Boundaries are Sooooo Tricky …

 

In this very short but compelling  video clip, Brené Brown discusses the notion of living a B.I.G. Life.  Her research has revealed that the most compassionate people are the most “boundaried” people. She begs the question of what Boundaries we would need to erect in order to live in Integrity and be the most Generous in our assumptions of others (i.e. believing that everyone is doing the very best they can in each and every situation). Makes perfect sense … intellectually. And, I’d venture to say we’d inhabit a world filled with expressions of compassion/empathy/good will if it were easier to actually do this in our day to day existence!

But, boundaries are so darn tricky to execute.  It is so much easier to erect a boundary once you are PISSED OFF.  There is NO second-guessing about putting up a boundary once you’ve been hurt.  We may not even think twice at that point … and then … we erect it angrily and often self-righteously.  But the problem with putting up boundaries in ANGER is that the meatiest part of our message gets lost in the perception of ATTACK.  When you put up a boundary with someone because you are feeling violated … they feel your anger … and may not be able to hear your justification for erecting the boundary.

In fact, many people who have been chronically wounded in their prior lived experience struggle terribly in their attempt to set boundaries … because – they often approach the boundary WITHOUT the assumption that people are doing the best they can.  Their perceptions that people in the present and future will be out to get them just like the ones in their past shift the energy and intent behind the boundaries.  And when we are coming from that defended space, our boundaries are like fences erected out of barbed wire … rather than compassionate reminders of how we need and want to be treated.

And so, we must learn to set the boundaries before we could shoot daggers out of our eyes …to  set them proactively … not … reactively.  We must learn how to set them kindly and firmly.  And then … lovingly hold them in place for the benefit of all of those concerned.

And to do so, we might have to sit in the discomfort of guilt rather than the self-righteousness of resentment.  This is the trickiest part to navigate.  Many of us are more comfortable living with the resentment directed at others than inhabiting the guilt we might feel in our own hearts if/when we have our own backs …before we get mad at another. BIG lives do not just happen … they are consciously and courageously created.

May we all commit to living BIG … Karen

 

 

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Words I Can’t Take Back …

sometimes the healing is in the aching

Once the words are uttered, you can’t take them back.  And honestly, I hope I never want to take them back.  I am typically quite cautious/deliberate about tasting my words before I spit them out … but nonetheless, sometimes the most caring and loving thing any one of us can do is be authentically straight up with another human being.  Tactfully. Thoughtfully. Compassionately. Not with the intention to harm, but rather … with the intention to help.

There are times when people inadvertently get in their own way.  I see it so often with my clients. I’ve done it myself.  I still do, on occasion.  But honestly, we can’t see it while we are doing it.  So, we tend to blame others for the tattered and tender condition of our heart.  And then … we get frustrated, because things don’t change.  We can’t see, however, in those fragile moments that our finger might be pointed in the wrong direction.

It is during those tenderly tentative times that we need someone to be loving enough, courageous enough and supportive enough to actually inform us about our blurry blunders. It is never kind, however, to completely blind-side people with these uninvited ‘truths.’   We need someone to gently open our eyes … as kindly, caringly and purposefully as possible, because it can really sting to discover that, unbeknownst to us, we are somehow complicit in generating our own unfavorable circumstances/situation/relationships.

And so, we all deserve a chance to muster the courage it takes to welcome the ‘ache’ that this awareness might invoke.  Usually, I will say to my clients: “I have a suggestion for you, if you’d like it?” or “If there was another way to see this, would you be open to looking at it?”  or “I’m having a thought … but it might pinch a bit.  Would you like to hear it or should I just keep it to myself for now?”

Questions like this give folks a chance to say “no, not interested” … or at the very least … time to emotionally brace themselves.  And, it’s important that I both respect their preference and honor their response.  I will rarely share potentially prickly perceptions unless I am invited to do so by the recipient. And even though there are times when the invitation is clearly implied (e.g. with blogs, Facebook posts, editorials etc), I know I can’t take the words back once they are uttered. I also know that it’s not usually helpful, supportive or therapeutic for me to persistently press these perspectives onto others (even with the best of intentions).

Not even with my loved ones.  Maybe especially with my loved ones.  One of my clients once said, “Your kids are so lucky to have a counselor as a mother.” But, that is not the way it plays out. I am not their counselor.  I am their mom. And, it is critical for me to honor that distinction.  I try to be careful not to push my ‘professionally’ oriented perceptions onto my family members without permission to do so. My ‘wisdom’ might not be welcome.

It’s a disquieting paradox though, because as Martin Luther King points out: “There comes a time when silence is a betrayal.”  And, I have learned that our spiritual growth is typically tucked into those unflattering ‘truths’ that often seem too risky for our friends, colleagues and/or loved ones to dare speak aloud.  To our faces. Nonetheless, the most salient shifts I have ever experienced were because people were brave enough to risk my wrath and acknowledge something I couldn’t see for myself.

My education with The Ford Institute For Transformational Training was filled moments like this.  Achingly hard, but critical moments like this. As integrative coaches, we were trained by the incomparable Debbie Ford, to be ‘ruthlessly compassionate’ when invited to support others. Debbie was an absolute master at candidly shining a light upon the self-sabotaging thoughts, words and deeds that were compromising our best efforts to grow, stretch and transform beyond our perceived ‘stuckness’.  And although it really stings to let an unflattering awareness land in our hearts rather than promptly rejecting it, I owe the lion’s share of my personal growth to my coaching family for being such clear mirrors for me.

And I would venture to say that many of us are holding onto ‘undelivered communications’ that we think might benefit someone we know and love … but we are too scared it would hurt our relationship to share them. And it might. Some relationships may not be strong enough to bear the weight of such an honest exchange.  But, it may also be true … or even truer … that some of our relationships won’t survive without that level of transparency.  Unspoken resentments can be terribly toxic … even lethal. The strongest connections hold precious space for us to be caring catalysts for each other … to help us lovingly lead each other out of our own covert culpability.

But the most important caveat here is this: Our intention in sharing must always be to help not harm … and typically most effective when invited by the recipient. Because … these are words we can’t take back.

Trusting that “sometimes, the healing is in the aching” … Karen

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No one is coming to save you …

plant your own garden You might be surprised by how frequently I meet with clients who wholeheartedly invest themselves in bettering other people’s lives at great expense to themselves.  They have embraced the altruistic adage that ‘what goes around comes around’.  They interpret their self-sacrifice as a noble gesture depicting their love and devotion.  They might even see it as good karma.  They trust that if they just give enough, pray hard enough, wait long enough, and/or suffer quietly enough … someone will finally honor and acknowledge their selflessness by returning the favor.  Seems like a benevolent way to live one’s life, but …

Some of them having been waiting a really, really, really, really L-O-N-G time!  In fact, sometimes they have sacrificed until they are completely spent and downright empty themselves.  Some have tolerated the intolerable for such an unbearably long period of time that they find themselves in such a dark and depleted emotional place that an anti-depressant has been prescribed.  While this doesn’t alleviate the source of the problem, it does bolster their capacity to ‘soldier on’ for a while longer …..

It’s typically the most genuine, loving and kindhearted people who convince themselves that meeting their own needs would be too “selfish.”  Some are just hoping that by living in hell now they will be rewarded with heaven in the long run. Far be it for me to argue that possibility …. but … I do find myself questioning whether the old adage that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ could be just as true or truer?

When clients express feeling really stuck, but have resisted taking action in situations where it seems they still can foster change … or, worse yet … if they have adopted a sense of powerlessness that renders them feeling like helplessness victims;  I will compassionately but candidly invite them to consider an unfavorable prospect – a desperate possibility that ultimately inspired me to step out of my own self-defeating beliefs and behaviors.  I say it not to harm them, but to help them.

No one is coming to save you.

