Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Sunday, April 1, 2012
I am a control freak. I didn’t realize this until recently, but it is becoming clearer that, as a visionary, I nearly always have an idea in my mind about how things should go. And because of that, I like for things to actually go the way I envision. When they don’t appear to be doing so, I tend to get somewhat bent out of shape about it. There are both positive and negative aspects of being “visionary,” obviously, but recently I have been bumping up against the downsides repeatedly and painfully.
As a student of the Law of Attraction, I know that visioning is the first and perhaps most important part of the process of manifesting what I desire. To get what I want, I first have to know what that is, and then be able to see and feel what it will be like when I have it. I don’t have to know exactly HOW to get to that desired end-point, however, and this is where it gets tricky. I often DO see a path forward, and by the time I’ve gotten out my map, chosen a route and spent some time and energy planning it all out, I feel pretty invested in that direction.
Plans are all well and good until those pesky “other” people come into play. They often have ideas of their own, and they occasionally (frequently) differ from mine. Drat! At that point, there are a few techniques I typically employ to try to get MY way:
1. Explaining why I am right. I diligently and firmly explain why my plan is the best one. I really lay it on thick, because obviously, as soon as the “other people” truly understand the merits of my plan, of course, they will jump on board enthusiastically. It doesn’t typically occur to me that I am striving to persuade anyone of anything. I am just letting them know why I am right. I wonder why this isn’t usually effective?
2. Repeat Step One. Clearly, I didn’t do a good enough job explaining the finer points of my plan, so I do it again, more forcefully this time, and sometimes in a louder voice. How are they not getting this? There must be something wrong with them.
3. Telling them why they are wrong. This one is hugely popular, as you can imagine. It usually involves some aspects of points one and two illuminated now in a more condescending tone, and topped off with a good dose of all the flaws of the path they are charting. By this point I am super full of myself, which we all know is totally endearing, right?
Two recent situations have helped me see the benefit of surrendering my need for control and relinquishing my vision of how something would play out. One involved work and the other a personal relationship. Both were extremely challenging to me over an extended period of time, and I’m sure caused no end of angst for the “other people” involved as well. But once I made the decision to surrender, a weight was lifted. I felt lighter, more at ease and freer. Though the “rightness” of my stance still sometimes rears its ugly head, I can also feel freedom in the knowledge that along with control, I can also let go of the weight of responsibility for making things work out, and rest easy that other hands are carrying some of the burden.
About a decade ago, Laura Doyle ignited a firestorm with her Surrendered books for wives and singles, suggesting that women surrender to their men, and stop trying to control the way the relationship was going. She advised respecting men’s decisions for their lives, practicing good self-care, expressing gratitude for the things others do for you and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
The idea of surrendering stirred up controversy among some who hadn’t read the books, and who misinterpreted the premise to be about submission to men’s desires and needs at the expense of our own (something perhaps women tend toward already). One human rights activist even went to so far as to liken this approach to slavery, suggesting that the author expected women to subvert themselves entirely to their man, becoming a kind of puppet.
I remember the hubbub around the books when they came out, and admit to feeling a significant amount of distaste for the idea of surrender, even buying into the feminist outrage about the misrepresentation of this concept. I had no interest in reading the book then – why would I want to surrender my control?
I am absolutely intrigued by this idea now, and totally see the power of this concept. To me, surrender simply means ceding control. It goes beyond gender issues, and speaks only of letting go, and knowing that I don’t have to try to steer the outcome of every single thing in my life. Whew! What an incredible feeling to trust other people to take care of it, trust the process to produce a great result, or even, as my intuition whispered to me recently, trust love, and know that whatever form it takes, it is real and I don’t have to manipulate it in any way.
Even though there are sure to be moments that scream for me to wield some sort of influence, assert my opinion or just feel strongly that something must be WRONG, surrendering, in and of itself, is nothing short of blissful. I recognize there are numerous routes that lead to the same end, and that the view from the passenger seat can be really great and quite relaxing. The destination itself may even look different than expected, and that is ok too.
