Question your can’t

by-Mikito-Tateisi
Photo by Mikito Tateisi via Unsplash

In August 2017, I took in a rescue dog. Charlie was in rough shape when he arrived — he had a horrible skin infection, was malnourished, abused and heartworm positive. He was so timid in his new environment. He opted to avoid a soft bed because a concrete floor was all he knew. Love was an unfamiliar concept, but that along with patience and many treats, Charlie is the picture of health and happiness (and LOVES a soft bed). During his healing process, I learned more about self-care than from any prior book or teacher. I began to realize how much of myself I gave away and did for others those things they needed to do for themselves. “Shoulds” ruled my behaviors and fear was my motivator.

We began to explore parks for exercise after Charlie was declared healthy and soon found a favorite comprised of mulched trails surrounded by trees and wildlife. Other dogs frequent this path making each visit a mini vacation from daily life. After my hip surgery a few years prior, I thought my running days were over. Running had long been a form of therapy for me, a place to settle my mind and allow my soul to breathe. As we walked the trail, I wished to run again. One day, I heard my inner voice ask, Why can’t you? A myriad of reasons/excuses poured forth, but the more I considered them, the more I realized that, even though they were true at one point in my life, they were not necessarily true now. So, I took the risk and began to run. I only made it a short distance before my body said stop, but each day I came back and tried again. Little by little, my distance expanded. I expanded. What started out as “I can’t” is now “I can and I will!”

All too often we stay stuck because of limiting beliefs or false assumptions. Some are learned from our family of origin and others by our life experiences. Sometimes it is a family pattern, a story passed from generation to generation. No one in my family ever…

We put so much power in our belief of limitation that it becomes true for us. What would happen if we questioned our can’t and put that much belief in what is possible for us now?

Where does can’t show up for you? Relationships? Money? Success? Where are you limiting yourself because of someone else’s belief or a past experience?

There was a time I beat myself up for time wasted due to fear, but the truth is I had to go through my past experiences. It was necessary for me to learn the lessons. When a baby is born, we do not try to teach them trigonometry or quantum theory. They learn what they need to in a way best suited for them at their own pace. The same is true for us. If the Universe gave us every lesson all at once, we would implode. Each day, each step is necessary for our growth. Turn around and look behind you. Take a good look at how much you’ve grown and celebrate that.

Look at yourself with curiosity rather than judgment. Where are you limiting yourself with a belief that was true for a time but may no longer be true for you? Where is “can’t” dominating your life?

You are not the same person you were five or ten years ago. Heck, you’re not the same person you were six months ago. We are dynamic creatures with the ability to grow and change when we choose to do so. Some of our beliefs were necessary for a time. They protected us, enabling us to survive a difficult situation. Have compassion for who and where you were at that time. Now take a good look at those beliefs and ask if they are still true for you. What protected you before may be exactly what is keeping you stuck now. I encourage you to question your can’t.

We become conditioned to believe a certain way and continue to do so, even when limits have been removed. It takes conscious effort to see the limits and test them. We have to choose to expand. Our “cants” are like stepping stones and necessary for our growth. They are much like training wheels on a child’s bike. We cannot climb a mountain until we first learn to walk. Baby steps count too.

Question your can’t. Allow your past to make you a better person. Learn from it and let it go. Trust.

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I would feel entitled too

The word entitled has been often used to describe today’s young people. Webster’s defines entitled as “having a right to certain benefits or privileges.” There are many who would argue this description is accurate for many Millennials and Gen Z, but one question I have yet to hear asked or answered is this,

Do they have a right to feel entitled?

You may disagree, but my answer to this question is yes. Please hear me out. I have three kids in the millennial generation and from the time they were in elementary school, a college degree has been sold as the silver bullet. You know the spiel…get good grades, get into college, finish college and get a good job and you’ll be set. This has been repeated by almost every teacher, counselor or administrator throughout their education at some point in their journey. All along, kids plugged away at mounds of work, many of them juggling sports or part-time jobs along with their studies only to find the pot of gold they were promised is conspicuously absent.

