Setting limits in confusing situations

Life is not always clear.  We want to think that we will be able to quickly and easily see boundary lines, and be able to follow them.  The boss is always the boss.  The child is always the child. The teacher is always the teacher.  But what happens when the wife becomes the teacher?  When the child becomes the boss?  When the parent needs to be taken care of?  When the Boss becomes the friend?  Or better yet when the friend becomes the Boss?

Is your your employee a good friend?  Does this person some times take advantage of the friendship when it comes to work?   Is your parent older, and while they are asking you to take a larger role in caring for them, do they resist your care?  It can be difficult setting boundaries when there are two parts of a relationship that need to be considered.

The first thing to look at as an individual is the roll that you need as a person to be the primary / dominant roll.  For example, once you’re the boss, the primary roll is probably going to be your position as the boss.  It is one thing to lose a friend, it is another to lose a job because you weren’t able to step up and set limits.  When a parent becomes the one needing care, letting your desire to have a mom or a dad can compromise the care of the parent.

Having poor limits can also compromise the relationship.  When you have the friend that is also an underling, and boundaries are not firm, the friend taking advantage of the poor boundaries can create resentment and anger.  The parent that doesn’t have firm boundaries can wear a care-giving child out quickly.  Unfortunately, the one in the power position is the one that needs to be the one setting limits.  The givers need to set limits because the takers never will.

You will need to be OK not being liked all the time.  The one in charge will be required to make decisions those under them don’t like.  They will be required to set limits, delegate, and set tasks that will make people uncomfortable, resentful, and frustrated.  That is part of the job.  It ain’t easy being Queen.  Or King.

Work to create a container around the rolls.  When you are the friend / child / partner or friend don’t be the boss.  Set boundaries that when you in certain places and certain times whatever work you have that you are the boss is put aside.  For example, At lunch you are friends and you don’t talk about work, work frustrations, or work needs.  When you are at “work”, literally or metaphorically, personal and friendships are put on hold.  You create a container around the work, and around the relationships.  Work to keep them from bleeding in to each other.  Make it clear to the other party where the lines are, and be clear when the lines are crossed.

Life isn’t about nice clear lines and easily understandable boundaries.  We are sometimes required to set them for ourselves.  That means we have to figure out what boundaries we need for our own sanity. Creating these containers will not be easy, and will be uncomfortable for everyone.  It will also save relationships and sanity.

Living with hate

For the first time in a while I’ve had a request to write about something specific.  As I can imagine you’ve heard, on Sunday morning in the early hours a man walked in to a night club and killed 49 people, injuring many more.  We have ideas about why, and we have his phone call to 911 claiming what he did for Isis, but there are many many unknowns.  What we do know is he had hate in his heart.  He has had hate in his heart for a very long time, long enough that the FBI had him on a watch list.  This hate, for whatever reason, was used to destroy the lives of hundreds of people.  The families and loved ones of those that died, the families and friends and loved ones of those that have been injured, are changed forever.  They  have been touched by hate.

There are many possibilities about why this man decided to kill as many people as he could.  A plausible one is that he himself was gay, and he was fighting the edicts of his own religion, his own mental health, his hatred for his own desires, and turned all of that pain on to others.  We will never know exactly what was going through his head, but we do know that he had hate in his heart.  Whether it was for others or for himself, or both we will never know.  But no matter his reasons for his actions, we now have a couple of choices.

The first choice we have is to turn to fear and hatred ourselves.  We can demonize his actions as being through his religion, through his mental health, or his race and we can start our own attacks through fear and hate.  We can spread the hate as far and as wide as we can.  Based on my Facebook feed this is what some people have chosen to do.  We can turn to blame, working to find the who to point the finger at.  We can demand an eye for an eye, and seek justice from anyone that shares anything with that man. If we choose that route we will have to remember that those that we hurt will want their vengeance as well.  They will want their pound of flesh, and their eye as well.

If we choose fear we will end up feeling bitter, angry and powerless,  terrified of full of hate.  With fear we have the choice of fighting or running.  We can run, and hide.  We can choose to never leave our homes, never get on a plane or go to a club or run a race.  We can hide, or we can fight.  And when we fight we will make more people have hatred as we hurt and maim and kill others in our fight for justice.

That is not the path I want.  I do not want to hide, cowering in my home to avoid all possibility of getting hurt by someone’s hatred.  There is a big world out there, and I want to experience all I can.  I also don’t want to keep the hatred going, punishing whomever I can for my pain and my hurt.  The other option that I have is to be one of the helpers.

