Ying or yang? Finding balance through your inner dialogue.

Picture Courtesy myepiclove.files.wordpress.com

I found a poem about balance that I wrote many years ago.  It is a great lead into the topic of finding balance and appreciation in all aspects of life.

sometimes the sun shines on my life, it makes my whole world glow. 
i love to feel the warmth on my skin, on my soul.
other days the rain pours on my heart and overflows into areas that are saturated.
every part of life needs this balance.
without sunshine, my flowers will not grow.
without rain, my garden would dry out and die.
i am grateful for both the good and the bad. 
those opposite forces bring balance, contentment, appreciation.
~Melissa Cooper

 It may be hard sometimes to find anything positive when unfortunate events occur, but this way of thinking Continue reading

Having a baby – you want me to do what?

A friend recently asked me to write about expectations of a man and a woman when having a baby. Well, we talked about expectations a bit in my recent blog, so let’s reframe that to, understanding the relationship transition with a newborn. When two people decide to have or are blessed with the joy of children, there is a 9 month delay for good reason. Even with adoptions, the process takes time. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility and notably the hardest job on the planet. When embarking upon this new life, it may be easier if you are able to prepare more than 9 months out.

Discussions about values, beliefs, and family rules are a great way to start preparing. Just like navigating the rules in the relationship, new patterns and processes will be an important aspect of your new family dynamic. There will be some things that are extremely important to each parent as your child develops. Having the conversations about what is most important to you, prior to pregnancy, may help alleviate future disagreements or misunderstandings. And then, there are those grand ideas you may have that just don’t work out the way you envisioned. Establishing open, collaborative lines of communication will make future decision making easier.

Written and unwritten or verbal and nonverbal rules exist in all families. A written rule may be – we shower before bedtime, no eating in the bedrooms, saying please and thank you, or no feet on the furniture. An unwritten rule might be something that children observe about the way to behave or what is accepted in the family. Children look to their parents to know what is right or wrong. For example, if the child normally goes to the grocery store with mom, but this week goes with dad, the child may inform dad that they are picking the “wrong” items. The mom never said Cheerios were the “right” cereal, however over time, the child observed the mother’s behavior and determined what was “right.” This concept is extremely important to embrace as a future parent. You have the single most important influence on this little person, more than any other person will have. Have you looked at yourself? Have you thought about the legacy you want to leave behind? Have you identified the issues you struggle with so you can change them, so your children don’t inherit those same behaviors, thoughts, or beliefs?

I grew up knowing that dating outside my race wasn’t acceptable. Nothing explicit was said, but there were comments made that implied it would not be accepted. I didn’t believe the things I heard about other groups of people, and was fortunate to attend school with a diverse student body who I came to know for who they were, not only by the color of their skin. This experience helped me understand how important it is to teach my kids to evaluate people on their characteristics, and to not pass judgment based on what I see.

The hard part was taking my new knowledge of people and weaving it into my family dynamic. The implied or unwritten rules just didn’t make sense anymore, and if my parents were wrong about this, I wondered: what else were they wrong about? It is the little things that are seen and heard, kids don’t miss a thing! As a parent, I know there will be times when I make mistakes, but I truly hope the legacy I leave with them is to love and care for people, to constantly learn and ask questions before they make decisions about people, situations, or their own actions, and to become responsible engagers in the world around them.

So, the day arrives, Mom successfully delivers a healthy baby and you ecstatically, yet almost neurotically bring your bundle of joy home. During this time Mom will be experiencing the effects of her changing body, a very different schedule, and responsibilities will multiply and change.

All of a sudden there are a million more things to do, you’re nervous, worried, in awe of this little person you created, and exuberant all at once. Tasks like who will change diapers or get up in the middle of the night are important questions to negotiate.

Answering those questions will help you both identify which roles each parent will take on. Some partners may not be able to take much time off, so mom is home alone all day. Partners, be sure to help mom out when you get home from work and be patient with the transition.

Expectations may begin to seep in and get in the way of this beautiful journey. The lack of sleep doesn’t help things either, and Dad may feel dethroned, or left out. Making time for each other may seem like the last thing you can squeeze into your busy schedule, but even taking a few moments a day to see each other – not just exist side by side, but see the love of your life, and remember why you got into this relationship may help smooth out the rough parts.

Some parents prefer certain activities over others, but a partnership is the most realistic way to go so both parties don’t feel unappreciated or overworked. The most important thing is to talk to each other. When one person in the relationship feels angry, overwhelmed, depressed, uncertain, scared, or any other range of emotion and does not share it, that is the beginning of a slippery slope. I liken it to a funnel cloud that in time will turn into a tornado, unexpectedly wiping everything in its path.

