[GUEST POST]: How to Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin: 5 Easy Steps

In honor of PRIDE month …  and … in an effort to honor the human souls and tender spirits of those in the LGBTQ+ community, I invite you to let this meaningful message land in your heart.  And, perhaps it will invite each of us to consider alternate ways to truly live our lives from a place of love … despite our differences.

In less than 4 quick minutes, Emily Joy gives us some very prickly but potent points to ponder if we are seriously committed to loving one another ……………….

Thank you Emily Joy for your intense, brave reminder of what the dark side of our beliefs can look like … Karen

Video

Grief is Like a Ball in a Box – Lauren Herschel’s Metaphor

I have received permission from Lauren Hershel to repost this magnificent metaphor she shared on Twitter about the nature of grief:

“There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button.”

With appreciation to Lauren Herschel for these diagrams.

“In the beginning, the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting.”

“Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits that button when you least expect it.”

“For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was still giant. I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.”  (Lauren Herschel)

Thank you so much Lauren Herschel for granting me permission to share this meaningful metaphor for grief.  I suspect it will speak to many, many people who have found themselves grappling with how to manage the ball in their box.

With deepest reverence for the unbearable ache of grief, Karen

Thrive in Spite of It Healing Retreat

‘Thrive in Spite of It’ Healing Retreat

You CAN thrive in spite of difficulties, challenges and loss!

Join Kim Forchuk, M.O.M.; Brenda Berube, Yoga Instructor; and Karen Lanser, Counsellor/Life Coach for a day of inspiration, meditation, and healing! These three ladies each bring their knowledge, life experiences and healing energy to the day. Kim brings inspiration by sharing her story and shares how she has been inspired to thrive in spite of loss. Brenda brings nurturing and relaxation through her beautiful yoga to balance and ground the energy in the room. Karen brings her gift for creating a warm and safe space for all in attendance with her compassion and understanding of the human spirit.

Register early as space is limited. Minimum of 8 and Maximum of 10 participants. Your space will be confirmed and reserved once your payment has been received.

The cost is $149.00 for the day and includes lunch and snacks/

To register please contact Karen Lanser by text or phone (403) 317-1117.

Thrive in Spite of It Healing Retreat

The soul should always stand ajar …

ecstatic experience

And … if we are paying close attention … we notice that the ecstatic experiences … those moments that inspire an internal “ahhhhhh”…  come in all shapes and sizes:

  • the birds flitting in and out of the birdhouse
  • the steam rising off the water in a hot bath
  • a text from your Bestie filled with emojis
  • a great cup of coffee
  • forehead kisses
  • the space of stillness of the morning … pregnant with potent possibilities
  • a belly laugh with your colleagues
  • a phone call from your daughter … just checking in … because they were thinking of you despite their busy schedules
  • a memory of a beautiful feline snuggled on your lap
  • the warmth of the sunshine kissing your forehead on a chilly winter walk outside
  • the smiles and support of people who really ‘know’ you when you are feeling entirely misunderstand
  • the feint flicker of a candle … bringing light to the darkness
  • a heartfelt connection that softens an experience and makes everything feel right with the world
  • eyeglasses … to clear things up and bring things into sharper focus
  • a really good, deep stretch in yoga class
  • stemware filled with a nice red blend in front of a warm fire
  • a book that is so good you don’t want it to end
  • a heartfelt and meaningful apology
  • flannel sheets in January
  • inspirational quotes that find you ‘sighing’ with deepest understanding
  • slippers … and … elastic waist bands
  • empty space on the calendar
  • glimpsing the twinkle in someone’s eye
  • a grandchild’s enthusiastic greeting and warm embrace
  • old photos of people you love
  • polar fleece jammies
  • twinkle lights
  • waking up rested
  • the anticipation of something really good
  • warm homemade buns with the butter oozing over them
  • exceptionally great service at a restaurant
  • the peace in our hearts when we can see the other side of the coin
  • being awakened in the night with the solution to the problem
  • feeling protected
  • watching a flower blossom
  • homemade borscht … hot, ready and waiting in your slow cooker for when you get home from work
  • a warm day with no wind
  • a great golf shot
  • a fabulous series on Netflix
  • knowing you made a difference for someone in your day
  • artistic creativity
  • the ‘dusted fries’ at the Kingsmen Ale House in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
  • a nice long walk in the sunshine
  • a 24 Cribbage hand
  • no longer being ‘lost’
  • when the gravy turns out
  • anything made with barnboard
  • finding money in your pocket
  • getting through security at the airport
  • spicy appetizers on fancy skewers
  • mutual understandings
  • fresh picked veggies out of the garden
  • a savings account with some money in it
  • children who are no longer sick
  • finding a decent parking spot at Costco on a Saturday in December
  • being able to donate to a worthy cause
  • watching your grandchildren’s extra-curricular activities
  • remission from a diagnosis
  • Lucy’s chocolate cake
  • listening to one of your favorite songs
  •  being delayed in traffic but still arriving ‘on time’
  • getting a needle threaded on your first attempt
  • flossing something out that was stuck between your teeth
  • chocolate … in all its luscious incarnations
  • purchasing something at 75% off

What stirs your soul?  Can you help me fill in the blanks?  ❤ Karen ❤

Believe in Yourself … You Can Achieve Anything!

Yes, you can be brainwashed into believing in yourself and thinking you can achieve anything … until you walk into a staff meeting at work on a seemingly regular Tuesday … and … you get fired. Yep. After 21 years of dedicated service, you get handed your walking papers. No notice. No cause.

And, for just a split second, because you cannot even fathom how this could be happening to you … you question your belief in yourself. You wonder if you would have been better off to have stifled your soul and silenced your spirit in order to save your job. But, you realize, even more quickly … that you could never have lived with yourself if you had not stood up for what you believe in. And, you remind yourself that if you had it all to do over, you wouldn’t change one darn thing, except of course … the outcome.

But, worst of all, your heart aches deeply, for all of your prior counselling clients. It is the beautiful souls you have been gifted to work with that are paying the biggest price in all of this! And you wish you could reassure them that you would never, ever in a million years, have chosen to abandon them in this way.

And you ache for any pain they might be feeling. You know that you get to move on by simply expanding your private practice and embracing all the possibilities that come with that liberty. And for you, it feels very exciting. But you know very well that this is not just about you.

