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A Good Lesson From A Bad Mother

If you haven’t yet seen The Lost Daughter, a film based on Elena Ferrante’s book, it’s chilling. My husband didn’t get it. If you are a mother—scratch that—if you are a woman, you will. Every time Leda chooses not to do what’s expected of her, i.e., accommodate others at her own expense, we fear for her life. You should watch it. The more recognition of how women are required to move through the world just to survive, the better.

To me, we have something to learn from how Leda condemns herself as a “bad mother” with such finality. Without giving anything away, young Leda makes a painful parenting choice not so common in mothers. Our perfect-mother-obsessed culture weighs heavily on her shoulders. The viewer, however, is offered the choice of whether or not to judge. Her complicated past shows that she is not just some crazy lady like the old trope would have us believe. I could totally relate to her honest portrayal of a complex, frustrated woman who truly loves her daughters.

 

It got me thinking about how quick we are to label ourselves and how counterproductive it is. I’ve stamped my own forehead with “bad mother” on many guild-laden occasions. Howling at my kids over being late, forcing academic choices on them over their objections, and, worst of all, ending a backseat brawl by ordering the loudest kid out of the car while I circled the block, leaving the impression that I had disappeared forever. The same thing happened to me at a young age and it abruptly ended my belief that I would always be taken care of. And I did it anyway. 

I hated myself over such incidents. But did they make me a bad mother? No. I can say that now. Mothering in our culture means that any way in which your child may suffer is your burden to bear and your problem to solve. No matter who else is involved. I reject that.

In the last few years, there has been a shift. I am less prone to judge myself. I am also less reactive. It happened at the same time.

After nearly two decades of mothering, I now understand that self-flagellation doesn’t help. How we choose to conduct ourselves is not WHO WE ARE. When we confuse a well worn pattern of behavior with our identity, I am a procrastinator, I’m not a morning person, I am a bad mother, the painful label makes the behavior even more difficult to stop.* We condemn ourselves as simply that kind of person. It’s hard enough that the culture conditions us to label people good and bad. We don’t have to pile on.

In my experience, the only way to change a pattern we are troubled by is with unfailing self-acceptance. That may sound backwards. Why would you accept something in yourself that you don’t like? Because we are human and making mistakes is the best way to learn, that’s why. I love how my friend Jude does it. She says to herself, “Oh well, it’s who I am in this moment.” She doesn’t spin a harmful story about who she is, she remains present. She offers herself some grace.

My ability to exercise self-acceptance draws directly on my reserves of self-care. If I have neglected myself, forget it. Of late, I now pay attention to my needs. In our culture, it feels self-indulgent to talk about this, but I will push past it because it really is critical.

 

By self-care, I’m not talking about a once in a blue moon bubble bath or a stiff drink at 5:00 pm to forget the day. I mean regular, consistent attention, that sends the message that you matter. I was once a woman with decades old gym shorts. No more. The quality of my work out gear should at least be on par with my teenage daughter’s, for Pete’s sake. It really is the little things.

 

I currently communicate my own value to myself with small sensory delights throughout the day. Self-care looks different for all of us, but mine begins with sufficient sleep. I think it was sleep specialist, Dr. Michael Breus, who said, “sleep is the glue that holds everything together.” That refrain can be heard on a loop in my house.

When I wake up, I meditate first thing, guaranteeing that I start the day in “calmed the F down” mode. On an ideal day, I am up early enough to have time afterwards for journaling. This helps me take everything that is bothering me out of my body (it’s a lot) and lay it down on the page. Then I get out in nature and exercise.

At this point, I have not yet looked at my phone—on purpose. Ideally, I want to raise my vibe high so that no matter what happens during the day, I work off an ample reserve. The phone automatically brings you down, it’s a fact. I clean my energy, send love to all my people and express gratitude for everyone in specific ways.** To the extent possible, I dress in a color that makes me happy, light a delicious candle next to my writing space and make a warm mug of tea.

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I have learned to say no. This is new for me. If it was something optional like a social function or a volunteer opportunity, the question used to be, “should I do this?” Now it is, “do I want to do this?” No thank you has become the phrase that pays. 

Alternatively, I say yes to me. I had some reading to catch up on for my program and thought I’d like to do it outside. So I packed a bag and read at the beach. No big to-do. Granted that’s not possible for all of us for myriad reasons, but we all have our own version of saying yes to ourselves.

Why is taking care of yourself so important? Self-care builds trust within you. When you are good to yourself, the knowledge that your choices directly affect your quality of life goes bone-deep. It then becomes possible to break a pattern of behavior that no longer serves you. This critical connection with yourself empowers you to mindfully choose what is good for you. The most important relationship in your life is with yourself. I have broken a great many unhealthy patterns in just this way and I feel good.

When you take the very best care of yourself, you begin to live the life you always wanted. And that’s not just “okay,” it’s fan-freaking-tastic.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: Do you have harmful labels you’d like to let go of? What is your self-care routine? I hope you will be good to yourself today.

*I learned this concept from Mel Robbins. I strongly encourage you to check out her no BS approach to self-improvement. She loves to swear. 🙂

**Jay Shetty teaches that being specific about why we are grateful stays with us throughout the day, raises our vibration and even boosts our immune system. He suggests reaching out to the person we are grateful to and communicating exactly what they did meant to us, creating an even more valuable experience for both people.

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Stories

Go Ahead, Make It Awkward

 

When I was a kid, Nana and Grandpa came down from New York City to stay in our little hippie house on Quiet Lane. It was hard to believe our wild-haired Dad belonged to those fancy people. They had visited us in Albuquerque only once before when we lived out in the sticks. We’d since moved to “the city” but to them it probably still seemed like the middle of nowhere.

We kids were excited. Out of town relatives meant only one thing: gifts. My Dad, on the other hand, acted like it was a visit from the firing squad.

Soon after their arrival, we understood Dad’s dark mood.

“So much smaller than the old place,” Grandpa said of the white stucco box the six of us lived in. The last house, an unfinished adobe out in Corrales, had no interior walls and a roof so leaky it required pots and pans to be set out all over the furniture when it rained.

“What’s doing with these weeds?” Grandpa asked Dad as he gazed out at the backyard. At each shot fired, Dad remained silent, his face a stony mask of misery.

 

With no desire to be the target of Grandpa’s next blast, we kids made ourselves scarce.

Mom tried everything, even inviting him and Nana out to the one fancy restaurant for prime rib. On the long drive home, my sisters and brother slumped against each other, asleep. All except me. My parents whispered up front as we sped down the highway toward the South Valley. Grandpa grumbled in the middle seat.

“We didn’t come all this way to be ignored,” he bellowed. I popped my head up from the back. Mom spun around in the dark to face Grandpa, the street lights outlining the riot of curls.

“You have no right to speak to us like that, Arthur. From the moment you got here, you have ripped your son apart. It. Is. Enough,” she said in a gravely voice I had never heard.

The next morning as I read on the couch, a taxi cab pulled up to the curb. Suitcase in hand, Grandpa slammed the rickety red door behind him.

 

Nana stayed. For an entire week, she smiled at us and acted as if mom didn’t exist. Mom tried her best to smooth things over, but Nana appeared intent on making her suffer.

