P is for…

It seems like so many of my favorite words start with “P.” Here are some, in no particular order:

  • Peace        Play         Perseverance
    Patience    Plenty      Possibilities
    Paradox     Poetic     Pleasure

The list is way longer than this, but I’m stopping here for now because I want to focus on the first two.

Recently, I came across the above quote from Brene Brown (if you haven’t checked her out yet, I suggest you do).

“I don’t want someone who loves me – I want someone who practices their love for me every day.”

Who wouldn’t say “yes” to this? Yes, yes, yes and YES!

One thing I love about this quote is that it implies, without actually stating it, that there’s a way that some people love that isn’t a practice. We feel love, and it’s a great feeling- the best.  However, doing love is whole ‘nother thing. Feeling love for a specific person but failing to practice it consistently in ways that are recognized by that other person = 0 relationship. I’ve been there, I’m guessing you have too.

Seems obvious -yes? But somehow we can fall for the reassurances of  “but I love you,” when other people can’t or won’t practice, or, we use those same reassurances ourselves when we can’t or won’t (guilty). Notice that “perfect” isn’t on my list. And notice too, I’m not questioning anyone’s feeling of love, or the purest of loving intentions, only observing that practice is different. And yes, it’s also true that telling someone you love them is regularly part of practicing love.

Which brings me to this: How often do I practice love for myself?  What about you? What are all the ways you’d recognize you loving you?

Any ideas?

Here’s one from me; listening.  It’s the most loving thing we can do for us, and for the people we love. And, If you have children, then listening to them with your full on presence is the finest practice, a magnificent gift.

If cultivating a bigger stronger listening presence for you and your children interests you, click the photo.

Ask Judy #4: The Problem With “Why” or Try a Little Tenderness

“Why” is a fantastic question. So, this post isn’t an effort to remove it from our language, or anything remotely like that. Lately though, I’ve been listening to how some of us use Why questions against ourselves, against other people or situations, mostly unknowingly, or let’s say, unintentionally.

For example, I have a client who has just begun to notice the power of her inner critters (critics). She has become aware of how difficult it is for her to accept acknowledgment from others, or celebrate her own strengths and accomplishments – big or small.

I’ll stop here and state how cruddy it is to want to feel good and to then notice the pattern of perpetuating the not feeling good. Ouch, yuck, and – what use is self awareness if I still feel cruddy anyway? Oh yeah, I know this one really well.

Back to my client, call her Teresa. Teresa wants things in her life to change. She wants out of the patterns that she sees are holding her back. And, she’s in that place where she’s sick of the old, but when she starts to get a glimpse of the new (and how to go about taking small steps to change her pattern) the Why questions start.

Why do I have this pattern?” Why don’t I just change already? Why do I always do this? And, my all time favorite, “Why, if I can see what’s wrong, don’t I just act on what I know?”

That last question can be the subject of this blog for the rest of my life, so let’s leave it alone for now and move on to, the problem with why. Don’t get me wrong, finding out  why a pattern began is valuable work. But, have you noticed that the Why questions above (or substitute your own)  really aren’t about loving inquiry into what might be under a pattern, but more of, well, blaming?

Mostly blaming ourselves.

Why, in this context, is about looking for what’s Wrong.  Under the guise of figuring it out, we look for the bad, or really, who’s been bad (and guess who that turns out to be?). And, on top of that, we’ve  convinced ourselves that answering the question will bring us the relief we seek. In my experience, this doesn’t happen. The answer isn’t in the reason, but in the relationship with the reason, but that’s also a subject for a future blog potentially titled, “Needing to Know.”

Back to Why. When working with young children, I learned pretty early that, why, as in, “Why did you hit johnny with that truck?” goes nowhere productive. When you ask why in that situation here’s what happens:

  • Jenna, who hit Johnny with the truck, may not know why.
  • Asking why makes Jenna feel stupid, confused and possibly humiliated that she doesn’t know, ’cause if you’re asking her, the expectation is that she should know.
  • AND, she probably hit Johnny because she was scared, angry, or hurt and she didn’t know how to deal with it.
  • That’s pretty overwhelming as it is, and Why from an adult just scares her more.
  • Scared = flight, fight or freeze.
  • The answers you will get at this point are; stone faced silence, running away, “I don’t know” or some version of, it was Johnny’s fault.

