An Open Letter to Whatever is Blocking Me in Life

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Dear Obstacle,

I told my friend that I would write a blog post about you.  She saw my Instagram post and wanted me to explain what I meant by "The Obstacle is the Path."  I sat down several times to write a post explaining this expression to her.  And I got stuck.  Every. Single. Time.  You got in my way, Obstacle.  You do that.  Here I am, just living my life, doing things the way I always do them.  And boom, you plant yourself in front of me.  Why do you do that?  It's so annoying.  I just want to keep walking down my path without problems like you getting in my way.

It's interesting, because I don't always notice you there at first. I'm usually distracted by all the things I think are supposed to happen.  The things that I believed were on the path in front of me, up ahead, just waiting for me to arrive.  But eventually I realize I can't keep going down that path, because you are in my way.  This is point when I get angry and sad.  GODDAMMIT OBSTACLE! My life was supposed to follow the path of x, y and z! Move before you mess it all up!

And of course you don't move.  You just sit there.  Stupid, frustrating Obstacle that isn't supposed to be there.  I always fight you.  I like to be the one in control of my life.  Not some Obstacle that I didn't choose.  But you are relentless and stubborn and intrusive.  It's been a rare occasion in my life that I pushed you out of the way and forged ahead on the path of my choice.  It was usually a messy battle that cost me dear things.  And I never got my same path back anyway.

There have been times when I can't get past you and I just wander around not going anywhere for a long time.  You confused me.  I was heading a certain direction and well, now I don't know where I'm going.  So I just kind of numb myself and walk around in little circles and keep moving so I feel like I'm doing something.  I've gone on like this for years before.  Before something snapped.  Before I couldn't take the numbness anymore.

But you know what, Obstacle? When I look back at our relationship, my favorite times were those when I took pause... and looked at you.  When I moved closer to you, with curiosity and an open heart.  When I listened to what you had to say.  It was scary because you were asking me for something.  Something that I had to give up.  And that something is always the same.  That something is this - all that I thought was "supposed to be."  The plans I made for myself.  The x, y and z that were in front of me.

This is when it hits me.  YOU are the path.  You are not the path I was walking before.  You are not the path I was planning to walk.  But you are the new path I am meant to be walking at this point in time.  I can't avoid you.  You are my present moment.  Whether I like it or not, you are bringing me into my future.  I can fight you, numb myself to you, or accept you.  And accepting you is ALWAYS what has brought my favorite outcomes.

I realize I have an apology to make to you Obstacle.  I'm sorry for getting so angry at you and for fighting with you at times.  You are the one who reminds me to live right now, and not in my future plans.  You are the one that pushes me to move with life, not against it.  You are the one who wakes me up and gets me to take a risk. You are the one that causes me to let go of my expectations so that I can experience gratitude for what I have.  You are the one that gives me a real shot at happiness in life.

And even though its hard to say this, Obstacle, maybe you could come back again sometime.

Sincerely,

Me

 

5 Things You Can Do When the World Feels Out of Control

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The past couple weeks have been pretty painful.  I have spent many hours with my clients talking about the sorrow, anger and fear they are experiencing as a result of two major tragedies - the barely-there conviction of a very entitled rapist, and most recently the mass shooting in a gay club in Orlando, FL.  As I try to help them process these dark and terrifying events, I am aware that there is only so much we can control in this world.  In times like these, it is helpful to have tangible things we can do to stand up under the darkness.  This is a list of 5 things you can do when the world starts feeling out of control.

  1. Be BOLD in the face of oppressive forces.  It is healing to fight back (in non-violent ways) when bad things happen.  Find a way that works for you (and doesn't further traumatize you), but don't let the evil forces of the world squash your beautiful light.  It's okay to feel angry.  Get involved.  Post on social media.  Talk to your friends and family members.  Go to the club tonight and dance your heart out.  Yell at the freaking T.V.!  Because no.  Killing our LGBT friends is NEVER OKAY.  Raping people is NEVER OKAY.  Shout it with me - IT IS NOT OKAY!!!  THIS WILL NOT STOP US FROM LIVING OUR LIVES.
  2. Recognize the things that make you feel safe and do those things.  What are the things that make you feel comforted and secure?  What increases your sense of safety and stability?  Who are the people who support you?  Surround yourself with those things.
  3. Connect with others who are supportive.  Get in touch with the people in your life who support you or who are experiencing similar emotions after these terrible events.  Having a sense of community is incredibly therapeutic.  We all need support.  Whether that be from your family, friends, religious community, LGBT center, counselor (I'd love to be your support!), etc.  Heart-to-heart connection is healing.
  4. Be. Kind. To. Yourself.  In fact, be EXTRA kind to yourself.  Say affirming statements to yourself.  Remind yourself that the bad things that have happened to you are NOT your fault.  That you deserve to be safe and healthy and happy.  Do kind, soothing things for yourself.  Take a bubble bath, cook a nice healthy meal, hug yourself, hug each other.  And don't forget to use your calming breath.
  5. Limit screen time.  These days social media is inundated with bad news, political arguments and all sorts of other negativity.  Limiting your intake of facebook is not the same thing as sticking your head in the sand.  It's called self-care.  You are not limitless, you cannot take on the whole world alone.  You will be much more able to DO SOMETHING if you have taken care of yourself.

