Thankful

I wrote this article a couple of years ago, and while I don’t often “re-write” articles, this one, to me, is more of a practice–a reminder of the blessings in my life.  They have shifted and grown, so I will allow my sharing to grow as well.

If you care to read, please take a moment to quiet your thoughts, and allow your heart to open to the gifts that are yours, right in this very moment…

Happy Thanksgiving.  

I’m blessed to live in a state where a three-hour mountain ride on my road bike is possible at the very end of November. So today, Thanksgiving, as my way of “giving thanks,” I donned my cool weather (even though it was close to 70 degrees) riding gear and headed out into the peaceful hills to breathe it all in.

I had my kids a few hours longer than anticipated last night, so just soaked them up, playing games, doing puzzles, coloring, snuggling, cooking, eating. And I’ll have them again on Friday for our Thanksgiving.

I thought that I might feel a little “whoa is me” being solo today, but I’ve been struck by how filled my heart is—especially as I road—with the amazing blessings in my life. Of course my brain goes to the psychobiological—“well, I’m stimulating the release of positive neurochemicals through exercise so of course I’m feeling good!” But there’s more to it than that today.

Maybe because of the work I do, or certain shifts I’ve felt as of late, but I’m often reminded that the pain I’ve suffered throughout my life, while sometimes overwhelming to me, does not compare to what so many endure. The things that people can do to people, and the burdens that humans must bear… the trauma and tragedy, the abuse, the betrayals, the life and death events that break hearts and tear families apart, the unresolved hurts… And what I see, consistently, is that the human spirit is not only resilient—we want to feel joy and so we choose to. Not always, and not everyone. But feeling joy beyond our particular suffering is a choice before us that motivates bravery beyond measure. And when I witness those who’ve suffered so much choosing to continue to open their hearts to love and to joy, risking what is most vulnerable, I am humbled and changed.

And without really trying to today, I kept thinking of the things I’m most grateful for. My “top 10” – not necessarily in any order.

I’d like to see your list too, if you’re motivated to share.

10 Blessings for which I’m incredibly Grateful

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#1 My children. Beyond anything in this world, they are my greatest teachers, my most powerful motivation, the wellspring of my love. They have grown me into the mother I am and they are the center of my heart, my most profound joy. I am currently struck by their emotional intelligence. Their ability to open their own hearts, to cultivate empathy, and to love—just purely LOVE, is so humbling. Deep gratitude to this life for the blessing of my children.

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#2 About three and a half years ago, I met an amazing man who, with humility, integrity, willingness, and love, has taught me to slow down and has connected with me in a way I’ve longed for my entire life. He reflects my gifts, challenges my mind and body, inspires my deepest respect, and my most playful presence. He “meets me” in the unique design of my heart’s longing and I have changed through receiving his love. I am blessed to be fully sharing my life.   To practice the skills I’ve cultivated over the past decade in an intimate and loving relationship, where they are welcomed and where I feel cherished, is… well, amazing. I am so grateful.

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#3 My family. We’re Greek and messy and dramatic at times. We’re quirky and strange in our own way. We exhaust one another. My parents taught me early on how to work really hard and they taught me that family is family and we stick together. They taught me that sometimes, no matter how tired we are, we just do what needs to be done for one another. They taught me to cherish our time together, to celebrate and dance, to be passionate, to tend to one another well, and to love big. I am so grateful for my family.

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#4 My work with my clients, I’ve found, is often as transformative for me as it is for them. I am humbled and honored that people choose to open their lives to me, and to trust me with their hearts, their questions, their shame and hurt, their anger. The work that I do is an incredible gift to my life. The community and team of people—Noeticus Counseling Center—with whom I work is like a cocoon for our collective personal and professional development, and provides me with the foundation for my work as a therapist. So thankful!

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#5 My closest friends are the people who meet me in the stability and the chaos, holding my hands through our shared journeys. They are the ones who grab ahold when I don’t have the strength and the ones who pull me back with loving arms to challenge my objectivity. They are the ones who see and love all of me, and allow me to witness the wildness, the grit, and the suffering of their hearts.  They allow me to help hold them with gentlenss, especially when they forget to be gentle with themselves. I am forever grateful to these women who have stepped into the fire with me!

