A Tragic Misunderstanding …

With acknowledgement to the Internal Acceptance Movement [I.A.M.]

My ‘effing’ story got me again.  It’s so frustrating because as a counsellor/therapist and life coach I have been impeccably trained to help people bust through the nasty stories that are lurking insidiously in the shadows of their minds.  In fact, I’m actually really good at it.  I’m usually pretty good at managing my own unfavorable narratives too, but …

Every once in a blue moon the most painful ‘shadow belief’ that tagged along from my childhood literally blindsides me.  It reeks sheer havoc with my soul and then leaves me shattered, shaken and grievously grappling for solace.  And I get so frustrated, because although I KNOW that my story isn’t true … when it takes hold … it FEELS so true. And, my logical mind can’t seem to talk my emotional heart out of it’s desperate despair.

My “I don’t matter” story is strong and powerful and perilously persistent.  It emerged in my childhood … an erroneous interpretation of a wee little girl just trying to make sense of the neglect she experienced in a dysfunctional home ravaged by addictions and mental health issues. She couldn’t see, at the time, that her parents were caught up in the wounds of their own painful dramas.  So instead, she attributed their lack of attention to her needs as a reflection of  her own insignificance.  A tragic misunderstanding.  A terribly tragic misunderstanding.

Through the exceptional body of work inspired by the late Debbie Ford, I’ve been effectively ‘rewiring’ the neuro-template that was firmly etched into my psyche by that erroneous interpretation.  Thankfully, it doesn’t take me down all that often anymore, but … if/when it gets away on me, that negative cognition has the capacity to so steal so much joy from my heart … and … it can convincingly morph itself into any number of painful correlates:

“Nobody REALLY cares about me.”

“My needs are meaningless to others.”

“I’m completely expendable.”

“I’m absolutely inconsequential”

“I’m only appreciated for what I can give to/do for others.”

Blah … Blah … Blah … Blah … Blah. 

Recently, while marinating in the vulnerability of that unfavorable quagmire, I found myself beseeching  a miracle.  I was pleading for a merciful release from the wretched pain of that effing story. And … low and behold … I came upon Daniell Koepke.  Her words landed gently like a warm and loving salve on the jagged and raw edges of my tattered and torn heart.  Who was this person who knew exactly what I needed to be reminded of in the agonizing ache of those moments??

I felt compelled to look her up.  It turns out she has inspired the Internal Acceptance Movement.  She has written some inspiring reflections!  She was my angel in that moment offering a meaningful measure of pure grace and the miracle I was looking for … the ability to shift my perceptions from an energy of fear to a spirit of love and acceptance. So I’d like to say “Thank you Daniell.”  Your thoughtful perspective answered my call.

And … I am sharing this with all of you publicly because I want to pay forward the blessings in her wise words – just in case, you too, find yourself consumed by a painful belief you’ve lugged along from your past … and … just in case, you too, are in need of a wee miracle.  If so, you might let some of her words wash warmly over your soul  when you are in need of some help busting out of your own sad story …

With deepest respect for our collective wounding, Karen

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I Never Talked About It …

I never talked about it.  I tucked it all away, deep down inside where no one could see it. Not even me.

No, I never talked about it until one day when I was attending a young mother’s group.  I was about 30 years old … with three darling daughters.  The guest presenter was speaking about the challenges of parenting and invited us to recall the warm and wonderful times in our childhood when we felt safe and protected and happy and coddled.  Huh?  The naive assumption that we all came from that enviable place surprised me.  I could not resonate with where she was trying to take us … at all. I looked around the room. People were smiling … nodding.  Some were tearing up in fond recollection. I went numb for a moment.

And then it hit me … and … I swallowed hard to hide the tears that nearly escaped … right there …  in front of all those lovely young mothers caught up in that heavenly melancholic moment. My story was not their story.  I felt like I just didn’t fit in.  I remember thinking, “I don’t belong here.” 

