Courage

Which will it be?

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Not everyone is going to like what you do.

Do it anyway.

Not everyone is going to like what you say.

Say it anyway.

Not everyone is going to love what you love.

Love it anyway.

Now, I’m not talking about being an ass! I’m talking about giving yourself permission to be who you are which includes finding out who you are through experimentation, missteps, and trying things on.

You don’t have to know it all ahead of time. You don’t need a full-proof plan (there’s no such thing anyway). You only need to trust in your ability to pause, reassess, and shift course when needed.

And trust in other people’s ability to deal with the you you are, and the you you are becoming.

I mean, they either will or they won’t, yes?

We can fool ourselves into thinking that we aren’t allowed to say, do, or love this or that because someone in our life won’t be able to handle it. So we hold back, for them.

But it’s not really for them.

It’s not to protect or manage their feelings. It’s to manage our feelings about their feelings. We’re trying to protect ourselves from what we imagine we might feel in response to what they might feel.

Exhausting! AND entirely human.

Giving ourselves permission requires stepping into our vulnerability and as Brené Brown is always blathering on about (kidding! LOVE HER!) that means tolerating risk.

It only recently became clear to me that I can’t create anyone else’s safety. I sooo wish I could! I can contribute to someone feeling either more or less safe, for sure. Ultimately, the only safety I’m in charge of is my own.

The wacky thing is, the more permission I give myself, the more I step into my vulnerability, the safer I become.

So, I offer you this:

Your Truth + Risk = Your Safety.

Your Truth + Manipulation (in search of Safety) = 🙁

Which will it be?

Creativity

Your sweet eyes

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Color! ‘Aint it grand?

It’s a feast for the eyes, a feast I believe we need to feel our most resilient and inspired. 

(If you live in the northeast like I do, you’re probably starved for it at this time of year!)

We’re in a rental until the end of June so I must do without my fiesta ware that awaits me in my cupboards at home and I can’t very well buy a bucket of paint and slap a bright new coral coat on the walls. So, I do what I can.

I put orange and yellow bell peppers in my salad. I put beets and broccoli in my stir-fry. I drink from my bright green mug. I buy myself a handful of purple tulips at Trader Joes. I look for colors when I scour the second hand stores, one of my favorite places to take myself for a date. 🙂  Last week I found a beautiful turquoise cashmere sweater for under $6.00. Score! 

Not everyone loves the same colors, clearly, nor does everyone feel the need for a LOT of color. There are times when I crave a deep crimson and other times when a pale slate blue can make me swoon. It’s more about tuning in to pleasure, to our senses, to what our eyes want to drink in at a particular moment, to the ways our souls are set afire or soothed by our surroundings. 

We are sensory beings, after all. And, according to my fantastic coach friend Kasia, our eyes are transmitting 10 million bits of information to our brain per second, compared to the less than 2 million bits from the skin, ears, smell, and taste receptors COMBINED. Yow. That’s a lotta eye-balling!!

Your eyes, your sweet hard-working, endlessly scanning eyes are giving you a lot. Why not give them something lovely to see this week?

Body Compass

Not all confidence is alike

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Everyone is afraid.

I’m afraid. Somewhere inside, you’re afraid. Everyone you know is afraid, about something, some of the time. 

People living lives of purpose aren’t any less afraid than the rest of us, they’re just practiced at not letting it stop them. 

So, we’re afraid. Yay! HOW NORMAL OF US!

It’s not ALL we are, of course. 

But wouldn’t it be great if we could wear our fear around out in the open, like clothes? And when we met people and they said, How are you? It was just a regular thing to say the whole truth, like, Well, I love my kids and my friends are the best and I’m pretty happy with this outfit but I’m feeling afraid about my life and whether I’m getting to the things that really matter enough and I’m slightly panicky that my time here on earth is whizzing by and I just don’t want to die with my song still inside me. Thanks for asking–I’ll have the tuna sandwich on rye. 

I mean, as long as the person telling you they’re scared isn’t asking anything of you, isn’t asking you to fix it or carry it for them or even listen to too much of it, wouldn’t it be amazing to normalize it? 

