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living with intention, Uncategorized

A Few Simple Steps Towards Living with Less Judgment…

It is part of the human condition to compare ourselves to others and make judgments. In fact, it is a part of the developmental process to become increasingly aware of others and think about how we measure up. Early on we learn who is the fastest runner, best at kick ball and in the highest reading group. These comparisons can be helpful and even motivational as they prompt us to try harder, which can be a very good thing. It is only when we continue to primarily rely on these judgments that we frequently run into trouble. We all can think about the many reasons this may not be a good idea but the one I want to focus on today relates to our thinking. It comes down to the simple fact that not every thought we have is accurate or helpful. We have many random, even goofy thoughts that require us to be aware of and filter them out. When we do not catch these moments and recognize them for what they are and are not, we often internalize them and they become part of our story.

Many times, when we accept messages and thoughts about ourselves, they are often negative. Comparing ourselves to others often makes us feel unhappy. In response to these negative self-messages, we tend to react by judging others more harshly, which makes us feel better. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have all had moments in which we compared ourselves to someone else and took comfort in knowing we were not as ‘bad’ as them. We want to feel good about ourselves and often times we seek it through observing others’ struggles. Obviously, wanting to feel good about ourselves is worthwhile however, learning to do it for ourselves takes awareness and effort. This mindset requires us to make a shift in how we think about ourselves and others.

Steps to building a more positive, less judgmental self:

  • A first step in building a stronger, more positive, less judgmental self takes a desire to do so and a willingness to make a few changes. The desire comes from within us and if this topic resonates with you, you are half way there.
  • The second step requires us to ‘catch’ moments when we find ourselves looking with judgment at ourselves or others. It can be a parent struggling to calm their child in the grocery store or we hear a neighbor making an unkind comment about another neighbor. When we catch these moments, we need to take a breath and choose to contemplate what might be going on in that person’s life. Practice choosing kindness and compassion in that moment versus focusing on the automatic negative thoughts. Work to let go of the judgmental thinking of the past and let your mind rest on the more positive thoughts about the situation.
  • The last step simply requires us to stop talking negatively about others. One of my first group rules when working with kiddos is that we do not speak about others when they are not in the room to defend themselves. This not only works well in group but it is a solid life rule. I also talk with kiddos about taking notice of friends who talk about others behind their backs. You can bet those same kids will talk about you behind your back one day. Choose your friends wisely and practice being a good friend to others.

Learning new habits and ways of thinking about ourselves and others takes practice. When we are able to do this more consistently, we feel more accepting and even happier. Be kind to yourself as changing automatic ways of thinking and reacting takes time. Start slowly and acknowledge your efforts to shift to becoming a more positive and self-aware person.  

living with intention, Uncategorized

Give, Take, Savor and Remember

20181119_131629This Thanksgiving I want to give with intention. For me that means I will take more time to listen and support others. Whether it is listening to my kiddos, parents or siblings, I will work to actively hear what is being shared as well as be generous with my love and support. Moving beyond the superficial check-ins with families takes energy. I will be ready which means I will have engaged in some good self-care during the days leading up to the holiday. I will prioritize the important tasks and let go of others so I will be more present in the moment.

I will take with abandon. Permission granted to take it all in including the sights, sounds and wonderful smells of Thanksgiving. I will savor the decorations made by children, embrace the colors of fall, and fill up with wonderful foods and sweet treats. I will take in hugs, kisses, children’s laughter and even some tired tears as the day turns to night.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy will be savored. I will be mindful of my food choices and delight in them. I will be kind to myself when I inevitably over eat. I will not apologize or allow any self-recrimination. If those thoughts pop into my head I will gently but firmly push them aside and reframe my thoughts to think about the positive moments of the day. I will not take this day for granted.

I will work to take snap shots of the best moments of my day and remember the sights, sounds and my feelings in that moment. My Thanksgiving will not be perfect. Life is messy and unpredictable even with great planning. But through the messiness of the day, I will seek the handful of joy giving moments. I will laugh easily and share in the good energy we create when we choose to do so. I will also allow myself time to recall the memories I created with those not with me this year.

While every year is different for a multitude of reasons and circumstances, I hope you are able to make your Thanksgiving what you choose it to be this year.

Here and Now, Uncategorized

Becoming Real in Your Fifties

I vividly remember the moment a neighbor shared she was celebrating her 50th birthday and I was literally shocked to hear that number, as any thirty something would be, right? It is half way to a hundred after all. That moment was a long time ago and now I have not only rolled into my fifties but am moving through them. I have much to be grateful for each day. As my children have grown to become self- sufficient adults, I have few regrets but rather a sense of urgency to do more, see more and be more. There must be something about freeing up all that parental energy and worry time it took to raise children.  