Nana and Grandpa never came back. They both died having had no real relationship with any of us.

These are the roots of my fear around speaking up. I often allow the moment when someone steps over the line to pass. If they do it once too many times, poof we are no longer friends.

In my writer community, we often discuss the need to claim our voices. Some of my favorite artists have shared their experiences of speaking up in the moment and stepping bravely into awkwardness. On her series, Ask Julie, Author and Activist Julie Lythcott-Haims described how, with clarity and kindness, she chose to confront problematic behavior in her home over the holidays. Unlike years past, she didn’t place other people’s comfort ahead of her own needs. Afterwards, she felt like she’d made real progress.

Writer and Creator Alyson Shelton shared on our Instagram Live this week about losing friends around issues of social justice. She has resisted the conditioning to make it okay for people around her to espouse harmful views. Despite the cost, she is at peace about it.

 

Unlearning the habit of silencing ourselves is the work of a lifetime, especially for many of us women and likely more so for women and non-binary folks in marginalized communities. We have all been habituated to tamp down our own discomfort in favor of someone else’s comfort. Instead of speaking our minds, some of us choose to gossip instead. The less I speak my mind, the pettier and more gossipy I become. Not a good look.

When I have allowed the moment to speak up to pass, the hurtful comments linger inside me until I snap. One such incident happened at the beginning of the pandemic. A friend and colleague was in the habit of delivering casual insults disguised as “helpful hints.” I said nothing, rationalizing that I had no wish to be on bad terms. Plus, confronting her would be awkward. When the world shuttered, I had a break from her. When she showed up again with a signature barb, I blocked her on everything. She had no warning whatsoever and I imagine she probably wonders what happened.

I’d like to say this is a one off, but it isn’t. A grad school friend, a writer pal, and the latest friend invited to my block party, a person I had considered a friend but took way too long to notice that it was entirely one sided. And that’s the collateral damage of silencing yourself. Our intuition is dulled. Our instincts for people go wonky. When you don’t listen to yourself about who deserves your attention and continue to gulp down whatever awfulness they dish out, your body stops signaling friend or foe. Then when they do something really horrible, it comes as a genuine shock.

So, this is my intention for the New Year. I will step into awkwardness with a brave heart and address the problematic sh!t when it happens. I will take care of myself.

When you own your voice and step into the discomfort of expressing your truth, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

PS. WRITING PROMPT:  Do you speak up in the moment or do you stew? Do you have a limit on how much garbage you will take from people? What is it? 

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. And if you want, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

 

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Free To Be You In 2022

My friend Ilene should write a book about her experience as a mother-in-law. She maintains a solid record of being the one invited at such critical times as post-childbirth, parent getaways and emergencies of all sorts. When I asked her secret, she smiled. “Whatever their choices, my response is always, that’s great! I am asked back every time.”

Clearly, Ilene is a special case. It’s an old trope that a certain amount of criticism in this dynamic is to be expected. From the opinions I’ve accumulated over the years, I’m about a C- daughter-in-law.

 

By picking her up when she cries, you are spoiling her.

Organic produce is a waste of money.

My son shouldn’t have to cook or clean at home when he works so hard.

 

The full list could fill a set of encyclopedias, but I will spare you. Over these twenty-five years, I have allowed my feelings to be trampled by such casually delivered barbs. I’ve gotten angry, but mostly, I’ve felt terrible about not being good enough. For years, I have dragged around the weight of disapproval like a sack of hammers.

Over the course of the last year, however, I have unearthed my self-worth, rinsed it off and set it out in the sun. When the annual holiday visit ushered in a fresh round of judgments, I had a choice. Just because some unfestive vibes spattered a little mud on the holiday, didn’t mean I had to deep six my progress.

 

Before the kids got up on Christmas morning, I set out for a long run, intent on leaving the latest layer of hurt and rage out on the road. I’ve learned that when I am triggered, I can ask myself some powerful questions to probe the bitter thoughts.

What would you like to change about this dynamic?

I want something better from this relationship. I have come to terms with my own mom and fully accept where we are now. We have light-hearted conversations with zero baggage. Perhaps because my mother-in-law visits our home and is a part of our lives, I would like her to see me, not just make assumptions. After all this time, she doesn’t really know me. She’s been aware of my website and Friday Stories for months but hasn’t been interested enough to take a look.

 Why is this a problem for you?

When she is around, I brace myself for judgments like a cat with its back up. My reaction is extraordinarily thin-skinned and I don’t like the person I become. Here’s an example. Like many at this time of year, we do lots of holiday cooking. My mother-in-law has a decadent stuffing recipe that my husband asked her to prepare. Mark roasted the turkey and I sautéed mushrooms, green beans and mashed the potatoes like my own mother did: skins on. As my mother-in-law gathered ingredients for her dish, she expressed surprise at how equipped my kitchen was. With each found item, she registered shock to discover it. After the third or fourth time, I asked her, “why are you so surprised that I have a stocked kitchen?” Her reply, “I don’t know why you have any of this since you aren’t into cooking or baking.” You would have thought she threw a can of red paint on my new fur coat. I fumed in silence, shouting in my head, I have raised three children on homemade baby food, packed school lunches and prepared family dinners for decades. How dare you.  

 

 

Of course, there is history. Over the years, it became clear that my “nutrition-forward” cooking topped the list of grievances against me. On Thanksgiving at our house a few years back, my mother-in-law brought her own peeled mashed potatoes, even though I had made my own, skins on. Insults and efforts to avoid my cooking number too many to count. In my defense, I am legitimately a good cook. When she visits, I avoid her scrutiny by staying out of the kitchen to the extent possible. Perhaps she believes that if I am not cooking for her, I don’t cook for my family at all, leaving her poor son to do absolutely everything.

How would you prefer to feel about this?

I want to feel the same freedom I feel with my own mother. I want to have no expectations. I don’t want my self-worth to be tied to anyone’s opinion of me.

What is standing in your way?

My own awful thoughts, actually. By Christmas Day, I had replayed all the versions of what a terrible disappointment I had been, lo these many years. I ran until the fury drained out of my body, absorbed by the pavement beneath my feet. On mile nine, when letting go of my harmful thoughts seemed impossible, I phoned a friend. She reminded me that I don’t need to claim the C- I had given myself as a daughter-in-law. I don’t have to hold onto anyone’s opinion of me. More than a dozen miles later, I returned home to celebrate Christmas.

Shortly after brunch, my mother-in-law had to fly home early due to my son’s positive Covid test, so I did the rest of this work on my own. Everything happens as it is meant to, so perhaps I wasn’t totally ready to do the work with her yet. This last question finally broke through.

Who would you be without the thought that you are a C- daughter-in-law?*

It has served my victim story to view myself as the black sheep family member, the lowly rejected one. To have recreated the dynamic of my family of origin, the one I wasn’t yet ready to release. Without the thought that I am harshly judged, I am free to be myself. Without this burden, I am lighter. Simply by imagining how I would feel as this person who is not judged by her mother-in-law, I could become that person. Truth always feels like freedom. It may be easy for me to say behind the safety of my computer, however, in my body, I know it. Instead of the contraction in my chest, I expand, able to draw in deep, cleansing breaths.