Today’s teens and young adults are facing challenges far greater than any generation prior to them. College is hard and many students are ill-equipped to handle the stress and pressure. Having attended college later than most, I studied alongside them and witnessed their struggles first-hand. I have frequently said that motherhood prepared me more for the college juggling act than high school ever did. I still stand by that. This past semester, I had the privilege of an invitation to return to my college and teach. My experience has reinforced my opinion that some students are in college who aren’t ready or need additional support.

crop-img-Vladislav-Babienko
photo credit Vladislav Babienko via Unsplash

It doesn’t help when parents of many students are constantly reminding them of how much the tuition for education is costing them. Parents, one thing you need to own up to is that you made a choice to pay for college. If you are like most parents, you encouraged your child to go to college alongside the school system. That was a choice on your part. It is part of the package when you choose to have a child.

There are many young people in college — especially those in their first and second years — who are there because everyone told them was the best next step. One look at the employment rates among college grads tells us that the silver bullet isn’t working for many of them. Forbes stated in a 2017 report roughly 44 percent of college graduates ages 22 to 27 were working in jobs that do not require a college degree, meaning that one in three grads is working in a job that requires nothing from the hard work they put in at school. Granted, reasons for this range from unhappiness in their chosen field or choosing a different path, but for some, there are simply no jobs available in their chosen field or they can’t make enough money in their chosen profession (any teachers want to chime in here?).

It is true that the traditional college route works for some, but for others not so much. Some young adults have to make their own path. More and more often, entrepreneurial endeavors are the order of the day. We need to help our young people rise to this challenge if this is what they aspire to do.

So what’s the difference between those finding success in their lives and those who aren’t? One of the biggest problems among young adults in both the Millennial and Gen Z groups is that these amazing people are believing all the negative being said about them. Research has illustrated for years that one negative comment requires multiple positives to balance it out, roughly 6:1. Consider how many negative comments are received by the average human being in a given day via all media outlets, with social media being the biggest culprit. Many of those in authority say the solution is easy — just get off the phone. The reality is it’s not that easy. How exactly are students supposed to stay off social media when many teachers and professors are relying on social media to interact with them. I entered college at age 36 and became more attached to my phone than at any other time in my life because of the massive use of social media channels for students, professors and the school at large to communicate.

These amazing generations are inundated by negative messages of “lazy,” “entitled” and having a lack of perception of the realities of life. They don’t deserve this shame. The truth is that depression and other stress-related illnesses among young people are at an all-time high. We, as a society, have created this. When the new technology hit, it is perfectly understandable that it was used for fun. Gaming opportunities soared and social media was born (remember MySpace?). When kids came home from school and chose to be alone in their rooms, few saw it as an issue. Oftentimes, fatigued parents (sometimes single parents) believed their kids were home safe. The parents themselves could enjoy a rare moment of solitude.

No one realized what we were creating.

The time for blame and shame is over. It is time to stop blaming and start being proactive. It is time to use our gifts and talents as a society to help this generation find solid footing and walk their own path.

The upside to this story is, despite society’s learning curve, times are changing. Awareness is growing. Kids, teens and others are using technology to solve problems and create positive change in our world. That same potential still exists in our young adults, but many of them need our help to realize it. Rather than beat down this generation, let’s give them a hand up and teach them how to stand.

Tending the garden

Recent events in my life have reinforced my belief that we are all connected and our energy affects who or what surrounds us, whether we are positive or negative. Some people choose to engage with those around them, to inspire and be inspired. They choose to be courageous and connect despite the risk that vulnerability brings. Others…well, not so much.

Our lives, our world – both the inner and outer – are gardens that need to be tended. How we tend that garden determines whether we grow and flourish or wither and die. Our fruit, or lack thereof, is evidence of what we choose. Each day is a choice – we can choose to grow, to remain stagnant or worse yet, to be a weed that needs rooting out.

In the garden, when weeds are removed and a plant is given space, growth doesn’t happen in an instant. The plant has to stretch its roots to establish a strong foundation. The majority of growth happens underground, away from outside view. If a plant is moved, it experiences a period of shock and must be placed in a nurturing soil to rest before growth can begin again. Once the roots spread and expand, much needed nutrition is allowed to flow into the vine and manifest outer change. Nourishment has to begin on the inside.

Plants sometimes need additional support as they grow. Support provided through stakes and twine, help the plant grown straight and steady. This is necessary for a time, but if the plant remains bound to the support, the twine that supported it may eventually choke off future growth and even harm the plant.

Likewise, our lives need nourishment and support if we hope to bear fruit. Maybe you have weeds in your life in the form of limiting beliefs, negative thought patterns or toxic people. Maybe you are in shock from being transplanted by a lost job, loved one or other life event. Maybe you are in an intense incubation period of growth where all of your hard work isn’t yet visible to the outside world. Or maybe the support that once sustained and strengthened you is now choking your growth.

