Regret is a tough but fair teacher.  Without regret we do not see our mistakes, believe we have no amends to make and no lessons to learn. Brene Brown

I have myself thought about living my life with no regrets.  Finding the place in life where I am accepting of my experiences, even my mistakes.  I have found that I needed to change the message. Instead of “No Regrets” I want to learn from my regrets.  I want to learn the lessons they have to teach me, I want to learn to be the best me I can be.

The key is learning the difference between regret and shame.  This is a fine distinction, the difference between I screwed up, and I’m a screw-up.  To err is human.  We all screw-up.  It happens.  The lessons are about learning from the, recognizing that we all have room to grow.

I have worked with some on both sides of the spectrum.  I have worked with those that justify their mistakes and can’t see where they could learn.  And I have worked with those that believe that because they make mistakes they are worthless.  Either way the learning process is not happening.

If any of you are like me you like Grey’s Anatomy.  I may have been binge-watching it while I do work, so it is very fresh right now.  I watch the doctors make mistakes that affect people’s quality of life.  People die, or lose the ability to speak, or lose limbs because of mistakes. The other doctors repeatedly come back to the doctor in tears and remind them to take their lumps, to learn and to do better next time.

That is what regret is about.  Taking your lumps, admitting the mistake to yourself and others, learning from the mistake, and working to do better next time.  That is how we become better people.  That is how you become the person you want to be.  It isn’t by denying, blaming or running from your mistakes, and it isn’t from drowning in a river of regret.

Regret is a tough but fair teacher.  We just have to listen to the lesson.

The lesson of helping

In our society we have started to see taking care of ourselves as selfish.  Self-love is seen as a form of narcissism that is undesirable.  I see generations of people that believe that they aren’t loved if their friends, partners, co-workers or employers don’t make sacrifices for them.  My pet peeved statement of “If you loved me you’d….”  We believe it is our duty to give of ourselves for other’s happiness.

But what happens when we give too much?  I remember I was at a Business and You seminar.  The lecture before lunch was “The more you give, the more you will get back in return”.  There was a very strong energy in the air of giving, of self sacrifice and of love.  The belief is that with self-sacrifice the energy you put out will be returned to you in spades.  After this heart warming lecture the main facilitator asked each of us to take a bill out of our wallets.  This was about 20 years ago, before cash cards and credit cards were in common use, and in my walled I had a $5 and my drivers license.  I knew that we were about to break for lunch, an dI was skeptical as that $5 was my lunch money, with no other possibility for food in sight.  The assistant facilitators then started clapping their hands and shouting the words “Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass”.  The energy was taken up by the group, and everyone was passing the money back and forth throughout the group of about 30 people and 10 facilitators.  I notice that most of the money that is being passed is a $1.  I struggled with wanting to be part of the group with the energy of “give to get”, all while the other attendee’s that at times were angry and aggressive that I was not participating. I held on to my $5, knowing that it is going to be a long afternoon if I lose it and don’t get to eat.  The co-facilitators are making noise while yelling “PASS! PASS! PASS!” and encouraging me to pass my money, the other people in the group are getting visibly agitated that I won’t, and I am becoming increasingly anxious as I don’t want to part with my $5 as I feel as though I’m a bad person for my selfishness.  All of a sudden the primary facilitator claps his hands and states “All right everyone, lunch!  See you in an hour!”.  I hear someone call out “I had a $20 out there, and that is my lunch money!”  The response was “see you in an hour”.  I believe I went to Subway with my $5, and was incredibly grateful that I didn’t give it away in the energy and frenzy of the moment.

Afterwards we were reminded that while it does help you to give, giving away all you have doesn’t help anyone.  When you only have $5 for lunch, it isn’t very smart to let go of that $5 just on the hope that it will come back to you.  There is balance in all things, and giving too much is just as bad as giving too little.