If you say it out loud, then you can do something with it. Counseling may be a great way to learn effective negotiating strategies during this time of great transition, even if only Mom gets a chance to talk to someone, it may be incredibly helpful. Many moms experience the baby blues due to hormonal rebalancing from 4-5 days after delivery until about 14 days post delivery. If you do not notice an improvement in your mood, you may have postpartum depression. Please seek help from your care provider.

As stated previously, parenting is a lot of work, the folks who do it on their own definitely deserve some type of award nomination. I mean — how do you do it? Single parents – you are amazing people, give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can. As long as your kids know you love them – you are doing it right!

Helpful websites for new parents:

babycenter.com app available for smartphones

thebump.com app available for smartphones

parenting.com

dr.spock.com

parents.com app for the magazine available, have to pay for the magazine

Please share your tips and comments on parenting!

Drawing the line, expectations and roles in the relationship

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only what you are expecting to give.” – Katherine Hepburn

Men and women enter into relationships for many different reasons, but maintaining them is the tricky part.  Recently, some friends asked to hear about expectations in the relationship, new rules in the modern household, and how bringing a child into the home influences expectations.  Today’s post will address the former, as bringing a baby into a relationship merits a post on its own.

In my last class as a budding counselor, I learned one of my most valuable lessons – Expectations.  It really is a loaded word.  We discussed expectations for ourselves and the client as well as how to be present with people so that both parties are less likely to be disappointed.  When you are present in the current moment, fully engaged, and remove expectations; a space is offered that nurtures mutual respect and encourages growth.

Think about when you are learning something new or engaging in a new environment.  Be it work, educational, or social; you try so hard to “get it right”, so you are all in your head, working overtime to use the proper procedure, ask the right questions, and deliver the correct results or behaviors.  This can happen in a new relationship as well.

Continue reading

Is Physical Attraction Everything?

holding handspsychology of attraction review

Do you remember it?  That moment when you laid eyes on your person?  The first encounter – when you were intrigued, attracted, drawn in.  It may be hard to remember what first drew you to them – or perhaps you remember it like it was yesterday.  Was it their eyes, their laugh, their smile, that smokin’ hot body?  The way you felt in their presence?  You may be able to think back and remember the exact outfit you wore and place you met. Christy Cooper recently asked, “can you grow to love someone or is physical attraction everything?”

Men are physical beings, so of course physical attraction is a key factor to choosing a mate. Both genders are initially drawn to each other by physical appearance, but is it everything? From what I have seen – NO.  Love transcends the physical body, if not how could we explain Continue reading

Dear Dad

I wish things had been different.  I wish I had known you before you disappeared, before things got crazy.  My memories are sketchy, so I don’t recall much.   There was a picture of me and my sister with you at the beach.  We looked like we had so much fun.  Others with you and that big smile, those kind eyes, the long hippy hair.  Mom said she loved you once.  There are the stories from the Aunts that loved you and said you were so cool.

I was 2 years old when Continue reading

Adjusting to Disabilities

Adjusting to disabilities is different for those born with disabilities and those with an acquired disability.  Also, whether or not the disability is visible makes a difference in how they perceive themselves and how others view them.  People will avoid people with disabilities (PWD) or treat them as if they are not an equal.  If you have a mental illness, people may not understand why you cannot perform certain activities or tasks, or interact with the community.  For those with a physical disability, they may be seen as being unable to do certain things, or limited because they are a wheelchair user or blind.  In both these examples other people’s perceptions are what limits the individual before they even begin to deal with their own understanding of their disability.  People with a high level self-esteem, good support system, more economic resources and social supports have a better experience and are less likely to face the same barriers as those who do not.   The focus of community is about the PWD’s right to engage in and maintain gainful employment and access to resources.  This creates barriers in different communities that feel if a person with a disability has to work, then the family is not performing their duty in the family to take care of them.  Working can have such a positive impact on a PWD.  It allows for social interaction, the ability to learn new skills, build self-esteem, make their own money, and be independent.  Understanding how culture plays a part in disability will go a long way in helping the client and their family members support their loved one. Continue reading

Managing Stress

Whats the old adage about moderation?  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  That applies to stress as well. Stress can be a good thing, it can motivate you to get things done, to push harder, to go past limits you thought possible – which leads to growth.  It also helps you avoid danger and keeps you alert.  Then there are the times when stress isn’t such a good thing. There may be times it feels like you have no control over the stressors in your life. This may be true to a point.  You may have no control over what comes your way, but you do have control over the most powerful determinant of how stress manifests in your life – how you respond. Continue reading

Creating a Vision for your Future

One of my favorite exercises in the substance abuse IOP group therapy sessions was Life Mapping. My supervisor used to remind our clients that the work we were doing was great work for all people, including folks with addictions. It was just plain old, good therapy! This exercise helps clients create a clear picture for what they want in their lives. It grew out of some work one of my previous supervisors had done with a Covey leadership development class.

