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Posted on 18 Aug, 2014 | 6 comments

Be Gentle With Yourself

The first time I tell people, “Be gentle with yourself” – I say it a lot – they mostly look at me as though I’m speaking some foreign language. I suppose in a way I am. Treating ourselves in a kind and gentle manner is unfamiliar to a lot of us.

We seem to have the idea that there is a ‘Right Way’ and anything other than that way is ‘not getting it right’. When we don’t get it ‘right’ we think we’re not good enough. Thinking we’re not good enough leads to all sorts of nastiness – low self-esteem, depression, addictions, acting out our pain…

When it comes to parenting we are full on! We’re all very busy trying to get it ‘right’ – although, truthfully, none of us is quite certain what that means. I mean look at all the mixed opinions out there.

People, this ‘Right Way’ thing is a very un-gentle and self-destructive way to live.

I was vividly reminded of this recently by my little master teacher who felt it was necessary to give me an in vivo practicum in this lesson. As usual, he wrapped his gift to me in the most stirring of packages.

It was my older boy. I was trying to meditate but he just wouldn’t leave me alone. He battered at me relentlessly. He was truly magnificent in his persistence and determination – and from my vantage point now I can see I did really well in staying calm and managing him gently – but finally I cracked, slammed my way into the bathroom and  S C R E A M E D  my frustration.

scream

It freaked him out.

It went a little pear-shaped after that.

I was so down on myself afterwards. I didn’t think I’d done well at all. I had a list of wrongs. First I had not

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Posted on 11 Aug, 2014 | 4 comments

About Pleasing Others

Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation about possible names for this blog. The ideas became progressively outrageous until we were rolling around crying with laughter.

laughing

We had some good ones; Nasty Little Messiahs, Light Side Of Trouble and then we just couldn’t  – or wouldn’t – move off titles with variations of the word ‘crap’ – Holy Crap, Good Shit, Good Clean Dirt, All That Crap, Life’s A Load Of Compost…

Soul Compost was lovely, but it’s taken.

I had lots of fun.

Then I went to sleep and couldn’t switch my brain off. Whirr, whirrrrrr, chewing over titles, grinding out ideas, sorting, rejecting, pondering, coming back to the question “What is my message?”

“Go to sleep!” I commanded myself. Whirr, whirr, whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Things are fun until at some point they’re not. It’s useful to take note of when something is no longer pleasant. I reached that point. There was pressure behind the need to solve this riddle.

So I asked myself, “Myself, what is this about?” and Myself answered, “Pleasing people. Getting it ‘right’.”

Oh. That.

Yesterday the theme of pleasing others was very present in other’s tales. I’m afraid to say no to them. Why? What if they don’t like me anymore. I’m living a double life. Why? They won’t understand and they’ll cast me out. I tell lies when the truth is inconvenient. Why? I’m scared they can’t handle the real me and they’ll leave. I should have known I was going to get a dose of it myself.

So why? Why do I need to get it right? To please others?

When I was younger I was once in a situation where two very dear people were actively pulling on me in opposite directions. I tried and tried and tried to please them both. In the end I was so stressed that I

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Posted on 21 Jul, 2014 | 2 comments

When Did You Last Tell Yourself “Well Done”?

Would it feel nice to hear someone tell you “Well done” right now?

well done

Last night I was really tired but before I went to bed I made the effort to take the kids to the toilet. Well done Me.

This morning I had things to do for myself but first I quickly made some food because my little one was hungry. Well done Mama.

Today I felt SO irritated and hurt when one kept hitting the other. I wanted to shout and slam doors and stomp my feet. Instead I calmly went and removed him. I understood he was finding it difficult to control himself. I was managing to control myself. Well DONE Myself!

In an average day we parents achieve truly remarkable things. Selfless, kind, caring, INVISIBLE things. Each day, over and over, we are the change we want to see in the world. Ghandi would be proud. Yet, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really acknowledge my efforts very often – however I’m VERY quick to point out to myself where I lost it, where I didn’t manage, where I feel I’m not good enough.