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#6 My deepest hurts are blessings that have strengthened my tolerance, broadened my perspective, and challenged every edge of my heart. Engaging with the brokenness has taught me that there is a deep wisdom in pain, when we pay attention, when we stay present. When we can allow ourselves to feel, we are opened to fully engage with life. When we stretch to feel the pain, we are also strengthening our hearts capacity for love, for play, and for intimacy. My deepest hurts are gifts for which I will be forever grateful.

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#7 I have cultivated a variety of physical practices over the years, with the influence of friends and mentors, and I am so thankful! Last week I danced, I climbed, I ran, I skied, I strength-trained, (and I also did these wild leg-blaster workouts that leave me crazy shaky and happy!) and this week I hope to ride… challenging my body has strengthened my mind, and I am grateful for the ability and motivation to push myself beyond comfort.

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#8 My education—both my formal education and life education, and the integration of learning and practices that have changed my visceral experience of living in the world. My education is a privilege, and something I do not take for granted. I am grateful for the opportunities, the support, and the motivation to embed the practices that change who I am and how I impact others.  I am thankful for mentors, for their work and legacy that I now have the opportunity to hold and share.

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#9 My health has allowed me so much opportunity. It has allowed me to learn to trust my body, to track the very sensation that informs me of what needs tending to, to deepen into complete present-centered relationship with me. My health is never a given. It is both something I do my best to manage well and it is a gift for which I am wholly grateful.

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#10 Neuroplasticity! So thankful that the “emotional wiring” I had for the first half of my life will not be the same wiring that I have at the end of my life! My brain—everyone’s brain—is plastic! We can completely rewire how we exist in relationship to others, how we respond to life, to love, to everything that comes our way. I am so thankful for the way that my brain and body work together to create the life that I envision.

There are so many gifts in each of our lives. I hope that you are struck today, and every day, with the unique gifts that have been offered to you. Please take them in and share them with all of us!

I ran across the following and sadly, I do not know who wrote it.  I’d like to give credit so please, if you know the author, let me know.  It speaks to my heart though…  maybe it will speak to yours as well.

“Having loved enough and lost enough, I’m no longer searching… just opening, no longer trying to make sense of pain but trying to be a soft and sturdy home in which real things can land. These are the irritations that rub into a pearl. So we can talk for a while but then we must listen, the way rocks listen to the sea. And we can churn at all that goes wrong but then we must lay all distractions down and water every living seed. And yes, on nights like tonight I too feel alone. But seldom do I face it squarely enough to see that it’s a door into the endless breath that has no breather, into the surf that human shells call God.” (Author unknown)

For the Love of Your Life!

 

Angie

Surviving the Holidays

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s,

Eid-al-Adha, Lunar New Year, St. Lucias Day, Bodhi Day, Hogmanay,

St. Nicholas Day, Las Posadas, Japanese New Year, Diwali… 

Just to note some of the traditional holidays celebrated around the world.  And some questions arise, for me, around this season and the “heaviness” that so often seems to accompany it for so many people.  Growing up, the holidays–particularly Christmas for my family–was a time of joy and celebration.  And while we seem to keep striving for this now, it seems that the holidays have become somewhat “bogged down” with…  something else.

The following is based on an In Service that I provided for Noeticus Counseling Center and Training Institute.  I thought that some of the concepts might be helpful for others as well.  I’d love to hear what you think!

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 1.    Why is the season so difficult for so many?

 2.    How can we approach and engage with Mindfulness, Self-Care, & utilize the Holidays as a time for “re-wiring” relationships and family dynamics?

 3.    How might we model these skills to family and friends?

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1)    Why is the season so difficult for so many? 

The holiday season brings with it some heightened excitement and feelings of togetherness when we share time with family and friends whom we don’t often see.  And for many, this same season can bring increased anxiety, depression, overwhelm, and a sense of isolation.  Why is it that this “wonderful time of year” is consistently fraught with such significant distress?