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

The helpers are the ones that will bring us back together.  Helping people heal, both physically and emotionally from the immediate trauma is the first step.  If you aren’t able to help at that immediate level, then help those closest to you that are reeling.  Remind them that people in general are good people.  Remind them that being a good person and spreading kindness is the best way to heal.

Don’t get me wrong, I do want to take action and make sure you cant get a magazine of 100 rounds for a weapon.  That is ridiculous.  I will write to my congressman and support legislation to this purpose.  I do want to take realistic steps when I can to make sure things don’t happen.   What isn’t helpful is pointing fingers, doling out hate, yelling at people that have no involvement, or cowering.

This has been a traumatic event that has affected so many people.  There are so many stories floating around, it is easy to get sucked in to the anger and the fear-mongering.  One man was able to cause all of this.  For whatever reason, he took a weapon and his hate and hurt and hurt as many people as he could.  I’m sure that each and every one of us has our own belief about this man, who he was, why he did what he did, and what should happen next.  What many of us forget is the kindnesses that are needed to grieve, survive and thrive.  I for one won’t let anger and hate keep me from living the life I want to live.  A life of exploration, of kindness, and finding beauty wherever I can.  This is how we heal. This is how we fight.

My heart is with every mother, father, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, and friend that lost someone in that club.  My heart is with everyone that was there and was part of the terror of a crazed man with a gun.  We won’t stop him with more hate.  He will continue to hurt all of us if we do this.  We will stop him with hope and kindness.  With reminders that there is beauty in the world, even when there is ugliness and hate.  That acts of great courage will always defeat acts of anger, fear and hate.

Saving I’m Sorry

Do you apologize when you are late? Do you say I’m sorry as you walk in to a room for a small mistake, in acknowledgement of some small thing you may have done? Did you know that apologizing in advance has a tendency to make people irritable, and more likely to feel as though they have been wronged, when they wouldn’t have before hand? So what does that mean?

When you walk in to a room saying; “I’m sorry I was late” it is more likely to irritate the person and make them frustrated with your lateness. “Sorry about the mess” will make you more likely to notice the mess and be irritated by it. That means we need to re-learn what to say.

Thank you for your patience today!   When you walk in to a room late saying this, it will immediately make the person feel as though they have done something for you that you appreciate. They will actually feel closer to you, as though they have helped you with something. It is a complete change in how we approach interactions with people. And it is a complete change in how we feel about each other.

People like to help. They like to feel helpful! When we thank instead of apologizing we change the dynamic. “Thank you for your patience!” “Thank you for your understanding!” “I appreciate your understanding” For one week, replace “I’m sorry” with “Thank you” for the small things you want excused. See what happens. See how you feel about yourself, and see how others react to you. We need to use “I’m sorry” when we’ve actually done something wrong.

We have turned I’m sorry in to such a common phrase. We say it when we want to express sorrow for someone’s loss. When we want our behavior excused, or when we want understanding for something. It has long lost the meaning that we want it used for, which is “I did something wrong and it wasn’t OK. There isn’t an excuse. I’m sorry”. It also set people on the defensive when that isn’t what our goal is.

Being a Misfit

We all have Misfit Moments.  Some more than others.  Sometimes we feel alone in in our lack of ability to fit in.  Please experience this video about a misfit on  Let yourself feel the moments that you think “OH my god!  I’ve done that!”  “I’ve felt that way!”.  Notice that you aren’t alone in struggling, misfiring, keeping yourself stuck in shame, and not believing you are deserving.  You aren’t alone, and you can overcome!


Even at the moment of your failure, you’re beautiful.  You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to re-invent yourself endlessly.  That’s your beauty.  No matter you’re failure your story deserves to be heard.  You can be standing dead center in the middle of your failure.  Because you are the only one in the room that can tell the story the way you would.  And I’d be listening.

Lydia Yuknavitch

Redefining Love

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Love is opening your heart to another person and trusting they won’t stomp all over your hurts and fears with cruelty and their own pain. The longer you live the more bruises your heart accumulates and the more protections you create. When we create more and more protections we keep not only the things that will bruise us out, but the things that are kind and loving as well. We put walls and cages around our heart, isolating it from everything and everyone. It becomes very lonely.

If we want to feel connected with others, if we want to be present with the beauty of the world, we have to be open to it. That means letting go of some of the walls, and creating healthy boundaries. Instead of steel reinforced concrete walls, brick walls with doors that we can open.

There is risk with an open heart. We see more of the pain of the world, and we sometimes misjudge and let people in that aren’t save and don’t deserve access. We also see the greatness and the beauty of the world and find the people who’s hearts shine with love and beauty.