It’s not good for the spirit, this behaviour.

If a child only hears what she’s doing wrong she gets discouraged. She feels bad about herself. She stops trying.

The truth is that, like you, I am actually doing very well. Yes, I am SO very far from perfect. Yes, I mess up all the time and I’m not saying I want my standards to drop so that I give myself leeway to shout at my children. That behaviour is still not ok with me – but dammit there are so many moments where I overcome the challenge. So many moments I am who I most want to be. I want those to count at least as much as the moments I don’t make it up the hill. Maybe more.

Ok?

So well done, well done, WELL DONE parent! For all those huge little triumphs. There are so many of them every day, truly there are.  You deserve to be honoured and cherished for all you do, for all the efforts you make.

Have doubts? Quick, right now name three

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Posted on 23 Jun, 2014 | 6 comments

Are You Blocking Change?

Hope you enjoyed last week’s commercial break – and now back to our friend Judgement. (I know the title says ‘change’. Bear with me because it’s judgement that blocks change.)

Judgement casues havoc everywhere – in parenting, relationships, politics, diet, exercise – judging, judging, judging how it ‘should’ be, “Hmph, look at how they’re doing it. wouldn’t do it that way …”

judging

WHY, dammit, why do we do this??

We judge something because we think it’s supposed to be a certain way, and it’s not being that way. We like things to be the way we think they should be. It’s ‘right’ when people are kind and respectful to each other and don’t cause malicious harm. When it’s not that way we feel scared and angry. It’s ‘right’ that my child should listen to me, care about how I feel and do what I ask of him. I don’t LIKE it when he doesn’t.

Why don’t I like it? Oh let me count the ways…

Actually, on close inspection I see, all roads lead to dear old Fear, usurper of the capital of the inner empire.

If my child doesn’t listen to me then I am unimportant. That scares me. If he doesn’t care how I feel then I am unimportant and unloved. That scares me. If he doesn’t do what I ask I have no power. That scares me.

See? Fear, fear, fear.

I judge his behaviour as ‘not right’ which in essence means, ‘not the way I want it to be’ – or even more honestly, ‘threatening to me’.

My friend tells me she can’t read my blog every week because it makes her face herself, and there are some days she’s just not up for that. Too much self-judgement. My client tells me she can’t make the changes she needs to make, even though she’s trying so hard. And she is trying. I see it. But she’s struggling to make the leap into accepting a world that seems ‘not the right way’ to her. If she tries out new behaviour and it scares her she immediately feels its ‘wrong’ and her judgement shuts it down. It blocks her from the transition into even greater light.

Judgement seems to be one of our main impediments to transformation. And judgement arises from fear. Fear of pain. Fear of feeling powerless or unimportant. Fear of the unknown. Fear of our own greatness.

What will it take to live fear-free? What do we need to be able to take a deep breath and just cross over into unfamiliar territory without

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Posted on 16 Jun, 2014 | 14 comments

‘Just Because It’s Fun’ – A Story To Read Your Children So They Can Remind You

Since the beginning man has used stories to teach, connect, heal and grow. Susan Perrow’s beautiful book Healing Stories For Challenging Behaviour inspired me to write this story for my boy when he was facing peer competitiveness and fears of not being good enough.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

Speedy Rabbit

Speedy Rabbit loved nothing more than running. He lived in a land of hills and valleys and he would bound through them, zip, zip, zipping along between shrubs and under grasses. As he ran he would feel so happy. A big shining bubble of happiness would swell inside him because oh, it just felt so good to run! He really didn’t care if he ran fast or he ran slow, if he ran funny or if he ran smart, he just wanted to run because it felt so good.

And he was happy with his life.