Confidence is yummy. It can be a synonym for courage and also for certainty but aren’t those two very different things? I love this things Dani Shapiro said, “Confidence can create conditions of impermeability which are antithetical to the risky adventure of creative discovery.”

Me? I want courage confidence, not certainty confidence.

As much as I like the feeling of knowing, I’m even more excited when I’m okay with not knowing. When I can say, Feeling lost, afraid, insecure, I welcome you! Come at me like the wind so I can discover you don’t have the power to stop me because it turns out, I’m mostly made of space. 

Call your fear out. Call down to it to where it’s trying to hide or run the show. Say, Hellooooooooo fear!  Shine the light on it. See it as neither bad news or good news but rather simply, news that you are alive. Say, Fear? Welcome. Let’s go do some shit.

And then tell about it. 

Courage

What are you itching to do?

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We love quotes and sayings for the wisdom they offer because they express something we already knew but didn’t know that we knew until that moment. 
 
Wisdom lives inside all of us. When we hear it, we recognize it. 
 
Here’s one that’s pretty simple: Sometimes later becomes never.

That can be good, okay, or heartbreaking. 

Sometimes I’m itching to say something even though a part of me knows is not a good idea. It’s not about me being me. It’s about, OH YEAH ? WELL, HOW DO YOU LIKE THESE APPLES?!  If I don’t say it, later, I’m glad, relieved, even damn proud of my shining mental health. 
 
Sometimes I browse online, finding things that I love! Want! Need! I can feel the itch in my chest like little hands grasping at the screen. If I leave the items in my cart and go do something else, later, it’s clear that I didn’t need any of it.

But sometimes? I want to write a book and then a decade passes and I realize that I haven’t done it. I’ve tended to other things, fine things, even important things but the longing, disappointment, and regret claws at my heel like a lost part of me, slowing me down, trying to get my attention. 
 
I spent last weekend at a writing and meditation workshop with Dani Shapiro. She said many wonderful things including, “I write to discover what I know.” 
 
Yes! Isn’t that why we do anything—think, talk, compose, teach, read, wander, wonder, design, plant, bake, sew, dance, paint, take pictures, watch movies, seek out art and nature, wilderness, views—to not only learn the new thing but to discover the “unthought known”, what’s in us, what wants to come through? 
 
I have a story in me. It’s a book or a show. I’m not sure. But it’s in there and it’s going to cause discomfort until I get it out.

The weekend made something crystal clear: It’s time. Later is not going be never. Later is now.

I’ve been writing ten minutes a day. How will I make any progress in only ten minutes a day? That’s not my business. My business is to take small, manageable steps.  It’s a placeholder, an opening, a sit-up, a groove, a muscle, a habit, an answer to that lost or rather, ‘not yet’ part of me.

Small is key. Leaps are luscious. I love a leap! But small, sustainable steps cover more ground.

So, (you know what I’m going to say, right?) what are you itching to do? What have you put off, set aside, pushed away until later? 

Guess what? Later is NOW. 

Body Compass

Stay

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I signed up for a class in creating a solo show. I did Part 1 in the fall. Part 2 starts in a couple of weeks and ends with a performance. That I will do. In front of, you know, people

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. In fact, I did Part 1 about 5 years ago but, for a host of reasons, never got to Part 2. Now it’s happening. I’m excited. And also terrified. 

 How is it happening? Because I signed up. I pulled the switch. I bit the bullet. I ponied up. I put my money where my mouth is. I walked my talk. (So far, at least. I’ll report back in April when I’m on the other side.)

My assignment between now and when it starts (and throughout, I’m sure) is to write for 10 minutes a day. That’s doable, right? Yes! But when I sit down for those 10 minutes, I notice I already feel behind, panicky, like a total fraud. 
 
I do my best to coach myself through it, drop into my body, remember to breath, tell the truth, and keep going until the timer goes off. Sometimes I write the crap my mind says, right there on the page in parenthesis, just to get a look at it. It’s sort of horrifying. I cannot imagine saying any of that to someone I care about, let alone someone I care about while she’s IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING SOMETHING BRAVE. 
 