Don't suffer alone!  I offer counseling services online (residents of TX, NY, ID or outside of the U.S.).  Send me a message if you would like a free 20 minute consultation.

Self-Care Startup

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I call these beginner self-care skills, but if you are able to master them you are ahead of most of the world population.  Not kidding.  While these self-care skills will help you to manage already existing stress, they are most effective if you make them part of your every day life.  If they become part of your regular routine, you will start to preemptively knock out stress.  

  1. Breathe.  I don't mean taking in air to stay alive. I mean really learning how to use your breath to calm your mind and relax your body.  If you are new to meditation, start simply, and just notice your breathing. In. Out. In. Out.  Next start to count while you breath - in for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds.  Repeat this for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Get some shut-eye.  If you are going to become proficient at self-care, you must learn to prioritize sleep.  Everyone requires a different amount of sleep to feel rested during the day, so figure out how much you need and kindly give yourself the required daily dose.
  3. Eat. Seriously, hanger is not cute.  Your body needs a certain amount of nutrients and calories to function (and be nice to people).  Eat balanced meals.  Stash high protein snacks in your bag, desk, car, wherever so that you have access to some energy when you need it.
  4. Have limits. You are not limitless.  I know you have things to do, places to go, money to make, dreams to pursue.  As a self-carer in progress, start getting to know your limits and practice setting boundaries.  FOMO and being overly-productive can increase your stress levels, and eventually harm your health.
  5. Find pleasure.   What feels good to you?  Is it coffee with your best friend?  Time in nature?  A hot bath?  Listening to your favorite song on repeat?  Write down a few ideas and start to do them now.  Notice how you feel when you do your favorite activities.  Pleasure is often thought of as frivolous, but it is actually balm to the weary heart.  (Note: use of substances or addictive activities do not count as self-care).

 

If you have questions, or are concerned about your ability to practice self-care, feel free to send me a message.  I love to hear from my readers!

10 Ways To Live The Sh** Out Of Your 20s

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The 20s are a time marked by rapid change and personal growth. These 10 items are not meant to be a checklist of things that qualify you as an adult, but ways of maximizing your life experience during your 20s.  If you are 60 and are just taking life by the horns, this post is also for you!

1. Try on a New Identity

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to express your inner diva, musician, gym-rat, activist, church-goer, writer, drag queen, dancer, cyclist, food critic or healer?  I listed this first because when you let yourself explore parts of your identity and figure out the things that make you buzz, a lot of other things in life are going to come easier for you.  Choose a career path?  Can't do that before you know what you love.  Find a partner in life?  Gotta know what you want before you can find it.  Start now by making a list of things that interest or intrigue you.  What is something you can do this week to try out one of those things?

2. Disappoint Your Parents

As you get older you will find that you don't agree with your parents on everything.  And sometimes you have to make life decisions that they may not like.  Whether this be choosing a less lucrative career, changing your religious beliefs or postponing marriage and kids until your 30s.  It's hard. It hurts. But in the end you have to live your own life, and you will be exponentially more happy if you choose an authentic life.  And your parents will probably come around when they see you happy doing your thing.

3. Become Friends with Your Parents

Remember how I said your parents will probably come around when they see you happy?  You will probably come around in some ways too, and then one day look up and realize that they have become your friends.  Admittedly, some parents are harder to be friends with than others.  But as you become an adult and become more grounded in yourself, you start to realize that your connection with your parents is more important than agreeing on everything.  Make some special memories with them - play board games or take a trip or cook your favorite childhood meals together.  Believe me, your older adult self will thank you for it.

4. Question the Meaning of Life

Many 20 somethings I meet are asking the questions about life purpose and direction.  It's normal.  When you leave home it's likely that you will be exposed to people who have had different life experiences and hold different world views.  The first time this happens can be jarring.  If you are struggling for an extended period of time, you may want to seek out support from your college professors, a counselor, your religious leaders or friends.  Don't suffer alone.

5. Start a Collection of Experiences

Now is the time.  Everyone says it, and its true.  Before you have kids and a mortgage payment and the adult-est of adult responsibilities, get out there and explore that great big, magical world you live in.  You don't have to spend all your savings to have new experiences.  Take a job in another city, road trip with your friends, backpack through the mountains or find a travel deal to another country.  But get out of your comfort zone and try new places and experiences.  I've never met anyone who regretted doing this.  You will cherish these memories forever!

6. Break up with a Friend

This one sucks.  But it's probably not unlikely that you have a friend or two who are not true friends to you.  Your 20s are a time of learning who you are and getting onto your adult feet.  Time to filter out those friends who drain you or make you feel bad about yourself.  That friend who is charming and asks you for lots of favors, but then won't return your texts or calls?  Let her go.  That friend who only pays attention to you when he's not around his cooler friends?  Bye-bye.  You deserve to be surrounded by people who love you and are willing to be inconvenienced for you too.  Time to exercise your adult decision making and choose your tribe.

7. Find Your Tribe of Weirdos

Which brings me to number 6.  Now that you are learning about your own amazing, weird self, find your pack of weirdos and surround yourself with them.  Remember number 1?  What were those identities you tried that felt really natural and inspiring to you?  Where can you meet more people who also have those identities or interests?  Continue to put yourself in those places and you will naturally form connections with your people.

8. Have Fun With Yourself ;)

Once you leave college you will find that you are no longer constantly surrounded by friends and fun activities.  This can be a big shock and you may have a period of time when you feel lonely and isolated.  You will have to make extra effort to get your social time.  You will also have to make friends with yourself, because you and yourself will be spending more time together - and it can actually be fun!  Try a new hobby - cheese-making, meditation, wood-working, knitting, herb gardening.  Be creative with this.  And don't Netflix and chill too too often. :)

9. Make a Hot Mess

It's inevitable.  You will fail at something, hurt somebody or lose something. And the truth is, its gonna hurt.  Feelings of shame will probably surface and you may want to give up.  My advice is to first feel all the feels.  Don't stuff your feelings because they will find a way out somehow, and it will be even less pretty when they do.  The next thing you gotta do is learn to have self-compassion.  Imagine yourself as a little child who is feeling badly about a mistake. What would you say them?  How would you comfort and encourage them?  Lastly, you may need to make amends.  The awesome grown-ups learn to say sorry and own their mistakes.  It's hard, but it's important.  Be your best you.  And have some more self-compassion.

10. Just Do It.

As a new adult, you will have fears of many, many things.  As an experienced adult, you will still have fears of many things!  Fear is a really good thing when it stops you from walking off of a cliff or sitting on the train tracks.  Fear is not a good thing when it stops you from living your life.  Learn how to listen to the good fear and push yourself to live a life motivated by love and passion.  Is fear stopping you from talking to that cute, sweet guy in English Lit class?  Go say hi!  Is fear stopping you from pursuing a career in food fashion? Close your eyes, get really in touch with that place in your heart that beats for your dream, open your eyes and take the first step.

3 Things You Can Do When It Just Hurts.

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There are times in life when everything just hurts.  Staying in bed hurts.  Getting up hurts.  Going to work hurts.  Talking to people hurts.  Existing hurts.  If only it were possible to power off until it gets better.  Unfortunately there is no exit strategy for the pain of life.  (If you are contemplating suicide, click here for ways to get help.)  So how does a person keep going when all they want is for everything to stop?  How do you go through the motions when every movement takes all your energy? This post is not meant to be a quick fix-it guide to depression, because there is no such thing.  Dealing with emotional pain requires many little flotation devices to hold you up.  These three ideas are ways of identifying your little flotation devices so that you can keep your head above water, and eventually, someday even find the shore.

 

1. Know who your supports are.  You might be thinking "I don't have any supports" or "I'm so alone."  Many people who are depressed feel that they are alone.  If you really believe you don't have any friends, family members, counselors or other supports, I would encourage you to think outside the box here.  Do you follow any depression support or inspirational instagrammers?  Do you belong to any groups, such as online gamers?  Reach out to someone.  Send them a text, call them, email, facebook, whatever you can do.  Any support is better than no support!

 

2. Create something and put your pain into it.  Creating is a form of catharsis (emotional release).  Use your painful emotions to make something.  If all you can do is make memes on your phone in bed, it's a great start!  If you can get out of bed and put the screens away, even better.  Draw, sing, dance in the dark, build, write, finger paint, hula hoop, take photos.  And the key here is put your pain into it.  Along with making something uniquely you, you'll also be creating a way to release your difficult feelings.

 

3. Find the place that hurts and put love there.  This is my favorite out of the three ideas.  I'm a big proponent of self-love because of how much it heals the wounded heart.  Take a moment, sit up straight, put your feet on the floor and start breathing.  Start to take an inventory of your body.  Where in your body does it hurt?  Where are the painful emotions residing?  When you find a place that is painful, love it.  Imagine yourself cradling this place in your arms, the way you would hold a baby.  Say soothing words to your pain as if it was the most precious thing in the world.  And if emotions arise that are too big to bear, start back at number 1, and come back to number 3 again later.

 

If you read this post and have feedback, I always love to hear from my readers.  Feel free to comment, but please use email to share personal, sensitive or confidential information.

What To Do if You're Thinking about Suicide

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Many people have thoughts about suicide or death at some point in their lives.  You don't have to suffer alone.  I've made a list of resources in case you are having thoughts about hurting or killing yourself, or if you just feel like you need support.  

  1. CALL 911
  2. Text "LIFE" to 839863 for support via text
  3. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a person on the phone
  4. Online chat with a person on this website