How can I with power and authority lead others on a path to mental wellness when my own is in shambles? I can not. My lack of self-care and inattention to my own well being while using other peoples struggles to distract me from my own has lead me to see my actions for what they were, hypocrisy.
I can not in good faith ask others to do what I was unwilling to do myself. I could no longer extol the benefits of self-affirmations, exercise, mindfulness, rest, meditation, and, fearlessness when I was gripped by fear and self-doubt.
Fear had a hold. Fear gave me permission to do nothing, to use my circumstances as a reason for complacency, to shrink my responsibility to myself and to you. I retreated over and over again to the shadows where I was most comfortable, where I was “safe”. Every time I got close to a break through I backed away because under harsh lights my imperfections would be illuminated.
Everyone would know that I struggle. Everyday. I struggle with low self-esteem, an eating disorder, my parenting skills, trusting myself and others, failure, success, finances.
The world would see that the “Rock” was merely a collection of circumstances, experiences, lost battles and won wars that left me wounded but still standing.
And the question became, who do I think I am to stand before you, scarred and imperfect, to help you along your journey to wellness? And as I shake off my hypocrisy and allow my conviction to compel me to speak with my true voice and be my whole self, I answer, I am your reflection. I mirror your struggle, but more importantly, I mirror your victory.
The fact that I have been through, that I go through, and that I have come through gives me exactly what I need to help you do the same.
Let’s do this work because you are worthy of being holistically well!
I fell hook, line, and sinker for the elusive goal of obtaining balance. I even wrote a poem about it here. But what is balance actually? As I think more about my life and how it is in constant flux I become anxious for the need to get it all lined up just so. I picture myself walking on a tight rope, focus honed in on the task at hand. Unable to move left or right for fear of free falling. Rigid in my movements. The flexibility to adjust? Drastically limited. And what I come away with is a life filled with restraint. No room to breathe too deeply because I may throw off my weight distribution on the rope. No freedom to take in my surroundings because a loss of focus can mean disaster. Although the acrobats ability to balance may be awe inspiring it should not be marketed as a way of life.
My takeaway? Balance is a generic term used to imply control. If every plate is not spinning, if you are not constantly adjusting; micro movements meant only to keep all the plates in the air, then you have no control over your life!
Who came up with this BS? And why did we fall for it? I personally fell for it because being the quintessential control freak that I am, having the ability to balance all things seemed achingly appealing.
Look at me ! Look at me! Spinning all these plates while hopping on one leg! I’m superwoman! I’m Awesome! I’m unfulfilled and miserable…
What changed my mind? Life. Life changed my mind. Being a humble overachiever (does labeling myself humble make me less so?) I decided to not only work full time while pursuing a doctorate but to also participate in a school principal program while going through a divorce and adjusting to being the custodial parent of three children. Why? Because I thought I could. And somehow I managed to keep all those plates spinning for awhile. But as life would have it, I was thrown a HUGE curve ball. My youngest daughter got sick at a crucial time in my program and I had to make a choice. I dropped all my plates except one. She became my focus. But I was plagued by an extreme since of guilt. I was unable to keep my balance. I dropped the ball, broke the plates, jumped off the tight rope. I failed. I felt this way for a long time and no mater what anyone said, in my heart I was a failure. We are suppose to be able to balance right? That’s what successful adults do!
Then I called Bullshit.
I asked myself, what would I tell a client? Would I think of them as a failure for dropping the plates? And my answer was, Of course not!
So is my life balanced? NO. And it most likely never will be, at least not for long. There will definitely be times where I will need to be more focused but my goal is no longer to spin plates just so, or walk a tight rope with precision but to be intentional in my movements.
So I say F#%k Balance and live life intentionally!
No more doctoral program, no more principal program. No more guilt. Dropping those plates was the best decision I ever made. Now instead of balance I am becoming more adept at focusing my attention on my intentions.
