Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sickness, Death, and Love

Almost everybody I know has dealt with or is dealing with some level of sickness or death in their lives. If you’re human and you haven’t dealt with some measure of illness, or even death, I think THAT’S when you can count yourself among the richest 1% in the world. And that’s ok. Nothing to feel guilty about. Celebrate it, enjoy it, and offer up some big gratitude.

But for the rest of us, the 99%, here’s what I’ve noticed.

Almost 9 years ago when my dad had his massive stroke, many people came to wish us well and offer prayers and hope. So many friends and family members sharing phrases like, “it will be ok,” and “he’ll be fine.” But there was one – one person who dared to say something different.

I’ll never forget it. We were standing in the hallway outside the family room of the ICU almost in a reception line as a few friends were arriving, when Danny walked up to me. He put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “This sucks.”

In that singular moment, I felt all the tension in my back and shoulders release, and I felt myself start to laugh a nervous laugh.

“Dare I agree with him?”

He hugged me tightly, and I felt like I would collapse since I no longer had tension holding me up.

“It just sucks. I’m so sorry,” he continued as he pulled back and looked me in the eye again.

By now, tears were welling up in my lower lids, and I realized I TOTALLY agreed with him.

“Thank you.” (hug) “Oh – THANK YOU!! You’re right. It sucks. It sucks big time, and it hurts, and it sucks.”

He smiled at me and didn’t offer the traditional phrases of comfort and condolence that many would interject at this point. Instead, he simply said, “Yeah,” and allowed me to have my peace, my reality, my truth.

And that was it. That one moment changed the way I look at life, death, and illness. More to the point, it changed the way I offer support to those around me who are experiencing challenging times. Yes, I still offer words of comfort and hope, but not to the exclusion of validating the sucky-ness of the situation. Nor to the point of negating the person’s experience.

The thing is, illness sucks. Death sucks for those left behind. So many books and teachers out there want us to focus on hope and find the positive in the situation, almost to the exclusion of the difficulty.

I’m a believer in how our thoughts change and create our lives. I know this to be true. I believe in finding the positive and living from that place. And yes, the positive is always there, can always be found, and helps us through the darker moments… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ALSO suck to live through it. Sometimes it just sucks. It’s hard, and it hurts. And that’s ok.

It means you knew Love.

Covers, Doubt, and a Perfectly-Timed Text

Have you ever experienced self-doubt? I think most of us have at one time or another. I know I have. Most recently, I have experienced it with greater frequency than normal.

As you may know, I’m about to publish my first book. This is something you only get to do once in a lifetime. There is only one “first” of anything. So, I’ve been working really hard to get it as close to perfect as possible – knowing, of course, that there is no “perfect.” Well, almost…

Last week I received an unexpected, yet perfectly-timed, text that simply said: “Dude. This book is awesome!”

The text was from a friend who received an advance copy of my book. Only a couple of hours into receiving it, and already she was texting to tell me that it was awesome. She went on to say that I must already know that. But did I?

Here’s what I have learned throughout this publishing process: self-doubt will always (always) show up. Why? Because it has to. It has to in order for me to question myself and question my work. I need to do that to be able to stand up, stand for it, and move forward knowing in my heart that what I’ve done – what I’ve created – is, in fact, awesome.

For a while, I was feeling shame over my self-doubt. Feeling like it was yet another obstacle I had to overcome. But it’s simply not the case. Maybe at one point in my life it was, but now I see it as an ally. I see it as an opportunity for me to go deeper into the embrace. I see it as a chance to rise higher, stand taller, and empower myself further. In other words, I see it as a gift.

So, with that said, and having self-doubted my way through countless tweaks to the cover for my new book – I can honestly say that I am THRILLED, EXCITED, and PROUD to share it with you now. Here it is:

What If - coverI can’t wait to share the whole book with you in 8 short weeks!

Are you looking forward to reading it? Learning about this powerful approach I’ve created to change your life? I truly can’t wait to share it with you – and I look forward to you sharing it with your family and friends.

To get the party started, join me and invite them to do the same. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Self-Love

What does “self-love’ actually mean?

I received this question after last week’s writing. Here are my thoughts on what self-love actually looks like:

If we all woke up tomorrow with complete self-love and acceptance, there’s this notion that entire industries would tumble. That somehow self-love means the decimation of the multi-billion dollar industries centered around self-improvement.

But I disagree.

Loving myself exactly as I am today, does not mean I don’t want to improve myself for tomorrow.

  • It means I’m doing it from a place of love instead of fear or lack.
  • It means I’m doing it because I know I’m worth it, not because I feel unworthy or require external approval to feel valid in the world.
  • It means improving myself is defined by me, and not some imposed measurement of my value.

Self-love is not about acceptance through defiant resignation or surrender. Self-love is about standing up for yourself and who you are inside, and making decisions in alignment with that inner knowing. It’s about being accountable to yourself, on every level. If you want to be more fit, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you want to dye your hair, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you like to wear make-up, have body piercings, or only wear designer duds, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself.

Today I could have fruit and yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I could have sausages and pancakes. I could weigh less in a year, or I could weigh more. I could be stronger and healthier or I could be more flexible. Or I could be exactly as I am today.

Self-love is all of that, because if my actions are in alignment with who I am, then I am practicing self-love. The variable is the answer to the question: Why? As in, why am I doing what I’m doing?

The only time it means you don’t love yourself is when you’re doing all of that (or more) in order to be somebody you’re not inside: If your actions are out of alignment with your inner self.

If you’re trying to gain approval or you’re seeking acceptance by others, then perhaps the decision to work out 7 times a week is not loving. Similarly, cookies every day because you don’t care anymore and/or you’re defying the Madison Avenue propaganda, is not loving.

But, if you enjoy a cheeseburger with friends, or you like to do yoga daily, and the decisions you make are from a place within, then that, my friends, is self-love. Even when it includes a desire for self-improvement, however you define that. Perhaps especially when it includes a desire for self-improvement.

It’s time we re-labeled what it means to practice self-love. It’s not about defying anything; rather, it’s about embracing everything from a place of alignment with who you are inside. And that makes all the difference.

Comparison and Self-Love

I was chatting with a friend recently about comparison and life satisfaction. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know how I feel about comparison.

There are no winners in the comparison game.

In this age of social media, it almost seems inevitable that we will be mired in a cycle of comparing ourselves to others. Furthermore, when others are predominantly sharing their highlight reel instead of their fumbles, it also seems inevitable that we will begin to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. When we compare our insides with other people’s outsides, we will never win.

Upon reflection, however, there IS one way I can see that we can become winners in the comparison game. So, I am modifying my former statement ever-so-slightly.

We win at comparison when we learn how to use it as a tool and not a weapon.

What do I mean by that?

When we compare ourselves to others and feel worse about our lives, it’s like we are using comparison as a weapon against ourselves. No armor could withstand it.

However, if we can use comparison as a tool to gather information then we are gifting ourselves with the means by which we can change our lives.

How?

We mine the data. If we raise our awareness to our thoughts of comparison, and instead of holding them to be true we question them and mine the data, we end up with a cache of information we didn’t have before. A cache of information that can help us create meaningful change in our lives. The key element to this process is remaining emotionally neutral and becoming a witness to your thoughts.

What does this look like? Let me give you a concrete example:

The other day I saw a friend’s Facebook post about her spring vacation, complete with amazing pictures of family and friends in a beautiful locale. Whereas my spring break was non-existent. I don’t have one. Even if I had one, I don’t currently have the funds to take the sort of vacation she took. I started to compare my life to hers, and it felt bad.

The natural inclination (which is a much bigger topic for another day) is to feel lesser-than. When we compare, we’re typically looking “up” at those who have it “better” than us, rather than looking “down” at those who have it “worse” than us. This is actually a good thing, in some ways, because it allows us to pinpoint much more easily the areas in which we desire change.

So, back to the Spring Break story. After I took a pause to redirect myself, I deliberately asked myself why I was reacting to her pictures on Facebook. The answer was simple: I wanted what she had.

Which leads to question #2: What do I believe she has? (Notice the use of the word “believe” in there.)

In that moment I opened up the doors to neutrality. I went from feeling lesser-than to engaging my analytical mind from a neutral place. I could identify the story I made up about my friend’s life and how “amazing” it is, and I could identify my own inner desire to obtain what she was showing. But… I didn’t tell myself that my own life wasn’t “amazing.” And that’s the key difference.

Once I was able to become neutral, it wasn’t about being “less than” what I desired, it was about adding something I desired to my goals and dreams, without deflating myself in the process.

This is what I mean about mining the data from comparison. If you use it as a tool, it can help you identify areas that you wish to change. From there, it’s up to you to make a plan and get to work.

So much of this comes back to self-love and acceptance. But, self-love is not an easily obtained construct. It’s too theoretical for too many people. Self-love requires us to find deliberate, action-oriented beliefs and behaviors in order to become manifest in our lives.

Furthermore, self-love does not mean you can’t want to change something about yourself. It means you love who you are at every step along the path of change, and accept your “as is” in addition to your desire to create change, as well as your process of change. Loving yourself along the way is comprised of those actions and beliefs that you choose in each moment.

For me, going back to the example, I chose to question my thoughts and the story I was telling myself. That simple act of choosing something different is what opened me up to the possibility of something different… and it allowed me to choose a loving response instead of a shaming reaction. Self-love in action, as a result of comparison.