the next 24 hours. I’m in terrible pain right now, but I am not bleeding, not on death’s door. I do not have the right to call my situation an emergency, since I’m still alive and breathing on my own. So, I will sit with the pain, shock, and fear I do not know how to process until it is a better time for this recommended therapist to meet with me.

The Balm of Self-Compassion

Writing this now, I want to hug that young woman I was, look her in the eyes and grab her firmly by her hunched shoulders. I write with tears in my eyes, yearning for that young adult to honor her experience and the feelings that were emerging, to explore the pain instead of holding it in her body like a grenade until it was convenient for a therapist to see her.

The Allure of Being Easy

There are many levels and forms of “being easy” for others.

We contort ourselves under the false notion that doing so will help us somehow belong, experience love, and feel worthy

The desire to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance is normal; after all, we are social creatures, spiritually wired to connect and even flourish through connection. The problem arrives when we subjugate our own needs to please others.

When our sense of self is inextricably tied to the approval of others, we lose our inner compass. 

We starve ourselves, either physically or spiritually, to feed what we believe others want.

The Most Important Question

The late playwright, George Bernard Shaw is famous for his pithy line:

“Youth is wasted on the young.”

I argue that it doesn’t need to be. You don’t need to be a twenty-five-year-old widow to discover the lesson that you can stop being easy, NOW — regardless of your number of years on Earth.

So, what can we do to help dissipate the often, knee-jerk reaction some of us have to please others at the expense of ourselves?

We can check-in with ourselves. We can cultivate a habit of asking ourselves a simple but profound question: What do I think?

If I could go back to that young adult who had just found her dead husband, I would ask her: What do you think?

She would say:

I am fucking scared! I am broken and lost. I don’t know how one minute, I was sleeping next to my husband, his warm hand on my stomach and now he is dead. I need a therapist NOW; this IS an emergency. My heart, mind, and soul cannot comprehend what just happened. I need someone to process what feels impossible to process NOW.

Easy is Overrated

Easy is overrated. Easy is the Corset of Life: it might look easy and effortless on the outside, but inside, we are slowly losing oxygen. 

Easy doesn’t avoid growth; it just postpones growth.

 The longer we are easy, ignoring what’s under the hood of our psyches, the greater the spiritual repair fee. But make no mistake, there’s a price for Easy.

The Impossibility of Pleasing Others

We will never please everyone, no matter how much we bend over backwards. There’s a comfort in knowing that when we start to please ourselves first, honoring our birthright gut, life actually gets easier.

Doormat Syndrome

Feeling like a doormat in this life? Consider whether you are a victim or active volunteer…

Most of us humans want to do good in this world. We want to help people. And this is a beautiful thing. But there is a fine yet distinct line between helping other and losing ourselves in the process.

Pilot Philosophy

The pilot’s directive in case of a flight emergency is always the same: put your oxygen mask on first.

Yet in life, many of us tend to ignore our own needs in order to care for another. 

Living in the Gray

Nothing is black or white in this life. There’s gray. There are, of course, times when we put aside our own needs to attend to another. When:

  • an infant needs to be fed
  • a loved one is close to the end of their life
  • someone is in danger

But even in the examples above, there is gray: 

  • The infant can be fed within 5–10 minutes
  • You can get something to eat/go to the restroom at the hospital during your vigil
  • You can call an ambulance/the police without putting yourself in direct danger (again, even here the situation is filled with gray based on the nature and scope of danger)

Recognizing Patterns

My cousin regularly caters to her grown children and subsequently complains that they don’t appreciate her and treat her like a doormat. If she has plans, and they arrive, unannounced from out of town, she changes her plans. Some are carnivores and some are vegan. Regardless, the expectation is that “mom” (my cousin) will “take care of it.”

So she…

  • shops, prepares, and serves the meals to her grown children’s families’ tastes. Then she washes up the kitchen — solo.
  • does her children’s and grandchildren’s laundry
  • cleans the house after them daily

And then they leave and don’t call her unless they need money.

My cousin’s pattern:

Doormat + Complainer=Resentment and Helplessness

Victim or Volunteer

A wise therapist said:

If there’s a negative situation you keep experiencing, you have to ask yourself: What am I getting out of it?

There’s always a positive in the negative. There’s always some kind of reward we receive that keeps us stuck in that negative pattern.

My cousin might complain, but it is never to her daughters or their husbands. She will complain to the rest of the family. She will complain to friends. But she stays quiet when it comes to the source of her unhappiness.

Why? I can’t speak for her. One reason might be fear — the fear of what might happen if she tells her grown children how she truly fells.

“My grandchildren are my whole life.” We become the stories we regularly say to ourselves and others. 

Another potential reason? There’s a comfort in the roles we play for a long time. My cousin is quite comfortable in her victim role. It’s a false safety net, trapping her in its familiar web.

Growth happens when we step out of our comfort zone.

It is uncomfortable to sit with the notion that she is a volunteer, not a victim. It is uncomfortable to sit with one’s responsibility for an unpleasant experience.

The late First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Nothing is stopping my cousin from speaking up, allowing the figurative chips to fall in her self-caged prison.YOU are the author of your life. What’s your narrative going to be? (GIPHY)

The Greatest Storyteller

The greatest storyteller is the one reading this right now. It’s YOU. Whether you are a victim or a volunteer is always up to you. If you don’t like the narrative, change it.

Changing a narrative is not so simple as “okay, now I am no longer a victim.” That is the physical equivalent of a child shoving their strewn toys under their bed. The mess has simply moved and still not dealt with. 

Changing the narrative requires great courage. The willingness to see the patterns we’ve created and the WHY behind those patterns.

Only when we’ve looked with both eyes open can we start planting new seeds and growing a different, empowering narrative — with you as the hero.