I went home and cried. A hard cry.  And … the lid came off.  It all came pouring out of me … in streams that chafed my cheeks and welted up the tender corners of my eyes.  And then I got mad … MAD.  How dare this gracious ‘presenter’ with the Hallmark childhood so cavalierly ignite the pain I had tucked away so effectively for so long! How dare she obliviously obliterate my strong, capable, logical, ‘I can handle anything’ persona.  I felt fragmented and fragile and I couldn’t seem to collect myself with any degree of predictability.  I simply could not get the lid back on it.  And I tried … believe me I tried.

I’m not sure when I conceded … when I decided that it was time to tell my story rather than continue hiding it and hiding from it.  Somehow, between the sadness that surprised me and the struggle to ignore it,  I realized that I would need to ‘feel it’ in order to ‘heal it’.  And THAT was certainly not a straight path. Nor easy.  I was flooded with painful memories and I didn’t have a  clue where to put them or how to carry them out there in the real world. 

I started talking about it.  I guess I shared too much … too often …  because then someone said, “Is that is all she ever talks about?”  Perhaps that was true.  Maybe the pendulum had swung the other direction … when the lid blew off the mess was hard to contain.  What I heard her saying was:  “No one really wants to hear about it”.  Ouch.

And I almost silenced myself again.  Out of shame.  Far be it for me to take up space where my story was not wanted.  I had no idea where it belonged …where I belonged.  Fortunately for me, I found a place to put it. I found a place where my story was honored.  And I felt heard.  And I found some beautiful gifts that had been tucked into my story.  And it felt good.  And I learned that these things need to be spoken of … because  all wounds need a compassionate witness if we are to finally make peace with them.

Ultimately, I found a safe place to lean in and embrace my own story.  It scares me to think of where I would be had I not discovered the divine body of work founded by Debbie Ford.  I got some good counseling too.  Yes. I did.  And … it transformed my life.  So much so that I found my calling.  I trained with Debbie Ford herself and also went back to school and earned my MSW.  Now, I get to coach and/or counsel those who need a safe and compassionate place to own their stories and help them learn to thrive despite the pains of their past.

 I could never have anticipated the miracle and magic of owning my story. I still talk about it  … sometimes.  And other times I blog about it.  Mostly, though, I share it when I think it will be meaningful to others. I am learning that there are times when my prior lived experience really resonates with the people I am working with and fosters their own capacity to heal.  And, in the communion of our stories, we are liberated. And we are understood. And we find a place where we belong.

And yes, there are still those times when I sense that my story is not welcome … places where it is not a good fit.  But that doesn’t mean my story doesn’t matter.  It does.  And so does yours.  I hope that you, too, will be brave enough to find a safe and compassionate place to share it!  It matters … and  you never know … you might just find some magic and/or a miracle or two wrapped into it.

Daring Greatly,  Karen

I am not what happened to me …

not what has happened to me

I just came across a very heartfelt stream of consciousness that I recorded in an old journal. I was wrestling with my aversion to confrontation.  I was questioning why I got so anxious at the thought of disappointing others. I was pulling at the roots of my prior people-pleasing tendencies.

Here is what I discovered as I coaxed myself deeper into the subconscious inquiry:

Why am I so uncomfortable with contention or confrontation?

Because I don’t like it when things aren’t going well between people…

Why don’t you like it when things aren’t going well?

Because I am afraid people will leave me.

What am I afraid will happen if people leave me?

I will be alone and scared and have no support.

What will happen if I am alone, scared and have no support?

I will have to do things all on my own … and/or … reach out to strangers for help.

What if I reach out for help?

Then people can hurt me, when/if they don’t care enough about me to help me.

What if they don’t care enough to help you?

Then I will feel rejected.

What if I feel rejected?

Then I feel worthless and insignificant.

What if I am worthless and insignificant?

Then I am nothing.

What if you are nothing … ?

