Rethinking Self-Care

Self-Care……..What do you think and feel when you read those two words?

When I think of self-care I feel enthusiastic. But, I realize this is not the case for everyone. When the word self-care is mentioned, I have heard people (mostly women) ask, “What is self-care?” I have heard women say, “I am not good at self-care.” I’ve heard other women say, “It’s not realistic to take care of myself. I am a mother. I work full-time…” For some women, self-care is just one more thing to do and if it’s not done, it’s one more area in their lives to feel badly about. This is not the point of self-care and so before self-care becomes even more of a hot topic, let’s be careful not to taint it with shame and false ideas of what it is. Instead, let’s take these concerns and questions and expand our idea of it so we can easily and effortlessly fit it into our lives. My guess is self-care is already a part of many of our lives.

What is self-care?

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Self-care is any act that we do that promotes well-being. I highlight any because self-care doesn’t just mean yoga and meditation, although these are good self-care practices. I have had long stretches where I didn’t feel like I took good care of myself. When this has happened, I would usually have an impulse to give myself a pedicure. First, I use a foot file on the bottom of my feet. Then, I use a handmade scrub of either salt or sugar with olive oil and scrub. From here, I rinse with warm water and massage my feet with lavender foot lotion. Before I start walking around I make sure to put on soft, comfy socks to keep them smooth. This is self-care.

Here’s a (partial) list of other self-care rituals:

  • Baths
  • Reading
  • Walking /Hiking
  • Physical activity
  • Therapy
  • Lunch dates with friends
  • Coloring/painting/drawing
  • Journaling
  • Decluttering
  • Pedicures/Manicures
  • Massage
  • Mindful breathing
  • Music
  • Dancing in your living room
  • A few minutes soaking in the sunshine
  • Lighting candles and sitting in the dark
  • Lighting incense
  • Silence
  • Crying
  • Making a cup of tea

 But, I’m not good at self-care

 As you can see from the partial list above, many of these rituals do not take up a lot of time or may be things we are doing already. I first learned the ritual of self-care (before it was a trend or had a name) spending weekends at my dads. There, I listened to classical music, drank hot tea by the space heater, took baths in the claw tub and drew pictures. These rituals still bring me comfort today. When someone says they are not good at self-care my insides crumble a little bit. What I hear is shame and doubt- as if self-care is something we have to be good at. We don’t. We just simply have to do it or recognize the many ways we already are doing it.

When we want to change our eating habits one of the ways to do this is to begin a food diary. This kind of documentation facilitates self-awareness and change doesn’t happen without awareness. In the same way as changing our eating habits, we can start a self-care diary to become aware of how we take of ourselves or how we don’t. If I were to begin a self-care diary today, here is what it might look like:

Ways I took care of myself today~

  • Slept in
  • Picked up the house after having a big dinner last night (and for me staying organized and keeping a clean house makes me feel good)
  • Did 25 minutes of yoga
  • Started Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day meditation program
  • Finished writing this article

What I think is important to understand is self-care is anything that gives you some space and room in your life, in your body, in your mind, and in your self. We all need space and thrive in it. Without space in all of these areas we will feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is unmotivating and so of course, just the idea of self-care will make us angry or fill us with shame because we just can’t seem to do it.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes said in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, “The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people.” I have a feeling most of us (in this case, women) resonate with this, which brings me to the next common obstacle about self-care…..

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Self-Care is not realistic.

 Self-care is not realistic for many of us if we are looking at it through a narrow lens. As previously stated, self-care is any act that promotes well-being, or if that’s too overwhelming of a definition—any act that just brings us a tiny bit of peace and space so that blur of activity stills for a moment. Recently, I listened to a woman share an example of how self-care is not realistic, especially for women with children. Sometimes her son needs help with homework and for her, helping him is important—more important than taking time out for herself. What I heard from this example was the conflict behind the experience. The issue here is not taking care of our child or taking care of our self. The issue is the mind creating a conflict between the two. We, as women, do this a lot. When we have conflict we are not at peace. We are in distress. And, why do we do create conflict in our minds? I think it’s because of what Clarissa said above, we try to be all things to all people— and, now the world also wants us to be all things to ourselves. Many of us respond, Oh, hell no.

But, you know what. We know this is what we have to do and for some of us it’s what we want to do. It’s time to take that old metaphor we know so well about putting on our oxygen masks first and apply it directly to our lives. We, especially have to do this if we are in conflict about what we do for others and what we do for ourselves. And, here’s a twist— we don’t have to pick one over the other. We can have both at the same time. Returning to the example of the woman wanting to help her son—if helping her child is her commitment, then there is no need for conflict. The way to not have conflict is to be mindful about our commitments. When we are mindful and conscious about our choices and commitments we are at ease. This is self-care. What is not self-care is beating ourselves up about what we should be doing when we are doing something that is important to us.