Part of my job is to give of myself.  I give my love, my effort, and my energy to my clients.  And I know more than most the struggle of wanting to give more than I have.  I have worked with kids that have asked me to drop them off at the church to see if the church is giving out food, so their family can eat for the day.  I have worked with families that don’t have shoes for the kids.  I know that I have the resources to buy these families what they need, if only for a moment.  And there is a part of me that feels selfish that I have what I need and don’t give of my abundance to help others. I have also sacrificed my own desires, wants, and at times personality for my clients and my relationships.  All of this has come at a price though.  I find myself giving more and more of myself until I am unable to sustain even myself, let alone others.

In life-guarding there is a saying: “Don’t make two victims”.  If it is going to create a situation where it is likely that someone else will have to jump in to save you and the other person then isn’t it better to keep from sacrificing of yourself?  I have seen this happen financially and emotionally to clients and friends.  I hear the words “I felt guilty that I didn’t….”  fill in the blank.  I didn’t call my dying father, that I didn’t help my destitute sister, that I didn’t…..  I have also seen the results of not setting boundaries and recognizing what one is capable of.  Yes, your father is dying, but you haven’t created enough strength in and of yourself to be able to handle the fact that he molested you as a child and hasn’t taken accountability for his actions.  Yes, your sister is destitute, and if you give her the money to buy a new air conditioner for her house you drain your own resources so you don’t have them for your family.

There is balance to giving of yourself, and taking care of yourself.  It is a delicate swords edge to walk, and I fall on either side more often than I would like to admit.  And I know for a fact, that if I don’t set boundaries with the world around me and allow myself to take care of me, I will be sucked dry quicker than I can snap my fingers.

What’s your love language?

Have you ever found yourself in a relationship in which you feel like you are starving? The other person overall is a pretty decent person, you get along okay, but there always seems to be something missing. You may not be communicating well. Sometimes this means that the two of you aren’t listening to the meaning of words, and sometimes it means that you aren’t speaking the same language. Gary Chapman introduced the concept of the 5 Love Languages. The languages include physical touch, words of praise, acts of service, quality time, and receiving gifts. On his website he has a test you can take if you don’t know which ones are your top languages.

If your partner’s language is acts of service (making coffee in the morning, emptying the dishwasher, folding the laundry) and yours is physical touch (hand holding, back-rubs, hand on the leg in a movie, hugs) you may both be trying to communicate love in a language that isn’t heard by your partner. It can be confusing and lonely when your partner doesn’t recognize your attempts to communicate and vice-versa.

If you aren’t sure what your primary language is, take the test on Dr. Chapman’s website. Have your partner do the same, possibly taking it together. When you know the language your partner speaks, learn to speak it. Also, learn to ask for the love that has meaning for you. There is a romantic belief that our partner will be able to just know how to tell us we are loved. We forget that they can’t read our minds. If you want a hug, ask for a hug. If you want help with the chores to know that your partner is invested in you and the home you share; ask. Without using criticism, contempt or defensiveness, remember to ask for what you want.

Love languages are important. They are how you communicate and receive love, and if you and your partner speak differing languages, wires may be crossed and feelings can be hurt. You may each be saying “I love you” without being heard. Learn what has meaning to each of you, and if necessary learn a new language. It can change your relationships.

Crossing Finish Lines

One of the main complaints I get from people is a frustration that it is “too late” to start, or to finish, or to try something again.  We create races we want to run and then reasonable create a course and a plan to cross the finish line.  Then life gets in the way.  Something happens, or many things happen and we have to put the goal on hold, and after a while it just starts to feel too late to get started.    Very often the concept of “too late” is only in our minds.   We have a set concept of when things are supposed to happen by.  All of the “shoulds” that run through our mind about when things “should” be done by, or how they “should” be done or who we “should” be.  If we don;t cross the finish lines of milestones when we believe we “should” we get frustrated or ashamed.  These milestones come in all shapes and forms; graduations, relationships, children, jobs….  We create a concept of how and when things “should” be done.