What are you trying to control that is stressing you out?
What does the idea of surrender look like to you?
To what or to whom could you surrender in order to feel freer?
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
During this month associated with Black History and also love, many of us are still observing February 14 as “Singles Awareness Day.” In a workshop just over a year ago I asked the participants what “single” meant to them. The answers were: loser, alone, lonely and other similar words and phrases. I don’t think this is uncommon. I bought a book once titled: If I’m So Great, Why Am I Still Single? Even though more and more of us are staying single longer or becoming single again, there is still often a negative connotation to that word.
I have written before about Dean Ornish’s book Love & Survival and the role that social connection plays in our health and well-being. This post also noted that while the rise of social media has connected us with more people, the connections are not as deep or meaningful as they are face to face. Recently, I have had the opportunity to revise my thinking on this issue somewhat as I have formed a significant connection with someone who lives on another continent. While we only talk every few weeks by Skype, we have become quite close, and discovered we have a great deal in common in the way we view the world.
Social connection, and indeed love, can take many forms, and though more and more of us are choosing to live on our own, that doesn’t mean we lack community.
In fact, 50% of American adults are single and 31 million (1 in 7) of us live alone, according to the book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. People who live alone make up 28 percent of all U.S. households, making them more common even that those containing a nuclear family. This book suggests that while more of us live alone, we also tend to be more socially engaged outside the home than those with families.
There are even some activists such as Bella DePaulo, PhD, writing about how singles are “stereotyped, stigmatized and ignored, and still live happily ever after.” Her book Singled Out details the ways in which singles are discriminated against in our society (the single supplement on many trips and special event pricing for couples being two examples), the stereotypes we face and the fact that we are often labeled as selfish. She suggests that “family values” have been bastardized to leave out the vast majority of us who are raising kids as single parents, living alone or even part of same sex couples. The graphic indicates the extent of the tax discrimination singles face. I recently noticed this myself as I really scrutinized how much of my salary I never see with my 25% tax rate. It is staggering.
I believe singles have also stigmatized themselves, feeling, as the book title in the first paragraph suggests, that something must be wrong with us or we would indeed be coupled. For single cancer survivors, that stigma can be doubly or triply painful as infertility issues, scars and other body image issues, and the specter of illness and fear of recurrence all combine to make us wonder who will possibly love us NOW? We believe our past illness makes us somehow unworthy or undeserving of love, and sometimes wallow in self-pity, which does actually make us less desirable.
The truth is that all of us are whole and complete and worthy of love no matter what we have dealt with in our past. We all have something to offer, and a beautiful spirit to share with others, even if we are missing a breast, ovaries, a testicle or have physical and emotional scars from the experience of life and illness. It is truly only our own limitations that hold us back, and keep us from sharing the love in our hearts.
A Course in Miracles states that there are only two ways to be in the world – living in fear, or living in love. We are often afraid of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and share our love because we fear it won’t be returned or we will appear foolish. We hold back for fear the other person doesn’t feel the same way, or might not react the way we want them to. I am learning that the latter doesn’t matter nearly as much as I have thought in the past, and that no matter what, there is never anything wrong with sharing the way you feel with another person. It is indeed all that really matters.
We have all heard that love is the most important thing in life, and for those of us who don’t have romantic love at the moment, we have often made it mean that we are somehow lacking THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. It’s not true. We all have love in some form, and while most of us long to be loved by that one special person, it doesn’t diminish the love “that actually is all around us,” to paraphrase a favorite movie (Love Actually).
People in my life regularly say, “I love you,” to me. This is indeed a miracle, because it was only when I could allow myself to hear it and receive it that it began to happen with more frequency. At the same time, it is the most natural thing in the world to tell the people we love how we feel about them, and be so thrilled to hear it in return. What could possibly be bad about saying, “I love you?”
Who can you say “I love you” to?
What keeps you from feeling worthy of having love in your life?
What do you love the most about you?