If our argument is that self-care is not realistic, but on some level we do sense the value in taking care of ourselves then we need to make it realistic for ourselves. We need to find the space to fit it into our lives, even if it’s 5 minutes of coloring. Any action we take toward taking care of our self will not only benefit our selves, but our families, our friends and any one or thing we come in contact with.

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Why is Self-Care Important?

Just like self-care is more than just sitting in meditation or doing yoga poses on our mats, self-care is important for reasons we may not fully comprehend. Sure, our self-care practices will make us start to feel better inside our bodies and minds. But, what is really happening is we are building a relationship with our selves, which can be the best relationship we will ever have. I see self-care as an opening into the deeper world of our souls. Our souls know who and what we are. Our souls carry what is true and real about ourselves, and I believe we can consciously live here in our souls, which means we will live in a more authentic way—the ultimate in self-care. For this to happen we need to start digging our tunnel inside of ourselves and create a self-care plan for our selves. This is a good start.

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Creating Your Self-Care Plan

I am available to help you develop a self-care plan starting with taking a self-care inventory. I am also available to help you stay with your plan and help guide you deeper into your relationship with your self. If you have questions or are interested in setting up a time for your self-care assessment, call/text @ 612-405-8053 or email me at nikki@nikkidivirgilio.com. For more information, go to the Self-Care & Discovery Consultations Tab on this site.

 

 

 

Old School, New School- Where’s the Balance?

It’s been exactly 3 months since my last post….And what’s on my mind—parenting.

I’m starting to believe I’ve done my children a disservice by being too available. Of course they would say I don’t give them anything they need.

Today I had to make a quick run to the grocery. I was going to go alone, but Lilli, my 14-year old decided to join me. I’m making enchiladas and burnt the chicken in the crock pot last night. The rotisserie  was $7.99. The lunch meat and cheese (for lunches/snacks this week) was almost $15. And the sushi Lilli suddenly wanted to have was $8, stating, “I’m sick of sandwiches” (and apparently can’t wait for enchiladas).

I told her to find a deli salad instead, which she did. “How much is it,” she asked?

“$3.35.”

She made that sound that expresses disgust when you click the tongue away from the roof of your mouth, and said “I hate being poor.”

“Lilli, we aren’t actually poor. I’m just not making any money right now and need to be on a budget.”

“Well make some,” she demands.

“Even if I made some it wouldn’t be to buy you everything you want,” I reply as I start to feel defensive.

“You need to make more money so you don’t have to depend on dad. You can’t even pay the mortgage with out dad.”

From here I just get more defensive….”Listen here, kid….”

 

On the way home, I start to see how the earlier days of letting a child know their place might still make sense.

Besides spending most of my adult life as a homemaker, being available to my children and my home 24/7, I also began working as a teacher assistant a few years ago. This past year I worked at a middle school and the behaviors I observed made me curious about where the hell we are going wrong with our kids. It would appear kids don’t know their place.

I know that doesn’t sound right, does it? Well maybe it does to more old-school, conservative people, but to the liberal and equal minded people it may not. Here’s what I think– we have left behind the “children are best seen and not heard” philosophy where children were filled with shame and not seen as people with their own thoughts and feelings– and this is a good thing–but, now we seem to be in the other extreme where we let the kids run things. We treat them equally. We are afraid to hurt their feelings and to disregard their thoughts. We also tell them our thoughts and feelings as if they  know what to do with those other than hurting us somehow later (how else do you think my 14-year old knows I can’t pay the mortgage with my pay check).

But, here’s the result of creating equal ground for our kids—some of them now tell teachers and parents to “fuck off bitch” ( I saw this frequently where I work and have heard it from my own child). Some use our willingness to listen to their thoughts and feelings to manipulate so they get what they want. And quite honestly between this and the media with images and sounds of violence and sex, kids are frickin’ overwhelmed. They are kids for a reason. They are under our care for a reason, and yet here we are as a culture exposing them to content they can’t truly handle yet. In some ways we are protecting them but in other ways we certainly are not. And I guess they’re pissed.

In my own life as a parent, I have tried to protect my children from the experiences I had as a child- divorce, having an alcoholic mother. Yet, it was from these very experiences that I learned how to be resourceful, independent and responsible. Of course I am not saying I should have been a drug addict so my kids could be stronger in some areas, but I truly believed being available to them emotionally and also making them physically comfortable was what would allow them the space and the security to develop certain qualities that would benefit them. But, now I wonder…

I can’t say I have any definitive answers yet, but here are some things I am realizing as I continue this parenting journey, one I have been on for 22 years.