Having a timeline for goals is a good idea.  Timelines help keep us focused and add direction.   Rigid timelines are a different story.  When we can’t be flexible we get stuck, and start digging ourselves holes.  The shame spiral that is created starts dragging us down, a weight on our ankles as we try to stay afloat.  The rigid timelines don’t account for the roadblocks that get thrown our way.  I’ve spoken before about dancing instead of falling.  The concept of flowing with the world as it pulls and pushes us in directions that are unexpected and problematic for our goals.

Another difficulty is when we have the “how” set in our heads.  I see this often with college students, though all of us create the “should” of how.  There is a specific school we need to graduate from, or a specific path we need to take to get where we want to go. If that path closes off, for whatever reason, there is a feeling of helplessness.

We all have goals.  Either we created them ourselves, or our society sets the goals and creates the expectations of when and how. Then life happens.  Illness, tragedy, difficulties, all of these get in the way of the when and how.  Sometimes goals get put on the back burner, or even in the freezer.  Once we’ve stepped away from the goal for a while the shame gremlins get involved and start to tell us that we will look foolish, or pathetic, or stupid if we pull the goal out of the freezer and put it back on the burner.  The true question revolves around what we need, not what society thinks.  Hundreds of things can come along and derail a goal.  Sometimes we have to alter the goal in ways we never even thought we could.  People who want to be parents have to look at adoption instead of childbirth.  People who wanted to graduate from the University of Texas may have to go to a different college.  Setting in stone how or when a goal must be met makes it difficult to keep the goal alive when life just gets in the way.

It is never too late.  Some goals have to be adjusted and shifted to meet the available resources, times, or needs.  Ego’s have to be gotten over, shame overcome and unfortunately other’s perceptions need to be let go of.  If you have decided there is a finish line you need to cross, don’t let go of it.  Let the goal shift as necessary, let go of the musts, but find your way through.  We all need finish lines.  Don’t let go of yours.


Recovering from a breakup

The most difficult part of break-ups tends to be the unanswered questions and letting go of something that once was beautiful. There is a great desire for closure, a desire to process and find understanding for an event that makes you feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest. The last moments of the relationship are gone over in excruciating detail, working to find the place where things could have been done differently, working to see if things can be changed to get back together, and starting the blame game. Was it my fault, what did I do wrong? Would they have stayed if I had done such and such? Did they leave because I did this? We also start obsessing on if they are dating, if they feel as horrible as we do. Do they know what they did wrong, do they blame me when it is all their fault? We ask these questions and many other things that keep us thinking about the relationship.

We also have the questions of the future. Will I ever find someone that will accept me like they did? Will I ever be loveable to anyone else? Will anyone else accept my weird quirks?   Am I
flawed? All these questions do is keep us locked in a circle of suffering. We go around and
around, like a toilet, full of shit that just won’t flush. Everything just moves around and swirls
and spins without going anywhere. I do have to thank a friend of mine from a past workplace for the mental picture here. It may be a little graphic, but very appropriate.

The final truth is that it is time to let all of this go. All of the questions, all of the regrets, all of the searching, all of the fears of the future, it is time to flush it down. Going over and
over every little detail of what went wrong, what we think could have been done differently, what we can do to make everything change just keeps us circling. If there is something to
be learned from the relationship, work to learn it and let the rest go. Grieve the loss of the
relationship. Allow yourself to feel the pain of the loss, and rejoice in it for it means that there once was joy. And let go of the suffering caused by holding on to questions that don’t need to be answered or desires that will go unfulfilled.

All things end. Pets die, friends move on, parents pass, and relationships will also
eventually end. And no matter the way it ends there is always pain. Pain means that we had something that was once wonderful. It means we had something fantastic that brought us joy, and while heartbreaking, it has a dark beauty. The suffering caused by chasing after the unanswered questions, or trying to hold on to something that is gone just because the future is
scary. It is pointless and has no value.