(However, on that note, the idea that suicide rates are highest during the holidays is a myth perpetuated by many).

Holidays are significant—for most, anyway.  People often have an idea of what the holidays are “supposed to look like,” (often due to what we see represented in media and the annual “family photos” on greeting cards) so the reality can feel disheartening and contribute to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

Holidays are connected to childhood memories that are more significant than other “everyday occurrences.”   Our emotional memories become very connected to those significant times and can be easily triggered.  So they are often more related to intense emotions, unsatisfactory family dynamics, unresolved family issues, painful memories, and childhood traumas than other times of the year.

Because the deeper emotional connections to holidays are coupled with the added stress of busy-ness, shopping, travel, financial concerns, hosting others in our homes, and numerous obligations to family and friends; the months from November through January are sometimes approached as something to simply “get through,” rather than a time of nourishment, connection, and joyfulness.

2)    How can we approach and engage with Mindfulness and Self-Care; and utilize the Holidays as a time for “re-wiring” relationships and family dynamics:

  • Prepare to be triggered:

If you plan for at least some of the inevitable distress that the holidays can bring, you are more apt to be able to remember to access your inner resources and self-soothe when troubling emotions arise.

Take some time prior to spending time with family to consider how historical family dynamics have played out and how you might envision yourself in a more desirable role within your family system.  Also, recognize that family systems don’t change automatically and will usually take significant practice.  The holidays can be an ideal time to nurture the types of relationships with your family members that feel healthy and appropriate for you now.  Practice being flexible and going with the flow!

If your holiday time will not be spent with family, take time to nurture the relationships that contribute to healthy social connections and community in your adult life.  Prepare ahead of time to engage authentically, so that if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re able acknowledge your need to take care of yourself.

  • Listen to your body:

Take time each day, or each hour if necessary, to “check in” with your body.  Pay attention to the depth and rhythm of your breathing, track sensations in your body that can inform you of increased stress, anxiety or “collapse”—those times when you feel yourself falling into some oblivion of a patterned powerlessness within your family system.  Notice your pacing, your tone of voice, your thought content…  and take time to remind yourself that it’s difficult to alter family dynamics and there’s a good chance that your body will respond to stress before you recognize those responses cognitively.

Allow your body to remind you when it’s time to take some space for yourself, when it might be time to connect with someone whose caring behavior resonates with you; and when it might be time, even, to jump in to the swing of your unique family dynamics!

  • Receive:

While most of our family of origin dynamics, as well as many of our adult relationships, are not “ideal,” the people in our lives often love and care for us, even if they don’t express it exactly how we’d like.  During more stressful times, including the holidays, we can be so caught up in other things, that appreciating what people DO, and their unique way of “giving” can be difficult.  When “perfect” doesn’t show up, we can close ourselves off to any and all nourishment from our relationships.  Remind yourself to receive what your loved ones are offering, however they’re offering—and take it in!

For example, growing up, my Dad wasn’t one to say “I love you,” and of course that was the one thing I craved hearing from him more than anything!  What he did, however, was show up on my doorstep at least once a week, when I was in college, to bring me fresh fruits and vegetables from his garden.  It was his way, so it became my practice to receive his underlying intention.  Notice and accept other’s unique ways of reaching out to you in loving, nurturing ways.

  • Find the humor:

When we can become a little more objective about the particular “dysfunction” of our own families, it can be helpful to see some humor in how we’ve all learned to “be” in the world.

Some reality TV shows have given us glimpses of how diverse some family dynamics are—and on a TV screen, some of that diversity can be incredibly humorous!  Sometimes it’s funny simply because we realize our own families aren’t as weird as we originally thought.  And sometimes, it’s just comforting to see that others aren’t so “picture perfect” either.

Isn’t it crazy to consider some of the bizarre ways that our families have chosen to exist in the world?  And while we don’t want to dismiss obviously painful or hurtful events or dynamics, for other things, it can be helpful to step back and see some of the quirky foundations of our lives with a bit of humor.