So, how does it work? First, you identify your core values. Examples may include family, career, spirituality, integrity, health, education and sobriety. Then you identify how your current behaviors go against those values. How are the choices and decisions I make dishonoring my core values? For example, if family is your value, perhaps your current behavior is isolating you from your family or causing arguments. Or for career, perhaps your lack of follow through or completion of deadlines is inhibiting your career growth. Here is a worksheet to get you started: VALUES WORKSHEET

Next, you identify what outcomes you would like to see for each value. What do you want in your life? For family, perhaps it is a closer relationship with loved ones, for spirituality maybe it means a closer relationship with God, and for health perhaps your outcome would be feeling well, reducing risk factors or unhealthy behaviors.

Next, you identify the tasks associated with each outcome. These would be the specific behaviors or actions that are critical to accomplishing your outcomes and staying true to your core values.

Examples of tasks for health may be: eat 5 small meals a day, count my calories, exercise 3 days per week for 30 minutes, practice meditation 5 minutes each day.

For family, some examples might include: eat dinner together every night at 6pm, spend time as a family outside the home 2 times per month for at least 2 hours doing an activity in which we are engaged with each other (not going to a movie), implement a date night on Fridays with my spouse.

For career, tasks may include: get to work 5 minutes early each day, ask for additional training, meet with my supervisor to develop a development plan. I created this worksheet: LIFE MAPPING WORKSHEET to assist you in Creating your Vision.

The next phase is consolidating your Life Map into a Vision Statement. This one can take some time, and I recommend doing a talk-through-walk-through first.

Pretend I am an old friend and have not seen you for a year, and I see you at the supermarket and say, “Hey there! I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you? Tell me what’s new in your life?” Using the information you gathered about what outcomes you want for your life from your Life Map, speak as though you are currently living the life you have envisioned in your diagram. Use the tasks and outcomes to describe the changes that have occurred in your life. An example may be something like this:

Gosh, Missy, so much has happened! Life is great! I feel calm and peaceful, my family relationships are loving and connected and we spend time together having fun and learning. My body is strong and ready for each new day that comes. My career has moved to a new level where I feel proud and motivated each day. My relationship with God grows each day through prayer and meditation.

As I blogged about before, creating clarity is the beginning of the process of change. Iyanla Vanzant said in a speech she gave on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Your eyes adjust to the amount of deficiency present.” Think about that.

Read it again….Your eyes….adjust….to the amount of deficiency present.

So you get used to deciphering life through fuzzy eyes, you adapt and compensate, and inevitably miss things. If our vision for our lives is unclear, or we cannot even see an outcome that we would like or need, than we begin to believe that the possibility of our hopes and dreams are unachievable.

The deficiency may be the story we tell ourselves, the doubts we allow others to speak into us, or the insecurities that stifle us. Sometimes we let others talk us into or out of what we truly want and sometimes we do not need any help setting ourselves back. We may even begin to believe that the dreams we have are unrealistic. How will you nurture and foster your dreams to create a vision for your future?

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?” ~ Henry Ford

Being thankful in the face of adversity

Thank you.  I appreciate it.  I appreciate you.  Gracia.  Many thanks.  That meant a lot to me.  You helped me more than you know.  You rock!

These are all ways to express gratitude for the gifts large and small that come upon us in our lives.  Thanksgiving is a good day to celebrate your life and revel in the blessings that you are surrounded with each day.  It may be difficult to find something to be thankful for sometimes, especially for those that may be managing a tragedy such as a job loss, financial troubles, mental health concerns, illness, the death of a loved one, or other misfortunes that come around in life.  Even in these most difficult times, finding the things that make you smile, that offer you even moments of joy in your life may build the momentum to bring you out of the life situation you may be in.  There is a saying, “Choose your attitude”  and, “live your  life with intention.” Continue reading

Little things matter

Most days we float around in our own little world having no idea the impact we can have on others. From the passing smile to a stranger, the phone call to a customer, the angry eyes we give a loved one when they annoy us, even having a chance to vote, calling a friend or family member to catch up or giving our best effort towards activities we are a part of. These small things can make a big difference. In this big world that constantly tells us through media, politics, and consumerism that we are not enough, that we need something or someone to be of value, we may start to question how our involvement could matter. The American culture is one of individualistic mindsets. We don’t know our neighbors, we are too busy to build deep relationships with our coworkers – who may be competition, even our kids spend less time cultivating face to face relationships and instead spend time online or texting. The value of face to face connections, of a hug, smile or handshake cannot be underestimated. Continue reading