Sometimes I write the antidote right there on the page, also in parenthesis: Slow down. Breathe. It’s okay. You’re not behind. You got this. Keep those fingers moving, honey, just keep going. 

Anytime we choose to honor a desire, a calling, a pull from deep within, we will meet resistance. I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Resistance isn’t personal. It’s not a sign that you suck, that you’re not good enough, that you missed your chance, that you’re a coward or a phony. It’s a force of nature, like gravity. If you set your coffee down mid-air, you don’t feel like a failure when the cup immediately falls to the ground. You’re like, Oh, that’s right: gravity.That’s what it does. 
 
Resistance is the same. It’s reliable. It shows up when we show up to do the hard or scary or new thing. It just does.  

Our job is to not take it personally. And to keep going. It will sometimes feel like a harsh wind blowing you back. Your job is to keep going and how you do that is by staying right where you are.

That’s all you have to do—stay. That’s how you make progress. 
 
The commitment to stay is the progress, even though it doesn’t feel like it’s enough, doesn’t feel meaty enough, doesn’t feel like you’re covering enough ground. You are. I promise. 

Whatever it is you’re doing, stay. 

Know you don’t have to fix, change, or hide what is happening. Just tell the truth and let your experience bend as it moves through the way light bends, refracting through a prism.

Don’t leave. Let it come out the way it comes out–the writing, the dancing, the drawing, the conversation, the music, whatever.

I sometimes imagine myself on that final class walking onto the stage. I see myself standing there in my bare feet and a simple black shift with a beautiful drape.

I have a pointer in my hand. There is a screen behind me. I am looking at people who are looking at me. 

I’m having an amazing hair day.

Energy is barreling through my body, pounding my heart, numbing my legs, squeezing my chest. It’s just molecules moving at different speeds. I remember what Josh Pais says, whatever it is,  “Ride it, don’t hide it.”

I say a word after a word.

I don’t leave.

That’s how it works. 

A word after a word after a word is power,said Margaret Atwood (she would know). 

A poem after a poem.

A conversation after a conversation. 

A step after step.

Staying through whatever comes up.

That’s enough.

What about you? Where is your soul asking YOU to stay?

Mindset

Stop, Drop, & Ask

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One of my practices for 2018 is to stop trying to GET anyone to anything.
I really don’t want to spend my time and energy convincing, defending, insisting, working to get anyone to want what I want or agree with what I believe or see its value.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have preferences or that I won’t speak up or ask for things. It means that I am interested in noticing when I’ve left the land of self-expression and moved into a full-on (though often under-cover) campaign to CONVERT someone into my way of seeing things.
 I’m a passionate person. I can fool myself into thinking that I’m just being ME at those time, when what I’m actually being is not okay with YOU.

Look, I don’t always like what other people are doing–the people in Congress, the people in the White House, the people on the Twitter, the people in other cars on the highway, the people in my household. 🙂

Okay, so let’s take that last one–people in my household. I live with my husband and my teenage son so right there I experience the outrage of living with autonomous beings who have their own minds and nervous systems that aren’t always interested in me getting them to GET something. When I’ve tried to do just that, I’ve noticed:
  1. It never joyful.
  2. It’s never easeful.
  3. Even when it ‘works’, it’s not satisfying.

I tell you what IS satisfying—a deep meeting of the minds, hearts, and souls, talking to someone who really GROKS me, someone who finishes my sentences, someone who nearly leaps into my lap saying OH MY GOD YESSSSSSSS ME TOO!!!

But you know what else is satisfying? Knowing what I know and saying it to someone who doesn’t see it that way and then BEING OKAY WITH THAT. It’s one of those jolly mental health moments when I’m positively tingling with the basic truth that:

  1. I’m not you.
  2. You are not me.
  3. BUT WE ARE EACH OTHER.

Who likes being manipulated? Or argued with? Especially when the person arguing with you insists that they’re NOT arguing,  that they’re really okay with what you’re saying when clearly they are NOT?