And, you wake up in the night wishing you could reach out to each and every one of your people because you have been connected in the most meaningful ways. Because you know them and respect them at the deepest level. Because they trusted you. Because you knew they felt really safe with you ………. well, until now.

But you can’t instigate contact with any of these precious souls to help them make sense of any of this. You were not permitted to speak to them on your last day of work as you were escorted out of the building and for ethical reasons regarding ‘solicitation of business’ in your Standards of Practice as a social worker, you can’t initiate any personal communication with them now. And so, the silencing sucks … but you deeply respect and honor the integrities of your profession.

And so … you pray that they will know you still hold them with deepest regard. You pray that they will trust your character enough to recognize that things are not always the way the seem. And, you hope they will sense your heartfelt regret and the powerlessness you feel to honor and alleviate any of the ways they may be feeling unsupported in these moments.

And, you send compassion and courage through the ethers to each and every one of them … trusting that they will powerfully find their way through this unexpected blindside. And … you hope they feel your abiding commitment, despite your unforeseen absence in their circle of support.

And, although you are at the age where you could simply ‘retire’ right now, that option does not appeal to you because counselling is your passion … because supporting others is what your heart longs to do.

And you know that you will rise above the outrage of the circumstances … because, yes … you’ve brainwashed yourself into believing in yourself and thinking you can achieve anything.

And … you want to take this opportunity to remind your clientele – past, present and future – that they can do the same. Yes. Yes, they can.

❤ Karen ❤

“(S)he wouldn’t hurt anyone …”

Source Unknown

Your dog is beautiful. You love them. They adore you. And … you think your dog is harmless.  I know you believe this to the core of your soul … and … I would agree that your dog is completely harmless to YOU.  But this is not necessarily true when it comes to OTHERS.  Your dog has a primal instinct to protect YOU.  I completely respect that, but many dog owners aren’t aware of the challenge this innate predilection creates.

And … you may defend by saying that your dog has never ever harmed anyone.  And, I’m guessing by that you mean that they have never bitten anyone. But … ‘biting’ is not the only way your pooch can do ‘harm’.  In fact, the upset/distress/harm experienced by another because of your dog may not be at all obvious to you.  Allow me to explain …

I love to be outdoors … walking, running … metabolizing the stresses of my day with the bright sunshine warming my heart and cleansing my soul.  For me, it is not only the physical exercise, but a walk or a run is so good for my emotional and mental health. I am a counsellor (generalist practice) and EMDR therapist (trauma work) … so … I spend the bulk of my work days immersed in the pain and wounding within other people’s worlds. I love my profession. In fact, I wouldn’t want do anything else …. but … given my passionate commitment to this heart work, it’s imperative for me to find ways to release any stress and/or compassion fatigue that has accumulated in my own system.

Source Unknown

And so … my time enjoying the out of doors is such a precious piece of my own mental health.  And it remains entirely therapeutic for me … unless or until … I come upon unleashed or loose dogs. It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I do. It’s just that, unfortunately, I have come to fear the ones I am often confronted with outdoors.

My fear first began a few years ago when I was out for a morning run and crossed paths with a family … complete with stroller, preschool children and a beautiful large dog.  He was leashed as I approached them and attempted to pass by on the path. I’m guessing the canine misinterpreted the bounce in my step as an invitation to play because he unexpectedly lunged towards me and caught my upper arm between his incisors. Yes … he was tall enough to reach my bicep.

I stopped in mid stride when I felt the pain.  They just kept on walking.  I looked at the torn flesh on my arm and called out to them “Your dog just bit me.” They continued walking away, not even pausing … never mind turning back to assess the situation nor offer apology.  The person holding the leash casually called back over his shoulder … “He was just playing.” “But” I responded (pleading out helplessly to the back of their heads)“he drew blood.”

They never even looked back.  They were certain their dog meant no harm, so they completely disregarded the incident. I was aghast. And injured. And left abandoned on the path.  I stood there in utter disbelief until I could no longer see their silhouettes in the distance.

My mind was racing to comprehend what had just happened! Your dog bites a passerby and you dismiss the incident and injury as an intent to play?  What does your dismissal of the harm caused by your dog teach your young impressionable children about compassion and accountability and responsibility? I wondered how they were justifying their dismissal, disregard, ignorance of the event as they merrily continued to enjoy their walk outdoors. Correct me if I am wrong, but I’m deliberately calling it ‘ignorance’ because for them to choose to ‘ignore’ the injury is entirely ‘ignorant’ of the norms of human decency that we purport to uphold in our culture.

I still had a fair distance to go and the blood was trickling down my arm.  The local hospital was on my route home … so I stopped in to get a bandage.  The nurse was kind and compassionate … her empathy was comforting.  She cleaned the wound and warned me that if the dog’s shots were not up to date I could be at risk. She strongly recommended that I report the dog.

I pondered it all for the whole day … knowing that if I reported it, the authorities would NOT take my unprovoked injuries lightly.  We live in a relatively small town, so when my husband got home that evening, he was able to track down the dog’s owner and called him to ensure the dog’s vaccinations were current. Fortunately, they were. When my husband pressed the owner for an explanation of his conduct … he offered an apology. For me, however, it was a little too late to seem sincere. I wish I could say that the flowers he had delivered the next day made it any better. But they did not. They felt more like a ‘thank you’ for not reporting his expensive, exotic breed of dog, rather than a genuine effort to make amends for harm done.

One would think this would mark the end of the event. It was over, right?  Wrong.

Little did I know … but this was just the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life. I had no idea that the emotional arousal of this experience would become registered as a traumatic event within my limbic system.  And, that the hyper-arousal and unprocessed alarm of the event could be and would be triggered and reactivated, again and again, into the future … when and if I was accosted by dogs in the great outdoors.

And, since that day … my bestie and I have been chased and charged and cornered by dogs on several occasions!  I can tell you that one feels entirely vulnerable when a dog bounds unexpectedly across and down a street and won’t let you pass by … circling your ankles with bared teeth and vicious snarls. This has happened more than once.  When the dog owner in one of these scenarios finally captured his dog … he offered no apology.  Rather, he dismissed the whole incident by contending ‘he’s just a little dog’.  YES.  And may I say. the little ones seem to have something to prove. And regardless of their stature … they still bite … hard. 