  • Kids are hard on parents

This realization comes as a relief. For 20+ years I’ve believed that somehow if I just do things right, which really meant doing things better than my own parents my kids will appreciate it. HAHAHAHA. I’m thinking it doesn’t matter. Kids are hard on their parents(large period here).

  • It’s okay if my kids don’t respect my choices or even like me.

My Aunt Flo told me when her kids said they didn’t like her, she said: too bad. I’ve been priding myself for years on being a good mom. And as my kids become more vocal in the ways that I am not or in the ways they do not respect my choices in my own life, I have been terribly hurt and confused by this. Like: don’t they see what a good mom I am….how can they say these things to me?  I think I can finally say it’s okay that they don’t respect my choices. It’s okay they don’t think I am a good mom. It’s okay. And quite honestly, it’s been humbling to see in which ways I really haven’t been a good mom.

  • It’s also okay how I chose to parent at the time.

No matter why I did what I did, which for many years was just not do what my mother did, my kids will survive. My kids will be okay. And even if I did do too much, as human beings we are resourceful and resilient. They will go through the struggles as they already are in their own ways. They will always have the capacity to take what they did and did not receive and have it inform how they live their lives and how they parent, if and when they choose to do so.

As far as what to do as a culture for our kids- as I said I have no definitive answers, but I do trust we are finding a balance between the old-school ways and the newer-school ways. I also know we must find a spiritual perspective in raising kids, ours and society’s. The balance then seems to be keeping a vigilance of our humanity- how we parent within our culture and our own upbringing, while also having a spiritual perspective- that within our spirits we are equals. We are whole. And we are on our journey that continues to unfold and evolve. From this balance we will find and share the wisdom, which comes from this space.

Would love your thoughts on the matter.

The Soul Reporter.

To Pierce or Not to Pierce—this is the investigation…

And I would like your thoughts and opinions….

My 13-year old is begging for piercings- septum and industrial (I had to google them).

I know in my mommy gut, 13 is too young and I sense this is the usual teen dilemma of trying to find oneself . To encourage her idea that it will make her more herself seems silly….BUT I see how important this is to her and I recognize I don’t get the whole piercing world even though I have my nose pierced. I have never wanted any more than that and honestly I don’t find it attractive to have certain piercings- like the septum for instance.  This is of course my opinion and not hers and so I told her I would take two weeks to investigate the world of piercings—calling studios and asking others for their thoughts and opinions.

So—- to pierce or not to pierce. Remember she is 13, turning 14 in June….Thoughts? Opinions? An offering of insight from those who are into body modification?

Thank you,

The Soul Reporter

Have You Ever Wanted To Leave Your Family?

I left my family.

How many of us women, wives, mothers have left? How many want to? Need to?

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It was only for a couple of days. I went to my mother. The irony. Our past relationship is one of the reasons I have walked through the world protecting myself from the need to need anybody. But, I’m growing up. I went to my mom—anyway— and she was there.

She opened her door—could hardly believe her eyes I was standing in front of her. It felt good to be there. By day two, crawled up in a blanket she put on me, I began to feel a twinge of guilt. I was away from my own family and the guilt was probably a sign I was doing something I had not done in a while—take care of my self.

I don’t know all of the reasons I left, but my guess is any woman, mother, wife reading may know a reason or two. What I did discover: the pain that caused me to pack a bag and look into my husband’s eyes and say, “I’m leaving” was no longer seeing my reflection, the essence of who I am in my family—the one container I have put everything in to.

To put it another way— I lost myself in my family and not received a dividend for my investment except depletion and resentment. I desired them to fill me up as my cup ran dry, believing this reasonable, and I resented they couldn’t or wouldn’t. And when the water in our new home stopped working due to a frozen pipe, I had to leave.

For years I endured far worse than a frozen pipe. But, somehow this broke me.

runningwater

It was this pipe that brought me back home. I had to let the service technician in. The water is flowing again. As for me, I am restored enough to see with new eyes, remembering my gaze is needed here in this home because a mother and a wife is what I am. It’s what I have chosen to do. But—my gaze is also needed to stay within my very own soul, a place I must return again and again for restoration, peace, clarity and wisdom.

The Soul Reporter

The Dying of the Light

I came down on my kids kind of hard yesterday. Sometimes we need to say what needs to be said.

My oldest streamed tears. My youngest sat stone faced.

I am learning—of course now when one is grown and the other is near—that parenting, good parenting is simple. I admit I have not yet found this simple application, but I have observed my own parenting and that of the culture.  We have moved from an authoritative paradigm—do as I say because I am the adult—to liberal parenting—tell me how you feel. Not sure either work well. I was never the authoritative type. I like giving my kids as much space as possible. I am a believer of expressing feelings, and went the more liberal route. Now, I’m not sure. Now, I am wishing I would have been more strict, voiced more of my expectations and even pushed them.

