Perspective

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I have been reflecting on the holiday and the gift of not only gratitude, but also of perspective.

Our family has a tradition we have been participating in since my teenagers were toddlers.

Each Thanksgiving our family “gratitude” book comes out. Whoever happens to be spending the holiday with us is invited to write what they were thankful for the year prior. As you may expect, new items are continuously added, but year after year, much also stays the same. Take my daughter’s list for example:

I found great delight in reading, at age four, her list still looks pretty much the same as it does today at fifteen.

1) Parents

2) Family

3) Chocolate

 

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I love this kid, and admittedly am quite thankful I was a step above chocolate.

It is likely, however that due to a contenious election year, at some dinner tables this holiday, blessings such as chocolate and family were not the main topics of discussion.

In fact, at my very own Thanksgiving celebration, there sat a mix of both red and blue among us.

The last evening together, with the dishes done and the house quiet, I reviewed the lists of gratitude that were written by various family members, and I took note of something interesting.

I noticed that regardless of what side of the aisle you happened to come from;  family, love and blessings were high priority for each of us.  This commonality gave me new hope that during a time when others seem to be viewing the world with an “us vs. them” mentality, I recognized we are much more the same than different, especially in the things and people we treasure.

How we got to “who” we voted for is individualized for a million reasons. Assuming why is not only unhelpful, but often inaccurate.

So, today I have decided to go a different route.

I am going to take a risk and put something out there.

What if we assumed, that for the most part, whether one is Democrat or Republican, the desire for the ones we love to be well, and the world a place of peace is a great starting point for agreement.

Unique life stories, many of which I know very little about, often lead us to decide on the candidates that we do.  If your candidate was not the one I happened to choose, I would like to believe should I have been on your journey, I may have been right there with you, voting as you did.  I hope you may even consider the reality of this on your end too.

In fact, who knows, one of the top spots of my list  in “the gratitude book”  of 2017 could have a new and much hoped for addition if a few got on board and considered implementing this idea as their starting point too.

The Heart of Trauma


 

the heart of trauma

 

Trauma: an experience that is not able to be metabolized, something that inhibits more pain than one can swallow.

The concept of trauma is often associated, and rightfully so, with the experiencing of an incomprehensible event.  War, an accident, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster in which lives and homes are destroyed fit the “trauma” definition.   I once heard the analogy (thank you Cloud and Townsend), that metabolizing a trauma “is like putting 5 pounds of terror into a 2 pound test tube.”  Without anywhere to go, the system has no choice but to stop working.

However, not only does the experience of a physically traumatic event cause breakdown, but an emotional disruption can as well.  As of lately, I have come to the realization that this holds true with various emotional experiences. The processing of grief, the experience of betrayal, or even being on the receiving end of slander invites distress. However, betrayal, especially if it is experienced by a person considered to be a primary caretaker has shown to be the most devastating.

Early on as a therapist, I provided forensic interviews and follow up treatment for children who were victims of abuse. Incomprehensible experiences were shared with me on a regular basis.  With both trepidation and courage, young victims shared sordid details of various atrocities they had gone through. During my time with them, I picked up on a pattern that my “twenty-something” self found surprising.  It happened time and time again that I would observe higher distress levels when a child discussed implied betrayals , especially if it were by the primary caregiver, than they did sharing details around the incident itself.  Even more significant, this distress increased tenfold if the person who was supposed to “protect them”  was their mother. Now, many years later, as I work with adults, the impact of betrayal, by whomever one has opened their heart to, continues as a pattern emitting great distress. Betrayal and the inability to trust is shaping up to be one of the most foundational realities I am seeing in determining not only the success of future relationships, but whether or not one chooses to put ones self “fully out there” to experience and “be loved” again.

Whether it be a parent who should have protected their child from a live-in boyfriends sexual advances, or a wife who was betrayed by her husband’s affair, a betrayed heart has lifelong implications. As vulnerability is taken advantage of, unknowingly or not, pain results. The significance of a secure attachment to the people we expect to be there for us may be one of the most important discoveries of our time. Once the confidence and assumption of trust becomes severed, the implications are endless.

If you happen to find yourself being stirred, perhaps remembering an experience of “betrayal”, please take heart. The good news is that healing is absolutely possible.

However, at the same time, what if the content above was processed by assuming the reader to be in a place of being able to prevent future betrayal, instead of being the recipient of it? That being said, I am inviting three simple questions to consider:

  1. What would honoring the hearts of the people in our lives look different knowing what the implications of not doing so were detrimental?
  2. What if the focus was less on “getting into trouble, or being caught”,and more towards  “keeping the heart intact ” of someone you cared about?
  3. What if needs, fears, and temptations were set aside, as appropriate, knowing a short term thrill likely could impact a heart forever.