In many ways my current age still shocks me. It is as if I put my head down in my thirties to do the heavy lifting of parenting and now with my youngest off at college, I truly can lift my head up and look around. It feels like my life has been on hold and I’m just getting back to it after roughly two decades. It leaves me wondering what is next. I will need to harness some of that energy, previously used to parent, to embrace the wondering, be in the moment, take some chances and grab some joy just for me or at least I will try after getting over the half century thing 😊.

parenting, Support, Uncategorized

A Sad Day

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Today I am feeling sad as a human and as a parent. However, among the sadness and some anger I am able to squeeze out fragments of hope for change no matter how bleak things appear.  This is one of those days in my life that I will wrestle with my thoughts and emotions while I work to gather the words to talk with others. These moments come to all of us at various times in our lives, whether explaining an injustice, natural disaster, or a health crisis in the family. Searching for the right time and words to talk with a child when dealing with our own emotions has always been one of the more difficult things I have done as a parent.

At times, I have attempted to speed up this process so I can get the uncomfortable discussion out of the way and have been unsuccessful, as dealing with our emotions cannot be rushed. The only things I know for sure are that I want to be thoughtful about the words I use and I want to maintain my boundaries. I do not want to overshare my strong emotions. A child needs to know the adults in their life can contain their emotions so they are free to express their own in whatever form. Holding some space open to carry the weight of a child’s emotions rests with the adult.  Lastly, I will allow the child to sit with their own emotions and thoughts. I take comfort in knowing this allows all an opportunity to take in something upsetting, contemplate it, feel it and learn from it. I am not the fixer and I will not promise to be as I know these moments teach us much. We all deserve at least that much on a sad day.

 

parenting, Support, Uncategorized

A Fall Reminder

 

As fall marks the end of summer it brings with it much anticipation too. This is especially true if you have kiddos in your world as the inevitable rhythm of a school year brings excitement and trepidation. The mix of emotions drives much worry and anxiety for parents as they impatiently wait for signs of a child finding their way both academically and socially. This is especially apparent to me at the grocery store on weekdays around 3:00. At that time, I find parents running in for quick pick ups of needed items before kiddos come home from school. Most often, I can catch snippets of conversations about how kids are settling in to their new routines. The length of these conversations is often brief however the intensity is palpable.  Fall teacher conferences or mid-term grades will put much of the wondering to rest for some, while others will learn of new thoughts and potential concerns that were not even on their radar.

This can be a challenging time of year for kiddos as well as their parents. I try to remember this each fall and work to be a better friend, neighbor, co-worker and parent. For me the season of fall serves as a reminder to provide the care and support I would like to receive should I be struggling. Learning to be generous with kindness and compassion for myself and others is an ongoing goal.

 

Here and Now, Uncategorized

Lucky Enough

Today I feel lucky enough. There is nothing out of the ordinary going on other than a sense of contentment that has washed over me. No, things are not perfect. I have stress and worries which always remain, but today I see things with a bit more clarity and choose to ride this positive stream of thought. Catching these moments can be tricky, but when I sense one coming on, I do all I can to hold on to it, much like trying to hang on to a lovely dream when you have been awakened from too soon.

These moments create a feeling of lightness, as well as positive and hopeful energy which I know if I want it to continue I will need to stay in my own mind. I choose to reject negative thoughts such as comparing myself to others and looking longingly at things that I think will make me happier. I choose to stay off social media as I know these thoughts/activities may prevent me from feeling more happiness and joy today. I choose to move through this moment on my terms with a less reactive mindset.

I remind myself that I have the choice to decide how I want to think about other people, places and things. I know that being gentle but firm in redirecting my thoughts is a skill that improves with practice. Even under incredibly stressful circumstances I can choose how I want to think about something. Today is a lucky day.

Living in the here and now, parenting, Teaching Kindness, Teaching Respect

Kindness to an Ant Can Mean So Much

 

I recently came across a young elementary school aged child and his mother walking on a path by a lake. The mother was repeatedly calling her child to join her further up the path however the child appeared not to hear the mother’s requests and continued to step on ants on the path. As the mother’s voice tone became increasingly frustrated she retreated to gain her child’s attention. When approached by the mother who asked about the delay, the child simply replied, “I have to kill them all” and continued stepping on ants. I was hopeful when I saw the mother approaching she would take this opportunity to teach her child something about nature and how we all live on this planet together. Instead the mother said okay and watched as her child continued to kill bugs. After another minute passed the child tired of the activity and they both quietly walked on down the path.

I must say this scene stunned and saddened me. This little moment probably would not be thought about by either child or mother again and here it remained on my mind for the rest of my walk. This was just a moment but a significant one in which the mother could have shared a thought about gentleness, kindness, respect, and the care for creatures of all sizes. Instead, it became a missed opportunity. I remember telling my own children very simply that we are gentle with nature.

Parents teaching their children well about nature and their place in this world is a necessary part of parenting as it relates to so many other skills, some of which include sharing, taking the perspective of others, and thinking about consequences of actions. Talking about your beliefs in these moments lays the foundation for future more significant moments such as how to treat family pets and even other human beings.  We know it is essential for children to understand other points of view as they learn about their place in a family, school, community and the world. By paying attention to these little moments parents will find they will have fewer big moments to manage. No parent wants to learn their child took something that did not belong to them or their child bullied a peer. Teaching a foundation of respect, kindness  and gentleness starting with an ant will pay dividends down the line.