The loss of a relationship is a difficult time. It doesn’t matter if it was a 6 month or twenty year relationship, there will still be pain (though hopefully the levels of loss are appropriate for the length of time). There will also be questions unanswered and there will be fears for the future. Work to let yourself be present with the pain of the grief and not the bitterness and difficulty of questions.   Let go of the suffering that isn’t necessary after a break-up

Riding the crazy train

I’ve discussed that meditation is focus.  I have posted several meditations that give direction and focus helping to teach control, and regulate emotions. The truth is meditation is focus, and any focus we choose can be a meditation. If we are mowing the lawn and focus on feeling the vibrations of the mower, the smell of the grass the feel of the sun on our back, we are meditating. If we take a bite of food and focus on the textures of the food, the smells, the different tastes, we are meditating. What we focus on affects us on a cellular level. When we focus on the above innocuous topics our body knows we are not under attack and releases calming hormones and works to purge stress hormones.

Sometimes, our brain decides it wants to focus on something, whether we want it to or not.   When this happens usually our brain has chosen a focus that is often unpleasant and one of our frustrations.  Our brain jumps on the train of crazy and is going to go for a ride, no matter what we want.   Some of you will have no idea what I am talking about, and some of you will be nodding you heads in silent understanding. Sometimes there is an event that triggers the train to leave the station and go in circles. We think of the event, what we wish had happened, what we wish we had said, what we would have said if we had the chance, and the chagrin of our “enemies” as they understand how wrong they are. This will run in circles around our brain again and again. Sometimes the stars align with the current hormones in our body and for no reason whatever our brain just decides to go for a ride. When our brain does jump on the crazy train our body releases cortisol and adrenaline, along with other stress hormones.

The key is to get off the train. I am very well aware that once the brain has gotten the bit in its teeth that is much easier than it sounds. The train often leaves the station when things are quiet, especially when we are trying to go to sleep. When we are lying in bed trying to settle down and our defenses are down, especially as we start to process our day, the events that trouble us start to run in circles. The last thing we want to do is get up and do something. We don’t want to get up and run the risk of not sleeping. Or we don’t want to interrupt whatever process we are working on in the moment, be it hiking, cross-stitching, chocolateering, or even doing homework.  But we need to interrupt the process.

Sometimes we are required to ride the train.  Sometimes when the horse gets the bit in its teeth you have no choice but to go where the horse takes you until it gets tired. Then the one thing you have is the knowledge that the ride will end. Sometimes though, the best thing to do is to do something, anything else. If you’re laying in bed, get up and go play a game, go for a walk, watch a TV show, anything that gives you a distraction from the crazy. I don’t recommend using food as it is easy to turn to junk or over eat and quickly gain weight. Writing down the thoughts is going to be a personal judgment call. If you write an email to someone it is too easy to click send on something that you will regret the next day. It is also easy to get stuck on the writing and keep the frustration going, instead of getting it down on paper or in data form and moving on. Stay away from your phone and social media, the risk of saying something that you will regret later is too great.

At one point or another every single one of us will board the crazy train. Thoughts of being wronged, the love we can’t have, the hurt we can’t soothe, the food we can’t eat, any of these can invade our thoughts and just run in circles. The first thing to do is know that this is normal and will end. If you can, find a way to distract the thoughts and derail the train. Don’t let yourself do things you will regret, meaning stay away from email, social media, and your phone. The crazy train will stop but emails, texts and posts can’t be undone. Above all, have space for yourself to be a little crazy every once-in-a-while.

A Joke!

There once was a monastery that was very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But there was one exception to this rule. Every ten years, the monks were permitted to speak just two words. After spending his first ten years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. “It has been ten years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

He thinks about it or a moment and says:

“Bed… hard…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk’s office. “It has been ten more years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”  Again, after thinking for a moment he says:

“Food… stinks…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Yet another ten years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, “What are your two words now, after these ten years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I can see why,” replied the head monk. “All you ever do is complain.”