See how that works? This post is too long already, so I won’t go into what might be happening for Johnny.

We aren’t much different from Jenna except that now we get to be both scared child and interrogator.  Asking why, when we’re feeling terrible just adds to the confusion and/or self-loathing we already feel.  We think we “should” know, we “should” be able to do something about it and we “shouldn’t”  try anything new (or fall back while we’re learning) unless we can know why there’s a problem in the first place.  Gaaaah.

The first thing to do here is the opposite of analyzing the problem. Why can’t help us here. But tenderness can.  Finding some intentional practice of listening to ourselves with tender regard, as we would hold a tiny seedling that we need to re-pot, or watch a bird hatch from its egg, can bring relief. From here, we are free to know more about what we might really need to do to move forward.

There are lots of great practices to investigate. You might try Exploring the Perimeter, it’s a good start. When I’m really desperate, I pick a part of my body I feel pretty neutral about – like my thumbs- and I sense them (eyes closed) with as much patient gentleness as I can possibly stand for as long as I can.

Listening to Otis singing Try A Little Tenderness here couldn’t hurt either.

Say Good Night Gracie or Who Says Simple Transitions are Easy for Adults?

Remember the book GOOD NIGHT MOON? 

Quick refresher: in it, author Margaret Wise Brown gently nudges children from waking towards sleep by simply saying “good night,” to the everyday objects and people in the child’s room.

Transitions…here and there green leaves are showing hints of yellow and orange. The school year has started. Right now the Days of Awe, which for practicing Jews, are the ten days of  passage from one year into the next.

Transitions have been so much on my mind  that when creating the new installment of Sunny Ideas for a Rainy Day for 2-6 year-olds, I found myself writing about the power of routine to support daily transition times in young children’s lives.  And clients too, have been asking for help getting to bed at a decent hour (regularly), re-entering home after work, managing interruptions to their flow, taking time for a non-work during lunch weekday, wondering how to put their work lives to bed at the end of the day –  the transitions embedded in everyday life.

Interesting, because by the middle of last week I was fairly wrung out. The Listening From Your Body of Knowledge:For Parents workshop is coming up and after practically downloading the curriculum from my brain, I  searched music for the awesome playlist; collaborated with Adman on the brochure (more writing); composed and sent a series of email announcements; rode around White Plains dropping off brochures; and created new contact lists (importing contacts into distribution lists, one by one, not my idea of bliss). This in addition to seeing clients (whom I love – hello clients), blogging, writing, finishing and then announcing the new Sunny Ideas books (see last sentence for emailing, list making tedium ) and well, I haven’t even mentioned the legions of repairmen that have been showing up here at Casa Garfinkel.

So what? Everyone is busy. So true. What I’ve noticed is that part of the exhaustion coming from all this busy-ness is a direct result of forgetting that a stopping place is needed. And, that I need transition support to get to that ending too. I need my own GOOD NIGHT MOve Into Change and my own hello day.

There’s something powerful about setting up routines that truly guide a transition. And, something necessary about consciously participating in the routine instead of going on automatic. I think mindless routine is usually a bad idea. So as an experiment, I’ve been doing this. I’m calling it the Brown Approach to Transitions of BAT ( as in go to BAT) in honor of Margaret Wise (don’t you just love her middle name?) Brown.

BAT

  •  Setting a reasonable time to end – in my case, stop working
  •  Saying (aloud, if no one’s around) “Time to put the work day to bed”
  •  Deliberately pick up each item and find the right place for it. Write down what needs to be remembered for tomorrow.
  • Saying “Good night Move Into Change”
  • Walk away

Obviously, you’ll need to tweak this for your specific transition, but you can see how it’s applicable, yes? And, in case your inner critters are sniping that this is so silly cause you should just be able to just stop working and move on – let them know that this is sophisticated self care.  And, as this is an experiment, I will report on my observations (and therefore, have proof). Wanna join me?