And then, of course, there are the big ‘friendly’ ones!  Like the one my hubby and I encountered this morning … he enthusiastically lumbered towards us … both uninvited and uncontrolled by the owner.  I hid behind my husband.  The owner said he was sorry to have scared me but defended that “He’s just a big goof ball … he wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Sure. Easy to say … until it happens. Upon recognizing that I wasn’t comforted by his nonchalance, he looked down at his dog and said: “Come on … let’s leave the old lady alone.” Huh??  It might not have felt so offensive if I had not so clearly heard ‘old biddy’ in his disparaging tone. Perhaps he got defensive because we all knew he had to drive right past the off leash dog park to get to the area where we were all walking.  Grrrr.

But seriously …’old’ lady??  Well … okay, maybe true.

How about ‘scared’ lady?  Most certainly truer.

How about ‘innocent’ lady?  For sure. Absolutely. 

Maybe I should just be a ‘grateful’ lady? Clearly, its better to be insulted by the owner than bitten by their dog.  Obviously … there was no need for any extra compassion, because this dog owner saw no harm done.

On another occasion, a landscaper had his dog unleashed while he was working on a yard.  He was entirely unconcerned when his dog bounded towards us. I stopped in my tracks … distressed as the dog nosed towards my crotch.  I asked him to come and get his dog.  He  assured me that his dog wouldn’t hurt me. I was frozen … terrified to move. I actually pleaded with him to please come and get his dog. He smirked … apparently amused by my fear. I was reduced to grovelling for him to come get his dog away from me.  He snickered. Yes. I was terrified and was being mocked despite my outcries for help.  When did we devolve to the place where we think it is amusing to watch people suffer?

I completely lost it. I came entirely unglued.  My bestie’s eyes grew wider with deeper concern when I dropped the f-bomb. She had never before seen me in such a state of terror.  My fight/flight system had entirely taken over my system.  I was experiencing a full out trauma response. Yes.  Even though this dog never bit me … it was still a traumatic experience.  You see…. trauma isn’t something physical that happens ‘out there’ in the world somewhere … it’s something emotional that happens internally when we become hyper/hypo aroused and alarmed beyond our window of tolerance. And when old traumatic wounds get reactivated, we will find ourselves in fight, flight or freeze.

Source Unknown

It used to be that when I saw or heard a dog barking in a yard … or in a house … I could just calmly keep on walking or running. Not so any more. Now I experience a highly alarmed visceral response. I can feel the adrenalin and cortisol coursing through my veins. I can feel my blood pressure raise. Unfortunately, my flight/flight system is activated EVERY single time. And … although I am just one … I know that I am not the only one.

My bestie has also been bitten … more than once. One time when we were out for an evening stroll, a very large dog escaped the fenced yard while it’s owners were loading groceries into the house. This dog bolted … crossed the road … and then attacked us FROM BEHIND. My bestie sought medical treatment for the wound on her backside. The owners, on this occasion, expressed concern and regret. But as a result of this experience, even passing by a fenced dog doesn’t feel safe anymore to me. Especially if they are barking or growling. Even now, my heart starts pounding at the mere thought of it …!

And so … I share this for those of you who think there is no harm in unleashing your dog.  You can’t possibly know what is being triggered internally for others when they see that your dog is uncontrolled.  You have the luxury of being comfortable because … there is no chance that your dog will harm you.  I only wish I could feel so calm and relaxed. My body responds automatically.  It is not a conscious decision on my part. I cannot voluntarily turn off my internal alarm system.  And, research indicates that it typically takes at least 30 minutes for the stress chemicals to be metabolized … often longer. And so … I can end up feeling more stressed than when I headed outdoors with the intention to ‘de-stress’. Gah.

I am writing this blog as a call for compassion.  I hope you are hearing that your dog doesn’t have to bite someone to cause them distress and/or harm. Their trauma response may be triggered by the mere presence of your unleashed dog.  And, you would be none the wiser that your enjoyment of the outdoors was at the expense of another.

So … unless you are at an off leash park … please keep your dog controlled by their leash.  And, by that I also mean, please ensure you are strong and able enough to control your dog if you are in charge of their leash.  There are many occasions where leash holders would never be able to hold back a dog that gets aggravated or activated.  And, it is not at all uncommon for us to see dogs pulling their owners along the path.  In those situations, the leash is just an unreliable illusion of control that does nothing to calm my fears.

And finally … “thank you, thank you, thank you” … to all the dog owners who are mindful and considerate of the rest of us outdoors. “Thank you” to all the dog owners who shorten the leash when they come across others. “Thank you” to all the thoughtful dog owners who position themselves between their dogs and the passersby. And “thank you” to those who are kind enough to take their dogs off the path … or … simply halt with them … to visibly display that they have complete control of their canine. Your conscientious efforts to respect and acknowledge the comfort and safety of others is duly noticed, deeply respected … and … most gratefully appreciated!

May we all (young or old!) enjoy the outdoors without fear of emotional or physical harm … Karen

 

 

 

“To The Brave Ones” … An invitation to change the world by Glennon Doyle

Yes.  In response to the school shootings … an invitation to change the world … in the name of humanity! We need it more than ever!

Here’s a full transcript of Glennon Doyle’s speech:

To The Brave Ones,

This is cruelly specific to you. No generation before you has ever faced anything like this: Students being shot and killed in classrooms while adults do nothing.

What’s happening to you — it has a new face — but underneath? It’s oldest story known to humanity. It’s the story of evil born of greed.

Because there are two kinds of evil. There is the visible evil This is the evil you see on the news. The evil that happens when a kid shoots up a school. That kind of evil is often sparked by illness, pain, circumstance, hopelessness.

But we’re here today to talk about a different kind of evil: a behind the scenes kind of evil — not the evil that led the shooter to pull the trigger — but the evil that put a weapon of war in his hand.

Brave ones, that kind evil is harder to see because it hides behind fancy suits and degrees and good arguments and slick smiles and fake patriotism. This kind of evil is born in boardrooms and private jets and golf courses and handshakes between powerful people who plan how to divide us. And it’s not complicated, Brave Ones, It’s born from nothing but old-fashioned greed. It’s born when the love of money and power trumps the love of people. It’s unleashed when power decides to sacrifice lives for money, and when they wrap their decision in the American flag, in the name of God, in the name freedom –- so we’ll smile and cheer while our deaths line their pockets.