Have you ever been told “You sound angry all the time”? Then you think in your head “But I don’t feel that way!”?  I am one of those people that gets a chemical rush from complaining. It feels better to share the problems and frustrations I have with others. The difficulty is: others tend to get burned out by listening to complaints, stress or frustration. Especially when they offer suggestions because they worry that I truly am overwhelmed instead of venting while I am just enjoying the fact that I actually have someone to talk to.

The difficulty is that while I get a chemical rush, my body also responds with stress hormones. So while I enjoy the companionship of venting and I get a release, it also increases the stress in my body. It also increases the stress of those around me as they worry for my health and well being when I need to vent so much, and get frustrated that I always complain. They feel powerless and overwhelmed, and eventually will pull themselves away from me.

How much time do you spend complaining to your friends? How much time do you talk about what is going right? In our heads we may notice all the wonders of the world, both pleasant and unpleasant. The way we express what we see to others determines how they see us.  It also determines how we feel about the world, even on a subconscious level.

Yes. Venting to friends helps feel as though we aren’t alone, and for many of us releases a little shot of dopamine helping us feel better.  And for those listening it often increases feelings of helplessness and frustration, especially when they have ideas to help that you aren’t able to take them up on for, whatever reason.  We have to remember to talk about the pleasant with our friends and partners.  They want to hear what is going on in our lives and want to help with the troubles.  They also want to hear the positives.  Remember, if all you every talk about are the problems, that’s all you will be known for.

Becoming Polished

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

We don’t know why we are on this planet. There are hundreds of religions that have guesses and ideas, but that is what they are. We are all on this beautiful planet in a universe that is in constant chaos. We are in an island, floating trying to figure out why we are here. We also don’t know why bad things happen to good people.
The universe is about constant creation and destruction. Sometimes creation is not pretty. It is not kind or simple. The beautifully polished stone has been thrown, ground, rubbed, and injured. To create that beauty there had to be difficulty and pain. Beauty is not created in idea situations. The best sunsets are not those with clear skies, but those with clouds.
Some of those tumbles are bigger than others. Some of us have gone through hell, and some of those hells are unimaginable. Those hells are also opportunities to shine the brightest. Those of us that have seen the darkness, if we let ourselves we can see the light as well. We can let others know that while there is darkness there is beauty as well. But we have to let ourselves be polished. We have to be OK with the fact that the world is dark and that the darkness has touched us.
If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished? Some go through more “polishing” than others. It is up to us how we accept the pain of being polished. If is up to us if we decide to see the beauty we can become, or continue to live in the darkness and pain.

I understand

There is a difference between understanding and condoning.  I can understand why people do things.  I can understand why people hurt other people, why people steal, why people beat their partners, and why people use drugs to escape from reality.  I understand.  It doesn’t mean I condone their behavior or agree with it.

One of the problems I see is that people don’t understand, and people think that understanding will mean condoning.  Understanding isn’t about making their behavior OK. Understanding is knowing that people have knowledge that people do things for reason, and it isn’t just because they are bad people.  Understanding is knowing that addiction isn’t about a lack of motivation, or bad will power. Addiction is about how the brain works and how people’s brain respond to chemicals in the brain, and that overcoming addiction isn’t having more will-power, it is about learning how to manage how the brain responds to situations and chemicals and fighting your own brain.

Understanding is knowing that the person that is abusing the kids in his neighborhood and his own kids has his own history, not necessarily of sexual abuse but of emotional abuse or trauma of some sort and isn’t because he or she is a sick perverted asshole with no soul.  It doesn’t make the behavior OK.  It just means that I understand how they got to where they are.

Understanding doesn’t mean that it makes what a person does OK.  Some people find a place and learn that their chemistry or their history or their shoe size affects who they are and how they act and figure out how to move around those facts.  I have ADD.  I didn’t know this as a child, and it affected how I moved through school and through life.  When I was in graduate school I learned about ADD, and I understood why when I was 7 I got bored completing standardized testing and created designs with the bubbles, and my parents had to fight a label of mentally retarded.  Because of the expectations around me and my desire to fit in I figured out how to manage with but never knew why I struggled so much to do what seemed to come easily to others.  Now I know that I learned how to work with a disability.  Sometimes well and sometimes not, but I learned.  It is something I won’t be able to change, It is something that I have to manage.  So when I look at others that struggle I understand.  I understand the struggle of managing something you can’t control.