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Studies in orphanages and hospitals stress that infants deprived of skin contact lose weight, become ill and even die. To thrive newborns need touch as much as food. As children we instinctively seek out touch when we need it, and ask to be hugged or cuddled by our parents. As we grow older, we may not experience as much physical touch in our lives, and might not feel as comfortable asking for it.
Nothing can make us feel loved more than being touched. A pat on the arm, a back rub, a hug, or someone stroking our hair all send the message, “I care about you.” “You are loved.” When we don’t get this kind of physical contact, it can significantly contribute to feelings of loneliness and separation.
When I was going through cancer treatment, I had reiki sessions once a week to help me deal with the side effects. The sessions were seriously discounted and offered through a local program just for cancer patients. This “laying on of hands,” from an ancient Asian healing practice made a major impact on my nausea, bone aches and other chemotherapy side effects. Looking back on it now, I also recognize how emotionally healing it was during that difficult time to receive loving touch for an hour each week.
Programs like this one offer a valuable service to their clients during one of the most difficult times of their lives. I serve on the board of a similar organization that helps patients heal and reconnect with their bodies after treatment is complete through massage therapy. Cancer patients can often feel as if their bodies have betrayed them, and treatment takes a toll on even the most otherwise healthy person.
Massage can help patients deal with lingering pain or sensitivity in certain body parts. It also helps move toxic chemicals out of the system, and provides a sense of rejuvenation to the to the body. But perhaps the most significant part of the process is the opportunity to talk with a provider about what you’re going through as a patient or survivor, and to experience the connection that comes from allowing yourself to receive therapeutic touch.
When we are “sick,” people can be afraid they are going to hurt us in some way if they hug too hard or touch the wrong spot. If we have ports, IVs or other tubes and wires coming from our bodies, especially in the hospital, people can be even less willing to reach out physically. Let people know it’s ok and where there might be sensitive areas to avoid. Go a step further and let your loved ones know when you need to hold someone’s hand, get an extra-long hug or a foot rub. Whatever makes you feel connected and loved – be willing to ask for it.
I have used energy work such as reiki, healing touch and acupuncture to deal with many of the side effects of treatment and of menopause following my hysterectomy. All have had a profound impact on my physical issues, but perhaps just as strongly, if not more so, on my emotional well-being. The act of receiving is powerful, and all of these healing modalities ask only that you relax and allow yourself to receive the healing energy and touch being provided. There is something very profound about being able to receive in this way without any expectation of reciprocation. There are few times in our lives when we can do that, and many of us are not very good at receiving.
I had a conversation recently about physical affection. It was refreshing in the context of a romantic relationship to have someone tell me the type of affection he appreciates. We often expect people we are intimate with to be able to figure it out, or to read our minds about what makes us feel loved and connected. Even more ludicrously is when we get upset with them if they don’t give us what we want and need. Being able to recognize your own needs and communicate them to others is essential.
Saying to someone – whether they are a romantic partner, a friend or family member – “Can you hold my hand?” can feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice it, the more natural it seems. “I like it when you rub my lower back,” is a great phrase to insure you get more of what nurtures you. “Cuddling with you as we fall asleep is one of my favorite parts of the day,” not only communicates what you like, but acknowledges the other person for what they give to you.
Single people may not get as much affectionate touch as they need to feel healthy, connected and loved. As society becomes less dependent upon each other for our physical survival, the emotional connections we have had with others historically have also fallen away. Just because we no longer need the community to hunt and kill our food, or to live collectively to share the tasks of daily survival, doesn’t mean we are any less dependent upon each other for physical affection.
Living alone and being independent is becoming more and more the norm in modern society, and that can mean that many of us are starved for human touch and affection. My friend was brave enough to share how difficult is was for him to have grown up without a great deal of affection in his home, and now as a single adult, how isolating it could be to come home from a difficult day at work and not have someone to share that with or give him a hug and let him know it was going to be ok.
His confession brought tears to my eyes because I often felt the same way going through cancer treatment. Not having someone there to help you make the difficult decisions that need to be made about your health and treatment can leave you feeling overwhelmed, but not having someone there to give you a hug and tell you everything’s going to be ok is devastating.