Although you may not have not experienced situations to the extent of the examples referenced above, it is safe to say, most of us can influence another’s perception of themselves with the role we have been given in their lives.  It may be why I like this so much.

 

Parent to child. Boss to employee. Friend to friend. Spouse to spouse.

The ripple effect of each of our choices matter. Choose the life-giving one.

 

 

 

 

 

The Seasons of Early Parenthood and Marriage

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Seasons. : a time characterized

by a particular circumstance or feature.

 

Last week as I celebrated another birthday, I came to the realization that a new “season” is fast approaching. In fact, I believe it may already have arrived.

As my youngest child is ten, and my two older ones are teens, it appears I have graduated from being a parent of young children now, a mother of tweens and teens.

 

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I really did just blink and this happened.

Each season can feel like an eternity at times. Simultaneously,they also pass me by, without my even noticing.

I am far from perfecting any of the seasons of this life.

But, you know what? As I spent time reflecting on things this year,I realized I have gained something better, an opportunity to grow and learn throughout each one. Yes, much of living well is about trial and error.

However, there are still admittedly a few things I wish I had known along the way.

What I wish I had known in the early seasons of marriage and parenthood:

1) If you can, get out and travel before you have a 9-5 job. My husband and I were much to rushed to line up the responsible job. The opportunity to do so will be waiting when you return. I promise.

2) If your spouse is kind, loyal, hardworking, makes you laugh and has good character, you are doing better than most. Trust me.

3) The friends you choose matter greatly. Find the ones you can ponder life with, laugh until it hurts and act completely yourself around…..all at the same time. Make sure those same people alsohave the courage to call you on your faults, in an honest and gentle way. Finding someone who has each of the above mentioned qualities is rare. If you do, nurtureand tend to the relationship well.As time goes by, these will be the same people you end up reaching for when you feel like you have lost the ability to muster up strength during times of difficulty. Unfortunately, difficult times will happen. None of us are immune.

4) From childbirth to parenting, many will gladly share opinions with you. Some of these will certainly be worth considering. Yet, when it comes down to it, you and your spouse can and should make the final decisions together and guilt free.

5) This one is about pregnancy. I don’t know your story, so this one may or may not relate to you. But, if you were like me, (and this is said with a lot of gratitude and only a little bit of complaint), you may think you will never live to see your earlier, pre-pregnant, carefree life again. The irony is, the things you were worried about losing end up mattering not nearly as much as you thought they would. And what you never thought you would be into? Let’s just say, an apology for making fun of your neighbors minivan may be warranted.

6) The first time you see your baby you will experience a kind of love you never thought existed. You will also experience a kind of sleep deprivation no warning can prepare you for. You will get past the sleep deprivation, but the love? Never. I understand now when my mom says she still worries about and loves her kids with a great intensity, no matter how old we get. A mom’s love never ends.

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7) The dishes and laundry? Now, unlike the love discussed above, these are the things you want to end, but seem as if they never will. Yet, as many who have come before me have said, the time and moments of first smiles, giggles and birthdays won’t ever be re-wound for another viewing. So, exhausted as you may be, and as much as you want to be sure to get the everyday tasks completed to “pre-child perfection”, soak in each moment of that newborn baby breath, and intentionally study the miraculous creation you have been provided, as often as you can. The dishes can wait until the morning.

8) Yet, at the same time, it is ok to cry when the days are hard and long. They will be. I was often hesitant to admit I was needing something, or had a bad day. It felt like complaining. Admitting the truth does not mean you don’t love your baby or you are not thankful. It just means the day was hard and long. I have found most things that are worth it to be difficult. Admitting challenge does not mean you want the challenge to go away. Either does wanting a night out. You will be all the better for both.

9) When your children grow up and a few years pass, the opportunities for personal growth will continue. When one of your now elementary school age children come home after not making the team, or not being invited to the birthday party, or _____(fill in the blank), it is OK to want to march over to whoever made the decision and give them a piece of your mind. And, yes, even though you may feel this, DON’T. Our “feelings” are not always the best guide. Sometimes our way is not “the way”. Additionally, we cannot create perfect utopias for our children, nor should we. Life throws curve balls. If we don’t allow our kids to fall, they miss out on the opportunities life provides in figuring out how to get back up on their own.