Regardless of where you are, self-care is essential. When a plant isn’t growing properly, the gardener doesn’t reprimand the plant or withhold nourishment. Instead, he determines what the plant needs to thrive and provides it. You are your own gardener. You know better than anyone else what you need. You only need to go within and ask. Whether it’s rest, fun or connection with others, try to meet that need in some way. Every step matters, even the baby ones. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. If you need help, ask. The Universe will deliver.

By the way, if you are in the midst of growth you may notice weeds are being removed. For some, your light may be too bright for them to withstand and the Universe is removing them for your growth. Keep moving forward and keep shining. We need your light.

Wisdom from the silence

As I sat at the page this morning, anxiety poured over me. I closed my eyes and waited.

The stillness spoke.

Surrender. Release. Let it go. Open up.

How do I do that? Truly let go?

Stop holding on so tightly. Clenching.

Breathe…

With every breath released, release a little more of the tension, stress, anxiety, control, grip, angst.

With every breath in, breathe in My love, healing, calm, truth, joy, peace.

Breathe in love, breathe out fear. Trust the process.

Let it flow. Be joy. Be peace. It is your natural state.

To be counter to that state causes tightness in your belly. That’s your cue.

When you notice the tightness, breathe in, then out.
Then ask, “What am I fearing at this moment?”

Pay attention. I am speaking to you all the time.
If you can’t hear me, notice where fear is.

Pay attention. Be in each moment. Allow Truth to come forth.

Be love. It is who you are. Be peace. Be joy. They are extensions of love.
Allow yourself to be one with all.

You are made to create. It is what you are born to do. Connect through creation.

Facing Change

People sometimes say, “It’s never going to change.” Not true. Things are changing all the time. In fact, the only true constant is change. The question is, where are we hanging onto something or someone that isn’t in our best interest because of fear? Where are we holding on too tightly to an old way of doing and being because we’re scared of the unknown?

Scared.

Sacred.

Swap too letters and the whole meaning changes. Honoring ourselves, what is true and sacred for us is often a scary proposition. On one hand, we want to change. We want to release the bad habit, the toxic relationship, the old ways of thinking. On the other, we’re wanting to hold onto the feeling of comfort and safety they provide – the known quantity.

But it doesn’t work that way. We have to let go of the side of the pool if we ever hope to swim on our own. Of course, life sometimes throws us in the middle of the deep end. In some ways, this is easier. When we’re hanging out at the edge of the pool seeing what we want in the middle, longing for it, we battle our minds. We want to let go, but fear of sinking like a lead weight keeps two fingers tightly gripping the side. When the Universe tosses us into the middle, there’s no time to think – or overthink. It’s either swim or sink. Split-second decisions keep us from second-guessing ourselves.

Truth is, it usually turns out okay in the end. Sometimes it turns out better than okay. I’ve heard and read many accounts of the “holy crap” moments where life has thrown one major curveball after another being the biggest learning and growth period of a person’s life, my own included. When we let go of the edge and begin the work of swimming toward the middle, we find flow. When we trust ourselves and trust we are supported, we find ourselves carried in such moments. As we do the work, we have moments of knowing answers and solutions we logically should not have known. Synchronicity abounds. People, circumstances and resources show up just when we need them. We still have to do the work, but it comes with an undercurrent of ease. Striving instead of struggling. It takes trust – trust in self, trust in our abilities, skills and talents, trust in something greater.

This is why focus determines success. If we focus on the lack in our life, whether it be lack of time, resources or good coffee, the lack grows. However, if we focus on what we have with an attitude of gratitude, it will grow as well.

Abundance comes in many forms. All too often, many go unnoticed in a given day. This is all about taking the occasional step back and reassessing your life. It is easy to see where there is need be it for money, time, help, etc., but what are you abundant in? Are you in reasonably good health? Be grateful for that. Do you have a family or friends that love and support you? Be grateful for that. Do you have access to gaining knowledge or training needed to do your work? Be grateful for that. Time to get some fresh air, even if it’s only a quick walk around the block? See a beautiful sunrise or sunset? A pet or child in your life that adores you just as you are? Celebrate that!