Love isn’t about worth. There is not one person on this planet that is unworthy of love, and I say that knowing that there are some truly horrible people out there. There are some people that aren’t safe to open our hearts to, and at the same time every one is deserving of love. That includes you. It is up to you to be safe enough to be let in to someone’s heart and to believe in yourself enough to be vulnerable. Love will find you when you drop the barriers that you have created against love; loving yourself and others, and letting others love you.


Forgiving vs Condoning

How do you define forgiveness?  Do you usually respond to “I’m sorry” with “It’s OK”?  For most of us this is why we struggle to forgive people true trespasses.  We correlate forgiveness with condoning the behavior.  For many of us it means that we are telling the person that what they have done is acceptable and let go of.  When someone does something that causes true damage the farthest thing from our mind is letting them know that what they did was acceptable and that we have forgotten it.

We need to change our definition of forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not mean that the behavior was acceptable or forgotten.  It just means that we don’t hold hatred in our hearts.  We have let go of resentment, disgust, and anger toward the person.  We hold the lessons that need to be learned but let go of the things that create suffering in our lives.

Last week I discussed working to accept life as it is as a part of finding enlightenment.  That means that we are required to accept that the past cannot be changed.  The things that we have done and that have been done to us cannot be undone.  No matter how much or how little the person that has hurt or wronged us feels remorse or regret, the deed has been done.

One of the strongest things you will ever do is forgive someone that isn’t sorry for what they did.  For just a moment think of something you hold anger and resentment toward.  Think of the justification for the anger and resentment.  Now notice your heart-beat, notice your breath, and notice your general attitude about the day.  Notice if you feel hopeful or hopeless.  This is what anger does to us.  It steals our kindness and our hope.  It steals our ability to feel in control over our own lives.  We are often quick to blame the person or the event, but the true thief is the anger and resentment.

Forgiveness is letting go of the anger and the resentment so that it doesn’t control and run our lives.  It is not condoning the behavior that caused the resentment.  Forgiveness does not mean letting go of the need to use caution, keep yourself safe, and possibly even remove yourself from the person or thing that is causing the problems.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean “everything’s OK between the two of us”.   Those that hurt us the most often correlate the two.  “You’ve forgiven me?  Great!  I guess we’re OK now and I can keep doing what I was doing!”  It is up to us to make it clear that while we chose to not hold hatred toward anyone, their behavior wasn’t OK.  It is the difference between saying “Thank you” for an apology instead of “It’s OK”.  One is saying that you accept that they regret their actions and you appreciate the apology, and the other condones the behavior.

Forgiveness isn’t about condoning.  Sometimes it really isn’t OK.  It is about letting go of hatred and resentment that binds you to suffering.  Think of it this way.  We can only hold on to so much, and if we choose to hold on to anger and resentment, we limit our ability to hold on to the pleasant stuff.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiving and condoning are the same thing.

Accepting pain can lead to enlightenment

Life involves pain, and live involves suffering. That is a natural fact that we cannot change, though we all try. Enlightenment, also known as insight or wisdom is the understanding that these are basic facts, and nothing we do will keep them away. We do have a choice about how much suffering we allow to enter our personal universe.

So what does it take to control the level of suffering we let in? First and foremost we have to acknowledge that pain is a part of life. We instinctively try to avoid pain. In some ways this is a good thing. We work together toward common goals to avoid the pain of loneliness, we work to stay safe so we don’t suffer painful damage. It also keeps us from taking risks that would bring great joy, letting people love us, letting ourselves love people, or letting go of things that are done and over. It is OK to be in pain. We believe that hurting is weakness, and we want to push pain as far from us as possible. Instead we need to embrace the pain. That sounds counter-intuitive, but when we embrace the pain it has less power over us.

What follows next is radical acceptance. What this means is accepting the things in life that aren’t as wonderful as we would like them to be and that many of them are unable to be changed. I cannot change the weather, or our government, or the people around me. Once I reach this place of radical acceptance I stop trying to fight the things that I can’t change. I change how I react and move through the universe. With the weather, we don’t try to change the weather we change how we dress in reaction to the weather. We accept that the weather is going to be what it is, and we act accordingly. If we can do the same in the rest of our lives, we are less frustrated. This leads to less suffering as we recognize what we can’t change, and enjoy what is.

The final part of enlightenment is gratitude. Making gratitude a part of your daily life leads to working to find the things every day to be grateful for. No matter how big or how small, finding the things that we can say “thank you” to our own god or perception of the universe helps shift the focus from what keeps us frustrated to what is beautiful in the world. Each day, work to find the beauty, the joy, and the kindnesses in the world. They are there, especially when we look.