10) Finally, although I feel as if I am just getting started, I would have to say that accepting what season you happen to be in, without inviting restlessness or guilt is imprative. A neighbor may be an active school volunteer,this is something you may not able to pull off with a newborn at home. Allow yourself grace and know your limits. As my oldest child is quickly approaching college, I have become incredibly mindful of one of the most certain lessons I have learned along the way. I am recognizing that although there are areas and moments I wish I had done plenty of things differently, not once have Iever regretted taking the time to connect and ” just be” with her. This same truth goes for my other two children, spouse, friends and family. As we stop and take time to just “be” with those we care about, we are showing them they matter. Regardless of season, that is a truth worth holding onto.

 

THE NEW YOU (1)

 

A relevant link:

On the Day I Die

 M o r e  O f  O u r  B l o g

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First day of School Anxiety-what to do?

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On the eve of the first day of school, the jury is still out for me as to whether this quote about anxiety and the average psychiatric patient is backed up by research, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I recently spoke with a middle school guidance counselor and asked what the biggest concern he observed today in students.

His answer?   You guessed it, Anxiety.

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As school starts back tomorrow, there likely will be a few nervous children. In our communities and perhaps in your very own home there are children wondering what this upcoming school year may bring.  In many of these cases the question is not whether anxiety will occur, but, what can you as a parent do to help? We thought we’d share some thoughts.

  1. Empathy is key.  Consider carving out a moment to remember back to the time when you were the age of your child.  Go ahead. If the student in question is in high school, be intentional about going back to that time yourself. What we think they are worried about, may not necessarily be what is worrying them at all.  My contributors to anxiety at sixteen were making sure I fit in, knowing my outfit was up to par, and praying I could escape a bad grade in Algebra.  Today these are clearly identified as low triggers of concern, but they still resulted in my experiencing brief moments of anxiety. I can’t imagine if the media bombardment of today specific to terrorism, school shootings, and racial tension existed.  I am not even sure I’d step foot on campus! Adding to that, the increased competitive environment for grades and getting into college has stepped up significantly. Throw social media into that mix and it is fair to say, our children live in an entirely different culture than the one we grew up in. Listening to what they have to say while acknowledging the difficulties they face is vital. Although some parents may fear this acknowledgement could invite excuses, I have found the opposite.  Empathy invites the confirmation of knowing you are seen. Tackling something difficult with support and encouragement increases courage, especially believing someone back home is in your court and “gets it”.  Empathize.
  2. Seek to really understand. Anxiety is such a broad term that until we pinpoint the origin of where it may be coming from, we are limited in helping to decrease the symptoms. Depending on the trigger, the focus for where to begin to help could be different.  For example, being prone to anxiety genetically is different than being introduced to it from an outside source. Other things to look out for are whether the anxiety stems from social situations or from personally imposed standards. Is your child nervous about social situations? Grades? Fear of something out of the ordinary happening? Narrow down what is worrying them. Not only does this invite an opportunity to reflect and empathize, it helps you gain perspective as a parent about how your child is viewing life.
  3. Many fears are quite easy to work with, and the facts of a particular situation may just need further clarification. If a child is worried a friend who has invited them over “may” have a dog when your child does not like dogs, could find quick resolution after speaking with the other parent.  Some anxiety fears are obviously more challenging and professional intervention warranted, but not always. When it is the case, there are a multitude of interventions that a properly trained professional is able to introduce and within several sessions, improvements will likely be noted.  Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms that brings children to see a counselor. However, it is important to not forget guidance counselors can address mild anxiety as well. Many even create groups for peers to discuss their feelings together. Don’t hesitate to check into your school community and take advantage of the resources they have.
  4. Finally,  as a parent myself, I like to stress that our children are always looking to us for how to feel. If we are worried, it invites them to worry as well.  It may be interesting to ask a spouse or good friend if you are exhibiting any of the same character traits you are observing in your own child. The good news is, it is never too late to become mindful about what we may be passing along.   Education, awareness. and application of appropriate interventions can, and does do wonders, for both children and their families. I have seen many parents take some of the very tools I give their children, use them personally, and return excited to report improvements with their own anxiety.

Worried or not, tomorrow is a big day for many of us, sure to bring about a lot of varied feelings, for both kids and parents alike. Remembering the message of encouragement and love is by far the best thing you can offer. Thankfully these they happen to be something we all can provide leaving our children all the better for it.

THE NEW YOU (1)

 

 

 

 

Helpful Links:

APA, Teen Anxiety and Stress

 

Kalos Counseling, LLC. 6300 Hospital Parkway, Suite 105, Johns Creek, GA. 30097