  • Practice self-care:

Even though you’re more than likely strapped for time and have loads more on your plate during the holidays, be sure that you are continuing to practice the things that nourish your body and soul.

Exercise—make sure you’re actively moving your body every day.  Allow some of the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing to be expressed through engaging your body.  Do something with your body that feels refreshing and can help you reconnect to YOU.

Eat healthy—remember that healthy food not only nourishes your body, it nourishes your mind, which houses your emotions and provides the foundation for your skill in relationship.  Balance some of the “sweet treats” of the holidays—which can cause physical distress—with eating whole, raw, nourishing foods.  Be sure you’re getting adequate macronutrients, including healthy, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Sleep—getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining our emotional resources and practicing new relational skills.  Our brains and our bodies need rest!  Use the holidays as a reminder to rest and refresh yourself each day.

Take time to simply “be”—during stressful times, it’s so useful to take purposeful breaks from all the “doing” to just “be.”   This could be a perfect season to get into—or back to—a meditation practice.  Maybe try some walking meditation or simply remind yourself to sit, breathe, and let go of all the thoughts running through your mind.

Connect to people—take time to nurture those relationships that truly nourish you.  Trust your instincts when it comes to wanting to spend quality time with certain individuals more than others.  Notice what resonates and how differently you feel in the presence of certain people.

  • Practice re-wiring:

Even when we’re all grown up, it can be incredibly easy to fall into early relational patterns when we’re with our families.   Practice skills such as asking for what you need, acknowledging what you feel, becoming curious—rather than just “knowing”—about a family member or friend.

Remember that giving the benefit of the doubt and finding the understandable part, can be powerful tools when attempting to rewire relational dynamics.  And just as important are standing up for yourself and validating your own views and opinions without putting down the views and opinions of others. 

  • Boundaries:

Family dynamics can sometimes trigger us into forgetting how to take care of ourselves.  Learn to use your “no.”  And remember that “no” is an essential skill in healthy relational dynamics!

Guilt and obligation were foundational teachings for so many of us but research shows that rarely do they provide any true benefit to relationships, nor to an individual’s sense of personal power.  Get clear on what feels “in integrity” to you.  And then own it!

  • Reframe:

Sometimes our histories have painful emotions based on, not only reality, but on our perception of reality.  When we were children, our perceptions were subject to the family and dynamics in which we developed.  As adults, however, we begin to develop a more flexible perception when we practice awareness, empathy, and objectivity.

When we can begin to view some of our past family dynamics with new eyes—new awareness—we may surprise ourselves by naturally releasing some of the hurt or anger, simply by reframing what happened “then” with a different, and more objective, “meaning” now.

3)    How Might We Model These Skills to Our Family & Friends?

One of the greatest blessings of relationship, as we all know, is the potential for feeling as if we are “a part of a greater whole.”  And part of deepening those experiences is showing up, not only as people strengthening our own skills, but as “good enough” human beings, just being with the people we love.  And human beings are sometimes messy, and we are far from perfect, and we have histories that harbor a certain amount of hurt.  When the people closest to us gain some understanding that we are working toward healthier relational dynamics and practicing more evolved behaviors than the ones we were originally taught, it can provide incredible benefit for others to experience the challenge of meeting us where we are.  And when we can be gentle with ourselves when we don’t practice all of our skills perfectly, we also are more able to have an accepting and gentle attitude toward those around us.

When others realize that we are consistently working to become the people we want to become within our own family systems as well as with others in our lives—and that our work is a “practice,” they can anchor that knowing into their own developing sense of self, reminding themselves, even when they are in the midst of family drama, that they are not alone in their efforts—that their own personal work is connected to a collective effort for personal and relational growth.

Our own personal work has such a positive correlation to the spiral of energy that begins within and ultimately circles out to the greater collective.

Our practice of skills, such as self-care, boundaries, the use of humor, reframing, receiving and, of course, mindfulness—all of these skills, used within our relationships with family and friends—is what is used to “raise the bar” in all of our relationships, and ultimately strengthens the foundation for helping us all to evolve into more relational and helpful human beings.