Pain is a given no matter who you are. It is a part of life that is inescapable. Trying to escape from pain makes us miserable. Suffering is not as mandatory. Suffering comes from what we believe, and what we try to do because of our beliefs. If we believe that death is a horrible terrible thing then we work to run from death, and suffer greatly when the people around us pass. If we believe that it is a natural part of life, we have fear and pain related to our own passing and that of others, but it isn’t as horrible and there is less suffering. Enlightenment is recognizing that pain is going to be a part of life no matter what we do or how much we try to avoid it. It is working to live with integrity, and find gratitude in the every day. The small touches of a friend or a partner. Gratitude is noticing and enjoying the laugh of a child, the kindness of a stranger, the beauty of the natural world. When we accomplish these three things and work to share it with others, we will find enlightenment.

Yoga and you

Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space.  It is one of the tests police use to test for drunkenness.  Close your eyes and touch your nose.  Walk a straight line.  Stand on one foot.  It is one of the things we lose when intoxicated.  It is also one of the things we lose when we have trauma.  Studies are starting to show that yoga, along with therapy and medication can help people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder heal more quickly.  So what in the heck does yoga do?

Yoga itself is a meditation.  Each position is called an “asana”, or focus.  Meditation changes us on a cellular level.  When used correctly, it helps the body know that it is OK and allows regular body processes, including basics such as digestion, to keep going.  When in a state of stress these process are put off in preference of dealing with the stress and what the body perceives as a threat.  When used for anger it continues the process of stress and anxiety.   When you focus on letting your body experience each pose (as imperfect as it may be), and use your breath to move between poses,  your body is allowed to begin to remove the cortisol and adrenalin that has been coursing through it to manage stress.

Yoga is also a test in accepting failure.  When first starting a yoga practice, no matter how athletic you are, you are going to fail time and time again.  Your balance will be off, you will fall out of poses, you won’t be able to transition smoothly in to poses, and you won’t be able to hold poses.  If you are attending a class you will look at the people around you and think “they can do this, I should be able to as well!”.  When you can let go of that expectation, and be OK with your body and what it is capable of, you have stepped up to the next level.  When you can be OK when you can’t hit the inversion you did yesterday, or hold the pose, or lose your balance, you’ve gone even further.  The final step is implementing this acceptance in the rest of your life.  In life we will fall.  We won’t be able to do today what we did yesterday.  We will struggle and struggle.  Failure builds muscle and helps us find solutions that success wouldn’t have let us see.

Yoga also helps us see successes.  As you continue your yoga practice you will find that all of a sudden you can do the pose that has frustrated you for years.  You will feel more confident in your balance not only psychically, but emotionally as well.  You will find that because you don’t let the little things bother you as much.

Yoga isn’t wonderful for everyone.  If it doesn’t work for you, find the thing that will do these things.  The things that let you be OK with failure, that test your body and mind in different ways and encourage your to fall and fail.  People tell me that they have running or swimming routines, and unfortunately that just doesn’t do it.  It doesn’t test where your body is in time or space, and with both swimming and running you probably already know what you are doing.  There are fewer chances for growth.  If yoga isn’t for you, that isn’t a problem.  But do find the thing that will do the above for you.

Yoga helps teach you where your body is in time and in space, and reminds you that you do have control over you.  It reconnects your mind and your body, often after life situations that make you feel helpless with both.

There’s No Crying in Baseball!

For those of you that don’t watch a lot of movies, that is a line from A League of Their Own that Tom Hank’s character yells as on of his female ball-players starts to cry.  It is the common sign of a man that doesn’t know how to handle the very outward display of emotion in that moment.

Why do men have such a hard time with women crying?  There’s actually a pretty good reason for that.  Think of what men are taught about crying from the time they are very young.  They are taught that crying is weak.  They are told very often to “be a man” when they are hurting, which implies they need to take all of their emotions and push them down deep.  They aren’t allowed to move through, to hold space for themselves when they are hurting.  Instead of feeling the pain, learning that it is OK to hurt, be sad, or feel guilty they are required to withhold and ignore the feelings.  Push them down, push them away, and most of all don’t cry.

So when a woman, who hasn’t been told to shove them down and has been allowed to cry is present with her feelings it makes them uncomfortable.  They don’t know how to hold space for their own discomfort, let alone for the person next to them that is struggling.  They have also been told their entire lives, by family and culture, that a blatant display of emotion is a sign of weakness.