There will be days when the house is clean but the workout was skipped. Days when you go on a date with your mate but you couldn’t make it to your friends party. Days when you spend hours cutting out paper-dolls with your littles but that chapter in your book didn’t get written. Days when dinner is frozen pizza so you can write that chapter you didn’t get to yesterday.
There will always be some give and take, some ebb and flow, some ups and downs. And ever so often the moon will be full, the kids will behave like angels, you actually will WANT to work out, your attempt at a new recipe will be NAILED, your mate will take out the trash without prompting, the wine will be chilled just so, and the breeze will smell like fresh flowers and not biohazard; that bliss point will be reached. Aligned scales!!
And you know what’s even more wonderful and ironic? That usually happens without you even trying!
So allow yourself room to adjust, to grow, to live, to breathe!
Jump off the tight rope. Find your path and walk it with intention.
Wanting to feel safe doesn’t mean you’re controlling
Wanting the clamor inside your head to be quiet does not make you crazy.
None of theses things are inherently negative. They are Human. You are Human. You have a right to feel however you feel. The goal is to become self aware. To use discernment so we are not victims of others or our own mismanaged emotions. Acknowledge them. Accept them. Deal with them. I can help.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger: Dealing with stress in the family as a family.
Strong families are beneficial to not only themselves but to the communities in which they reside; they are the building blocks of society. Unfortunately even the strongest family can be shaken by stress. However, the stress itself is not so much the problem but how it is dealt with. The mismanagement of stress can lead to fissures in the foundation of the family system.
Effective communication is the best tool for a family to use to successfully navigate stressors, and often the most underutilized. People tend to deal with stress in silos. Opting to go it alone opposed to coming together to tackle it as a team; from the teen being bullied at school, to the father being burnt out from work, to the mom feeling unappreciated, to the sibling that feels left out. These individual issues will ultimately affect the entire family, often leading to misunderstandings, unmet needs, hurt feelings, resentment, and bitterness. In a household there is no such thing as “that persons” stress. Everyone in the house will be affected in one way or another.
So the solution is to communicate. But that is often much easier said than done. Communication between two people is difficult; communication among an entire family is a special challenge but not one that can’t be navigated successfully. Being able to listen for understanding opposed to responding is a skill that can be taught. Fundamentally people want to feel heard and understood.
As a Youth/Parent/Family coach my role is to help the parent(s) or guardian(s) think critically, foster effective communication within the family system, create and facilitate solutions to daily challenges, as well as how to thoughtfully manage larger stressors (divorce, sickness, marriage, job loss, death, etc.) all in an effort to build and maintain a family that is solid. The first step to becoming a stronger family unit is to identify, acknowledge, and address any areas of need.
I offer a workshop for parents to provide a dynamic atmosphere were we come together as a team to support and encourage one another as we become skilled in stress management. This workshop will teach about effective communication, establishing healthy boundaries, and creating self-care systems as a means of managing stress and maintaining healthy relationships within the family. Some role-play will be used to demonstrate effective listening and as a group we will brainstorm realistic self-care regimens that an entire family can benefit from and support.
The onus of responsibility when managing family stress falls squarely on the guardian. The first step is accepting that responsibility, the next is obtaining tools. Stress will never go away so we might as well learn how to deal with it and manage it. I can help.
Making memories out of moments. Between the next breath and the last I am bolstered by the laughter of little girls that just seconds ago were gripped by their own angst. With arms outstretched, hands soapy from dishes waiting patiently for the return of my attention, I wrap my arms around warm bundles of inspiration. We dance and play and tears disappear amidst stomping feet and the twirl of a skirt. Mom’s irritation vanishes into the depth of shinning eyes. With wonder I realize, that although every day is not perfect: Bills still need to be paid; noses wiped; clients booked; school functions attended; co-parenting to navigate, that this is what matters. And although laughter may turn into fussing later in the day, right now, at this moment, we are making memories…