Many Blessings to us all during this Holiday Season!

For further reading about Surviving the Holidays, check out this link on the Noeticus Counseling Center and Training Institute website:

http://www.noeticus.org/Surviving_the_Holidays.html

For a story about appreciating and rewiring family dynamics, follow this link:

http://www.fitforintimacy.com/family/

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

 

 

The Blessings of Anger

Anger can motivate us, move us, inspire, and inform us.  It can scare us, whether it comes from within or is moving toward us.  Anger can feel overwhelming, even if we’re merely witnessing its wrath.  It can leave pain and sadness in its wake and can exacerbate itself, if not expressed healthily.  And really, what does that even mean?  What is healthy anger??

Anger is one of the primary emotions into which psychological researchers have given a large dose of curiosity, exploration and study, especially over the last few decades.  Anger can range from mild irritation to intense fury or rage. Essentially, it is an automatic response to one’s experience of having been wronged or offended and is a person’s way of expressing that he or she will not tolerate certain types of behavior.   Anger can raise our heart rates and blood pressure and increase adrenaline and noradrenaline.  If left unattended (especially if not addressing anger is a lifelong pattern), anger can lead to increased risk of heart problems, depressed immune function, depression and anxiety and contribute to a wide range of other mental and physiological problems.

And while we have come to understand that anger has many benefits, we’ve not spent near enough time supporting the overall “space” for anger to be, not only expressed but; tolerated, held, moved, and healed.

Expression

Anger is multi-dimensional—it involves our thoughts (cognition), our bodies (sensation/somatic response), and our behavior (expression).  Anger is one of the most normal emotions we can experience.  It is innate—consider an infant experiencing needs that are left unmet.  What happens?  He or she expresses anger at the injustice.  And just as we wouldn’t deny an infant this natural expression without attempting to help find resolution, we need to find and practice appropriate ways to “be with” the anger of those close to us (first of all, our own!) and, because we are interdependent creatures, help our mates find a way through this experience.  By cultivating our ability to engage with anger in a healthy way, we can ultimately enhance our relationships and learn to tolerate more emotional depth across the entire spectrum of emotions.

So, how do we distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger?  And who is responsible for developing the way in which we come to view anger in the most reasonable way?  Who provides the overall design of what kind of anger is beneficial vs. what kind of anger is unacceptable?  Maybe the question shouldn’t be about the actual anger since, as we know, anger is automatic.  Natural.  “Natural” can’t be bad, can it?  The natural part of anger—the Somatic (body) aspect—is automatic.  The thought content, however, and the expression or behavior that ultimately ensues…  those are the parts over which we can begin to wield a little control, a little pre-frontal cortex Mindfulness!

Anger, in itself, is not healthy or unhealthy. It just is. Simple enough. What we do with it supplies the gauge for where it falls on the continuum. How we are able to tolerate it in another provides yet another gauge–for our own ability to be with the depth & breadth of human experience.

Engage

Many therapeutic models use anger as the ground for exploring deep, emotional wounds, relationship dysfunction, and healing.  The problem, in my own opinion, of some of these models, is that while anger becomes both safe and cathartic to express, it can then become “stuck.”  Anger—and it’s resulting neurochemical response—can become part of an addictive cycle if not processed because even though we “think” that anger doesn’t necessarily “feel good,” the catharsis in releasing something that has been held in the body can release chemicals in the body that feel very good!

So how can we respond to, hold, be with anger from another person?  And the bigger question:  How can we remain present to another’s anger when that anger is directed toward us?

While anger can be “healthy” to express, it rarely feels good, or even okay, when someone is healthily expressing anger AT us, right?  And yet, we want to create safe, healthy relationships and be able to ultimately release negative emotions and deepen our connections.  The problem is, we generally have a very natural, and protective, response when someone expresses anger toward us.  And our response as well is somatic (at a level of sensation), cognitive (triggering a variety of thoughts), and behavioral (inspiring expression).  And there are neurochemicals involved in our brains and bodies as well, and parts of our brains literally shut down (the thinking parts) and other parts light up (the emotional, reactive parts).  Anger is connected to an altogether crazy process, most of which (in the moment at least) occurs without any unawareness on our part.