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I work with kids who call teachers bitches and if confronted they say, well I was mad. This is one result of liberal parenting/schooling. I am second-guessing the tell me how you feel paradigm because can kids really do this? Can they really process their emotions? Adults can hardly do this, although perfectly within their capabilities if they choose to do so. But  kids— I am not so sure. If anything, kids just learn how to work it: well I was mad….well my dad is in jail….

We took my daughter and her friend to an amusement park this weekend. We bought them dinner and gave them two free wrist bands for unlimited rides. When we went to meet them, a grandmother was talking to the girls. I asked my daughter what she was talking to them about. I got the usual—nothing. My husband went to find the woman and ask her. The girls were flicking small children in the ears and telling them they are annoying.

I waited until the next day (yesterday) to unload my disgust. She  needed to hear these are not our values. That her insecurities about herself does not give her permission to harass the vulnerable. Stone faced. I am not a perfect parent. She has seen and heard some things I wished she hadn’t. Life has been tough for her already. But— I have been here for her. I have been (mostly) stable. I am supportive and have put her first. And, I feel I have lost control. This stinky society of social media and bad television and sex obsessed music is raising my child. I tried, with a Waldorf education for her first few years of school to shelter her, but I lost the battle. Or I gave up, feeling weaker than the culture.

It’s time to take back the reigns.

My oldest does not harass the vulnerable, but I fear I sheltered her too much. I wanted her to have all I didn’t. I supported her acting dreams. I gave her stability and comfort, thinking this would be a foundation on which to stand and make a life better than my own. I feel she is afraid to step out and do so. I wonder where is her courage. This is what I got on her about.

I told them both it is unfortunate they did not see me when I was in my 20’s. When I was brave. When I had a child at 20 and took care of her. When I faced demons inside of myself, those of my upbringing. And let go of a relationship that was too dependent, faced my fear of being alone so I could find myself. They missed the days of their mother’s courage. Mostly what they see now is the mid-life wreck that is left—the worn out and tired mom.  The disappointed mom who can’t wrap her head around what I thought was the right thing in my parenting and seeing that maybe none of it made a damn bit of difference. That I missed whatever simpler parenting is.

As I ask—or as I did yesterday—demand to see the courage of my children, I demand to see my own too. Courage is what the youngest will need to feel her feelings instead of protect herself from them, to release herself from the cycle of numbness to the point of hurting others. The oldest will have to find hers so she can build a life she wants to live, or just a life beyond the comfort of our walls. And I have to have the courage to trust life and myself again, resurrecting from the wreck.

I look for the light. I long for it and my looking and longing are finally turning into something stronger. I am more willing to fight for it- to fight against they dying of the light and this takes courage.

May our New Year be filled with more light and more courage as we live our days,

The Soul Reporter

Gotta Do It.

Good thoughts will produce good actions and bad thoughts will produce bad actions. Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love. ~Buddha

 

“They” say write what you know. I will add—write what you don’t know, but desire to know. I also say, write what you experience. This is what I do here at The Soul Reporter, and specifically I am going to begin to focus in on what I experience day-to-day—somewhat of a new focus here at The Soul Reporter. 

Daily, I am with kids (our future)—middle-schoolers—my own and the ones I work with who have been labeled by the education system with various learning disabilities and also EBD (emotional/behavioral disorder).

I remember our daughter, Lilli’s third grade teacher telling us she wasn’t reading like the other children. I recall the day I sat in a room with teachers, psychologists and specialists telling me she had a learning disability (unspecified).

Tonight at dinner, Lilli told me a special ed teacher pulled out a group of kids to take a test in Social Studies. Lilli said, “And I wasn’t one of them.” It’s been a long road. Lilli now only qualifies for special education for math (frankly, at 41 I would qualify for this too). However, we aren’t out of the woods yet.

At Lilli’s last IEP (individualized education plan) meeting where she was reevaluated for services, they tested her to see if she qualified for the EBD label. She didn’t, and had she I would have protested. “They” tell you this label will allow the educators to take better care of the child’s needs. Although their intentions may be in the right place, I have seen this label also mean it is the beginning of the educational system giving up on that student.

The issue with this is many of the kids are already giving up on themselves. And, so I don’t get burnt out and give up on them, which I run the risk of daily, I am going to use this blog as an outlet and my hope it might become a resource for others. Therefore, to begin here is what I discovered today:

We must build—in small ways—toward courage, wisdom & greater self-esteem.

I worry about the kids I see who walk out of class and wander the halls. I worry about my own who asks to stay home at least once a week and skips gym class. There was a time I still worried about my own adolescent self as an adult, having constant dreams about trying to get to class but not being able to. I skipped most of high school. I hung out at Burger King, in cars or the grocery store—anywhere but class.