This kind of evil, Brave Ones, is not new – it’s when the greed of a few , in order to profit, strategizes to divide us and convince us to be afraid of each other. To convince us that we are against each other, when really these greedy few are only for themselves and We the People – We the People – who have been taught to fear each other, have the very same interests: our freedom, and our safety, and our children.

Greed is powerful – always has been. But you know what’s even more powerful, Brave Ones? Courage.

The story of our country is that humanity’s greed only reigns for so long – only until the people being sacrificed rise up and together say: ENOUGH.

Like the abolitionists rose up. Like the suffragettes rose up. Like the freedom riders rose up. Like the Vietnam War protesters rose up. Like the civil rights heroes who marched with King rose up. And the civil rights heroes who knelt with Kapernick rose up. Like women all over the world rose up to say TIME’S UP because ME TOO and like the young gymnasts — who joined arms and stood on that witness stand and shook with fury and conviction as they looked Larry Nassar dead in the eye and took him down together — rose up. Like the Parkland Prophets rose up in the face of their own pain and with their passion and intolerance for hypocrisy awoke our entire nation.

And Like YOU. LIKE THE AMERICAN STUDENTS OF 2018. Who — on February 23 — rose up together to say to power: “WE SEE YOU. Your greed is not patriotism. WE ARE THE PATRIOTS and we say: No country is free whose children are not free. “

YOU, who on February 23rd, became the BECAME THE LEADERS YOU WERE WAITING FOR.

You are not alone as you make history today. You are taking your rightful place in the long line of American freedom fighters. You are staking your claim on the side of history that knows and has always known that the Power of Love Overcomes the Love of Power Everytime. History shows us again and again, Brave Ones, that the game is long but when love shows up LOVE WINS.

On behalf of us parents, as you continue to rise and overcome the world’s greed with your love – I beg you, we beg you, to remember two things.
FIRST: Please- as you rise- Honor each other’s humanity.

Our generation got this wrong, Brave Ones.

We demonize people and groups who think differently than we do. We pledge blind allegiance to tribe and party and turn up our noses and close our minds and hearts to each other. We reduce each other to headlines and clickbait. We allow power to keep us afraid of each other – arguing with each other so we’re too busy hating each other and loving our own self-righteousness to make any real change at all. We allow power to use the oldest trick in the book: Keep them afraid of each other so they don’t turn on us.

And that’s why we failed you. This is why we haven’t kept you safe. Because we –as a generation — decided that being right is more important than doing right.

So, Brave Ones, decide differently. Don’t fear each other. Talk instead of tweet. Ask Questions. Be curious instead of judgmental. Seek first to understand. Listen to the kids whose parents have brainwashed them differently than your parents have brainwashed you. Fight bad policy instead of each other. Think beyond. Beyond party, beyond race, beyond gender, beyond sexuality, beyond tribe, beyond your parents, beyond Congress, beyond the Presidency…. YOU ARE THE GENERATION of BEYOND. The categories we’ve made for ourselves are killing us. Disregard all of them, and be humans among humans. When they tell you to fear each other, LOVE each other.

And Second: Honor YOUR own humanity, Brave Ones.

Rise and fight, Yes, but don’t forget to laugh and dance, too! It’s okay to be heartbroken and angry and it’s also okay not to be. Life is brutal, yes, but life is also beautiful, and the sun still shines, and art is still being made, and food is still delicious, and people are still AMAZING!

Listen loves, in the face of fear and oppression and danger, Joy is the fiercest act of resistance.
So as you fight for your lives, Brave Ones, don’t forget the things that make life so worth fighting for.

Keep Marching, Yes, But dance while you march us into the future you are creating for all of us.

So Brave Ones: Your parents are so proud of you. We are sorry that we didn’t protect you. We were confused until you rose. It all felt hopeless until you rose. But you have restored our hope and cleared our minds and strengthened our hearts. Your courage has helped us find our courage. And we will follow you and fight beside you until till we’re all free. Because you are the ones we’ve been waiting for, too. We love you.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Everytown for Gun SafetyMarch for our Lives Elizabeth Gilbert Cheryl Strayed Brené Brown Women’s March Never Again

Video

Byron Katie talks with Oprah about making peace with challenges like weight loss … and even … the death of a loved one.

In this remarkable interview, Byron Katie invites us to consider that the challenges we are having with things are because we are believing stressful thoughts about things.  She invites us to consider how a shift in our beliefs can reduce our stress and sadness around weight loss struggles …and/or …even the death of a loved one.

Powerful shifts in perspective … k

Video

We Get What We Tolerate …

We get what we tolerate

There have been countless times in my life where I have hit the end of the line.  There are times when I know in my heart that enough is enough. I’ve been pushed to the limit.  And, I’m solid and clear that I am simply not going to deal with or put up with ‘it’ (whatever it is) anymore.

And then … 40 minutes, 40 hours, 40 months, 40 years later … there I am … complaining about the same dang thing. And I find myself questioning that if I was really so “done” with it then …. how come I am still dealing with ‘it’ now?  I’m guessing some of you can also relate.

Or sometimes the end of the line looks something like this.  We catch our selves declaring, with complete exasperation:

“Why does this always happen to me?”
“I just can’t handle this any more!”
“This has to S T O P!”
“Oh no … NOT again!”

Well … there is a reason for the persistence of that which we say we don’t want anymore.  In the words of the infamous life coach, Tony Robbins:

“We get what we tolerate.” 

And so … if we are still enduring whatever it is that we were so ‘done’ with … whether it be personally, professionally, culturally, globally … it means we have continued to tolerate ‘it’ in some way … for some reason.

I learned in my life coaching training with The Ford Institute that we tolerate the unacceptable because despite our aversion to ‘it’ we are actually more deeply committed to something else.  For example:

  • We are deeply committed to losing weight, but we are more committed to snacking because it helps soothe the pain in our hearts.
  • We fail to set up firm boundaries with someone … because we are more committed to being ‘nice’.
  • We tolerate the challenges of staying with an addicted partner because we can’t bear to be perceived as the kind of person who abandons someone who is struggling?
  • We tell our kids it’s time to turn off their iPod … and then we let them ignore us because we are too tired to muster up the energy we’d need to argue them into submission.
  • We want to give up on something … but we persist because we rather not feel like a “failure”.
  • We give and give and give until we are empty because we don’t want anyone to call us “selfish”.
  • We tell ourselves that if the boss says ‘that’ one more time, we’re quitting … but we never do because we really need the money.
  • We desperately need to ask for help … but don’t want people to think we are weak, stupid or incapable.
  • We don’t stand up for ourselves because we feel so much compassion for the other person … we know they are just really stressed and didn’t mean to hurt us … again.