I’ve been both people—the arguer and the argue-e. And I can say that they are both ick.

Here’s something else:

  1. What I think you need is what I need.
  2. The more I need you to have something (see something, do something), the harder I make it for you to get it.
  3. The more I think you need me to help you, the less able I am to receive the help you have for me.

This practice begins with noticing, the first step to really, ANYTHING. I can’t shift until I NOTICE that my current path is headed straight for the wall (or the quicksand or the ditch or the cliff). I need to notice that I’m trying to make the other person be different.

My first clue? I’m usually VERY ANNOYED WITH THEM. They’re being “difficult”–“stubborn”, “unreasonable”, “inflexible”, “close-minded”, an “asshole”. You could say that I am being the very same things in those moments. But I won’t realize that until I:

10. Stop

11. Drop &

12. Ask: What do I need right now and how can I give it to myself?

Maybe I need a hand on my heart and the gentle reassurance that what I’m saying and feeling is okay and makes sense.

Maybe some old hurt or fear or fury got rustled up and it’s trying to be seen so that it can leave.

Or maybe what I need is what I already have–the freedom to choose the next words that comes out of my mouth rather than be dragged behind my advancing Argument Army. La la!

What about you? Do you ever try and talk the people into your way of seeing something? It’s especially tricky when it’s something that means the world to you, when it feels as if you can’t move toward the life that calls to you unless they share your view.

I guess that’s possible. Some people may not be able to go where you’re going. Though–might it be worth testing that out?

See it your way. Let them see it their way. And carry on.

Body Compass

What is it time for?

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We are here not just to grow but to transform.

Transformation starts with a change so profound, it makes the old life–the one we had been living up until that moment, impossible.

It shatters it, or some aspect of it, and we are suddenly no longer the same.

The change comes can come from inside or outside of us, it can be ‘good’ news or ‘bad’ news.

We get fired. Our husband leaves us. Our house burns down. Someone we love dies.

We get married. We get a huge windfall. We have a baby. We get a new job. We’re transferred to a new country.

We grow older. We get hurt. We get sick.

We learn something new that shifts everything. We outgrow situations and people. We feel called to make a change: we quit our job, leave our relationship, sell our house, close our business, start a business.

Whatever the circumstances, these times can be terrifying. I love what Martha Beck says:

“Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis. I don’t know if this is emotionally stressful for caterpillars, but for humans it can be hell on wheels. The best way to minimize trauma is to understand the process.”

Beck calls this process the ‘Change Cycle’, with predictable phases like those in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to butterfly. (She writes about it beautifully many places including here.)

I love this metaphor. I use it all the time, in my own life and in my work with clients. It’s enormously reassuring to have some sort of map when we’re suddenly lost, when our lives feel unrecognizable, when the usual practices, answers and actions don’t work or don’t make a lick of sense any more.

Chances are, you are in some phase of this cycle right now. Knowing where you are helps clarify what to do, or not do. Explanation drives intervention. If your muscle is sore because it is weak and needs strengthening, a daily walk is probably a good idea. If your muscles is sore because it’s sprained and related ligaments are torn, following RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) is your best bet.

If the shit has hit the fan in one or more areas of your life, it may feel like the end of the world–but take heart! You’re actually at the start of a transformation! You’re the caterpillar in the cocoon, turning to goo. Yes, it’s a meltdown, but it’s the necessary death that precedes rebirth.

If you’re in the Imagining phase, it’s time to pay attention to signs, symbols, dreams, sudden inspiration–anything that gives you energy, makes you smile. You’re the mass of cells, the caterpillar ‘soup’ that is reforming to become something entirely new.

If you’re ready to test something out, you’re embarking on the Hero’s Journey, a dance of the first three phases that is bound to include trials and road blocks, retreats to regroup and reassess for renewed clarity and energy as you venture out again. You’re the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis.  If you’ve ever watched that process, you’ve seen that it’s hard, hard work. Little known fact: trying to ‘help the butterfly out” pretty much kills it.