It remains one my greater regrets. It seems almost impossible to have a 13-year old care they will regret skipping class someday. And sometimes I hope they do regret it. If they regret, it means there has been a shift in consciousness for them. If they don’t regret it, to me it means they are still lingering in old patterns. For me, skipping class was a pattern of not showing up I worked on every day I didn’t show up. Everyday, I also told myself the next day I would show up, but I rarely did.  I get that math and science and other subjects seem like a big waste of time, and maybe they are. But, showing up is a good practice, which can begin in school.  To show up is a discipline that is needed to build character, courage, wisdom and greater self-image.

It is why I use the quote from Buddha above. The bad thoughts we have about ourselves as teenagers can be so severe our actions make us hide and act out negatively. This, when practiced continuously will weave us into a life we may or may not get out of. I did. I went onto college. Not necessarily for the degree, although it helped me get my current job, but to show myself I could do well in school.  I made the B honor roll every semeseter. I showed myself I wasn’t dumb. I learned my issue wasn’t brain power, it was a lack of using my inner power.

It helps me to relate to the kids in this way—to see they lack confidence. Because this seems like something, which can be worked with. For instance, Lill still asks me to order for her at restuarants. She lacks the confidence to look the waitress in her eye and tell her what she wants. I asked her today to consider doing small things, like order for herself. Doing these small things daily (and she may need to start even smaller) will work her inner courage. These small things will eventually be what increases the inner power she already has and will be a great power, which can and will move her beyond negative thoughts, and therefore negative actions.

If you find this topic helpful, please pass this blog on to parents, educators—anyone who is interested in our future, which are these kids. Thank you.

The Soul Reporter

A Repost: Let’s Detox from Shame

Shame is the most toxic ingredient to give children.

Shame is defined as “a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment.”

A couple of weeks ago I was in the hospital with my daughter. She’s 11, and suffered injuries from an auto accident we were in six months ago. We stayed a couple of days, and as usual, when in a hospital, shared a room with another child.

She was probably my daughter’s age, and I believe suffered some sort of injury to her leg, although I don’t know how. She had been in the hospital a week, and I knew how that felt.

The first time we were in the hospital, after the car accident, we too were there a week. I could tell from the father’s behavior he was ready to get out of there. He was running in and out, trying to get prescriptions, test results, and those infamous discharge papers we often wait hours and hours for.

While gone, his daughter was in the bed, and I heard crying. I caught a glimpse into her room, and saw she was putting a bandage on her wounded leg. I wanted to ask her if she was okay, but I didn’t.

Her father came back in the room, and scolded her for crying. “What is the matter with you?” he asked. She explained how she tried to get the bandage on by herself, and how he wasn’t there to help. He told her she did it wrong. She had no response.

Yes, I am sure he was stressed. I understand. But I also understand shame. Her non-response showed me what we, as children, do with shame.

I witnessed another incident in the hospital—a sick little boy, being pulled and yelled at to hurry up by his mother. He did the same as the young girl: no response.

I suppose there are some children who might rise up in the face of shame and say, “no—this is not okay.” But mostly, as children, we don’t know what to do with this subtle, consistent, insidious culprit that is shame, but to ingest it.

It seeps into us, and like a cancer grows. It permeates our being. Over time we might shut down. Or we might lash out. We will get involved in addictive and destructive behaviors, all because we, underneath that shame, ask the question, whose answer we fear: “what if something is wrong with me? What if I am not okay?”

The answer we fear is that there is something wrong with us, and we are not okay. And so the shame and the behaviors of this shame persist. If we are not conscious of our own shame, and do the inner work to heal it, we will pass it down to our children.

The reason shame is so insidious is because it is within all of our institutions. School. Church. Home. The culture is seeped in shame. And of course, it would be because the inhabitants of this culture are.

The reason shame is so subtle is because we believe this is what we deserve. It doesn’t seem foreign anymore. Instead shame has become as common as the skin on our bones and the blood in our veins.

So, now what?

It’s time to detox from shame.

The beauty in witnessing these interactions at the hospital is, although I recognized the shame, it felt foreign to watch it being thrown at these children. I believe this is because in my own family I am a conscious participant in breaking the cycle, which says it is possible.

And it begins with self-awareness. To break shame down and shake shame off within our families and communities as parents, educators and just everyday people in the world—we need to understand the shame inside ourselves.

We need to watch how we project, and if nothing else observe the children after we have thrown shame their way. They don’t need it. We don’t need it anymore, yet it is still here among us.

As adults, we are susceptible to it wherever it is we are ashamed. For instance, I was having a conversation with a lawyer. Sure, he might have just needed certain bits of information about me and my work, but I started to feel ashamed.