I could go on and on with the list of examples, but you get the picture. We say we want one thing, but in reality, as my mentor Debbie Ford explained … we have ‘underlying commitments’ that keep us stuck in unfavorable patterns.  And so, if we really want to be ‘done’ with ‘it’ … we have to be willing to uncover the subconscious pay off and risk losing whatever it is we’ve been getting from putting up with ‘it’.

And this is where we need a whole schwack of brave … and … a whole ton of determination.  This is where we must push ourselves beyond the ‘toleration’ and must challenge our deeper needs, fears and foibles.  This is where we need to take a really good look at what has been keeping us stuck.  And, this is where it can help to have a counsellor, a therapist, a life coach or a support group to help us figure our way through it all  … because … it is really hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame.  But, I have also learned that it can be one of the most fascinating journeys of your life!

Source Unknown

What if things could actually change? What if you really could be ‘done’ with whatever it is that is keeping you stuck? What if you didn’t have to keep tolerate ‘it’ anymore?

What if … for 2018 … as a gift to ourselves … we committed to surrendering one of the things we have been tolerating, Karen




 

 

 

 

 

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A Slow Burn … and … The 2016 Christmas Chronicles!

It was such a slow burn.  It was so slow that it was almost imperceptible for years.  At times, I could vaguely feel the heat and on occasions I certainly sensed some scorching … but generally, I didn’t take much notice. I simply fanned all the flickers firmly out of my awareness.

It was an implicit and somewhat insidious pattern of behavior that developed so early on in my life.  My gaze was focused outward … my attention turned towards others. I was perpetually hurrying and scurrying to warm others … to make sure they were happy … endlessly endeavoring to earn their love and affection.  And I unwittingly thought that my efforts were keeping me warm too.  And, I guess they did … to some small degree … but those flames were also singeing the edges of my soul. Parts of me were slowly burning out.

strong-but-exhaussted

As a child growing up in a pretty dysfunctional home, I had erroneously assumed that if I could ensure that others were warm, cozy and happy (only ALL of  them) … they in return, would keep me warm and cozy too.  It didn’t always turn out that way. In fact, for the most part, for the better part of my recollection …  very few folks have actually noticed if/when I was left shivering. Not that anyone knew how I really felt. I always put a smile on my face regardless of how I was feeling. It might have been wiser to simply ask for help … but then again … the ‘strong’ ones don’t tend to admit when they we are cold.  No, we’re “fine”.  Arghhhhh.

Source unknown

As I discussed in another blog, part of the problem was A Tragic Misunderstanding on my part, but it’s always harder to see the picture clearly when you are inside the frame … even if you are a master’s level counsellor. Gah!! After decades of discounting, deferring and/or dismissing my own needs, I got to the point where I could no longer ignore the unfavorable build up of cold ash that was slowly stifling my spirit and snuffing out the bright light of my internal flame.  I was doggone depleted. And my usual efforts to toss another log at my internal flame flicker were simply not enough to re-ignite it anymore. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to warm anyone unless I took time to rekindle the embers of my inner spark.

Yes … as some wise soul pointed out … ‘you can burn yourself up trying to give light to others.’ And so … I decided I needed to take a break from my usual way of showing up in the world … both professionally (as a counsellor and life coach) and personally (as a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, friend etc).  I needed to take some time away from tending to others (in general), and instead, focus upon finding more ways to warm my own charred spirit. I decided to call it my ‘sabbatical’ … because a sabbatical is when you take time away from your usual responsibilities in order to focus upon something else or learn something new.  I spoke about it more specifically in another blog entitled  The Gift of Personal Renewal.  Yes. I seriously needed to unlearn my default pattern of putting myself last.

In my profession, we are schooled about the increased probability of “burnout”, “compassion fatigue” and/or “vicarious trauma”  As a result, I have always protected myself from these potential perils by ensuring I get enough sleep, eating nutritiously (well — mostly!),  exercising my body (walking, yoga) and other forms of ‘self care’ (massage and reflexology and solitude) …  but it had gotten to the point where the drains on me personally from 2015 through 2016 were reducing the benefits of these professional safeguards.  Ultimately, they were no longer adequate nor sufficient to nourish my soul.

So, for my sabbatical, I opted to amp up my own self-care considerably. And, in an effort to optimize my efforts towards personal renewal, I also decided to opt-out of doing things that had  typically become my responsibility.  That included Christmas! Yes. I decided to surrender the extra responsibilities, obligations, expectations and work load that had become an inherent part of the Season for me. If I am going to be totally transparent, I recognized that over the past 20 years Christmas had been losing its luster for me. I was feeling increasingly burdened by the duties I put upon myself to deliver a delightful Christmas experience for my family. And, even more than that … I was seriously wondering what it be like to have Christmas magically unfold before you.  Yes … I was aching to have someone else doing all the fussing and bothering in order to make it merry and bright for me.

I explained myself and asked my husband to take a turn and do what I do every year. It felt like a bold move … but I reckoned that it wasn’t entirely unreasonable for him to shoulder the responsibilities … for just this one time … out of our 40 Christmas celebrations together.  And, if the whole truth be known … part of me needed the break, but another part of me wanted him to get a serious sense of how much time and energy it takes to make it all jolly every year. In fact, I laughed out loud when I read the following on Pintrest because it pretty accurately described my hubby’s level of involvement as, year after year, Christmas magically (i.e. easily and effortlessly) rolled out before him.

dad-has-no-idea

After my mom and dad split up when I was twelve, my mom did the very best she could on our welfare budget … but I always dreamed of enjoying those Hallmark holiday celebrations that I was convinced all the two parent kids were having.  And so, year after year, I have been wholeheartedly invested in creating the kind of Christmas for my family that I had always most wanted myself. Yes, I was determined to make my dreams for the ideal Christmas come true for them … year after year after year. 