What …? My prickly point is usually punctuated by a long silence, shallowed breathing and a blank stare. Sometimes a tear breaks free …

No one wants to hear such a thing.  It may sound unduly harsh and maybe even blasphemous to some … but flirting with the possibility that waiting may be eternal often propels folks to  step up on their own behalf and resume an active part  in creating their own well-being.  It’s a miraculous moment when people reclaim their own power.  It really truly is … remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?  What if each and every one of us has ‘had the power all along’?  What if we just needed something drastic enough to catch our attention so we could bring that possibility into clear focus … ?

I received my own wake-up call a few years back during one of my darkest moments as one of Debbie Ford’s students/trainees.  Here’s what I learned … about my own pattern of self-denial and self-sacrifice.

I was taking the long way around:

• I give what I need to others…
• I hope that they give it back to me…
• I suffer when they don’t …
• This proves the most painful story I often tell myself: I don’t matter
• I forget that I had what I needed to begin with … but I gave it away! DUH!!  

And then I repeat the cycle … over and over and over again! 

Why not just give myself what I need???

Ahem … it seems so ridiculously clear in retrospect.  However, I needed a ruthlessly compassionate nudge in order to finally see it for myself.  I have made some remarkably wonderful shifts since I gained this insight.  I share this in case you or someone you know has been marinating in unfavorable circumstances or feeling stuck in a particular situation.  If you are tired of waiting for someone to save you, you might intervene on your own behalf by asking these questions:

What would you do differently if you knew it was up to YOU to take the first step in the direction of making a change you want/need to make?

What is one baby step that you could take on your own behalf?

What just popped into your mind?

What might open up in your life if you dared to act upon whatever came into your mind?

What might it cost you to take that step?

What will it cost you if you don’t?

Where will you be in five years if you continue doing what you are doing?

Give yourself some time to sit with your answers … even if they scare you spit-less. Allow yourself to notice how those answers feel in your body.  Some of the best decisions I have made in my life made me SWEAT profusely the very first time I dared to consider them!

Ultimately, the point is this … even if no one is coming to save you,  you might still be in very good handsyour own!  In fact, what if is is true or truer, that you never needed anyone else to save you after all?   Maybe YOU are the answer you have been waiting for?   What if … ?

Here’s to planting our own gardens and decorating our own souls, Karen

 

[Guest Post]: And They Weren’t Even Lululemons: How to Take Negative Feedback and Feel Embarrassed Without Getting Defensive or Devastated

[GUEST POST]: This blog is so filled with great ways to handle negative experiences, embarrassing moments … those times when we tend to beat ourselves up! It is both entertaining and enlightening! I just had to share it!

One Shrink's Perspective

I was riding my bike to a dentist appointment yesterday. I was taking my time. It was a nice, leisurely ride. Meditative. Enjoyable. That is, it was, until a woman rode up beside me and said, “Excuse me…I’m sorry to bother you but…I just wanted to let you know your pants are completely see-through.

Oh shit.

First thoughts? They can’t be! What a bitch!  followed by Megan, You’re SUCH an idiot. How embarrassing. That poor girl riding behind me. That poor world riding/driving behind me! Maybe if my butt wasn’t so huge, my pants wouldn’t be see-through. How many times have I cycled in these pants? Do people know me as the see-through pants girl? Maybe they’ve done a story on me in the Metro. “They call her The Nude RiderUnbeknownst to her, she wears no pants. She cycles…once at dawn, once at dusk, ignorantly, her undergarments proudly modelling…

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“I just want to be happy …”

chaos in your soul Most of us are perpetually ‘on the hunt’ for those moments when all is right with the world and we feel blissfully content.  We’d probably have to look far and wide to find someone who, at one time or another, hasn’t plaintively uttered: “I  just want to be happy.”  In our pursuit of happiness we tend to seek out pleasure and avoid pain.  It seems like the logical thing to do, but what if Nietzsche is right?  Maybe, just maybe, our  brightest points of light are inconspicuously tucked into the turmoil – disguised as discontent – twinkling tirelessly in hopes of catching our diverted gaze.

I have come to recognize discontent as a  divinely guided wake-up call of the soul trying to alert us when we are ‘off course’.  I see it is a benevolent niggling that something needs to change.  If we are open enough to be with it,  embrace it and learn from it … I trust that our discontent can steer us to our deepest longings and highest callings.