Opportunities of Anger

Suffice it to say, we generally go into defense mode in the face of anger.  We can feel like fighting back, defending, justifying, making the other person wrong, distracting…  all sorts of things to take the uncomfortable focus off of something we have potentially done “wrong” or that has hurt someone we care about.  Why?  Well, because “wrong” doesn’t feel very good, right?   Sometimes we will quickly say, “I’m sorry,” with the justifiable hope that that’s all it will—or at least “should”—take.  I mean, we said “sorry” right?  Why is this person still upset?

Well, remember that anger is not only cognitive.  It’s somatic.  That means it’s occurring on a body level—and we can no longer wish it into nonexistence than we can a broken arm.  Something deeper than “thought” needs to shift and when a person says “sorry” too soon, it can often be the result of their own discomfort in handling the overwhelming experience of another’s anger.  In fact, most of the ways in which we manage our emotional response to anger are really saying, “Okay, that’s all I can handle of your authentic emotion.  Will you stop now?”

The 8 Tools

So, I’d like to offer some Eight “Tools” for when we are confronted with someone else’s anger.   My hope is that, as we begin to practice tolerating others intensity, we provide the space for those we love to show up more fully, more authentically, vibrantly and alive!  Ultimately, aliveness begets aliveness.  Pretty soon, we’re living in a world where all of our emotions have room to breathe!

  • If you’re in close physical proximity to a person who is expressing anger, it can sometimes be helpful to simply take a step or two backward—just to Offer Space to them so that they are able to fully express themselves while you practice some awareness around your personal sense of boundaries and needs.  If you’re not in close physical proximity—maybe talking over the phone—you can imagine yourself in a “bubble” of sorts, energetically maintaining a boundary for yourself to feel safe and with a more objective view.
  • BREATHE.  I know, simple.  And we hear it all the damn time.  And still we forget and when our brains get reactive and protective, we still our breathing—this is connected to the “fight/flight/freeze” response.  If we’re freezing, we generally stop breathing.  So take a deep breath and do a quick scan for tension in your body.  Breathe deeply into your belly.  And if you have the opportunity, it may be helpful to say something like, “I really want to hear you but I’m feeling a little reactive.  Can you give me a second or two to relax myself so I can hear you better?”
  • Which brings me to my next point:  Just because you want to stay present to the other person, that doesn’t mean you dismiss your own needs.  So Speak Up before you’re running away or attacking.  Let the other person know that while you want to allow them the space and safety to openly share their intensity, that if it becomes overwhelming for you—to the point where your brain begins to shut down—that you need to take a minute (or more) to ground, breathe, and refocus.
  • Attune to your inner voice—the part of you that wants to just make this stop.  Keep reminding yourself that we all get angry—that it’s normal and that it’s okay.  It’s a momentary emotion that, with processing and sharing, lessens.  When responded to with authentic openness, anger most often dissipates relatively quickly.  Also, however, practice your own boundary setting.  If you’re not able to stay present, calmly ask for an hour–maybe a couple–to calm your nervous system and come back with more openness.  But don’t ever just walk away, abandoning your loved one in the midst of their own anguish.
  • If necessary, Request that the person who is angry own their emotions—ask him to make “I” statements and to take responsibility for whatever might be “his part.”  Hear what he has to say and take time letting it sink in.  Remember that honoring another’s experience doesn’t make them “right” and you “wrong.”  It simply allows them to share their unique perspective and feelings, opening the doorway for you to strengthen your ability to manage your own reactions and broaden your perspective.
  • Practice allowing yourself to experience YOUR anger, owning your personal experience—thoughts, sensations, and expression—of anger when it arises for you.  Make a habit of sharing it with someone with whom you have a sense of safety in developing this practice.  Be okay not doing it perfectly!  Consider that very few people have had anger modeled to them in a healthy, safe way and it’s going to take time to become comfortable expressing it healthily.  Try to even find some humor in the fact that most of us just don’t do it very well!
  • Reflect back the pieces that you hear from the other about why they’re angry, what else they may be feeling—practice some active listening skills and then state back to them what you’ve heard without filling in the spaces with your own emotional protection strategies.
  • Ask for clarification—and space—when you need it.