Then one day he zipped past two animals grazing in a field. “Wow, did you see that rabbit run?” He heard the one say to the other. “I think he might even be faster than Cheetah.” Speedy Rabbit didn’t think anything of that, even though everybody knows that Cheetah is the fastest animal in the whole world. Later, when some animals came to ask him if he would race Cheetah, he felt pleased that others thought he was so good and he agreed.

He started to go into the hills and valleys every day to practice running fast. Fast, fast faster he would run, over and over, trying to get better and better so that when the day of the race came he would beat Cheetah and everyone would say he was best.

The day of the race

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Posted on 11 Nov, 2013 | 0 comments

Can We Stop With The Shame Thing Already?

There is a conversation about Shame that needs to take place, parents. It is a looong conversation but we have to start it at least because it’s EVERYWHERE.

In her book Daring Greatly (which I cannot recommend enough!), shame specialist and researcher Brene Brown writes; “Mother shame is ubiquitous (I looked that up. It means ever-present, permeating, abundant)– it’s a birth-right for girls and women.”

What?!

My commenter Michelle wrote after my post, “This is exactly what discourses of motherhood do to us. It sets us up for feeling like failures. Perfection and this planet does not gel. This is the planet where we come to experience the opposites. We have to change these constructions of motherhood. ”

I don’t know about you but I am tired of feeling shame about parenting. Like there’s a way to get it right and a way to get it wrong.

Enough!

no more

There are so many voices in our society telling us ‘How To Be’. Our parents, our teachers, the magazines, the philosophers…

And if we don’t conform then there must be something wrong with us, right?

When it comes to parenting, it’s Shame City. Everyone has an opinion – and it’s no fun getting those raised eyebrows, is it?

These influences seem external but Shame itself is an internal experience. It’s that sinking, burning feeling that comes when you feel you’ve failed or are bad, or not good enough. If you keep it inside it can fester. If you bring it out into the light – show it, share it, talk about it – it simply dies. Shame can’t survive exposure.

So let’s talk about those baby clinics. Oh man! They’re kind and sweet and well-meaning but they work with s h a m e!

I remember being a new mom. To my great relief (and surprise) my freakishly vulnerable baby was thriving and happy (enough) but each time I came home from the weigh-in and check-up I felt anxious and not-good-enough. After a while I started to wonder why. I realised that the kind ‘all-knowing’ nurse was asking me things in a way that implied I

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Posted on 28 Oct, 2013 | 11 comments

Does Anyone Out There Actually Attain The Gold Standard Of Parenting?

I woke up at 5.30am today to meditate, be with myself, write in my journal and prepare for the day. Yummmmmm!

Creep out of bed, quietly, quietly. Go into a room and q u i e t l y close the door. Don’t want to wake anyone up ‘cos then I’ll lose this precious opportunity. My mind is already settling into stillness, I can feel this is going to be a good meditation. I’m excited for this snippet of peace before a child-filled day.

tiptoe

My 3-year old needs a filling in his tooth and the dentist wants to put him under full sedation in a theatre. For a filling! Really? Google the dangers of anaesthesia for a toddler. Go on, scare yourself!

So today I’m taking him to someone who is good and who’s attitude is, “If he can co-operate we can do it without sedation.” Co-operate? My little guy is in a defiance stage – he’ll do it because you told him not to. Oh the joys. Now I have to take him to lie in a scary chair, open his mouth for loud drills and injections…

I’m going to need my wits about me this morning. There’s a lot riding on it. If we can’t do it he goes into theatre. FOR A FILLING! Not gonna happen.

After that I need to shop with the little guy, fetch my wonderful visiting relative, feed, cart and contain four children under 7 from school to playdates, socialise, be nice, remain functional…

So I need this quiet time. Reeeaally need it.

But what’s this? Little feet padding up to my carefully closed door.

OH NO!

Oprah says a child looks to see if your eyes light up when they enter the room. Mine sure light up but not for the right reasons.