Finally, if you’ve stepped into a new aspect of your life, a new aspect of yourself, you are now not just a bigger caterpillar; you’re a whole new creature. You’ve got wings and now you fly and fly until the next, inevitable, transformation beckons from within or without.

Isn’t that the coolest?

I wonder if you recognize yourself in any of these phases?

Is it time to circle the wagons, find safety and comfort so you can fall apart? Is it time to set up a notebook by your bed or on the kitchen counter to jot down any thoughts or ideas that intrigue and delight you? Is it time to test things out, gather the resources that help you navigate the turbulence you will undoubtedly hit as you set out in new seas? Is it time to celebrate your emergence and simply enjoy the view?

Creativity

When you knew…

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I was heartbroken when Mary Oliver died though I loved the outpouring of remembrances, the chance to read favorite lines and poems from people on the twitter.
The best thing I read was a tweet referencing one of her most famous lines: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I can’t find the tweet right now but to paraphrase:  Oliver chose to spend HER life wandering in the woods. Let’s remember that when some use that line to chase accomplishment and achievement for a sense of worthiness.
That line–or rather that question–is a call to presence, to pay attention, to be exactly where you are, which means open to the threads of intuition and inspiration and willing to follow them.That’s creative power right there. Every one of us has that creative power. Every. One.
It’s our superpower.
It’s our birthright.
It’s the seat of our vitality.
I read that a critic once faulted her work, calling it unimportant, tame, writing something like, “no animals were harmed in the process of writing Oliver’s poetry.” What a fucked up thing to say. So belittling. I’d put Mary Oliver’s ability to notice, to use her own box full of darkness as a gift, up against anything else in the world.
I don’t know a lot about poetry only that sometimes I feel called to write it and that certain poems hit me in the center of my body like the hook of a line cast directly from the land of truth.
One of my favorites:
The Journey, Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

 
Tell me, what does it look like for you to stride ‘deeper and deeper into the world’?

Insights

Everybody gets to stay on the bus

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Imagine yourself in a car with a terrified toddler. She’s in a full-blown panic about something that doesn’t really make any sense. The fear, for her, is real. But YOU know that she’s operating with a wee, unformed brain. She doesn’t have all the information–she’s two! 
 
She’s sure that you’re doing the wrong thing, going in the wrong direction. She’s screaming for you to STOP! Let her take over! That if you don’t, you will all be killed by the giant squid-spider monster made of splintered bones and chocolate pudding! 
 
What do you do?

Join the panic?

Screech to the curb?

Give her the wheel?

No. You do not.  

You are not two. You are an adult. You know there’s no such thing as spider-squid monsters made of bone and mashed potatoes or whatever-it-is-she-said. You keep going, using the old distract and redirect, or cooing gentle reassurance that it’s okay, she’s okay, everything’s going to be okay. 

Our thoughts are like that. Our thoughts are, frankly, like that and a slew of every type and age. 

We all want agency. We want to feel free and able and capable of moving our lives where we want to go. Sometimes our thoughts are helpful. We think things that make us feel brave, confident, unconcerned about what other’s think–unstoppable. Other times our thoughts are like the two-year-old, sure we are headed for deep, dark danger. 

There’s a metaphor in ACT therapy that goes something like this: Our lives are driven by thoughts. Our thoughts are like passengers on a bus. We are both the passengers AND bus. We can get stuck when we think we must get rid of certain difficult or dangerous or problematic characters before we can go where we want to go. But what if that isn’t true? 

What if everybody gets to stay on the bus? But not everybody gets to drive.

Growing, becoming, unfolding–whatever you want to call it–is wonderful and right and good but perfectionism can masquerade as ‘self-improvement’ keeping us on the side of the road forever. Just as soon as I lose ten pounds, get a bit more information, pay off this debt, finish this project, get the kids off to college, stop being so reactive, feel less anxious, learn self-care, muster more courage, love my body, THEN I’ll do (fill in the blank).

What I love about this metaphor is that we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to kick anyone off the bus or work through workbooks or extract promises or assurances from anyone. We don’t even have to use only one driver. We just need to match the task with the talent and carry on through the noise and chaos that will surely arise. (Though, for sure, some people are never getting the wheel: See toddler story above.)