I told him I was striving to be a writer. “Starting your own business as a writer?” he asks. “What is your education? Do you get paid for this?” I felt shame and wanted to defend myself.

Kids don’t have the luxury to be at peace with themselves while living in a culture of shame. They have to try to detox after they leave their houses full of shame, and many don’t. But, we as adults can detox, and therefore be better hosts to our children, ours or not.

How can we begin to detox from shame?

Begin to notice the shame around you, in our culture: on television, radio, and other forms of media. Then, take your attention to our institutions: church, school, places of work. Then, see your own family, your upbringing.

In what ways were you shamed? Now, go deeper and see your current family: how might you be oozing your shame toward them? How does shame sit and speak to you? What does it make you do? What does it make you project?

We are often sold magic pills and remedies to heal our wounds, but all we really need to do is see something for it to change. Bring the light of awareness to our patterns. Connect to our upbringing and current influences, and the heart will begin to heal, and transform.

It’s a process.

Let’s start with seeing shame in all its forms. This isn’t to encourage it. Our silence and ignorant acceptance of it is.

 

You’re Likable Just Because You are You.

Source: fci.org via Joyce on Pinterest

If we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable—we will have done a  great service for mental health.

~ Mister Rogers

 

Since Governor Romney confidently stated he will cut PBS funding, in front of Jim Lehrer no less, an uproar has emerged. There are numerous Facebook postings and tweets—many of them from Big Bird saying, “Oh hell naw!”

On my news feed, my cousin posted a video of Mister (Fred) Rogers speaking to the United States Senate. It is of Rogers graciously sharing his commitment to children and his concern about what they see on television. His goal: to receive the 20 million dollars of funding for PBS that Richard Nixon wanted to deny.

Read the rest on elephant journal

When Your Child is in Trouble

Today’s Soul Report: Parenting

I suppose it has been going on since the beginning of time, children in trouble. And I suppose, to feel alone while going through troubles, also, has quite a history.

Today’s post will identify some patterns that cloud our ability as parents, to truly assist our children when they are in trouble. These patterns are mind grooves, which are more satisfying to our egos- enhancing our selfishness, ignorance and fear, but WILL NOT help our child who is in trouble. But first we must be willing to SEE WHAT IS, and remember this is about them, and not us.

  • Worry & Fear I have one child I don’t worry about. I have another I do. With this child, my eyes, one would think are a bit wider, paying attention a bit more. But quite honestly, even while in the womb, this little girl, of 11 now, troubled me. We were told she might have Down’s Syndrome, but as it turned out she just had a lot of hair. But even so, this child of mine is different. She is the one, I saw on the side of the road after the car accident. She is the one who carries such intensity, it overwhelms even me, who also carries intensity. My own fear and worry for her, and overwhelm, has often prevented me from seeing where and who she is, and what she truly needs from me.

What I am learning, is there is a space, not often easy to get to, beyond the fear and worry, that is in a way neutral, and intensely focused on our child, and only our child. In this space, we face what we must and assist how we must. We can fall apart later. Just knowing there is a space beyond worry and fear, can be enough for us to get there, if this is what we intend.

  • But, you don’t understand my child would never do that. I had a friend once say, his young daughter of five, wouldn’t get into trouble, that somehow he, as a parent, would not have to deal with it. He wasn’t kidding. I knew then, having older children, she probably will surprise him. As uncomfortable as it is, we must open our eyes and really SEE our children. They too, are developing patterns and mind grooves, and showing us how they perceive and deal with the world around them, and beyond them. Seeing might even save their lives.
  • Where did I go wrong? This question can haunt us, and seem perfectly justifiable, but depending on the kind of trouble your child is in- how does pondering this question serve them? We must instead wonder what is immediate right now. This isn’t to say, self-reflection as a parent is not necessary, but it is only useful if we can truly SEE with understanding where we might have abandoned them and correct it now, and for the future. It is not useful to just sit and swim in.
  • I miss the little girl she was….We wonder where the smiley, happy, child went, especially in pre-adolescence and adolescence. We want them to stay innocent. We are afraid for them. We remember our adolescence. Maybe have regrets. When they were little, they talked our ears off and we were tired after a long day, but at least they were happy. At least they talked. As we know we can’t go back, but we can be with them where they are.
  • Punishing. Yelling, and other behaviors that arise from feeling out of control, and only serve to shame. Often our children keep secrets because they think we will yell at them, even if we aren’t yelling parents, but secrets keep our children sick. We need to hold a space for them to share what they do, how they feel and what they think. My parents provided a safe enough container for me to tell them the first time I had sex. When I was pregnant at 19. When I was drinking too much in junior high. Speaking saved me. Their support made it easier to stay “saved.”