Understanding doesn’t mean condoning unpleasant, hurtful, or inappropriate behavior.  In my situation I had to learn how to move around something that in some circumstances is helpful, but in our world isn’t.  I work with some people where understand why they are hateful, angry, and dangerous.  I also know that if they want to, they can learn to live with their brain chemistry, their trauma, or their past and manage.  It takes desire, will power, and a willingness to not only accept who they are but to find ways to work with who they are, and still be the best they can be.

It takes work.  It isn’t easy to watch the people that move through life easily and know that we have to fight.  We have to fight through abuse, through brain chemistry, and through life experience that makes life harder.  Some people either don’t have the same problems, or just move through life easier.  For whatever reason, they don’t have the same experiences, the same brain chemistry, or it is just easier for them to move through. We compare ourselves to them and think we aren’t enough.  We think that we should be better.  Ad that is BS.  I fight to make it through a text book.  It is torture, and I read 10 pages to realize that I stopped paying attention 8 pages ago.  It will take me and hour to do something that it will take a non ADD person 20 minutes to do.  It is a success for me when I make it through a book, or do the task and get it done; no matter how long it takes.  I know what is a success for me, and I celebrate it.  I also fight for my successes, and work to manage the shame that someone else wouldn’t have to fight nearly as hard as I do.  My successes are my successes, and I won’t let the fact that someone else doing them would have done them faster or better any less of a success for me.

I also won’t hesitate to protect myself from those that won’t fight to be the best they can be.  I can understand the kids that get pulled in to Neo- Nazi lifestyles. In general they feel outcast and unloved and they work to not only find people that at least act like they love them, but give them the chance to say that others are as horrible as they are.  I can understand them, that doesn’t mean I am going to let them run around wreaking havoc.  I can understand them and I still need to protect myself and my loved ones (and the world) from them.  I understand how they moved through life, through abuse, through trauma, or just through chemistry to get where they are.  I don’t condone their behavior and I will make damn sure that I do what I can to protect the world from them.

Understanding and compassion have nothing to do with condoning a behavior.  When you are able to clearly delineate between the two then you can make decisions.  You can make decisions about celebrating your victories when you accomplish something that is difficult for you instead of beating yourself up for not doing it as well as someone else would have.  You can decide what your values are, and work your darndest to stick to them even when chemistry or history makes it hard.  You can also let go of the judgement of others when you aren’t as awesome as they are, because they don’t have the roadblocks you have.

When you are able to clearly delineate between the two you can also have more compassion and understanding for those around you that struggle too.  You can see where and when they are fighting their best, and celebrate their successes when they find their successes.  You can also protect yourself when their best is still dangerous to you, your family, and the world in general.  You can let yourself move away and create boundaries without feeling guilt or shame.

Each of us has obstacles that keep us from being out best.  We all have our own individual battles that we fight on a daily basis. Some people, because of chemistry, trauma, or pain have more to struggle with than others. When they win their battles we celebrate with them.  Those that don’t win their battles, that continue to hurt others or lose themselves in the disease of addiction destroying everything around themselves, we have to protect ourselves from them even when we have compassion, love and possibly understand them.

Understanding isn’t condoning bad behavior.  Only you can decide what your values, beliefs, ethics and principles are, and only you can figure how to best live within them with your own stumbling-blocks.  When you live within your values successfully, celebrate.  Knowing that I can’t understand another person’s battle helps me let go of judgement and contempt, and I still protect myself from their behavior.  I understand, and I still expect that I do my best, and that you do your best.  And when I am with the best in me, and you are with the best in you, we can make a pretty awesome world.