And then this thought popped in: I don’t need a different mother-in-law than the one I have. The emotional trigger has helped me continue to work on myself, as awful as it has felt. Next time, I will work hard to remember that the past has no power over the present moment. I can open my balled up fist and let the harmful thoughts float away. I am no one’s opinion, I am simply myself. I will maintain good energy during one of the few times a year when we can be together.

Next time she comes, I will allow a fresh start. She actually tried while she was here, but I was so stuck in the past I missed the opportunity. She made a couple of attempts to heal the impression she’d left of my cooking. I prepared a palmini lasagna with tons of vegetables, not for a meal, just to have something healthy on hand. When I offered her a piece, she liked it. Another day for lunch, I made her a turkey sandwich on cauliflower sandwich rounds. She commented that she actually enjoyed healthy food, that it wasn’t she who had the problem with it.

Above all, I have realized that she has shown up for us. She is the one grandparent who agrees to come when I have a trip out of town or when we need to tend to another child. She has been here for hospital stays and college drop off. She has cooked and cleaned and cared for us. Once I let go of the thought that I am judged, my heart opened in gratitude for all she has done for me and for our family.  

When you examine your painful thoughts and ask powerful questions, you get to the bottom of what is bothering you. And when you think of who you would be without the harmful thoughts, you give yourself the chance to be free.

Love,

Elizabeth

 

WRITING PROMPT: How can you choose to be free in the New Year? 

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.com and subscribe today. And if you have friends who might enjoy these stories, please invite them to join us. If you don’t already, come find me on the socials so we can chat: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*This question comes from the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet by Byron Katie on thework.com. I know I sound like a moonie, but this has been the key to personal freedom for me and I literally cannot plug it enough.

 

 

 

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Good Nutrition For Your Mind

For those at home with family, you might be feeling a bit daunted right now. With the prospect of being on top of one another again, I’m right here with you. We’ve had a Covid exposure at our house and are once again wading into the unknown.

I will share what I am feeding my mind in preparation for whatever lies ahead:

  1. It is okay to feel your feelings. About. More. Covid. Or any of the other stuff, actually. I recognize my need to be aggressively FINE about sh!tty things. Granted, this coping tool has outlived its usefulness, but it did help me push through some dire circumstances. In the past, I believed that if I let fear or sadness in, it would flatten me. Here’s what we know: nothing will flatten us. We have proof of that: we are still here. We also know that stuffed down feelings get stuck and require steady self-medication. I’ve already done a bit of that with the mountain of treats delivered to our door. Mild panic around Covid results combined with the school’s heartless treatment of my son resulted in picking over the remains of a gift basket alone in my pantry. No amount of brownies, yogurt pretzels or chocolates will make these feelings go away. Say it with me: I will feel my feelings. If I can blast Pearl Jam and cry my way down down US1, you can too. With some intentionality, we can choose healthy ways of coping. (Okay maybe don’t drive and sob, but you get the picture.)
  1. Worry is a WASTE of your energy and your imagination. Breathe it out of you. Spinning the awful “what ifs” will poison the present moment. The other night at dinner, my husband predicted that if Omicron doesn’t get you, maybe Pi, Ro, Sigma or Tau would. Being no fan of that kind of talk, I replied that forecasting the worst isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. My teenage daughter didn’t appreciate my attempt to “shut down the conversation.”  She said I didn’t have the right to prevent them from discussing it to avoid my own discomfort. Maybe so. Opinions aside, I do know that sharing with your loved ones that this is going to linger until 2025 is a VIBE KILLER. You have no clue what this thing is going to do. Hand wringing about three years from now? WHY. Look around you. The bogey man you are creating does not exist in the present moment and that is all we are guaranteed anyway. He is an imaginary misery maker and it is you alone who has summoned him. You can rail against this idea all you want—no, it’s just the news and I must keep all informed like the town crier. But you are choosing to consume the news. Do you work for the CDC? Is anyone calling upon you to solve this problem? If you feel the need to talk about all the mounting awfulness and what it could all mean in the days, weeks, months to come, know that these are all crappy thoughts that you don’t have to grab onto—they are ruining your peace of mind. You have control over that. Thoughts are just visitors. Let them leave without destroying anything of value. Plus, the dinner table is for good manners and pleasant conversation. Anything else leads to digestion problems and nobody needs that.
  1. Don’t forget all the lessons you learned from The Great Pause in the first place. So many friends returned to piling OPTIONAL garbage back on their plates and commenced to lamenting it. Clearly that insight didn’t stick, people. We won’t get many more easy outs like this again so let the lesson take up permanent residence. Opt in only when it’s a HELL YES. Everything else is a F. NO. It’s not mean. It’s called self-care and the universe is obviously making it freaking mandatory.
  1. Surround yourself (at a safe distance) with people who energize you, make you laugh and bring you JOY. Protect your vibe. This may be a challenge with the holidays and the inevitable relative who has a real knack for triggering you. Guess what? It’s an opportunity to work on yourself. The only thing you have control over is you. No one is making you do or feel anything. All you can do is take responsibility for how you show up. Be conscious of the energy you bring to a space. Clean it up, clean it up, clean it up.
  1. That said, I am not suggesting to abandon all ye who are going through difficult times. At this point in our adulthood, however, we recognize those who are struggling from those who are choosing to suffer. Some of us are trying to figure it out and we need you as a compassionate witness. Maybe you need a compassionate witness of your own. Some prefer to b!tch into oblivion. Big difference in energy and intention. Either way, you can choose if and when you are the space for it. I have literally had to practice setting healthy boundaries OUT LOUD. Honestly, I would rather scour our septic tank with a toothbrush than reject another person, however, this is some necessary self-care. When I have mastered this skill, I’m gonna throw a kegger. With a band.
  1. Forgive yourself. This last week has been a marathon of holiday prep: getting ready to host my mother-in-law, grocery shopping, cooking, wrapping, stressing. I admit to sinking into resentment a time or two, especially when criticized by my big kids around my parenting. I told them all off. It wasn’t cute. When we’d all had some time to reflect, I came back to the family room and kissed their heads as they took in a Harry Potter marathon on the couch together. We ended the day with I love yous all around. I love myself too, no matter how crabby and fed up I felt that day. I accept my humanity and make space for it out in the world for everyone else.

Okay team, let’s do this. Remember, you are the captain of this ship. When you steer your mind in the direction you want to go, you will always live somewhere beautiful.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! And please send us some healthy home vibes. 🙂

Love, Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: What do the holidays trigger in you? How is round three of Covid going in your home? Are you doing these writing prompts? 🙂

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.com and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

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Speak To Your Secret Self

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

Jack Kornfield

 

Something mysterious happened when I arrived at a tender point in my book revision. I passed out cold. Subsequent attempts to put words to the difficult emotions fell flat. Until now, writing through painful experiences had worked. A deadline approached and I didn’t know what to do.

 

My editor encouraged me to tread lightly. We made a plan to take some time and come back to it. I am resisting the urge to tear myself down. Instead, I’m thinking of it as a routine pit stop.

 

A new friend sent me an exercise for communicating with a buried part of yourself. You can use the technique as a regular practice. She followed along while podcaster Tim Ferriss and a therapist demonstrated the process on his show. You can find it in Episode #492 called “IFS … Finding Inner Peace for Our Many Parts.”

In all the hours perched in the corner of my therapist’s couch, I had never heard of IFS. Harvard Professor Richard Schwartz developed “Internal Family Systems” after finding that family therapy didn’t do the whole job. He observed that patients continued to be troubled by specific parts of themselves that needed to be addressed separately. He found that even the severely traumatized had the capacity to shift into a compassionate role to relate to the other parts. The true Self cannot be damaged and naturally knows how to heal. No matter what has happened, we all have access to the real Self who always responds with curiosity, calm and confidence.*

No matter if you have past trauma or not, parts of your may be in conflict with other parts. There are ways our culture, family, etc. have convinced us to banish the former happy-go-lucky, creative sides of ourselves to an inner basement. Typically, the inner child who was sensitive and vulnerable is the one who feels most frightened. One part shuts down another as a protective measure. That’s the inner conflict.

Dr. Schwartz guides Tim through a series of inquiries where one part of himself speaks to another. The results were pretty astounding. I decided to try it.

 

One Saturday morning, I shut my office door and hit play on my phone. As the therapist directed Tim, I paused and asked myself the questions. If you have unprocessed trauma that requires an expert, I encourage you to find one instead of running this inquiry on yourself. If you feel comfortable, here is the list of questions to ask yourself—literally ask. You’ll be surprised to hear an answer emerge from another part of who you are. It’s actually pretty cool. Here goes:

 

Is there a part of yourself you’d like to get to know better? A part that is getting in the way?

There is a part of me that feels sad.

Focus on that feeling, find it in your body.

It’s in my chest.

Tell me how you feel about that part?

I feel ashamed it’s still there. After all the therapy and self help, it’s stillthere.

We are going to ask both of those parts, the sad part and the ashamed part, to make some space to get to know them separately.** Will those two parts be willing to relax and let the sad one come forward?

Okay.

How do you feel about it now?

I feel a great deal of compassion for that little sad one.

Let it know you have some empathy for it, you care about it and want to get to know it better. Just ask what it wants you to know.

She is sad her mom didn’t like her.

How do you feel about that part of you?

I am so sorry she has to feel this way. I know it’s hard to carry that hurt around.

Anything else that part of you wants to say? Anything you are worried about now?

She wants me to know she tried everything to change mom’s mind about her. She finally gave up and chose to just be herself even though she knew mom didn’t like it. That sad part continues to worry about being rejected by other people for expressing who she really is.

Do you see this child inside? Can you invite her to join you? Tell this part of you that the other parts are not around right now and that you care about her. Is there anything more she wants you to know? Does she protect other parts of you?

Yes. She doesn’t allow anyone to reach the part that was rejected by mom. The other parts stand guard around that sad little one to prevent her from getting hurt ever again.

Ask if she trusts if you care about her.

Yes, she does.

 

Tell her to show you what you need to feel about how bad it was for her.

When she would tell mom about things she needed, it seemed like mom thought she was lying. Like she was bad. She got the message that it was wrong to express her needs. Once she shared about being mad at her friends. Mom’s criticism made her feel evil. Mom didn’t like her style—a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a pink party dress. Mom preferred hippie skirts and long, crazy hair. Her choices were unacceptable. Disapproval came from all around her except from the special teachers who loved her.

Just be with her how she needed you to be at the time. How is it for her?

Comforting. Like someone is seeing her.

Ask her what she wants you to do for her back in time.

Explain to mom that whatever she is projecting onto her child from her own past is misplaced. This daughter does not represent anyone else. She deserves your unconditional love.

What was that like to watch you do that for her?

She is glad to have someone sticking up for her.

 

Tell her that you will be doing that for her from now on and ask if she would like to go with you to a safe and comfortable place. Take her away from there to wherever she’d like to go.

I took her to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory so she could hang out by the chocolate river and never get any cavities and chill with the oompa loompas.

Would you like to let go of those beliefs that you took from that time? Ask where she carries those beliefs in her body.

In her chest.

Ask her where she would like to release it all, to what element: light, water, fire, wind, earth.

To the sky.

Take that pain out of your body and toss it up into the clouds. Invite into yourself the qualities she wants to have.

Self-worth, confidence, peace, love, respect, warmth and openness.

Bring in the part of you who is ashamed of the sad part of you. What does that part feel?

Sad memories. Rejection. Loneliness.

How does she seem?

Relieved.

Does this feel complete for now?

Yes.

Focus back outside yourself. Check in with your chest and see how it feels.

Lighter.

____

I made a great discovery during this exercise. I thought I’d held onto the pain of my mother leaving our family and/or a terrible betrayal of my best friend in college. A part of myself made very clear it was neither of those. The pain of the original blow was the rejection of my mother before anything else happened. That was the trauma I never healed from. It had seemed like nothing to me. Turned out, I had been protecting that part of myself almost my whole life.

When you are directed to talk to another part of yourself, you totally can. If you are able to feel empathy for that exiled part of you, Schwartz says you have a lot of access to your true Self, which makes this exercise a productive one. You become a compassionate witness to that hurt kid, you have a redo to tell the people who hurt you what they needed to know. Once you make it right in the eyes of that kid, you can get out of that stuck place and let go of the burdens.

Once you learn this technique, you can make it a daily practice. If you notice a part getting triggered, you can let it know it’s okay, and that everything goes better when the Self is in charge. Check in with your parts. I’ve done it a couple of times when I wake up in the morning to see how that little sad kid is doing. She asked not to be left in Wonkaland. She wants to come with me so I let her in. I’m glad I did because I needed her this week. I had to be sad for a little while and she was there to give me access to those feelings pretty quickly.

Dr. Schwartz finds that being able to have a self to self conversation, patients start to heal themselves. Cool right? Also free. That’s my favorite price.

I do feel some relief and the stirrings of a breakthrough. If I am able to write from an emotionally authentic place, that will tell the whole story. Thanks for coming along.

When you make space inside yourself to love and accept all the vulnerable parts of you, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: What part of yourself do you feel the need to protect? Ask yourself. The answer may surprise you.

* From Tim’s show notes: “IFS is now evidence-based and has become a widely used form of psychotherapy, particularly with trauma. It provides a non-pathologizing, optimistic and empowering perspective…”

**Tim named different parts of himself, obviously. These are mine.

 

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Confessions of a People Pleaser


Confessions of a people pleaser. (Don’t hate me.)

Two recent incidents brought into stark relief why I detest this behavior in myself so much. Please note that I feel tremendous guilt over discussing this—it involves people I care about and who I want to like me (i.e., everyone). Also the culture expects us, women especially, to place everyone else’s happiness above our own. But I can no longer abide my insipid smiling and nodding. And I know that so many of us struggle with this sh!t, so I will take one for the team and just say it already. Being a people pleaser is some Stepford BS. The only way to stop it is to yank it out at the root.

What’s the root?

That’s an easy one. Mom left when I was young. Easy math for that outspoke little girl. Expressing my needs rendered me dangerously leavable. In every relationship since then, I’ve played the part of temporary employee trying to prove myself, concerned that if I push back on something that’s not okay with me, I will be rejected.

Jeez, what brought this on?

Two separate get-togethers I’d so looked forward to went off the rails. The plan was to spend time with friends in meaningful conversation, deepening our connections. Instead, I sat on the receiving end of a one-sided torrent of complaints about other people, wrapped in stories I had already heard a time or two.* The mutually rewarding experience I had anticipated existed only in my imagination.

So what did you do about it?

I made feeble attempts to steer the conversation into more tolerable territory, to no avail. Afterwards, I was pissed. I had taken valuable time away from all the other stuff I had going on, for this? I told myself I had been ambushed and it was not my fault. The second time it happened in as many weeks pointed to the real culprit and it wasn’t my friends.

How is blaming yourself helpful?

It’s not so much the need to place blame as it is to take responsibility for my own choices. I have learned that when I react negatively to someone, I am responding to something inside myself. So I Byron Katie’d into a better understanding of what was going on.**

How did you take responsibility?

I was pissed at how my friends had treated me. In reality, I was angry for myself for signing up for it. I am the one responsible for making sure my needs are met. The porous boundaries were my own. Each friend had wanted to vent, and there I was, smiling and nodding. What did I expect? If I was being really honest with myself, I had an inkling when I made the plans that this was how it might go down. The need for real connection that I had ignored was my own.

It seems to have struck quite a nerve—what’s the big deal?

The reason I experienced these conversations as so odious is that I used to do this sort of thing all the time. I b!tched nonstop about my parents’ failures, sacrificing my career for my family, my husband’s inability to pick up on how to make me happy, the number of organizations that had demanded so much of my time. I had spent the better part of my life playing the greatest hits of my victim story.

How did you stop being so freaking toxic?

It has taken a few years for me to pull myself out of the negativity spiral I had allowed to dominate my thinking. To stop blaming other people for what was wrong with my life. With clear intentions and hard work, I have changed my mindset. I feel good. When I hear someone else’s incessant complaining, the inner cringe now serves as a wake up call. That’s what it looks like when you live as if you aren’t responsible for your own life. It is always 100% our responsibility. And there is always a choice.

How do you know others struggle with this too?

I’m still clueless about what to say when someone hijacks a conversation in this way and I know I am not the only one. One of the book clubs I’d once been a part of ended because none of us knew how to stop one of the members from bellyaching long enough for us to discuss the book. Another group of friends routinely leaves one person out because no one will stop her from dominating the evening with her laundry list of gripes. From my vantage point, people pleasing has reached epidemic proportions. Maybe we all have to practice setting boundaries in the mirror.

So what’s the plan Sam?

I’m ready to establish healthy boundaries. I really do want real connections. I know I can prioritize my needs AND also care about other people. Most of all, I need to realize that I deserve to have a happy life. I don’t need to feel guilty about it and then make plans with people who are guaranteed to rain on my parade.

That little girl in me showed up with her worth and it never left her.

When we know our worth and maintain healthy boundaries, we get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: so, what’s your deal with people pleasing?

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.com and subscribe today. And if you enjoy them, invite a friend along. You can also come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*At this point, you may be wondering whether I am the kind of friend who has the ability to hold space for someone going through a hard time. The answer is yes. I may even be pretty good at it. These were not conversations. I could have been a tree stump in both scenarios.

**I do the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet A LOT. Whenever I am upset with someone, I have some work to do on myself, without exception. I wrote about it a few months back: https://elizabethheise.com/come-home-to-yourself/https://elizabethheise.com/come-home-to-yourself/ The worksheet can be found at thework.com.

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Copyright © *2021 *Elizabeth Heise, LLC*, All rights reserved.

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Stories

Follow Your Body Compass

 

The body knows. When we don’t listen, things can go haywire. I just recently learned to pay attention to the signals, but then I let my mind talk me out of it. Mayhem ensued. Here’s what happened.

Scheduling a series of dentist appointments for my son had been difficult. The office was jammed. They got a cancellation and called to offer a sooner date. For no apparent reason, a tightness seized my chest. I clearly heard the word DON’T. I dismissed the warning, telling myself, you’re being lazy— just go and get it over with.

On the day of the appointment, a torrential downpour came out of nowhere. Three kids at two schools waited for me in the mess of traffic and flooding. I somehow had to collect and drop off the other kids at home, then haul our butts to the dentist across town.

The high schoolers gamely ran out to me in the rain, avoiding the longest line. But at the middle school, traffic stood still. Luckily, the rain had let up so I called my youngest son.

“Can you walk outside school so I don’t get stuck in there? Jax has an appointment in a few minutes.”

“Where do I go?”

“I’ll see you when you come out the entrance. I’m just sitting here in my car. Don’t cross the street.”

Two minutes later, traffic began to move and the sprinkles turned back into buckets.

My son was nowhere to be found and I was being sucked into the carpool gauntlet.

I called him on his cel, shouting frantically into the phone.

“WHERE ARE YOU??”

I couldn’t hear or see him anywhere. Knowing he wouldn’t return to campus under any circumstances—not to save his computer, leather shoes, or notebooks in the light nylon backpack—I slipped out of carpool using the bus exit and crept along the rain soaked road, searching.

There he was, across the street, clutching his backpack protectively to his chest, his once carefully neglected skater hair plastered over his eyes. I pulled over and rolled down the window. Rain drenched me in a flash. He dashed across the street and yanked open the door.

I’d like to say this was the point at which I apologized for asking him to meet me out there. Instead, I said this:

“Why did you cross the street? I told you not to cross the street. Give me your bag.” I rifled around the soggy notebooks, pulled out his dripping computer and wiped it off on my pants. I flipped it open and the dead battery sign flashed on the screen.

“Did you leave your charger at school?” I scolded.

He stared out the window, looking miserable and cold, raindrops running rivulets down his face. He didn’t speak to me. And who could blame him. Instead of a concerned mother, he’d found a hysterical shrew.

Finally on our way, I muttered a lame apology and dropped him at home. His brother and I and made it to the dentist 30 minutes late. Even still, we had time to spare before he was called in due to all the other late patients who’d been stuck in the storm. I’d have had plenty of time to pick up my younger boy at school, safe and dry.

The next morning, I offered a better apology, still not great.

“About yesterday: I’m so sorry for putting you in that situation and for how I reacted. You didn’t deserve that. I had a gut feeling I shouldn’t have taken that appointment, but I didn’t listen to it. You suffered the most for my mistake. I hope this experience will help us both to listen when our bodies are trying to steer us in the right direction.” (A better apology would have delivered the life lesson another time, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.)

If this is a touch too woofor you, check this one out: Marie Forleo, author of Everything is Figureoutable wrote about it in her newsletter this week too. She said her body told herto sell her house. She kept hearing get out…get out…get out for like three months. If you’re skeptical like my older son, assuming she’d simply made a smart Covid Times real estate decision, forget it. She’s got millions. This is her dream house. She called her real estate agent and put it on the market.

She explained that decades of experience have taught her to trust that voice, no matter how bad it looks on paper. She believes that we all have the ability to access a source of higher wisdom within us.

So. How do we do that?

Remember when I said I had just recently learned to listen to my body? I learned a technique called the Body Compass.

Martha Beck teaches that the mind and heart communicate through the body, the one medium they share. The body constantly sends the mind messages about our decisions. The bummer part is that we are socialized against listening to our own signals and conditioned to replace them with all the shoulds of our culture. Trying to gain acceptance out in the world and meet everyone else’s expectations takes us far away from the truth inside, sometimes silencing it entirely. We end up worrying far more about what others think we should do than what we knowwe should.

Lucky for us, there is a method that unlocks body wisdom and it’s available anytime.

 

THE BODY COMPASS

If you do this exercise just once, you gain useful information that will always be available to you. When you have a few minutes, get comfortable and run through these three body scans: neutral, positive and negative.

1. Neutral body scan

Relax in a seated position. Feel your feet on the ground, your hands resting on your thighs, your head above your shoulders. Starting with the soles of your feet, go SLOWLY, ask yourself how do your knees feel, how do your thighs feel, what do you feel in your pelvis, how’s your gut?Allow your attention to linger on each part of your body and breathe. Slowly work your way up, noting all the sensations without any judgment. If you feel nothing, that is also information. There is no right or wrong here.

2. Negative body scan

Bring to mind a negative experience you have had. Not the worst thing ever, just something you didn’t enjoy. A bad job, living somewhere you didn’t like, an argument with a friend. Think of that situation and engage your senses. Remember the sounds, smells, textures. Sink back into that memory. Then scan the body again and look for how it reacts to the situation. Start with the feet and go all the way to the head, searching for sensations in the body as it responds to the bad memory. Identify any tingling, heaviness, tension, pain without judgment or attempts to influence the feeling.

Next, name the sensation— it can’t be just “bad.” Mine is tightness in my chest. It’s a specific feeling that will show up when you consider something that is not right for you.

3. Positive Body Scan

Next, think of a great thing that has happened to you. Something simple, not a lot of social input because that can trigger our social self which just wants approval. Choose something in nature, with a pet, any peaceful moment. Immerse into the memory, feel the air, the physical sensations of that good thing, smell the air. Then do a body scan. How does your body respond to this happy memory? Go from the feet all the way up, out the hands. Take a deep breath and get a sense for the whole sensation—give it a name.

4. Take Your Compass Out for A Spin

Consider the items on your To Do List. With each task, check in with your body. Now that you have the references, you can go down the list and note whether your reactions are positive, negative or neutral. Using your references, you can now become aware of when you are moving into a situation that is not meant for you. When you notice how the items on your list make you feel, you have some choices to make. Maybe you want to stop going to PTA or something. 🙂


5. Watch Your Language

If you are like many of us and having a hard time tuning in to your body’s messages, try this. Stop using the phrases I can’t or I have to. There is no situation in which those two phrases are absolute. If you say instead, I choose not toor I choose to, you communicate that to your body. All it does is shift the mind, that something that is being imposed on you is STILL a choice. You still have some freedom. Just this one minor shift has been known to CURE DEPRESSION, it is that powerful. You might be living in a prison with the door wide open. Shifting language just that subtly will allow the body to more easily communicate it’s truth to you.

And that’s how you use the most reliable, most sophisticated tool you have to head in the direction of your best life.

Once you start paying attention to your body compass, you may be amazed to see how strong the signals are when you are turning towards something that is not right for you versus when you turn towards something that is perfect for you. And PS. when you hear it, don’t do what I did. LISTEN.

When we tune in to the clear messages inside and follow our true path, we get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: Have you ignored your intuition and come to regret it? Or do you listen like your body’s faithful servant? I’m interested!

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. And if ya want, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

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An End To Emotional Eating

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Because of the topic, I am sending my Friday Story a day early. In case there is a nugget in here that will help you navigate a day that can be trouble for many of us, here your are.

I’ve resisted writing on this subject mainly because I refuse to join the dirty team that has tried everything to convince us our appearance equals our worth. I want no part of that. This piece isn’t about weight or dieting. It’s about being true to ourselves and making choices from that place.

After a lifetime of emotional eating, I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Putting a stop to self-medicating wasn’t easy. For some of us it’s food, for others it’s alcohol, drugs or shopping. I am not a licensed mental health professional, so for those dealing with clinical addiction, I trust that you are seeking help with the appropriate folks. This is strictly for those of us who self-soothe in ways that make us feel juuuust bad enough about ourselves. You know how we like to kick our own teeth in when the opportunity arises? That.

So, here goes.

It started in my childhood home where any form of sugar that came in the door was a big deal. My mother followed Nutritionist Adelle Davis, treating her books like sacred texts. Adelle railed against the typical American diet of processed foods and sugar. Whole wheat bread with as many grains as you could stuff in one loaf was the centerpiece of her philosophy. The peanut butter and honey sandwiches I brown-bagged to school had the heft of a shot put and tasted of the fields. In the age of canned foods and TV dinners, Adelle sounded the alarm bells that our physical and emotional health would be forever compromised by making such choices. My mother dutifully heeded her warnings.

When the white bakery bag holding gingerbread men showed up on our kitchen table, we surrounded it in reverent silence. My mother distributed the puffy bodies with delicate icing and each of the four of us went off on our own to savor every bite. We learned to enjoy our sweet indulgences in private.

From those years forward, the sensation of sugar dissolving in my mouth and amping my blood sugar translated as pure pleasure, the total absence of pain. But those moments were rare. I turned this into the belief that to live virtuously, pleasure should be withheld, almost indefinitely. No cookie for you. And if you did indulge, have the decency to hide it.

A half century later, it strikes me that I have both rebelled against this conditioning and followed it to the letter. I am an eater. I’ve dieted but always unsuccessfully—I really don’t believe in deprivation. I exercise regularly and have felt justified in my hearty appetite. But I haven’t been happy with the way I feel in my clothes for most of my life. Over the past few months that has changed. The more I engaged in the following behaviors, the more grounded in my body I felt and the better I became at mindful eating. I feel good in my clothes! Here’s what I recommend.

 

  1. TELL THE TRUTH

Most of my stress snacking had occurred after dinner when all meals and snacks should be done for the day. When I observed my patterns, I noticed that if I had engaged in some harmful people pleasing earlier in the day, I was more prone to self-medicate with food by the time evening rolled around.

The last time it happened here’s how it went down: my son had two sleepovers over a holiday weekend. By the following school day, he claimed he didn’t feel well. I had a full schedule and now it would be interrupted. There’d been disruptions to my work for several days already and I had started to feel panicky.

I let him sleep in, figuring I’d take him to school later and still get most of my work done. When he finally woke up, he said maybe something he ate didn’t agree and he should stay home. Acid reflux had been an issue so it was plausible. But then he bopped around all afternoon, watched funny shows and made quesadillas. I suspected I’d been had.

The minute school ended at 3:30 pm, he enjoyed a miraculous recovery and got dressed to meet his friends for skateboarding. Rationalizing that the exercise would do him some good, I allowed him to go. By 8:00 pm, I was stuffing this incident down with black & white cookies from Trader Joe’s.

The moment this kid had a spring in his step, I could have said the following, “You are clearly well. I have work to do. GET IN THE CAR.”

 

  1. FEEL THE FEELINGS

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to avoid feeling ANY painful emotions and have even attempted to convince my kids to slap a smile on a sh!tty situation. My way has been to guard my fragile heart (and theirs!) against any painful incident, tossing it away like a hot potato.

Take the summer after I started college. All my friends went home, but I stuck around, as usual. No invitation arrived to spend the summer with either of my parents, not that I was surprised. Neither of them figured their four kids into any living arrangements anymore. An empty college campus can be a lonely place. I waited tables all summer but the restaurant was dead. The spots down in Santa Barbara would have been hopping, but I’d have needed a car for the highway miles. When I wasn’t working, I hung out alone in my apartment. Without the funds for furniture, I lay in a sleeping bag on my bedroom floor. Someone had left a little black and white television, so I watched a fuzzy game show or read from the pile of discarded books left by previous tenants. The only pleasurable part of the day was eating 25 cent ramen or Cup o’ Noodles which was all I could afford.

Food was my friend, the solitary feelings the enemy. Survival instinct told me that surrendering to the full measure of loneliness would have crushed me. Back then, I didn’t know there were other ways of taking care of my needs. A walk on the beach would have done wonders.

These days, I seek out all sorts of other sensory pleasures. Food maintains it’s spot high on the list, but it’s among many other non-food items. I must be intentional about feeling an entire emotion (all 90 seconds according to neuroscience) and to unlearn the conditioning to avoid them at all costs. I know if they get stuck inside, I’ll have to neutralize them later with brownies.

  1. MIND YOUR BUSINESS

This is probably the most critical contributing factor to bringing an end to my stress eating. Byron Katie teaches that it is not our business to worry for or about other people. She recommends asking ourselves if the concern is our business, meaning, are we the ones making the decisions or is someone else? There are three types of “business”: my business, your business and God’s business. (If you aren’t a God person, substitute that for nature, the universe, chance, fate, whatever helps you understand that certain stuff is out of our control.)

 

Taking on others’ business has been a major source of anxiety for me. The big ones on my list are: any of my kids falling ill, being hurt or getting into trouble. Sounds weird to say that what they do is none of my business, but it’s actually true. I can do my best as a parent to teach them how to make good choices and manage their feelings, but I control exactly none of how they do it. Oddly, it’s a relief. Worrying about my family has dominated much of my adult life but with this insight, I feel pretty good. Plus, trying to fix it for themwill stunt their growth anyway, so we are all better off.

  1. SEEK SUPPORT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

A few months ago, I tried to help someone going through a difficult time. She had coped with problems by self-medicating with food. She asked for help so I asked around. A trusted friend recommended a Registered Dietician—a woman in town whom I had always liked but didn’t know what she did for a living. Apparently, she was in high demand and only had one spot for months. I set the appointment. Turned out, the time didn’t work for my friend. When I clicked on her calendar to cancel, I realized I could benefit from an expert’s opinion on my choices. My digestion had always been troubled. Energy ups and downs plagued my every day. Extra weight had me feeling uncomfortable in my clothes despite exercise and healthy eating.

One look at what was going on and Dianne explained that the dried fruit I snacked on with regularity spiked my blood sugar and sent me into a crash. My temperamental belly had been not so silently objecting to the amount of beans I consumed. They had always been a major staple of my diet. Due to my daily breakfast of oatmeal and maple syrup and then a turkey avocado sandwich for lunch, I’d chosen a diet perfectly tailored to weight gain. My body required way more vegetables, more protein and loads less sugar. I followed what she told me and now I don’t crave sugar and enjoy steady energy. I feel better than ever.

Not that you asked, but since today is basically our national holiday for overeating, I will share Dianne’s advice: “fill 3/4 of the plate like this: protein, vegetables and salad. The last 1/4 of the plate with other traditional foods high in carbs like stuffing and potatoes. For dessert take small tasting pieces on a plate. The key is that Thanksgiving is a wonderful meal, not a weekend, so beware of leftover starches and desserts.” Ok! I may do most of that, we’ll see. That little kid in me who hates to be deprived is still in there after all.

5. CHOOSE YOU

In years past, feeling bad about myself and really wallowing in it paired nicely with poor food choices: it could be something with sugar (brownies and chocolate chip cookies), or highly processed (ALL the chips). My vacuum cleaner style of eating had very little to do with actual hunger. I felt entitled to console myself with food and there was no scolding parent here to stop me. I felt trapped in this little kid thinking.The more I ate, the worse I felt—perfect.

That’s no longer what I want for myself. When making choices, I now take a mindfulness break to focus on one my senses: breathing, music, or touch (rub index finger and thumb together feeling the ridges of your fingerprint). It puts me back in my body to make choices that will feel good to me. I feel more responsible for the person who will wake up tomorrow and reflect on what I did today. I don’t need another opportunity to beat myself over the head. Lord knows, I have done enough of that.

Today, I choose me.

When your body and mind are integrated, you feel whole. No morsel of food anywhere feels as good as that.

Happy Holidays.

Love,

Elizabeth

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. You are also encouraged to come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

 

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Time To Level Up

 

 

After a hard week, an old friend wandered into my thoughts with that funny saying: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” I used to have a lot of those friends. Who am I kidding, I have been that friend. Attending a gossipfest is like going on a boozy bender. You know you’re gonna feel bad about yourself afterwards, but screw it,you drink up anyway.

 

There are worse vices, but indulging in that kind of talk keeps us mired in negativity. That old friend had a particularly vicious streak when it came to the flaws she saw in others. When I became more aware of my own behavior, I got an inkling about why she might be doing this. When we don’t like ourselves enough, we are particularly hard on other people. And when we don’t take care our own needs, we place too great a burden on others. Of course they don’t meet our expectations—no one does.

 

For some of us, this is a lifestyle. We blame the collective them for everything. I have done this with bosses, friends, my husband, my family of origin. Not even the driver in front of me is safe from what I think he should be doing instead. People are only capable of being exactly who they are, every minute of every day. Accepting this fact leads to a far more peaceful life. I know this for sure and still, I catch myself feeling angry at people for not being my preferred version.

 

When the gossipy friend came to mind, I took it as a sign that I had gotten stuck in that kind of thinking again: why does everyone suck. It had been a while since I’d taken an all-inclusive trip to expectation station. I hadn’t met my own needs and then looked around for others to blame for not doing it for me. When I’d had enough of how terrible this made me feel, I cleaned my energy and let go of those crappy thoughts.

 

Pain is a wonderful teacher but hopefully, the day comes when we are sick of feeling meh and disappointed in others. On that magical day, we can choose another way of being in the world. Every one of us has the power to manifest the life we actually want. We can stop being pushed by pain and feel the pull of joy instead.

 

When it comes to “manifesting,” however, the word has been a bit triggery for me. In the past, I’d accomplish a difficult goal and my mom would say something like, “that’s so great the way you manifested it.” Um, no, I worked for it. I hated the idea of giving “the universe” credit for my labor. But then I stopped resisting the whole idea and learned that it’s about our own energy and what we are drawing into our lives.

 

 

 

Here’s the catch: the only way to be in flow with all the good stuff is to be the space for it. Sounds very hippie kookoo but just go with it for a sec. The clearest explanation of how to BE THE SPACE for your highest potential is available on the November 10, 2021 Super Soul podcast interview of Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith: Manifest the Life of Your Dreams.

 

 

 

Beckwith explains that many of us live in a victim consciousness, wondering why life is just mediocre, no matter what our circumstances. We ask the universe disempowering questions: why does this always happen to me? Why can’t I have anything? Why did they do this to me? But here’s what most of us don’t realize: the universe answers all the disempowering questions we ask it. If you mine your experiences for evidence that the deck is stacked against you, you can assign a negative meaning to your whole life. We go around telling this small story on a loop. Take the first draft of my book, for example. From the school principal harassing me as a first grader to walking in on my boss snorting coke on the top of the toilet seat, I had a million examples of how my life had been unfair. We tell these sad stories until we decide to stop.

 

To break out of this self-sabotage, we must spend time outside our limited thinking. We create space inside us that is free of those small minded thoughts. Establishing a practice of meditation, gratitude, daily affirmations, visualization, daily prayers—anything that breaks out of the negative thought loop will do it. I personally vouch for meditation. After so many years of it, I realize my difficult experiences have benefitted me greatly. I’ve done other work to change my mindset, but I am convinced meditation opened the space for all the good stuff to come in.

 

 

 

Once you have made a little room in there, it’s time to fill it up with possibilities instead of problems. These higher vibes are critically important because we draw in the vibration we most put out. There is some spooky talk out there about how negative thinking draws bad experiences. There may be a little dot of truth to that but Martha Beck* teaches that positive thoughts are far more powerful than negative ones. She gives the example that an unlit candle in a sunlit room has no ability to dim the light, whereas lighting a candle in a dark room illuminates the whole space.

  

So, in practical terms what does this shift to a higher vibration look like? First, you change how you talk to yourself. No more I have to do this and I have to do that. Everything you do, you are choosing to do—no one is forcing you. You might have some consequences if say, you decide to forgo feeding your children or cat, but you actually don’t have to do it. Knowing that everything we do is a choice helps us live a more intentional, more powerful, more positive life.

 

Then, you change what you are saying about your life to others. Rather than complaining about the difficulty, you focus on what you are going to do about it. You talk to your friends about the new approach you plan to take with a problem. And if you are still in the kvetchy stage, give yourself some grace. You will move on when you are ready and not a moment before.

 

Beckwith suggests asking the universe empowering questions instead. I took this theory out for a run a couple times this week. After I’d gotten a little distance from my house where I don’t know the neighbors, I threw up my hands and told the big blue sky, “I AM OPEN TO WHATEVER YA GOT.” As I ran, I asked the universe: what if all my needs were met? What if all my challenges have lead me to my greatest potential? A lightness and a sense of excitement filled my spirit. I was the smiliest weirdo out there at 6:30 a.m.

 

When you fill your mind with the possibilities, inertia will go towards them. What we focus on, we get more of. Every good teacher has said some version of this. Dr. Beckwith suggests we keep the possibilities in our mind and on our lips. Talk to select friends, even talk to the potential, talk to abundance, talk to prosperity. If you do that enough, you begin to talk from it.

 

And for those of us who are currently in a hard place, he provides some guidance too. The best question to ask is: if these circumstances were to last forever, what quality would need to emerge to have peace of mind? He believes that if you focus on that powerful quality rather than the suffering, you move through it faster.

 

When you create a space for your own unfolding and then surrender to what is for you, you get the sense that it’s going to be far better than okay. The possibilities are beyond imagination.

 

Love,

Elizabeth

 

WRITING PROMPT: Do you notice when you are vibrating high or low? How do you switch it up?

Do these Friday Stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.com and subscribe today. You are also encouraged to come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*Martha Beck’s November 18, 2021 Podcast The Gathering Pod pairs nicely with Dr. Beckwith and Oprah’s conversation.

 

 

 

 

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Categories
Stories

What Is Your Destiny?

 

What a question! Seriously though, I am not alone in the belief that each of us was put here for a reason. The trick is to figure it out before it’s all over. So how do we do that?

Your body gives you some big hints. You know the thing you are so excited to do that you wake up thinking about it? That little thrill is your clue. The stuff you dread: so not your destiny. Don’t have any of that enthusiasm? Follow your curiosity and you’ll trip right over it. A tiny, nearly imperceptible spark can open up a whole world—if you follow it.

The hard part in discovering your true path is getting caught up in the “shoulds.” Obviously we all have responsibilities. I’m not suggesting you quit your day job and go live on an Ashram to find yourself. But trust me on this, we were not meant live in drudgery.

My life as a lawyer was exactly that. The profession seemed like the right choice to make lots of money and finally be somebody. I had come from divorce, dysfunction and financial hardship. I put myself through school and got some therapy. I also figured I should help people who didn’t feel as much agency as I did to help themselves. As a result, I felt burdened to solve the problems of every needy person on earth,no pressure. I took on pro bonomatters in addition to my regular practice. If I’d gone to work solely as a do gooder for legal aid, I wouldn’t have been able to pay down any of my student debt. My daily practice was about helping big companies keep all their money.I was a decent lawyer but I found the work tedious.Not my destiny.

Cut to all these years later and I have a TON of enthusiasm for most of my work. But there’s a problem. At first, writing the book got me out of bed with a spring in my step every morning.  Revisions have now become a joyless exercise. The one iron-clad rule of storytelling is that if you aren’t thrilled about writing it, you sure as hell can’t expect anyone to be excited to read it. I poured my heart into that book and the process truly changed my life. Putting my story down on the page delivered me straight to my life’s purpose. But now that it is in the overhaul stage (always necessary with a solid first draft, don’t kid yourself first time authors) I just. Don’t. Wanna.

 

What do we do when we feel like something IS our destiny but it’s hard and kind of…sucks? That’s where looking outside yourself will help you. No matter what you are facing, you will be guided by BOTH an inner voice and outer signs. Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, says to “look out for the omens.” With that in mind, I walked around with the thought bubble ‘what do I do about the book?’ I sh!t you not, the universe answered.

In my weekly Writer’s Bridge Zoom call, the host said something like, “to build your author platform, you have to be scrappy.” Then, one of my favorite podcaster/writer/editors, Brooke Warner on Write Minded called someone scrappy too. Just last night, Dan Blank on The Creative Shift talked about a band called Scrap-o-matic. Close enough!

So clearly, Scrappy doesn’t want me to give up. But what about doing the work? I need to be pumped for it.

At this stage in my revisions, I am reorganizing the narrative. The new outline contains one tight container with lots of flashbacks. My developmental editor sent articles on how to work with leaps in time. I scampered down the rabbit hole on this bit of craft work and ordered the suggested stack of books. That means more non-writing time, but that feels okay.

So now I will study flashbacks, write this weekly piece and delight in my Wayfinders Program. Only a few weeks in, I already have a deeper understanding of myself. We are learning a technique that helps you figure out a problem in just a few minutes as opposed to weeks, years or never. It is mind-blowing. By the time I’m done in July, I’ll be ready to revise the book. I have a hunch that the experience will make for a truer version of me as a writer and as a human. SCRAPPY LIVES.

When you follow both your inner and outer guides, your destiny awaits! Not only is it going to be okay, its going to be fan-freaking-tastic.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: What inner and outer signs are guiding your path?

Do these Friday Stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. You are also encouraged to come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!