As difficult as it might be, just listen. Look at them. Hear them. Hold the space, and remember you are their parent first and foremost. Our job is to guide them, and that is what they need, and sometimes you might need to get really firm and absolute, and say -ENOUGH. It is also time, after all these years and years and years and years of shame, coming from the church, the school, the household, to say ENOUGH to shame, and break that old, tired cycle.

 

  • I have no right to go through their ipods, phones, computer...Privacy is a privilege for those still in our nest. I didn’t use to know this because child number one had a strong desire to please and be a “good girl,” so she had a lot of space and privacy. This is the way I prefer to parent, but child number two shows me she needs less space and more restriction. What is terrifying about our culture for me right now, is the access to technology. There are networks “out there” that support suicide. Eating disorders. Cutting. Our children, even at 11 or younger are being subjected to thoughts, ideas that are very distrubing.

Maybe this is too much information, but I remember being 10 years old and walking into my mother’s boyfriend’s room and seeing pornography for the first time. I was horrified. I felt assualted. At 10, 11, 12- even 13, 14 and 15 we are still innocent, close to the womb, or as Lilli said as a little girl, close to the “The Place Called Love.” These images and words and thoughts are too much for them. They are carrying too much. And it is confusing because they think being exposed to this means they understand, and they don’t. In fact, their young brains won’t even allow for it. They are not developed enough to process through such things, so if you feel your child is in trouble, investigate, and know you are doing it because you are looking for signs to see what she or he is going through, so you can assist, and let them know, you know. Secrets keep our children sick.      

What we all really want to know, beyond all of our patterns and mind grooves, is- do the people in my life know how I much I love them. As we reconnect to this, we will always do what’s right. 

Namaste, 

The Soul Reporter

 

Kids and The Resistance Epidemic

Original Article Posted at Magpie Girl on October 9, 2009

How many times have we told our kids to do something and they either refuse, or do so with a constant whiney tune, of I don’t want to and why do I have to. The request can be something as simple and mediocre as wiping the table, and yet they put up a fight. It’s frustrating, and causes tension between our kids and us. Depending on the severity of the resistance in our household, this tension over time can create an isolating and perhaps even numbing relationship, which is damaging to both parent and child.
Resistance is defined as: the act or power of resisting, opposing, or withstanding. Unfortunately resistance is our first response to almost any that comes our way. This is often the same for our children.

The word “power” is in the very definition of resistance. Resistence itself is a power struggle between parent and child. Once we enter this planet, we are instantly faced with the power struggle of balancing the demands upon our minds, bodies and souls. We have to breathe on our own. We have to eat to live. We have to sleep to function and be well. These are required and necessary things. But then we get older, and there are more requirements. And these requirements often do not align with the truth of who we are and what we seek. School demands we pay attention, not chew gum, not wear our hair a certain way, be smart, be happy, learn, and agree with what is being taught. Then society demands we look and act in a certain way. As do our parents.

Consciously or unconsciously our children are absorbing all of these little and big demands all the time. It is no surprise they are resisting! We are energetic beings, here to unfold the purpose of our soul. We are not machines, which comply with the buttons being pushed–although we can, and often do. However, most of us don’t want to, especially the young ones who are coming to our planet right now. They are different, and leading us on a new course, which is more properly aligned with our soul.

What lessons and tools can we use to help our children grow beyond resistance?

Lesson #1 : Teach cooperation. Cooperation means working or acting together for a common purpose and benefit. No matter the age of our children, they will respond positively with this larger idea of cooperation. They often like to help and be a part of something bigger. We just have to show how valuable it is, and determine the common purpose.

For example, maybe mom is making a special treat, but she also has lots of work to do around the house. Mom would like to get that work done, before she makes the treat, and to do this, she needs help. The common purpose is for the treat to be made so everyone can enjoy it. Therefore, everyone must help with the duties around the house. They might still resist and complain, but if we continue to invite moments where we show and teach the value of working together for a common goal, eventually they will come to understand its value, and reward.

Hey, and for parents with young ones- you know Barney’s clean up song, right? Clean up, clean up everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up everybody do your share. Make cooperating fun- create a song, whistle while you work.

Lesson #2: Do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do(This comes from Denzel Washington. Thanks Denzel.) When our kids get caught in the energy of resistance, it is difficult for them to see the greater purpose of whatever requirement that has come their way. We can help by giving them the perspective of doing what they have to do so they can do what they want to do.

My oldest daughter, Alyssa is a senior in high school. She has dreams and plans of going to California after she graduates to continue her studies and gain experience as an actor (Today, she is in CA, found an agent and soon will be working her talent). Through all of her years in school she has been an A/B student. However, last year she had to take the MCA test. She did not pass the test by two points, and now has to take it again, plus take a class to help prepare for it. She hasn’t been happy about this at all.