A few of the folks on my bus: A bawdy, brazen, badass. A maverick, rebel, revolutionary.  One person racing up and down the aisles yelling WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. Someone else gazing serenely out the window. Someone passed in the back by the toilets. Someone else gently offering assistance. A person unpacking delicious snacks for everyone. (Someone right next to her trying to steal it all away.) A body jumping from seat to seat. A face pressed up against the glass, silently sobbing. Hands opening a stack of maps. A couple of kids fighting. Others laughing. Someone painting the walls. A person right by the driver, correcting every move. Someone trying to escape. And someone else recording it all, harvesting the wisdom of a thousand years.

What about you? Where’s your bus headed? Who’s on it? Can you make room for the whole messy crew?

Little Stories

When it sucks

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I am not feeling like those adorable gals in the picture. I am not sitting on a stoop with my besties, hinged at the waist in laughter, a beret perched on my sweet little head. 

I am sitting on the couch under a blanket with a dozen pillows tucked here and there for support.

I had big plans for 2019.

I joined the gym down the street. I signed up for a 30-day yoga challenge at a studio around the corner. I enrolled in a rigorous and challenging weekend course in NYC &  booked myself into a fancy hotel. La la! I was determined to start the new year off on the right foot!

On New Year’s Day, I broke my foot.

Was I skiing? Hiking? Snow-shoeing? No. I was walking from my office to the kitchen to make a cup of joe and hit the chair leg at, apparently, just the right angle. 

By January 2nd, I was in a ‘boot,’ ordered off my feet for 6-8 weeks. 

The next few days brought some mighty struggles for my son at school. 

And then this weekend, I got slammed with a stomach virus for the second time in less than a month. Like, literally, the same bug took me down–boom boom, twice in a row. Wtf is with my white blood cells? Have they left the premises? 

No matter how much I know that setbacks are part of life, I prefer when things are going well. I prefer when I’m feeling healthy, when my family is happy, when my plans go off without a hitch.

But sometimes, no matter how much organizing and prioritizing we do, no matter how much courage we muster, the shit just goes ahead and hits the fan, anyway.

So, what to do? 

1. Stay in the moment. This is what’s happening NOW, not what has alwayshappened or will always be happening. At some point, my foot will heal. My stomach will settle. My son will find his way.  

2. The moment sucks! Let yourself feel the suckitude of it. Our pain comes from resisting what is happening, yes. But how you feel about what is happening is part of what’s happening! Feel the disappointment, the frustration, the worry, the sadness, the irritation, the whatever. One caveat: Feel it, don’t FONDLE it.  

I love doing Kyle Cease’s exercise called, “And I love that” at times like this. It’s not to make myself LOVE what sucks. It’s to help me make room for it which creates space which allows it to move through me more quickly. The added bonus: the absurdity of saying “and I love that” to something I most certainly do not love can crack me up. 🙂

Here’s what you do: Be completely honest about what sucks, really let it fly, out loud, without trying to be mature or healthy or spiritual. Every few sentences, tack on “and I love that” to  the end of whatever you’re saying. If you try it, PLEASE let me know how it went for you! I’d love to hear.

3. Be kind to yourself–I’m talking GOBS of self-compassion for what feels hard. Know it’s part of being a human person. Know there is someone, somewhere, struggling with their version of the very same thing. Don’t give in to the temptation to compare your pain to anyone else’s. That is not kindness. We don’t tell the crying child with a scraped and bleeding knee that, come on, at least she doesn’t have breast cancer. 

4. Ask yourself, what would love do? Would love have me watch 10 straight hours of crap TV while eating an economy size bag of potato chips? Or would love be a cup of tea and a book? Or a phone call with a friend who will make those sympathetic sounds of care? Or a nap, Chinese home delivery for dinner, a pair of striped sweater stockings or a red beret?

Here’s hoping that your year started off much more smoothly than mine, dear reader.  But if it didn’t, take heart, be with the suck, love it, let it move through you, and heap on the love and kindness.