What damage did I cause when my first response to

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Posted on 21 Oct, 2013 | 3 comments

Half-Empty Is Just An Illusion

glass

I had such an interesting realisation the other day. It went like this:

The glass is not half-full or half-empty, it is half full of liquid and half full of air.

Well! Life is going to be SO different for me lived from this perspective.

I think I often live in ‘half-empty’ and use it to escape the moment I’m in by looking at what it’s lacking; “Oh, this is so nice, if only I had X it would be just perfect.” Those of you who’ve read my previous posts know, I blame this on my ancestors.

But what if there is no half-empty? What if what ISN’T there, is actually what IS there?

Bear with me people, I haven’t lost it yet. I think…

Ok, for instance, my child is NOT listening lately. He is testing the boundaries and making me feel totally inadequate as a controller of children. Yes I know I’m supposed to be a collaborator with, not a controller of, children but for heaven’s sakes to collaborate you need

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Posted on 14 Oct, 2013 | 4 comments

If Someone Says You are Amazing – Listen To Them

It’s an average school morning. We’ve managed to herd, feed, brush, pack, clothe and transport the children – and ourselves – with all the necessary bits and bobs and appendages attached and remembered…

(Seriously folks, this just deserves a hero’s mention don’t you think? We all execute an Iron Man course each morning and I say, “It’s an average morning”… )

iron man

Anyway, no time for prolonged pats on the back, it’s rush, rush, rush but we get to school on time – sort of. My 3-year-old proudly presses the intercom button for his school, out sings his teacher’s melodious “Good morning” and all of a sudden I feel cheered up. I have a little moment of feeling joyful and that all is well in the world.

This is her magic and she does it so well.

Her voice is high-pitched and penetrating but with a throatiness that adds a surprising richness to it. It’s perfect for children – and apparently for the moms… But it’s the warmth and love and humour that she injects into her interactions with the children and moms that just creates a blanket of joyful, mirthful, warmth in her playschool.

She has magic and she uses it with power and skill. We are all blissfully under her spell

janey

But do you think she can see it about herself? This morning I told her that hearing her cheery good morning on the intercom had suddenly made my world feel all right. She laughed and I could see she didn’t believe me.

Another mom standing near me heard my compliment and enthusiastically joined in the praise. Our beloved golden teacher humoured the two of us for a while, just like she does the little children who babble their half-comprehensible stories to her, but when we told her again that she is amazing she put her hand on my arm and said in an earnest voice, “But I’m NOT really” and our praise-singing ground to an unceremonious halt.

I don’t know why she said it. I can only make assumptions. Maybe it was just social etiquette or maybe

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Posted on 1 Jul, 2013 | 0 comments

It Seems I Hit A Nerve

I received such beautiful, heartfelt and inspiring responses to my post I’m Done With Feeling Not Good Enough . It seems to have stirred something up. It’s one thing to know you’re not alone in feeling something and another to see you’re not alone. I’m SO glad I found the courage to write it.

One woman told me, “After I read your post on feeling not good enough I suddenly realized that it might be fears of not being good enough that have been driving the anxiety I’ve lived with all my life”

Image courtesy of Foto76 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Foto76 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A poetess wrote me this; “Did you hear thunder? No? I thought you may have had something to do with it, having started this open conversation about the god Goodenough. I dreamt that I arrived at school to fetch my child and was faced with

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Posted on 26 May, 2013 | 9 comments

I’m Done With Feeling ‘Not Good Enough”!

I do not deserve to walk around this world tied up in knots because I’m afraid I’m not good enough. What the hell does that mean anyway, ‘good enough’? What mad standards am I trying to meet? Who gets to say if I’m ok or not?

tied up

I really am struggling with the Not-Good-Enough beast recently. And am I even allowed to say that out loud as a therapist? Am I not supposed to uphold some unrealistic god-like standard of perfection that everyone else bloodies their hands and knees against as they try and fail to climb up to meet it?

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