To move to a deeper and more resilient place, I remind her passing this test, no matter how unfair she or I thinks it is, it is what needs to be done so she can graduate and get on with what she wants to do, which is go to LA and pursue her talent. I also plant the seed of being receptive to the lesson of this experience. What is it showing her? What character traits might she develop by embracing this requirement to graduate?

Speaking of being receptive….

Tool #1: Model Receptivity. The best way to teach receptivity is to be an example of it. Being receptive means having the quality of receiving, taking in, or admitting. How are you at being receptive? Do you complain about what’s coming at you, or do you receive what’s coming to you, taking it as a lesson to be learned, and an opportunity to be stretched? How open and flexible you are, will determine how your children respond to you and the world outside, and inside of them.

Remember we are energetic beings, and our children are more connected to this truth than we are. They often resist the energy we are carrying, which brings us to our next tool. What is our intention when we require something from our children? What energy are we running? Are we coming from a place of control or respect? Openness, or an expectation of conflict?

Tool #2: Request & Ask, Don’t Demand. If we are coming from a place of expecting there to be conflict because that is what we are used to when we want our children to do something, then we will run a tight and constricted energy pattern, which may cause us to act as dictators demanding instead of cooperators requesting. Remember we are energy. Therefore, they may not be resisting “wiping the table.” Instead it may be the energy we are transmitting that they are resisting.

I understand the tight and constricted energy, as my youngest daughter Lilli and I have had lots of tension between us. She demands with her drama and intense energy that I dig deeper and parent in a more mindful and loving way, and I have been resisting. However, I have moments with her that are open and easy, where no constrictive patterns are in place, and if they are, they aren’t able to sustain in the grace which is present.

On one such occasion, I wanted Lilli to do something. Instead of forcing my agenda upon her because I expected conflict, I simply told her what my request was, and asked if it was ok. It was a powerful exchange. There was no hesitation or resistance from her whatsoever and I felt as though we were two old souls respectfully and mindfully engaging and cooperating with one another. Although I have yet to enter this space again, I know these moments can be more frequent, if we allow our agendas and resistances to melt away in the space of grace and honor of one another.

Creating this space is possible when we develop the mindset which comes from the famous poem by Kahlil Gibran- Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. We forget this because our society has a limited belief, which says the opposite, that our children are ours to dictate to and put our agendas upon, but this simply isn’t true. They are souls, here on their own journey, and picked us as their teachers and guides. What an amazing opportunity for us.

The challenge, of course is staying in this space of receptivity and higher wisdom. To do so we must be mindful of our intentions, and the agendas we may be putting upon them. If our intention is about respect and honor, and not control, cooperation will win. Coming from cooperation, our agendas will dissipate, and we will trust they will do the “right” thing and cooperate. This will allow us to hold a more gentle space when speaking to them, where we request and ask, and not demand.

Which brings us to….

Tool #3: Allow for Space~ Mantra and Meditation. Maybe resistance in our children is a symptom of overwhelm. Maybe they are tired, and when they whine and resist, they are saying I feel so safe with you this is my way of letting you know, Mom, Dad, please listen and help me. I need a break. I need some space to be me.

We are busy people on this planet. Life moves fast. The culture is stuck in a perpetual pattern of more is better and constant movement means we are looking productive and useful. All I want to say to this is- STOP. There is a time for movement, and a time for space, for just being. If we allow for this type of space and not have every minute superficially controlled, our children can breathe and have moments of remembering who they are, and why they are here. Then we can better support their awakening and expressive journey. What an amazing opportunity we have!

One way we can facilitate space, is to teach a mantra and meditation. A mantra can be sound, phrase or word, as simple as the word breathe, which can be said repeatedly while in the midst of resistance, mindless chatter and overwhelm in the brain. Meditation, a longer version of a mantra offers space between a stimulus and response as well. Our children are never too young to learn these methods. And if this doesn’t resonate, intentionally allow for space for them to just be- with no television, video games, or other distractions. Less outer stimuli, means more authentic, inner stimuli so they can be who they are meant to be.

I suggest you do this for yourself too. The space you create inside yourself will give you an energy your children will not resist. But it is going to take a commitment, and perhaps a shift in intention from parenting in angst and obligation to parenting from a spiritual perspective and duty. Here we become watchers of our children, noticing their resistances and where they get stuck. When we notice, we guide them through it with wisdom and trust, so their soul’s journey continues to unfold. We must allow space for this journey, and the best space is in the home.

Resistance is one of those large monsters we face on our spiritual journey but with some education, investigation and willingness to expand inside ourselves, we can create enough space so we can feel the resistance and cooperate anyway.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter