Articles

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Coming Soon!

I’m happy to announce that my new book, Grace Notes: Traveling the Path of Wholeness will be available real soon, well, October, 2017.  It’s been a labor of love writing it and getting it ready for publication and I’ve had lots of support and help to get it done.

I’ll have more information, photos, and availability information soon, and announcements about when and where I’ll be signing and speaking.

Very excited.

 

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Mama Kate

Life is generous with its lessons. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve all encountered many teachers. This is the story of one of mine to whom I’m deeply and enduringly grateful. 

Katherine Jones was born in 1896 in rural Pike County, Georgia. She was one of seven children and said to be the most beautiful of the five Jones girls.

She married John Clements when she was 19 and was widowed at 26 when John died from gunshot wounds received on 12th street in downtown Columbus, GA. Their only son was 2 at the time of his father’s death.

A news account from the time stated that Katherine was in critical condition from nervousness following the death of her husband, but by the time I knew her, she was the most carefree person I’d met so far. She was my Mama Kate and that 2 year old was my father. He remained her only child and I was his only child. She loved us both extravagantly, but we rarely saw her because she was always on the go. She was my lighthearted, world-traveling, exotic, glamorous grandmother.

But, oh, when she came to town, she brought laughter and sunshine. She thought I was beautiful and talented and could do anything I wanted, and, when she was around, I thought so too.

Mama Kate, widowed at age 26 in a time when there were few options for women’s employment, when women couldn’t own property or have a checking account, and had only recently gotten the right to vote, was a single mom and a liberated woman long before either became fashionable. She was the first person in our town to own an automobile. She played poker with the men, and won, and laughed out loud.

In our small town, grandmothers were people who went to church and cooked Sunday dinner and wore plain clothes. Mama Kate came to town once or maybe twice a year, wearing her elegant outfits, telling stories of distant places and interesting people, and then off she’d go again. When she was there, the world became a brighter, shinier place, a place with charm and laughter and excitement. A place of possibility, a place where a girl like me might find her future.

I wish I knew more of her story. Much of it must have been hard. I don’t know how she made her way up and out of the critical nervousness that followed her husband’s death or how she managed to care for her son. I don’t know what gave her the courage to become or where she found the strength to carry on. I don’t know how she had the wisdom to break the rules that needed breaking.

But I do know this. Because of Mama Kate, I always knew that the world was a big and fascinating place. Because of Mama Kate, this little small town Southern girl always knew that a woman could dream and dare, and sometimes laugh out loud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thinker

Feelings aren’t facts…..or maybe not.

There is a phrase that is often quoted among those who are interested in personal growth and healing – feelings aren’t facts. I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s been around a while and I believe it’s helped a lot of people. That’s reason enough to keep repeating it.

However, I don’t really agree. I actually turn it upside down and say, “Feelings are just facts.” In order for this to make sense, you’d first need to know that I’m not that impressed by facts. There are probably hundreds or thousands of facts that make up any reality, any moment, any situation. But those facts, singly or in combination, are never quite equivalent to the truth of the matter. And I think truth is ultimately so much more important than any fact could ever hope to be. So, it’s a fact that I’m sometimes grumpy and it’s also a fact that I’m sometimes easy-going, but neither of those facts represent the truth about who I am, which is both of those and everything in between because I’m a complex, complicated, ambivalent human with a wide range of moods and aspects and an ever-changing flow of feelings – just like every other human being.

So, a feeling is a fact. It’s a fact about now, this moment, and one I’d be well advised to pay attention to. Our feelings are there for a reason. They arise from a deep, ancient part of ourselves that only wants the best for us. Though often misguided in terms of their response to this present situation, they are always true and real and meant for our good. And they always have a message for us. Sometimes the message is factual about the present situation – if that lion is chasing us, it’s our fear that tells us to run. If our sweetheart smiles, it’s our tenderness that smiles back. And sometimes, the feeling doesn’t fit the situation at all, but it still carries a message that we need to hear. And that message is about who we are and where we’ve been and also about where we may need to go.

And that message is the one we most need to hear regardless of its relationship to the “facts” of the situation. My fear tells me that I’m feeling unsafe. It may or may not describe accurately the current situation, but it’s impeccable in its description of my inner state and that’s the information that will help me most. Of course, I do need to make some discriminations about how well my feeling fits with the external realities and base my response and my decisions within a context that contains both my feeling and the realities that my good rational mind observes, not one or the other.

To deny my feelings is to deny myself. And the practice of self-denial, carried out day after day over a lifetime, leaves me disconnected from myself and thus disconnected from life. The only possible route to wholehearted participation in life lies squarely in the path of self-awareness. When I can know who I am and accept who I am and work hard to become the best of that, then and only then can I fully receive the gifts on offer and make my contribution in return.

So when I feel something, it’s a fact! And I can take that new information and use it to learn and grow and become the best of myself. Isn’t that wonderful?

Courtesy of Carollee Addams

Who Am I?

All my life, I thought of myself as — well, I have to give it to you the way I thought it – I’m not athletic. I told people I couldn’t do this or that because I had lousy eye/hand coordination. I never thought much about it unless questioned: I just didn’t do things. It’s true that I am naturally inclined toward mental activity, but I often envied those with natural athletic ability and thought I might enjoy playing some of the games they played if only I could.

Anyhow, when I was about 45, I accompanied my husband to a convention that was being held at The Cloisters on Sea Island. It’s a lovely oceanfront resort with many amenities and it was a treat to be there. One afternoon, my husband decided to go to their sporting clay shooting club. I was along for the ride and he said, why don’t you try it? I said, I couldn’t do that – I’ve never touched a gun and —- I have lousy eye/hand coordination. Well, he wouldn’t settle for that answer and I gave in. The staff was very helpful and found the right gun and a vest so I didn’t hurt my shoulder and a gentleman took me out to the range to give it a go. He was patient in his instruction and helped me hold the gun correctly and showed me where to aim and generally guided me through the whole thing, literally holding the gun with me and helping me aim. I hit a clay every once in a while, but not often. After a while, I said, can I try on my own? He said sure and I did and I never missed after that. Turns out I’m a great shot. Who knew? Who even imagined? You see, you can’t do that if you have lousy eye/hand coordination. You just can’t. And that turned my view of myself upside down. Since then, I’ve learned to play tennis (pretty badly) and golf (pretty well) and I’m a great fisherperson and eager to try new things – new athletic things.

I don’t know why I thought I was not athletic. I don’t remember any painful events and my parents didn’t tell me that. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably tried some things as a child that I didn’t know how to do and just decided on my own that I was limited in that way. But I do know that those beliefs held me back and limited my view of my self as well as my opportunities for decades. I’m grateful I got the chance to revise them in light of new information. This little experience also led me to look anew at other limiting beliefs and ask myself hard questions about them and to do that for other people with a new conviction that doing so would be helpful to them.

A very long time ago, around 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Socrates wrote, the unexamined life is not worth living. I think he may have been onto something. Self-awareness is the key that unlocks the door to everything else. Without it, nothing changes: we are stuck with the same old limiting beliefs and behaviors. With it comes hope and possibility.

No matter where we are in our lives, young or old or in the middle, succeeding or failing, striving or resting, reaching or retreating, it’s always the right time for self-awareness. We are all more than we know and the more we know, the more we have to give. It matters.

 

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Just How Perfect Do You Want to Be?

In the Greek myth, when Persephone is abducted into the underworld, her mother, Demeter, pitches what my mother would have called “a holy fit.” She cries; she wails; she pleads, she pouts; she punishes. She will not accept – she refuses to be consoled. In the end, she strikes a deal with the devil himself and agrees that her daughter can stay to live with Hades half the year if she is allowed to return to earth for the other half. Bargain done, she restores fertility to the land and thus assures abundance for all the people.

A client came to me seeking a solution for her “depression.” She said that she had lost her cherished child several years before and had never recovered from that loss. She felt she was being unfair to the people in her life….

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Life Itself is the Best Teacher

Not everyone is a candidate for psychotherapy, some because they don’t need it, some because they don’t have access, and some because they are reluctant for any number of reasons.

Psychotherapy is a powerful tool for healing, growth, and change of all kinds, no question. I have seen miracles in my own life and the lives of others born in the consultation room. However, I never forget that life itself is, in the end, the best teacher.

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Meeting Life’s Challenge

Life is difficult. Everyone encounters challenging situations and events over the course of a life. No one escapes being human, and being human involves loss, disappointment, failure, shock, and betrayal, as well as boredom, tedium, exhaustion, and hard work. How well we meet these challenges day in and day out, year by year, determines the quality of our lives.