If I am nothing – no thing in particular, then maybe I can be anything.

Ha!   My stream of consciousness just took a sharp, very unexpected turn.   Upon deeper inquiry …. the blessings covertly tucked on the other side of my fear are rendered visible!  If I am no particular thing (nothing) ... then maybe I am at liberty to consciously create myself into something … and perhaps … that opens the doors for me to be anything.

In order to claim that prize, I can see I must be willing to step out of old patterns of belief and behavior. As Carl Jung so wisely contended “I am not what happened to me,  I am what I choose to become”. As a people pleaser, I developed a pattern of trading truth for safety.  In order to feel safe, I contorted myself into the most pleasing, sweet and endearing child … always.  All ways.  I can see that I did so (in order to minimize the probability of rejection) because I was often at the mercy of  leaning on a teacher, a friend’s parent, or a stranger.

BUT, that was THEN and this is NOW. I can choose differently.  I have access to resources and supports I never had as a child … and I can take care of myself.  Mostly. And, maybe … even more importantly … maybe at this point in my ‘all grown up’ life, it could be quite safe to risk be rejected. Perhaps, in being brave enough to risk the rejection of others, I could quit rejecting myself  by ‘going along to get along‘.  Perhaps that has been the greatest violation to my soul in my patterns of the past.  I have been unwittingly rejecting my Self when I trade truth for safety.

So, I am seeing that the ultimate gift in risking rejection is the opportunity to be authentic and real.  I can go along to get along … or … I can be real, raw and truthful to my Self.  I can do one or the other, but not both simultaneously.  So, let’s bring on the confrontations … eeek.  I say that knowing that they give me a chance to step out of old patterns … and … claim the opportunity to be something closer to the real me … 🙂

There is so much light hidden in the dark … if we dare ourselves to look deep enough,  Karen

P.S. I wrote this journalling years ago, and drafted this blog quite some time ago, but I never posted it.  It’s likely no co-incidence that since then, I have taken several bold opportunities to be real and risk being rejected.  It’s actually been quite an interesting ride … I think I’m going to hold on and keep doing it.  Much to my surprise, being ‘real’ feels really safe in a whole different kind of way … really.  Nothing could be better than stepping out of old patterns from the past.

She teaches me to love … unconditionally.

feathers

Although our nest has been empty for nearly 10 years, the recent birth of our 7th grandchild got me reflecting more deeply upon the richness of motherhood … and … the peaks and valleys of my own journey through it. From where I am looking, parenting is one of the ultimate callings in life.  For me, I think it is the HIGHEST and most NOBLE calling because it has been the HARDEST calling of my life.  It has also been the most MAGNIFICENT and SACRED calling of my life … stretching my character to unknown vistas, bringing me to my knees in humble appreciation and heartfelt compassion for those who have parented before me …  and … leaving me with a deeper appreciation of LOVE than I ever fathomed could be possible.

Motherhood has been the ultimate in both agony and ecstasy for me.  It has been, and continues to be, the most remarkable part of my journey.  But, it has left me completely shaken, broken to the core and scared spit-less.  Feeling terrified that in my best efforts to be an amazing parent, I have screwed up royally.  Feeling petrified that I have harmed the souls of those whom I most cherish.  Reassuring myself, often, that they are resilient enough to rise above any of the pains I have etched in their hearts.  My three daughters, all grown up and with beautiful, sparkling little cherubs of their own, have broken me open in ways I had not expected … nor … at times, thought I could possible endure.

It is such a vulnerable place to live … being a parent.  Your heart is wandering about in the world … all by itself … and out of your control … so you tremble.  And, from the outside, you look rational for the most part, but you get crazed by irrational fears … blindsided while you are flipping a pancake or cleaning out a closet.  But your awareness of the lunacy of your fears is not sufficient to silence them.  You make up horrific stories in your head that won’t allow you to sleep until they are tucked safely back in the nest at home.

