Is it even possible that Thanksgiving is over and we are hurtling towards Christmas? HOLY MOLY! Or, if you celebrate Chanukah - OY! VEY! And, I'm pretty sure that there is a similar expression available in every culture and faith that expresses that overwhelmed feeling that we all get from time to time. This post is going to ask you to re-read the last one - there's some decent advice in there. But more than that, it is going to ask you to STOP trying to outdo yourself! Step back.
And, this time around, I'm going to ask you to make a list. Maybe make a couple of lists. Make at least ONE list before you go to sleep tonight.
Merry Christmas, my friends. May you feel peace this season.
The drumbeat of "The holidays" is coming earlier and earlier every year, it seems. While it used to be that Thanksgiving marked the start of the holiday season, it now seems to start after Halloween - or even before in some locales. The constant barrage of advertisements, Christmas music, lights and fake snow can take a toll on our psyche - are the holidays even special anymore? We have to work harder and harder to MAKE them special, and to remember that "it is enough" when we start thinking that we have to do more, eat more, drink more, party more, buy more. Whether you are inundated with family, have dysfunctional family, or maybe you have no one at all, it isn't too early to start planning and preparing for the annual onslaught!
Back to School
If you look closely, you can start to see the leaves changing. The green is a little bit duller than it was in the Spring and the cicadas are straining to sound their last beacons for the season. It's dark that much earlier in the evening. Playgrounds ring out again with kids releasing their pent-up energy and dogs wait patiently by the end of the driveway or at the living room window for their kids to come home.
Back to school can be a tough time for moms, and for dads too! Anyone who is home all summer knows that very often the busyness of the summer is overwhelming and then suddenly, it just stops. Whether you work from home or are a stay at home parent, the quiet of the house is deafening and the extremes are overwhelming. Everyone is home, all the time and then no one is home ever. At first it feels really good and like such a relief to know that you can finally do whatever you want for a few hours without someone needing something. Pretty soon, though, you begin to realize that it was nice to be needed!
Those who work outside the home can struggle with this time as well. All summer long the kids are happy and busy doing their kid things. There is peace in the house (maybe?) as one summer adventure leads to the next. Now you come home and the kids are often times sullen and grumpy because they have homework to do and they don't really want to do more chores on top of that. Chores that used to be spaced out across the week now need to be crammed in on the evenings and on weekends...how much fun is that? Late summer and back to school is always a time for adjustment for everyone in a family system. There's no more sleeping in each morning as structure overtakes spontaneity.
This can be a challenging time, but it can also be a very rewarding time provided that you remember what it's like to be a kid headed back to school. The smell of new crayons and pencils and notebooks and the excitement of yet another year will help to soothe the transition. Even if your kid doesn't like to admit that he or she likes school, every child likes to learn. It is their nature. Help them to tap into that in any way that you can.
Think ahead. Plan schedules. Make lunches the night before. Get YOUR sleep so that you can be ready to help them in the morning. Use your time well and be ready to switch over to meet them wherever they are when they get home from school or you get home from work. Read the notes that the teachers send home and look at the assignments that are due each week so that you can support your kids' efforts to stay organized. Most of all, remember that back-to-school is not about you, but rather about helping them to achieve their best selves. We only have them for such a short time! Happy September!
Where am I?
The best words I have ever been given are these: "You are exactly where you are supposed to be." These words have given me strength to carry on when I thought I couldn't, as well as hope for what might be and courage to face what was.
Over the years, I've gathered many such phrases to put into my tool box, but these seem to be the ones that I always come back to. If you think about it, we all have tools that we rely on time and again. The old standby's that get us through the tough times or boost us up when the going gets rough. The key is to remember to USE those tools when you find yourself at the bottom of the well again.
The thing is...you can't always avoid the well. You can't always side step it or hide from it or dodge it. It's gonna getcha - it gets all of us from time to time. Bad things happen. LIFE happens. So, when we run into a bad patch, we need to remember to use the tools that we have to get through the days, stay safe, do the best that we can and then gently bring ourselves back into the mix. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but the key is to change our behavior so that our thoughts will follow.
I've got to get back to work...
There is always...
Storm on Lake Michigan
Seems like, no matter what, there is always something. I hear that a lot in my office...and it usually means that there is always something BAD happening! People rarely come to see me when things are just swell. That being said, for every BAD thing that happens, I like to believe that there is always something....something good...to come after the bad. Something to learn....something to do...something to live for...something to work towards...something to yearn for...something to hope for...something to dream about...but...but what about those times when there isn't?
What about those times when...just when life has you pressed against the wall and you KNOW you're about to get hit with a truckload of "yuck"...those times when you just cannot, for the life of you, figure out how you are supposed to get out of THIS mess? Those times come for all of us. I remember one client who, for the life of her, had thought she had it allllll going on...and then life imploded. As a result, she was a mess inside and out. She blamed everyone and everything for her issues and I listened patiently as she railed against life and fought tooth and nail against acceptance. Funny thing...I didn't have to "do" much of anything...just listen and offer a well-timed insight here and there.
Over the course of a couple of years, I watched her froth and spew and anguish about events that really, honestly, did not matter at this point. But, to her, they meant the world and she needed to finally (finally!) process through all of the hurt and anger from the past. See, that's the thing...we can't just "go through it". We are creatures of feeling and of reason. We have emotions. When we don't learn to FEEL those emotions and try to stuff them into a box...well, all hell breaks lose eventually.
All of this anger over what could not be changed...yet we all go through this process - and more than once! Finally, after time passed and the anger was spent...acceptance came into play and from there, learning and growth. That was the key to the whole process...and in that process, she learned something about acceptance, she learned a bit of empathy and even some trust (still working on that).
The point of this story (and please know that this story is shared with permission) is that we all get hit with trucks full of yuck in our lives. We all have to go through awful times. We all have devastating events and lousy periods in our lives. But, if we can reach out and let another person help us - just by listening to us perhaps - well, then we can work our way through the storm and enjoy the aftermath. There is always, ALWAYS, a solution.
Be nice to yourself...
Most of the time, most of us will walk through life not realizing that we leave footprints behind us everywhere that we go. Seemingly straightforward actions (or inactions) often reach far beyond what we imagine the consequences would be.
I tell most of my clients the same thing: "You can do anything you want to in this life, but you cannot hurt another person."
Most often, they reply indignantly, "But I'm the one that's hurt! I'm the one that suffering!"
Most often, I think to myself how difficult this part of the journey is for everyone who goes through it. Of course you're hurting. Of course you are suffering. You wouldn't have sought me out if you weren't!
The point of the matter is that until and unless we realize that our actions affect other people, not just some of the time, but all of the time, we can never effectively change our circumstances. Until and unless we recognize that we are responsible for our own behavior and that we have choices in our lives, we can never get to the point that we can stand up to those that hurt us. Until and unless we know within our own hearts and souls that we are "good enough", we will never be able to achieve our highest goals and dreams.
As I watch spring come into full fruition and feel the steady movement into summer, I can only think about how we as humans continue to grow as our seasons pass. Our footsteps become more sure with every passing year. Hopefully, we learn to appreciate our own worth more every day. The fact of the matter is though that much of the time, it isn't easy, this thing called life. Much of the time, we find ourselves plodding away through our days or getting angry at the boss or annoyed with the kids. Every once in a while, though, all of that stops and we are struck silent in awe and wonder with the world around us.
These are the moments that we have to seek out, embrace, and cherish. They are all around us. The seagull buffeted by the wind. The scarlet poppies waving in the field. The sound of the surf crashing against the shore. The warmth of the cat upon my lap as I type. The gentle smell of fresh laundry and sunshine. When we can learn to look for these simple things and make them a part of who we are in our core, we can begin to be at peace with the chaos and bedlam that is in the world around us. These moments in time allow us to stop long enough to understand how our actions are impacting us and those around us. They allow us to look back to see where we have been. They allow us to gain strength to move forward. They allow us to gauge our next steps and determine where we want to go as we move forward. Take the time to stop and look around today.
And, without question, make today great!
Dr. Ken Stanek
We need to talk...