The concept of resilience as a psychological quality has rightly become a topic of significant interest to psychologists in recent years.

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A Christmas Story

Last night, my husband and I were returning from a movie and he remembered he needed to stop at the grocery store before we went home. On the drive, we had been talking about all sorts of things, including, or mostly, how fortunate we are and how grateful. I said, We’ve been so lucky. As we stepped out of the car, Mark said, I’ve been thinking a lot about luck. What does that mean exactly?

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Journaling for Self-Discovery

Journaling is one path to self-discovery that anyone can easily take advantage of and that has many benefits beyond increased self knowledge. These are a few:

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Ghosts: Letting Go of the Past

Perhaps Halloween could be more than simply a fun and colorful celebration, as delicious as that can be. Perhaps we could also decide to use this holiday as an annual reminder to let go of all the ghosts from the past that still haunt us.

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Pay Attention!

Life itself is our best teacher. She offers all the lessons we will ever need abundantly and without restraint. If we miss them the first time, they will be offered again and again until we are ready to learn.

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Book Event in Winter Park, FL

I am excited to let you know that I will be at Writer’s Block Bookstore in Winter Park, FL, on Saturday, December 13, from 2-4 PM for an author chat and book signing.  I would so love to see  you there.

Writer’s Block Bookstore

124 Welbourne Avenue

Winter Park, FL 32789

(407) 385-7084

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Traveling Stories: Lessons from the Journey of Life

I am pleased to announce that my new book, Traveling Stories: Lessons from the Journey of Life, will be out in a few weeks – September 30, 2014. As the title says, this is a book of stories, all true and drawn from my own life and from experiences shared with me by friends and clients. Each one is an example of how we learn life’s lessons and find answers to our most important questions.

Click here to read more or to pre-order.

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Learn Something New

Last week I was writing a page for the book that’s in process now. One of the ways I organize my thoughts is to make lists. So, I was making a list of advice I give to folks from time to time in the ordinary course of things. These bits of advice are hardly original–most of what I know I’ve been taught by many fine teachers over the years–but, if I’m giving it, it means I’ve tested it and it’s worked for me. So, anyhow, one of the items on this list was, “Take a class, any class, but learn something new.”

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On Dreams

People are fascinated by dreams. Whenever someone learns that I work with dreams, he or she begins telling me about a dream they had or they say, “What does it mean when you dream about ….? Dreams help us understand, learn, cope, and move ever toward our wholeness.

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I heard myself say…..

Earlier this week, I was at my physical therapy appointment and I heard myself say, “I am not able to do yoga right now even though I love it and it would be good for my injured shoulder, because there isn’t a class that fits my schedule.” Did you hear it? I did. I heard myself say that I had decided to be a victim of schedules, mine and theirs. I wanted to do yoga; I knew it would be good for me, but I was planning to continue to miss out because of some silly scheduling issues.

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Self-consciousness: Bad Hair and Your Best Self

I saw my friend Elizabeth at the post office last week. I was glad to see her and we stood and chatted for a bit. A few minutes into our conversation, Elizabeth said, “Are you looking at my hairline?……

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The Four Questions

There are really only four questions:
Who am I?
Where do I belong?
What matters?
How do I live my life?

Consciously or unconsciously, we spend our whole lives trying to answer them.

We seek answers many places.

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Becoming Aware

Janet was 55 when she came to see me for the first time. She was at her wits end trying to sort out the conflicts and crises in her family. Her two adult sons seemed to take turns getting into trouble. Janet and her husband, Bob, then argued about whether or not to bail them out. Some of the time, Bob rushed to the rescue and then other times he reacted with rage and cut his son off. In either scenario, he placed the blame for the situation solidly on Janet’s shoulders. If she had done this or that differently, this never would have happened. In each instance, Janet tried to mediate the conflict and hold the family together as she had done throughout their lives together.

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Why Therapy?

Some of the reasons people go for therapy: problems in relationships; sadness, grief and loss; life crises……

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Drudge Diary

……….One household chore that was complete and utter drudgery to me……emptying the dishwasher. The thing I resented most is that just as soon as you empty it, it starts filling again, so you know you’ll just have to do it again. Plus, there is nothing interesting about it.

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