I swear that you view the world differently once you become a parent. You see things you never noticed before … and … you wonder how you missed such obvious hazards and then you worry beyond all sense and sensibility.  You treasure your children so much that your fears can eclipse your capacity to let them breathe … and … blossom.  If you are not careful, you smother them with your love.  And  you KNOW they can’t survive that kind of selfish, conditional love that places your fears before their freedom, but you can’t help yourself.  So you clip their wings in order to spare your own heart.  And then you feel guilty … and ashamed … because they deserve a chance to grow and thrive and offer their delicious and dazzling gifts to the world.

It is excruciating to learn that unconditional love means you make the decision to let yourself sit in the prickly discomfort of giving them wings.  You shift your gaze and do your best to silence your primitive protective instincts  … and … you commit yourself to dwelling in the anxiety of letting them flap their wings until they learn how to fly.  You accept (as some very wise soul once contended) that the question is not when they will find their wings, but  what they are going to wear with all those magnificent feathers.  And you cry.  And you know you shouldn’t.  It’s just hard to think about them fluttering off …  leaving the nest.  But you also know, they are meant to SOAR …

And you do your best to encourage the fulness of their flight.  And it is so hard some days.  So you practice your own counseling skills.  You attend an art therapy workshop but you use it to do your own internal healing.  The others might be thinking about how they will use this skill with their clients … but you are expressing your innermost emotions in the creation of the mandala … and … you write a poem from the artistry you have created.  And you feel some release of the weight in your heart …

Unconditional Love - 2

Unconditional Love … mandala/poetry by Karen Lanser

In a blazing circle of hearts

I am centered magnificently

watching

learning

growing

noticing a chaotic but definite pattern

of complete balance.

I see symmetry and asymmetry

interwoven into the continuous circles of change

and between

the sharp lines that sometimes divide us.

Although there are definite starts and stops

A beautiful yellow blossom

is emerging

from the center.

She is my sweet daughter

bursting magnificently

as a bold blossom

 generously gifted into our lives

to help

us learn

how to love … unconditionally.

It is my deepest honor to see my dazzling, brilliant and beautiful daughters embracing the highest and most noble calling of all … they are now raising my treasured  grandchildren.  I am so proud of how stunning and graceful they look in full flight with all those magnificent feathers …

And, I am so deeply humbled  and so richly blessed,  XO  Mom & Gram

A little confession ….

Skid in broadside

So I have a little confession to make.  My Miracles! website claims I “support others in making peace with their pasts and finding the gifts in the people, circumstances and/or situations they might be blaming for their unhappiness.” It truly is my passion and over the past dozen years I have gotten pretty good at shining some light on the dark parts of our paths.

However, for a very long while now, the Universe has been unfaltering in gifting up a pretty persistent and diverse litany of challenges for me to find the blessings within.   I am usually quite resilient in the face of adversity, but in all honesty, I was feeling drained, depleted and a little defeated. I was at the point where the usual one or two nice quotes were just not going to suffice in helping me find the pony in the poop this time.  (No, that is not my confession).

It was clearly time to call in the big dogs – so I found myself scrolling through the incessant lists of brilliant perspective shifters on Pinterest.  Yes, you heard me right. While some may scoff at the countless hours folks spend populating their assorted ‘boards’, I must concede that I have grown very fond of pinning my ‘interests’ onto my impeccably organized, easily accessible, and highly personalized space.  (And no, that is not my confession either).

And then … it happened!  I came across a sizzling quote (courtesy of sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net) that unequivocally ignited my sullen spirit!  It said:deafNow, I’m not sure what this conjures up in/for you … but … it totally tickled my heart, fanned the flames of my weary soul and I grinned … a really big grin that led to a big old belly laugh!  Oh my … I could feel a part within me who just wanted to be THAT girl with THAT co-conspirator with THAT story that we simply could not tell!