We as women also struggle to hold space for men when they are experiencing strong emotion (other than anger), and showing it.  We also have received the message from society that a man showing emotion is a sign of weakness.  It makes us almost as uncomfortable as men are when we cry.

Holding space for an emotion means experiencing the emotion.  It means feeling it in the moment, without shoving it away. It means acknowledging that whatever is happening is unpleasant and it is OK for it to be unpleasant.  Women are allowed some grace in this as we are allowed to cry and give outward demonstrations of our feelings. Men are taught to shut that down, and then that is reinforced on a daily basis through family, media, and partners. It isn’t surprising that when women cry they struggle with the display.

It is difficult for both men and women to allow someone else that they are close to be present with painful emotions. In general women say they want a man that is more in touch with his emotions, and yet there is discomfort when he does so. If we want men to be comfortable with women crying, we have to encourage everyone to be OK being present with their emotions. It is OK to let someone cry and not need to fix it. Crying releases endorphins that are often needed in tense and difficult moments. It is part of why women are so prone to tears during angry and tense moments, as well as sad difficult moments. It gives a release and helps move through the difficult time. As a society, we all need to become better at not only holding space for someone that is struggling, but tolerating our own discomfort when someone cries.

Crying is natural and healthy. Tears mean that a person cares about what is going on in that moment. We all need to work on holding space for difficult experiences, and being OK when the water-works are turned on.  Maybe there should be crying in baseball.


Compassion, Forgiveness, and Gratitude

Last week I wrote about being able to understand the difference about what we can and can’t change in the world around is.  What we really can change is how we think, act, and react to the world around us.  The best way to do this is through compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. These are not to be confused with complacency.  Complacency is ignoring the fact that there are things that we can and should change, including ourselves.

Compassion is being able to see that everyone has their own story that they are trying to work through.  We all just want to live and be happy.  We all just want to find peace and happiness.  No matter what people, what religion, or what country, we all just want to find a life with love and happiness.  The way some of us go about this isn’t healthy or done in a way to accomplish our goals, and yet we still all have the same goals.  When people struggle they are moving through their own demons, hurts, and lessons.  When we find compassion for them we are often softer toward them, less harsh.  Greeting hurt and anger with harshness just breeds harshness and more anger.  Greeting hurt and anger with compassion can soften the harsh edges, soften the hurt and the anger.  This can change the way people act toward us, lessening out own frustrations and resentments.

Forgiveness is being able to let go of the hurt and anger in our own heart.  It is not about condoning or accepting the behavior that is happening around you.  It is saying that you won’t hold anger in your own heart to poison you.  Anger and resentment toward others do nothing to the other person.  We often keep them as protections against getting hurt in the future, but then harden us from finding the things we truly want; love and happiness.  We cannot hold both peace and anger at the same time.  When we find compassion for someone, work to understand life from their perspective even when we don’t condone their actions, it is easier to forgive them and keep from poisoning ourselves with hate.

Gratitude is being thankful for the good things in life that we do have.  We spend a lot of time thinking about the things that we want without remembering that we do have things out there that do bring us happiness.  These can be the little things like a sunset or a child’s laughter, or the big things like a stable place to live and a safe family, or even the fact that you were able to buy that new car.  Each day, start to find a ritual of gratitude.  At the end of every day, find one thing you have to be grateful for.  To help your family you can work to make it a part of a family practice (like praying at dinner or bedtime).  Gratitude helps us recognize that our life isn’t all bad.  It helps with finding compassion and forgiveness.

Compassion and forgiveness must always start with ourselves.  While we don’t want to always condone our own actions, as we all make mistakes and can do better, we do need to have compassion for ourselves instead of condemnation.  We do need to forgive our own trespasses, while working to learn from them.  Holding anger in your heart toward yourself does not help you be a better person.  It helps resentment and anger build up toward others, in a metaphorical downward spiral that only leads to more hurt, anger and resentment.  We cannot find peace or happiness along this path.  We are fertile ground in which we can grow compassion, kindness and gratitude leading to peace, or we can grow anger, resentment and hurt, which leads to more of the same.

We all want to find comfort and happiness.  We all want to find a living that brings us comfort and peace.  I have yet to find anyone, of any religion that wants something different.  Many of this try to find these things by trying to change things we can’t change, or trying to change people, whom we definitely can’t change.  Finding a practice of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude takes time.  In general humanity has turned toward blame, defensiveness and anger and it is visible in not only our daily interactions but in our national politics, and in international incidents.  We as individuals don’t have power over these things.  We do have power over how we see the world, how we see ourselves, and how we react to the world.  This is more power than you think.