That said, and in my line of work, I can’t help but get just a wee bit excited when a client dares to say “I know I should be happy but …” It’s not that I am happy they are unhappy … but … heeding the discord between head and heart (before  it morphs into misery) can open up untold possibilities.  When we are brave enough to honor our discontent rather than resisting it, we are poised in position to begin savoring our lives rather than merely enduring them!

You might be astonished by how often people step over their discontent – they ignore it, avoid it, numb it, repress it, call it something else and/or blame someone else for it. Some people will even try make it more tolerable by focusing on the silver-lining in it rather than seeking to transform it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for finding the wisdom in our wounds but there is a very subtle but significant distinction between identifying the blessings in our challenges and “putting ice cream on poop” (as the incomparable Debbie Ford describes it).  Looking on the bright side of something that actually dulls the spirit, depletes vital energy and keeps folks from claiming their dreams, desires and delights can be a sneaky form of denial … a betrayal of Self that can keep people stuck in a chronic state of “meh“.

Perhaps, if we really want to be happy, we would be wiser to make friends with our discontent … hold its hand … let it speak to us … and then … LISTEN to the message.  Just notice if what we hear stirs something inside us …  maybe a little fear, maybe a little enthusiasm, maybe  a little of both.  Sadly, it’s often in the presence of these ‘feelings’ that we shut down the wisdom in our discontent and distract ourselves with something more pleasant.  We just don’t want to feel it. I know … I did it for years myself.

Sometimes staying stuck feels safer than shaking things up .. but it can also rob us.  I can remember a few years back when I had a phenomenal job working as a parenting coach.  I thoroughly loved my job and had been there for about 8 years when I began to get restless. I tried to silence what I was feeling.  I berated myself for not being grateful enough. I argued with myself about where I would ever find a  better job in our small rural town. Despite my cognitive protest … my discontent persisted.

Then … with a loving nudge during one of my trainings I allowed myself to listen to my discontent. When I dared to hear the message it had for me … I felt a some very juicy but highly prickly energy.  Eeeeek. Instead of shutting it down (as I typically did), I allowed myself to dwell in the discomfort of it.  I stayed with it until I was brave enough to risk the security of who I knew myself to be for the uncertainty of who I could become.  Despite the expressed chagrin of many,  I dared to go back to school at the age of 46.  When people skeptically questioned my decision, I defended it by declaring “the years are going to go by anyway.”  I just couldn’t bring myself to share that I caught sight of a dancing star and was honoring the chaos in my soul.  Some things seem better left unsaid. 🙂

It turns out that my professional  ‘discontent’ was actually a  blessing in disguise inviting me to reclaim my childhood dream of becoming a therapist.  And here we are … 10 years later … I left my phenomenal job and have been blissfully employed as a counsellor for the last 7 years instead.  I can honestly say … I could not be happier.

I decided to share my experience here because I truly believe it is not just an isolated incident. I’ve seen it so often that I have come to believe that we can all find that dancing star if we are willing to begin by sitting within the discomfort of the chaos until we hear what it has to teach us.  So … if you haven’t already made plans for this evening, why not make a date with your discontent!  Who knows what spending some time in that enchanted space might reveal …

With enthusiastic curiosity for where your own nigglings might lead you, Karen

And then … I remembered.

Source Unknown

Source Unknown

The other day I was reflecting upon the day as I drove home from work. As I rounded the corner into my cul-de-sac, I recalled that during ‘check-in’ at our staff meeting, I had reported that for all intents and purposes I was doing “really good”.  I remembered acknowledging that I felt like I was in a period of grace given all the challenges that had been landing in my life over the past few years.  As I parked in my drive-way, some of the unfavorable realities I had neglected to acknowledge in my check-in  spontaneously popped into my awareness and I thought:  “Hey … wait a minute.  I need a re-do on my check-in.”  Upon deeper reflection, I had to concede that things were not really as rosy as the picture I had painted for my colleagues.  I mean …

  • How could I say  I was “really good” when  my dryer had just broken down and left me with two heavy wet loads threatening to mildew in my basement?
  • Wasn’t it a bit of stretch to say that I was “really good” when my husband’s computer was still crashed after two attempts to replace the mother board by really techno-savvy geeks had failed … ?
  • How on earth could I  say I was “really good” when my house was covered in a ¼ inch of rock dust that was perpetually drifting down from the seemingly snails-pace renovations?
  • Was it really honest to say I was “really good” when  I have been somewhat indignant and grumbling about having to park outside ever since my garage was converted into a workshop for the renovations?
  • Was it “really good” that I had just spent the lunch hour in the washroom trying to dislodge some chicken that had caught in my esophagus and was causing painful spasms?
  • I wasn’t feeling “really good” about choosing to be courageous in the face of an ethical dilemma … I was feeling downright vulnerable.

In light of these realities, whose ‘really good’ life was I telling my colleagues about?  I found myself curiously wondering how all that stuff had completely fallen off my radar during the meeting.

And then … I remembered.

I remembered that it started out like a usual day.  The sun was shining and the day was planned …BUT … things don’t always go as planned.  On this particular day,  a very cherished friend/colleague of my daughters had been hit head-on in a horrific accident that promptly claimed the life of her best friend.  Her own precious life was miraculously hanging in the tentative balance between staying ‘here’ and going ‘there’ to join her friend.  No one knew what the next moment would bring.  Tears flowed … spirits gasped … and … fears all but eclipsed the tenuous hopes timidly trying to prevail amidst the uncertainties that no one dared to sputter aloud …

They said her prognosis was grim. They said most people could not survive the extent of her injuries. Pelvis broken in 3 places, back fractured in 3 places, all ribs crushed, a punctured lung, a perforated aorta and every bone in her face  pulverized.  It seemed though, that the feisty spirit of this most beautiful soul was determined to defy the odds as the minutes turned into hours turned into days.  I carried her in my heart as I went about my usual routine.  I know I was not alone. She remained foremost in all our thoughts and prayers.

As I reflect on it now, I am guessing that  during ‘check-in’, I was subconsciously taking my own inventory from this humble, tender and fragile space.  I’m speculating that I neglected to mention the realities that were irritating me, because they were simply that … irritating.  I can live with irritating.  My choice is whether I decide to do it begrudgingly or not.  I’m guessing that somewhere deep within my psyche, my testament to being “really good” reflected my perception that, in the grand scheme of things,  irritations are preferable to crises … but only 100% of the time.

I am recognizing, more and more, that in each and every moment, it is not what we are looking at that matters, it is what we choose to see.  Our perspective frames our interpretations.  Perception creates reality and as Debbie Ford points out in her book “The Right Questions” we can spend our moments looking for what is right or we can spend them focused upon what is going wrong.   It all depends upon the perspectacles ( a term coined by Glennon Doyle Melton) with which we choose to look … we can see things as desirable or undesirable in any situation, event or circumstance.  I don’t consciously remember putting on my rose-colored glasses before the meeting, but clearly something inside me was wisely adjusting the lens through which I made my assessment. I wasn’t lying to my colleagues or to myself.  I wasn’t in any kind of Pollyanna-ish denial.  Despite the irritations that could have shifted my perception to an unfavorable place, I can see that I probably was feeling “really good” … all things considered.

When I am looking for what is right, I can see miracles are unfolding around us with each and every breath.  In fact, my daughter’s friend continues to affirm my belief in miracles.   So far, she is still ‘here’ … and … so many hearts are holding her with much tender love and eager hope for brighter moments ahead. She is teaching me to believe that a prognosis does not have to be your reality. She is teaching me to not let the moment define you, but rather, to define the moment. She is teaching me about never giving up.  She is teaching me that there are blessings worth living for … but only 100% of the time.

As for me, when I am looking for what is right in this very moment , I can see that my the dryer is fixed, my husband’s computer was replaced free of charge by DELL (Yeah DELL!), my esophagus is not currently in spasm so I can eat again  and the dust is mostly cleared.

When I am looking for what is wrong in this moment, I can see that the door of my medicine cabinet broke off in my hands, there are a few imperfections in the renovations and I am still parked in the driveway … I guess I’ll be scraping ice and snow off my car for a while yet.

Although it’s tempting to let the ‘wrong’ steal the ‘right’ from my view, in the final analysis, I am ‘seeing’ that I don’t need a re-do on my check-in after all.  Despite what I am looking at in my life (at any given moment),  the truth of the matter is this:  I really am “really good” … until I decide that I am not. But only 100% of the time.

Looking for what is right and seeing so many blessings that tears have filled my eyes,  Karen

P.S. Since writing this yesterday, we had a big dump of snow and my husband very unexpectedly cleared the garage.  We just never know what the next moment will bring.  May we be looking in such a way that we miss not a single blessing as we all see our way through the days to come …

“Find what you have lost …”

With deepest gratitude to Kelly Rae Roberts for this enchanting graphic!

With deepest gratitude to Kelly Rae Roberts for this enchanting graphic!

I am a counsellor and a life coach and, in both jobs, it is ethically essential that I protect my client files in order to maintain their confidentiality.  I had a crazy dream the other night that I had misplaced a client file.  In my dream, as I scrambled to relocate the lost file and retain my professional integrity, I was ruthlessly berating myself for being so careless.  How could I have so recklessly compromised my client’s privacy?  As a recovering perfectionist, it simply is not like me to lose things … precious things … important things!  I am usually too darned anal to lose stuff!

However, in this nightmare, I looked in all the predictable places for it, but was feeling increasingly more exasperated when I still could not find it.  As with most dreams, there were a lot of things going on simultaneously.  For example, my client was STILL waiting to be seen and in my hunt for the lost file, I realized that someone else had used my office and left it in complete shambles.  It was a mess of equipment and electrical cords and there was a small child (I’m not sure who) sleeping in a bed in my office.  Not that my office has ever had a bed in it (but you know how dreams are) and, as a result, I not only had to find my client’s file, but I would now need to find another office to see him in!

At the same time, my cell phone was ringing with important concerns from two family members and I remembered I had failed to return several other calls. I was trying to eat my lunch… and … I couldn’t find the light switch!  I was overwhelmed by all the confusion and chaos but, in the midst of all these competing calls for my attention, I knew that my priority in that moment was to find my client’s file!

I was beyond relieved to finally awaken and realize it was just one of those crazy dreams that we often find ourselves curiously analyzing.  I was trying to find the message in it when I heard the still, small voice inside of me whisper “Find what you’ve lost”.

It was such an ‘aha’ moment!  Although I have never lost a client file in real life, I recognized that my life is much like my dream in that I have a countless cacophony of distractions, diversions and dilemmas clamouring for my attention as I make my way through each day.  I realized that if I am not vigilant, I might unwittingly get lost in the chaos and lose sight of the really important things in my life.

As I continued to unravel the wisdom woven into my nightmare, I found myself reflecting upon what I might have already lost … and … I noticed a number of possibilities.  Whatever happened to my ability to relax? When did I lose my courage to ask for what I need? How come I no longer record my 5 daily gratitudes during my morning solitude?  Will I ever ‘run’ again?

This crazy but wise dream alerted me to the fact that the most important task for me right now is to ‘find what I lost’.  I sense that, in an effort to do so, my life will have less breadth, but certainly more depth.  I sense that my spirit will be enriched and my heart will be more nourished. I trust that I will have more space to enjoy the miracles tucked into each of life’s ordinary moments.

So, it is with a humble heart that I invite you to join me in considering what you may have lost that needs to be found.  Could it be:

  •  your sense of purpose in life?
  • a connection with an old friend?
  • a feeling of well-being?
  • your ability to trust yourself or others?
  • your childhood dreams?
  • your energy and enthusiasm?
  • your sense of humor?

Take heed of whatever you notice … and … commit to making some time to ‘find what you lost’!  I intend to do the same.  In that sacred space of allowing ourselves to see what we often step over, let’s listen to our hearts, and allow that wisdom to awaken our spirits in the most remarkable ways.

Who knows, we might find something precious that we didn’t even realize we had lost …

Sweet dreams,  Karen

My finest moments might surprize you …

Graphic via Google Images

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” Pema Chӧdrӧn

As a counselor/therapist this quotation resonates with me in a way that might baffle you.   I believe my finest moments in the counseling room, or in my life for that matter … are not when I have reached down to help someone weaker or less fortunate than myself.  My brightest moments have not been when I have wisely utilized the letters behind my name to cleverly intervene and gift someone with the answer that has been eluding them.  My proudest moments have not been when I have felt sorry for someone and charitably offered to rescue and protect them from their current plight.  My most stellar moments have not even been reflected by my aptitude for helping someone shine some light on the dark parts of their path.

Don’t get me wrong … these moments feel really rewarding … but … they are not the moments that most aptly reflect my long-standing desire to   serve the greater good and support people in living a great life – despite any challenges they may be facing.

My finest moments in the counseling room may surprise you … or … maybe even upset you.  I know deeply, clearly and undeniably that my most altruistic and compelling moments are when I can look into the depths (and darkness) of my own experience and find that space within me that can recognize and relate to the invisible pain and ache in the heart of ‘the other’.  That is, compassion emerges when I can find empathy for the bad one, the wrong one, the unlikeable one, the condemned one, the reprehensible one and the unforgivable one.

My finest moments come when I am able to feel compassion and kindness for the parent who has abused their child.  They come when I am able to find that space within me that remembers how raising children can bring out the worst in even the most well-intended parents. My finest moments emerge when I am willing to search for the goodness and broken spirit within the adulterer … not just the person (s)he betrayed.  Can I find that part of me that could possibly deceive the person I love the most?  My finest moments in the counselling room, and in my life, reveal themselves when I can sit in the energy of humility and humanity … when I recognize that ‘hurt people, hurt people’.  My finest moments are when I can look inside my own soul and find the part of me that might have responded as badly, wrongly, thoughtlessly and recklessly as those I am tempted to judge harshly.

While I have passionately dreamed of healing people’s souls … I have come to recognize that it is only in my willingness to acknowledge that I am equally capable of harming people’s souls that I can ever truly embrace the pain in another’s spirit.  This is not to make excuses or deny the need to make amends/retribution … these are also critical parts of healing.  It is simply to realize that it is in my willingness to embrace my own woundedness that I can honestly and genuinely relate to our shared humanity.  This is the most authentic seat of compassion from which I can humbly attempt to live and work. I’m not always successful … but … I can tell you with 100% certainty that it is from this sacred space that I have experienced my finest moments as a counsellor, wife, mother, daughter, friend and woman.

Embracing it all, Karen

 

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The last time I saw her was a few years back.  We had been waiting in line for quite some time and were just being seated at our table at the IHOP that had recently opened in Lethbridge. Teresa had already eaten and was just leaving … but after enjoying one of her big warm […]

The Days are So Much Better when they Start With a Smile …

My husband has been working out of the town for the last couple of weeks. He is an oilfield consultant and heavy equipment operator.  He loves his job.  Sometimes I tease that he gets paid to play in the dirt! He doesn’t just move dirt … he creates works of art.   His approach to his construction […]

Dwayne and Cheryl … So Many Moments Were So Much Better Because of You!

You came to mind yesterday.  Again.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often I think of the times we shared in that little town.  I’ll never forget the day you moved in … across the street on the other corner … kitty corner to our house.  Your kids found our kids outside and […]

[GUEST POST]: Township Environment

Originally posted on Iizidima:
Knysna township There are few days when we are not reminded that there is plenty to be thankful for in life. Given what we do in South Africa, we would need to be blind, in a physical and emotional sense, to not experience this sentiment. The living conditions and depth of poverty…

A Precious Penny …

You know the old saying … ‘a penny for your thoughts’?  Well, I’d like to switch it up  and offer my ‘thoughts about a penny’.  A very precious Penny.  I’m not even sure how many years we’ve been doing it, but it’s become a very important tradition for us to sit and sip a little coffee together before the hustle and bustle of our […]

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