Yikes … who lives like THAT?  For some reason, those precious words daringly invited me to step out of my tedious, safe, sensible and all too APPROPRIATE life and experience a bold, delicious, exhilarating moment of tomfoolery! In all my 55 years, there have  been less than a handful of times I can honestly remember publicly smudging the polished façade off my seemingly squeaky-clean existence!

That said, I will never forget when a good friend and I (you know who you are!) very unwittingly colored ourselves way outside the lines of our prim and proper lives!  Oh my … when we discovered what we had accidentally done, we laughed so hard we actually could not speak for a bit.   After several feeble attempts to collect ourselves in order to avoid public scrutiny, we vowed (as solemnly as humanly possible between our howls of laughter) to never tell another soul  – so no, that is not my confession either. I still smirk when I think about it …

And, I’d be completely remiss not to mention the little faux pas we experienced at our 5 star hotel in Istanbul when my hubby and I returned (sticky, sweaty and exhausted)  from a day of sight-seeing (on foot!)  in the sweltering Turkish heat.  You should have seen my face when I noticed a man with a large tray circulating through the lobby with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and assorted wines and champagne.  I delightfully plopped myself down with a tall, stemmed glass …totally lost in that glorious moment!  By the time my husband settled in beside me, I was savoring some scrumptious olives and gratefully marveling at our good fortune in finding this superb hotel!

I was about to remove my walking shoes when my husband casually mentioned that the Concierge had just informed him there was wedding reception in the lobby.  Huh??  I almost choked on an olive pit when I glanced up sheepishly only to discover several black tied men and high-heeled women who were eyeballing us with equal parts of disdain and disbelief.  Oh man … when it struck me that we were unabashedly crashing a very hoity-toity wedding, I started to laugh … loudly and not at all unobtrusively!!  At that point, the best I could do was to refrain from making further eye contact because, seriously, I was not about to leave before we slurped up the last drops of our wine.  We finally slinked away … but it was downright hilarious!!

It’s hard to fathom that I might want more cheeky fun moments like that because I have always been so darned appropriate.  Of course, those of you who have read my prior blog know that I was completely committed to being ‘the good girl’ growing up in order to escape any possible condemnation from the ‘better-thans’.  Then, I wisely opted to forgo anything that resembled mischief making in my noble efforts to set a decent example  for my three daughters … sigh.  Then, my passionate dream of becoming a counselor and life coach came with the explicit expectation of maintaining impeccable character.  And … if that weren’t enough to squelch any lingering notions of tarnishing my halo, I work and live in a small, rural town of about 8800 people.  There is no way to do anything anonymously in our neck of the woods.

As a result, I am downright pathetic at instigating any shenanigans because, when push comes to shove, I am far more committed to avoiding censure.  This is not to suggest that I don’t have any skeletons in my closet … I absolutely do.  I think we all do. But, I am not talking about logging  moments of shame or regret … I’m more drawn to the idea of adding a little glitter to my fairly pale and humdrum existence.

The truth is that beneath my safe, sensible, goodie-two shoe veneer, there is also a part of me just aching to be led astray!  And … if I can find a way to do it without losing my job, betraying my husband’s trust or compromising my children’s love and respect, I’m in!  Lead me astray … please! (Yes, that is my little confession …)

It just feels like the time is right to punctuate my hyper-vigilant life with  some daring and delightful ways to have a little cheeky fun! So, here I am, appealing to you all publicly for some playful ideas of how to ‘skid in broadside‘ …! If any of my good friends are inspired to be a bodacious accomplice, please message me!

In anticipation of your stories and suggestions, I have created a brand new ‘board’ on Pinterest where I can collect all the grin-worthy possibilities! I am calling it ‘Thelma & Louise’ … of course, Thelma will be deaf and Louise won’t speak English … but I sure hope to see you there!

With a twinkle in my eye,  Karen

P.S.crazy ideas(photo courtesy of pbs.twimg.com)

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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