And so, over the years, I had developed numerous heart-warming traditions for our little family. I joyfully adorned every corner of the house and decorated the tree with unparalleled zeal and stuffed all the stockings for our daughters (and eventually their partners) … each with their own special color/pattern of Christmas wrap. I carefully selected and wrapped gifts for each of the teachers with oodles of ribbons and bright, beautiful bows. I took the lead role in organizing our effort to anonymously deliver gifts to the doorstep of someone we chose for the 12 Days of Christmas. I also mailed out five or six dozen handwritten and personalized Christmas cards on our family’s behalf. I spent hours dipping hand-made chocolates (both dark and milk) in a variety of flavored fondant (peppermint, almond, coffee, maple walnut, rum & butter, peanut butter, etc) along with Olympian cremes (rolled in toasted coconut or chopped nuts) as well as  soft, chewy caramels and licorice toffee individually wrapped in red or green foil too. I boxed them and wrapped up the lids in festively colored paper and completed the presentation with a legend identifying all the flavors. And they were deelicious!!  I artistically iced, at minimum, 12 dozen homemade Gingerbread cookies (in various Christmas cutouts) for sharing in our annual cookie exchange. And, every year, I made a double batch of the shortbread recipe that became our family favorite (from the cookie exchange!).  I often bottled up home-made Baileys and, for many years, I created huge shortbread wreaths to give out as tokens of my appreciation to honor my friends.  Sheesh … I even have an old pic of those yummy gems!

shortbread-wreath

It was also very important to me to spearhead my daughter’s understanding of the true Christmas spirit as one focused upon ‘giving’ rather than just ‘receiving.’ To that end, I helped and encouraged them to fill ‘Shoe Boxes’ for the less fortunate.  And, in an effort to pay it forward from my own childhood memories, I always faithfully donated to ‘Toys for Tots.’ I always tried to get things done early in the season (October  or November) because I had to commute 80 kilometers/50 miles (often on crappy winter roads) to the nearest city.  And … I had figure out how to surreptitiously purchase all the gifts with my three little gals in tow (childcare was not an option). Somehow I pulled the wool over their eyes so the ‘believers’ didn’t catch on … year after year after year.

I also remember navigating the shopping mall chaos and standing as patiently as possible so our sweet little girls could leave their requests with Santa.  I will never forget the year that my two daughters both changed their minds (at the last minute!) about what they wanted for Christmas!!  It was during the Care Bear craze of the early 1980s and perhaps all the advertising had finally gotten to them. No one was more surprised than me when they unexpectedly asked Santa for Care Bears. What??  Unfortunately, by that point in the season, there was not a Care Bear to be found in any store anywhere on this planet!  So what was a doting momma to do??  I ended up purchasing an official Care Bear pattern and spent hours sewing up two facsimile bears … a ‘Cheer’ Bear for Tiana and a ‘Tenderheart’ Bear for Sherisse. I hoped they would look authentic and real enough to pass their inspection.

carebear-delight

Yep.  I clearly nailed it. The sheer delight on Tiana’s face tickled my heart clear down to my toes. We still have both those blessed bears in our grandchildren’s toy box. The years have not been kind to them … but for the very best of reasons.  I don’t think they get much, if any, attention anymore. I’m guessing our grandchildren think they are downright ugly … but …  I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them! And, although they were just homemade imitations of the store-bought Care Bears … there is no doubt that those ‘replicas’ certainly became real in my daughter’s hearts.  As Margery Williams stated in The Velveteen Rabbit:

[Real is something] you become. It takes a long time … Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes don’t see as well and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

care-bears-collage

Oh my … the sweet riches of making Christmas’s past as merry as possible cannot be denied. I mailed off special care packages (dutifully heeding the Canada Post deadlines for delivery) filled with small tokens of love for my father and step-mother … usually a banana loaf or some homemade cranberry fudge … some hand-crafted ornaments … and maybe some pics of our growing girls to add to their grandparent’s ‘Brag Book’ (we had no internet/social media connections back then).  I made the annual wife-saver (eventually two of them – one savory and one sweet) preceded by warm gooey cinnamon buns (fresh out of the oven) on Christmas morning. I have typically hosted Christmas Day at our house for the last quarter century … ever since my Aunt Mil passed away … and so I’ve roasted the bird and/or the ham with all of the fixings.

We always spent Christmas Eve with my in-laws because it was my mother-in-law’s birthday. I leaned in to help as much as I could on Christmas Eve too because my mom-in-law was disabled and the bulk of the work fell upon her only daughter.  And, of course, the annual Christmas tasks were not complete until the turkey carcass was simmering in the crock pot and the homemade TV dinners were assembled into pie shells with all the leftovers (the brilliant idea of my sweet sister-in-law!). And then … I typically led the charge in cleaning it up … always grateful for whatever support was offered.  As I itemize all the ‘work’ I’ve invested in the Christmas preparation and execution, I have to concede that it has not been without a strong element of martyrdom sneaking in over the last two decades. And so, when I saw the following sign on a Facebook page of a young millennial, I could clearly relate … and … realized that it wasn’t just me that often felt this way.

exhausted-from-watching-me-do-everything

Little by little, over the decades, I have stopped doing most of it. We’ve grown in numbers and it’s just so much harder to ensure everyone is warm and happy. I have continued to fill all the stockings and decorate the house, make the meals and be attentive for when I needed to put out trays of appetizers.  These days, my husband roasts a Prime Rib in the smoker and my grown daughters contribute to the meal preparations and my sons-in-law help with the clean up and my oldest grand-daughter helps me prepare the ooey-gooey cinnamon buns.  And so, of late, my biggest concern has been that I’m typically bouncing up and down during the Christmas morning gift opening (to tend to things that needed doing) that I feel like I miss out on witnessing the joy as my family unwraps the gifts I have invested my heart into getting for them.

So, in 2016, I was eagerly anticipating simply sitting back and let it all unfold effortlessly in front of me.  There was a part of me that delighted in the thought that because Christmas was ‘on him’ this year, my hubby would have the opportunity to invest countless hours and oodles of energy into making it a Hallmark kind of Christmas for me.  I suspected that I would deeply savor the experience.  Yes.  I had a lot of hopes riding on switching things up. Ha. Ha. I can hear you all wisely wincing at the ‘set up’ I created for both him and me.

That said, I do hold some very special memories of Christmas past where I was on the receiving end of the fussing and bothering. One of my all time favorite memories was during the era that we were hand-making our gifts for each other (to resist the commercialization of the Season).  Anyway, I was reduced to tears the year that our daughter Sherisse handcrafted stockings for her dad and I!!  And then … she and her sisters filled them with gifts for us … so we could join them in our annual stocking opening!  It still remains one of the kindest and most meaningful gestures I can remember.  We continue to use those stockings and my heart secretly smiles with warmest recollection of their thoughtfulness every time I see them.

Another one of my other most favorite Christmas memories of the Season being made merry and bright for me is when my husband loaded up our little girls and drove 20 miles to pick out a fresh, live tree that easily reached our 10 FOOT ceilings.  It most majestically replaced the scrawny little five foot fake one we had been using!  Honestly, I remember it being the most extraordinary tree I had ever seen!!  The scent of spruce filled our home!!  I even had to make a whole schwack of red and white bows out of some ribbon I happened to have on hand because I simply didn’t have enough ornaments for a tree of such magnitude!  It was beyond my wildest dreams!

best-christmas-tree-ever-1988

And well … I dug up an old photo so I could show you.  All I can say is that the picture does not even remotely do any kind of justice to just how much that tree warmed my heart and nourished my spirit!!! I get toasty all over again just thinking about it. ❤

At any rate, it was quite interesting to turn the baton entirely over to my husband and wait for him to commence the merry making. Staying out of it and keeping my mouth shut was more challenging than I expected. He picked out the tree on the first weekend in December (as per our usual) and got it standing up in the house on the 6th.  It smelled quite beautiful.  I was heading out of town on the 8th and 9th … and … I fantasized that I would return home to a brightly lit and beautifully decorated tree. But …  no such luck.

I could have decorated it myself, but remember … I was on sabbatical.  And … I knew that if I did that I would have really resented my husband (for my martyring actions) because we had agreed it was his turn to make it merry around here.  So, as excruciating as it was to let it stand there dark and naked for over another week, I forced myself to dwell in the discomfort until he decided to do it.  And, I noticed … he chose not set himself on fire in order to meet our long-standing traditions and/or my expectations around timelines.  It was finally decorated 10 days before Christmas. christmas-tree-2016

He got it done while I was enjoying some sabbatical self-care  … I was getting a pedicure.  He really did a beautiful job of decorating it. And … he commented on how many marvelous memories came back to him as he dressed the tree with all the ornaments we have received from our girls and/or picked up over the years along on our travels.  Our tree really did look quite lovely!  It does not escape me though, as I write this, that the tree that most warmed my heart (with all the red and white handmade bows) was not anywhere near as ‘pretty’ as this one.  I guess it’s really true what they say … looks aren’t everything.

Our tree is in the living room, but we gather in our family room (near the fireplace) to open gifts on Christmas morning.  As you can see from the pics below, my idea of “decking the halls” is a little different than my husband’s.  I have to concede that his lack of interest in decorating the family room irked me a bit.  I really missed the lights … BUT … it was really interesting for me to observe, once again, that because he was very busy at work, he was not inclined to set himself on fire tending to things that I have always thought were essential.  In fact, for the first time in over 20 years, he also opted NOT to put up outdoor lights on the front of the house.  He did get some up in the backyard, though, and they looked gorgeous twinkling in the moonlight.

decorating

Once again … keeping my mouth shut and letting him do Christmas his way was much harder than I expected. Yes, with boxes of decorations left undisturbed in the basement, our tree was the SOLO sign of the Season in our house until December 21st … when the decorations unexpectedly doubled!!  We received a gorgeous glitter dusted poinsettia in a beautifully spirited ‘pay it forward’ exchange that one of our next-door neighbors inspired in our cul-de-sac.  Thank you for that Mandy!

poinsettia

46a-street-3

While I could have tendered this task over to my hubby, I jumped at the opportunity to savor the Christmas spirit tucked into that neighborly invitation myself.  I got directly into the car and headed downtown to pick up a little something to take over to the neighbor to our ‘right’.  Honestly, it felt so good to be doing something Christmassy.  And, as luck would have it, while I was at it, I ended up tripling the decorations in our home (and fueling my Christmas spirit!) by purchasing a Christmas wall hanging (that was 50% off!!).  The message completely captured my heart!  Fa la la la la … la la la la.

wall-hanging

Yes. It was becoming clearer and clearer to me that many of the joys I usually experienced during the Season were clearly tucked into the spaces between the holiday tasks and toilings!  And, I must share that watching my husband delegate the holiday tasks to others was also very eye opening for me!  He had no problem enlisting my three grown daughters to help with his stocking shopping. I actually felt a bit guilty because I certainly didn’t mean for their workload to go up because I had surrendered mine.  They reassured me, however, that they had quite enjoyed helping him out.

I did, however, secretly worry that their compassionate efforts to help their dad were somehow going to sabotage his appreciation for how much time and effort I actually invested in the annual merry making. I didn’t want them to make it too easy for him! I also suspected that daddy’s little girls might rescue the old boy with the cooking and kitchen duties too!  But, as it turned out … my three sons-in-law stepped right up to the plate and helped out immensely with ALL the cooking and cleaning.  I played games while they slaved away.

I had to silence the critic in my head that niggled at me relentlessly … suggesting I should get up and help. I reminded myself that I was supposed to be on sabbatical. And so, I tried to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself throughout the whole season. I did, however, pick up the donation for Toys for Tots. I didn’t want to risk it falling off my husband’s radar. I also printed out the sticky cinnamon bun recipe as well as the wife-saver recipe for him. As it turned out, though, he opted to make a full breakfast of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and pancakes instead.  It was absolutely scrumptious, and although it meant much more work and clean up on Christmas day, the boys did it the way they preferred.  And, guess what?  I just sat back and thoroughly enjoyed all their fussing and bothering and kept my mouth shut about how much quicker the clean up would have been with just one pan each from the wife-savers!

I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, at one point however.  I felt obliged to remind my husband that he also needed to purchase gifts for our eight grandchildren.  I’m not sure why that task caught him by surprise, but it did. Ultimately, he met up with a couple of his daughters  and they helped him choose some gifts that were really big hits with the grandkids!

Yes, he was doing Christmas his way.  Perhaps my biggest surprise was when he told me he was going to pick up some gift certificates for our son-in-law’s stockings for fancy hot shaves from Tommy Gunns.  He added, quite nonchalantly, that while he was at it, he might indulge himself in a hot shave himself.

Whattt???  The voice in my head balked loudly!How on earth was he ever going to appreciate how much effort goes into making it merry and bright if he was going to find ways to enjoy and nourish himself while he was at it??”

Yes. I know. It does not escape me just how ridiculous that sounds as I say it out loud. Bah. Humbug. I wasn’t sure whether to be cranky … or … to simply recognize that I was being seriously schooled in how I could very well have been seizing more peace and joy for myself all of these years!  Here I had been hoping he would get a deeper sense of how much elbow grease it takes to put smiles in the hearts of others … and instead … I was learning, over and over, that you are not required to set yourself on fire to warm others.  Gahhh.

All in all, though, I think he did gain a better idea of how challenging it could be … in the long run. There was a bit of a snafu with his efforts to stuff the stockings.  Because it had been so frigidly cold here, I had packed up a big bag with all my winter weather wear to keep in the car while traveling.  I’ll spare you all the details, but I discovered that my toque and mitts had been earmarked as stocking stuffers!  It was so darn tempting to not alert him of this error … to simply let the chips fall … and let my daughter find some of her mother’s old winter wear gifted to her in her stocking.  But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut on this one. I felt compelled to save him. Nonetheless, it’s a faux pas that will go down in history!

And … when it finally occurred to my hubby that maybe he should be stripping the beds and laundering the linens for our extra 13 overnight guests, it only took him a few seconds to reckon that the sheets couldn’t be that dirty since the last time our family stayed over.  Once again, I observed how he was not catching himself on fire to keep others warm. And, you know what?  Everyone slept fine … in those sheets that had not been freshly washed and dried and tucked with crisp hospital corners around the mattresses.

And so … I started to question myself: “Maybe … just maybe … I never needed to do all the fussing and bothering that I believed was such an essential part of Christmas??  Was it possible that I had been burning myself up unnecessarily?

And, in all honesty, I also have to concede that my lack of involvement was just not as nourishing as I thought it would be.  It is simply not my nature to watch from the sidelines.  And … I also recognized, just as the plaque I bought suggested, that much of the Christmas spirit is tucked into the moments between completing all the tasks.  I did offer to help my husband wrap everything … 64 gifts in all … 54 stuffers (9 for each daughter/son-in-law), 8 gifts for the grand-kids and one gift exchange item for each of us. It would have been torture to watch him fumbling with the gift wrap by himself with his fat sausage fingers.  It ended up being quite enjoyable … we cranked up the Christmas tunes and sipped on a nice Cabernet-Sauvignon while we cut and taped and chatted about Christmas’s past.

And then, a day or two later, I literally jumped at the invitation to travel into the city and help my busy daughters wrap their children’s stocking gifts.  I also toted them all home so our grandkids wouldn’t catch sight of any of them in transit to our house. It’s getting harder and harder to uphold the spirit secret of ‘Santa’ as they grow older.  In fact, my bright little 5 year old granddaughter reluctantly but earnestly admitted to her mother “I don’t trust you fully” as she skeptically questioned the whole notion of Santa. It was just no longer adding up for her.  It was an interesting year for my eldest grandson too. Even though, at eleven, he had already given up ‘believing’ … he became suspicious this year when he and sisters each received an iPad equivalent from ‘Santa’.  He reckoned that Santa might indeed have to exist after all.  As he shared with his mom, “I know you and Dad would NEVER get these for us!” Ha ha.

And so, in 2016, a believer becomes a doubter  … and … a doubter flirts with becoming a believer.  Yep.  These are all the priceless moments that catch your heart and make your spirits soar!  And … during my sabbatical, all of my perspectives were being challenged too. It was becoming so clear that the joys that are tucked ‘in-between’ all the toiling and tasking are part of what makes it all merry and bright. And I was learning that it was possible to do so … without catching yourself on fire.

I learned so very, very much during my sabbatical! “In the final analysis” (as I fondly recall my father often saying) … I learned that I was absolutely right: If I didn’t  fuss and bother to do it all, it wouldn’t get done ……… at least not the way I thought it should.  Truth. But … I also learned that perhaps it wasn’t all necessary in the first place.

Yes.  “In the grand scheme of things” (another dad~ism) …  I came to recognize that the multiple and myriad ways I had martyred myself over the years … with the intention of making it merry for others … was pretty much misguided and somewhat unnecessary.  Who knew you could have a completely marvelous time unwrapping gifts in an entirely undecorated room?  Ha Ha. And, although no one baked the annual shortbread cookies … we ended up enjoying all kinds of baking that had been gifted to my eldest daughter. She brought them home for us to share. And, it turned out that my youngest daughter ended up making the ‘Melt-In-Your-Mouth Eggnog’ cookies I had tasted at our staff Christmas luncheon.  These cookies might even de-throne the traditional shortbread as the best cookies for Christmas consumption.  Deeelicious!!!.

Recipe Source: Pintrest … slightly adapted from allrecipes.com and inspired by Parent Pretty

And, what became most evident to me during my sabbatical was that the things that make the season truly merry and bright showed up … our children and their children. Yep. Everything that was essential and important was present.  And, no one had to set themselves on fire to feel the warmth and peace of the holiday.   Oh … and by the way … the clean up is a snap when you most of your decorations are still in the boxes downstairs.

And so, another year has passed by so quickly … and … I am happily back in the ‘make it merry’ saddle again for Christmas 2017.  And, I am realizing that I need to put up lights in the family room because I LIKE LIGHTS.  Not because of some notion that they will brighten Christmas for my family.  I am recognizing that I need to do the things that nourish the spirit of the Season for me … and … drop all the rest.  And … I am, once again, thoroughly enjoying the ambiance created by the lights in the family room this year.

Yes.  My ‘sabbatical’ taught me a whole lot and was deeply transformational for me in terms of the way I am approaching Christmas this year.  I had hoped some of the lessons learned during my sabbatical would be for my husband … and … I think there were some of those too.  But, I see that the greatest ‘ahas’ were for me.  And,  for the first time in many, many years … the preparations don’t feel like a weighty, daunting task. I am greeting them with renewed enthusiasm and zeal.  I am realizing that there is absolutely nothing that MUST be done in any particular way.  And most importantly … I really like the way it feels to fully embrace the notion that I am not required to set fire to myself to have a very delightful Christmas.

And … I am reminded, as 2018 waits eagerly around the corner, that I can show up in a way that keeps me from shivering.  I can ask for help … I can let some things go … I can give myself and my own needs some priority. And not just at Christmas … but the whole year through.

May all our hearts be warmed during the 2017 merry making  – without any singeing of our souls  …  ❤ Karen ❤

 

 

 

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