Remember, you are enough just as you are, right now at this very moment. You are here for a purpose, a one-of-a-kind human being with a unique set of desires, skills and interests that make you perfect for being you. Focus on that, on what you do have. As you do, something magical begins to happen. All you are grateful for will begin to grow, to expand. So even if all you have to be grateful for is the opportunity and ability to read these words, be grateful for that. Say a silent thank you to the Universe. Release your expectations about what is going to happen next.

Let go of the edge. Trust. You are created for more!

Answering the call

Ignoring the soul’s call leads to doubt, anxiety, pain. What is your soul saying to you? What MUST you do? Following your own path can be a frightening and often lonely endeavor. Breaking away from the usual modes of thinking, doing and being is difficult. There is no getting around this part, no way to skip ahead to the happy ending.

But as these parts of us are discovered, examined and ultimately released, there are new parts underneath you never knew existed. Deeper parts overflowing with love and light. In doing the work, you excavate your true self.

Let it all unfold.

Adjusting to the Empty Spaces

Today is January 10, 2019. It is 3am.

Two weeks ago I arrived in Texas to move my daughter into the next phase of her life. Accompanied by husband, my daughter and my dog Charlie, our little caravan arrived – my husband in my daughter’s car, everyone else in mine, with both cars loaded to the hilt – the modern covered wagon. The move was originally slated for March, but due to a surprise job offer, our time table shifted.

My daughter was ecstatic. She had looked forward to the move for some time and was beyond ready for the change. My husband and I, though both happy and excited for her and the next phase of her journey, were less so. She is the last of my three children to leave home, the first and only of my husband. There have been several crying jags over the last few months as I acclimated to the idea of her being over a thousand miles away. Overall, I’ve been handling it with some degree of success.  As my daughter’s schedule now fills with new classes, new people and new experiences, mine is filling too. Lots of good stuff happening all around.

But there are these moments…

Moments in time and space that used to be filled with carpool, kids and activity. In these moments, it hits hard that she’s gone and a significant chapter of my life has ended. For almost twenty-eight years, my mind has been full of the cares of young lives depending on me. It began with my boys, twin sons I gave birth to shortly after turning nineteen, who were joined by my daughter eight years later. My days were full as most mothers’ are, but it took getting a little older to realize just how quickly time was passing.

These moments held laughter and joy, arguments and tears, worry and wonder. Of course, there is still worry at times – I am a mother after all – but much of the responsibility has lifted off of my shoulders and shifted firmly to those of my children. As a young mom, on days when I was so tired after being up all night with sick children and no time stop to rest, I thought this time would be a relief of weight when it came. Don’t get me wrong…it has been a lighter load with regard to my schedule and items on my to-do list. There is still joy as well, as I watch all of my kids learn and become and grow into what they aspire to be.

But there are these moments.

Moments when I walk past her bedroom and see the empty space on her bed where her beloved teddy bear Bentley sat – her first ever gift given to her by her dad, a little something he picked up in London while she was still in utero. Moments when I walk past the empty space on the kitchen wall where the dry-erase calendar displaying her schedule hung that now hangs in Texas. Moments when I notice the empty space on the counter where her vitamins sat so she wouldn’t forget them. Moments when I go check her closet for laundry to be washed, only to be met with empty space.

Little habits and everyday events that remind me that she is no longer here.

There is a part of me that wants to fill the empty spaces however I can to stop the ache, but a wiser part of me knows there is nothing I can do to fill the space and even the pain has something to teach me. So I sit with the empty spaces.

There is an old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” I don’t believe that’s always true. Over the last couple of months, I became acutely aware of the spaces that were beginning to take shape and grow as my daughter stepped up, intent on being responsible for herself and her life. She took the lead in a way that would make any mama proud, but I was hyper-aware that she was becoming less dependent on me by the moment, taking up less space in my days.

My daughter and I have one of those Gilmore Girl mom-daughter, freakishly close types of relationships. She commented more than once that the only thing that would make the Texas move perfect would be for her dad and me to move there too. Alas, that is not an option, nor do I want it to be. As much as I miss her, this is her life and I want her to be able to live it fully – to prove herself to herself.

As for me, I get to start my new job today. I’m returning to the campus where I received my degree four short years ago to teach, to give back some of what I received there. My days are filling up with new responsibilities, new people, new experiences.

As for the empty spaces, I’ll let them be for now. I’ll sit with them from time to time and learn what they have to teach.

As one door closes, another opens. Such is life.

Love and light to all of you.