Get Curious

Before any of these ideas will be able to sink in, the most important thing any of us can do is to develop a relationship with our own anger.  Get curious about where our own intensity lives.  Many of us—myself included! —grew up in homes where anger was not acceptable.  It may have been expressed by an adult in a way that seemed frightening or threatening but rarely, for most of us anyway, was it expressed, processed, held, or resolved with openness and love.  So most of us grew up believing anger to be a “bad” emotion.  For me personally, anger wasn’t safe to experience or express.  It was scary and rarely brought resolution of any kind.  And I grew up believing that to be a “good person,” I couldn’t express, or even feel, anger.  So I put on a smile—a big one! –and shoved it all down inside, justified my passive-aggressive style and went on about my merry way.  Sadly, in shutting down my anger, I shut down a lot of my aliveness right along with it.  Until one day…  and that’s another story!

Thankfully, I was allowed the space in my more grown-up world to begin exploring what this deep, intense emotional rollercoaster was all about for myself.  Now, I don’t always manage my anger well.  I’m Greek.  I’m a big person.  I’m really intense sometimes.  And my early wiring didn’t set me up so well to “let things go.”  So I’ll continue to practice.  I hope you will too!

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

FAMILY

Earlier today, I wept. And I mean wept like an out of control infant. And as I wept, four women from my family sat—my mom, my sister and two of my adult nieces—witnessing me and, ultimately, holding the space for me to let fly some of my deepest hurts and fears that are currently manifesting in my world.

All of us talked, shared, fought, argued… and much of it wasn’t pretty. Much of it was connected to deep and unresolved family issues that are merely triggered through current hurts. It was messy and ugly and even mean at times. Later, after we’d had time to process and talk more, it softened. We softened.

 

So as I sink into resting my body and mind tonight—Christmas Eve—my children and their cousins dreaming of dancing sugar plums, cozily nested in the living room fort they’ve inhabited for three days now, I’m struck with awe as I take in the meaning, for me anyway, of family.

Big Fat Greek

I have a big, fat Greek family. And we’re full of all sorts of big, fat Greek drama and history that, like so many families, could fill volumes with both tragedy and hope. And I love my family—I love the culture and the character. I love the quirkiness and the downright madness. And when I can get objective about the defensive character strategies and generational patterns and overall dysfunction, I gotta say, ultimately I love that too!

Then there are those moments when I’m not objective at all. And, as a therapist and a person who’s practiced mindfulness and tolerance and calming my nervous system in the face of distress, and healthy communication… for me to get completely “caught” in the mayhem—completely subject to some story—is not at all a comfortable place to be. In fact it kind of wrecks my ego and challenges my whole identity.

Getting Messy

Today, I became really uncomfortable. And I got messy. And then right within all the messiness of my own head, something occurred to me. I felt trust—(something else that isn’t altogether comfortable). And I thought, how astounding to know that no matter how childlike I get—no matter that I’m not the skilled therapist 24/7, there’s a place where I can lose myself? And while I don’t necessarily think my whole family “gets that” or is comfortable with it, if we can stay in the messiness long enough, what we can get—what I got today, was that no matter how angry or ugly I am, I know beyond anything that they’ll all still be here. And when I can allow myself to be vulnerable enough to actually feel that—I breathe a little deeper and something really good happens in my body.

So, we salvaged Christmas. We did the repair work—not all of it but we definitely got a start for the New Year. And I sunk my heels in a little deeper, into the knowing that I’m intimately connected with this group of people whom I call Family.
Our families are never exactly as we would have them. And yet, if they were, how would we be challenged to take flight from them, become the people we have chosen to be, and still remain connected to our original foundation? It’s through differentiating—stepping back just far enough so that we can see the people we love—that we find the true strength in Family.

Many Blessings to you and to your families in the New Year!

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie