Be The Skillful One In Your Family

So, we’re here. It’s the biggest holiday of the year for a lot of us .Maybe you’re already with family. Breathe! I don’t have any great advice about how to avoid all the drama or hurt feelings or fights. I do know how to get through the weekend, though. christmas

This I know. The repeat behaviors, the patterns that you have didn’t start with you.  It probably didn’t start with your parents, or cousins or even your grandparents. Patterns in families go back many generations. It’s crazy when we look at our family tree, how often a pattern repeats, generation after generation.

You do, however, have the power to stop the pattern, at least for your generation and give the future generations some hope. A sweet friend once taught me, “You teach your children how to treat you when they’re adults, by how you treat your parents.” Ow! That one hurt, but it made sense and I’ve  worked on it.

This morning I got this lovely text from another beautiful friend. She said…”Spending lots of time practicing compassion and opening my heart to my family instead of acting on habitual annoyances and behaviors that haven’t worked over the yeas, so shouldn’t work now.” Wow!

Now, let me start by telling you that this is  a woman that I LOVE. She’s smart as hell and has a huge heart that compels her to love deeply and fiercely. She’s a force of nature.

As so often with this friend she shared with me exactly what I was already thinking about and what I needed to hear. Because, to be frank I NEEDED to hear that. When I think about difficult relationships in my life, I think about my parents and my family of origin. However, if I’m honest, I could probably do better at being compassionate and open with my ex and my kids, who I’m spending this holiday with.

Deep down, I think I do a great job at this, but since my kids have some of the same reactions I have with my parents, I know I could probably do some work in this area. The part of her text that really struck me was…”that hasn’t worked over the years, so shouldn’t work now.”

Yes! Of Course!

This is where I fail. Isn’t that the hardest paryt? Recognizing our own patterns is so difficult. I can pick out yours/his/hers in a second, but mine?

So, here’s what else I know. You’re very likely the most skilled person in your family. You have the tools. You have the skills. Or, if you’re reading this, you’re probably really interested in gaining the skills and tools to live a great life with great relationships. (Or you’re just someone who loves me and is interested in what I’m doing in life.)

When you walk into your aunt’s/mom’s/grandma’s house this holiday, act like you’re the most skillful pechristmas2rson in the house. Even if you’re afraid that you’re not, act like it. Acting right is a huge tool.  If you don’t what that looks like imagine what your favorite skillful character in a movie or literature would do. Not the broken one you identify with, the one that you want to be like.

That doesn’t mean you’re the person that knows the most. It doesn’t mean you should move through the living room, person by person, sibling by sibling and tell each one how to fix their life. In my family there are people with medical degrees and master degrees, neither of which I possess. They are way more book smart than I am, but I’m still the most skillful. I don’t always act like it, but I am.

To be truly skillful, I need to act like it, though.

So, how do we do that?  It means be present. Be present with the moment, each moment. Stay out of your head and open your heart. If you’re  remembering the snide comment your sister made at Thanksgiving, you’re not being present. Let the past go. Whether someone did something truly terrible to you or slighted you in some little way, getting over that and thru that is work for you and your therapist and possibly work for you to do with that person in the future. Delving into it in front of your five year old daughter/niece/granddaughter is not acting skillful. Nor is it fair or the recipe for a great family get together.

Acting skillful means taking care of yourself.  First, do what you know to do. Take care of all your immediate needs. This is where being present helps a lot. If you’re in your brain or being run by your emotions you may not notice that you’re starving and haven’t eaten since yesterday. Take care of your immediate needs as they arise.

Do NOT be a martyr. It may seem selfless, but it’s passive-aggressive and selfish. Don’t put off eating lunch so you can run out for your nephew/son/grandson to replace the charger that he left 300 miles away. If this is your family role, mix up the pattern by doing something different.hydrate

Hydrate. Eat. Rest. Pee. These are basic survival skills and if you’re making excuses why you don’t have time to do them, there is something seriously whacked about your thinking.

Eat and drink WELL. It is so tempting to overindulge. We LOVE to numb, don’t we? Eating your emotions around your family may seem like a great escape. It’s not. Try not to eat too much sugar or over-caffeinate. You won’t feel great, you’ll get sluggish and your temper will be short, you’ll be more reactionary and a lot more likely to say or do something to ratchet up the tension and drama.

This one really sucks. Don’t drink too much. Alcohol may seem like a good idea, but it’s another way of numbing, which means you won’t have the chance to be present. It’s also going to loosen your inhibitions, which means that you’ll be more likely to say something you shouldn’t-even if you REALLY want to-and you also may act the way you really want to with your cousin’s hot third husband. You’ll only hold your head in your hands the next day and wonder WHY!

Two more quick things about too much alcohol and numbing. If there are family members that get drunk and act poorly, just let it go. It is not your place to break up a fight, teach anyone how to behave or settle any family disputes. ESPECIALLY, if this has been your job, this is the time to change the pattern and not do it. Don’t get your dog in the fight. You are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior or feelings, unless you have a child under 16.

We are not capable of numbing selectively. You can’t numb your discomfort/fear/pain without numbing any chance of being present and being in joy/happiness/connection. It all gets numbed and even if it’s uncomfortable or ugly, ultimately you lose out.

So, those are basics, but there are some upper level skills, too. These are the ones we kinda know we’re supposed to do, but often get pushed aside. Get some exercise. Exercise will help your attitude, your physical happiness and will help your brain be less reactionary. Maybe it’s just a brisk walk around the block a few times today. Maybe you get to take an hour for yourself and get to a gym. Whatever it is, if you can get out of the house to do it, all the better. If it’s sunny and not too cold that’s even better. Sunlight helps with managing our moods.

That leads us to take breaks. We all need to take breaks from our families. That’s not weakness or selfishness, it’s skilled behavior. Take ten minutes, go into a quiet place (yes, there is one somewhere), throw your legs up the wall, close your eyes and BREATHE. Don’t ruminate over your rude uncle. Just close your eyes and listen to your heart beating, feel the breath filling your lungs and emptying your lungs. Be present in the moment and don’t think about any part of the past or the future.

Finally, back to openness and compassion. THIS is the weekend to flex those compassion muscles. If you are having trouble feeling open to your mother-in-law’s nit-picking and constant criticism, do a heart opening pose. Do a passive backbend by folding some blankets till they resemble a bolster and lay over them so that the blanket/bolster hits you midway in the thoracic spine. For women, that’s about where your bra hooks. Breathe. Imagine your heart opening,. Literally it means the space at the breastbone is expanding.

When I’m really struggling with compassion I try to remember what’s under the behavior. Under anger is always fear. Fear of losing something, fear of not being enough, fear of not getting enough. Mostly, that’s about love, but it can be other things also.

Your nit-picky, critical mother-in-law? She’s probably a lot harder on herself and doesn’t realize how hard she’s being on you. There’s a good chance she doesn’t think that she measures up and there’s a really good chance she’s intimidated by you.  Along with that may be a fear of losing her child to you.

Now, when our egos get in the way, we may think GOOD. I’m glad I scare her. When we’re standing in lovingkindness and compassion we can feel how much that must hurt and how scary it can be. We’ve all been there, right?

Regardless of how you feel like acting, try acting compassionate and loving. In DBT, it’s called acting opposite to emotion. Regardless of what horribly, sexist/racist/bigoted thing your uncle says, let it roll off your back. Today is not the day to challenge his long held beliefs. A different day, not a holiday, you can open your heart to him and sit him down and tell him that it hurts you and it makes you feel like he doesn’t value you. The holiday is not the time to call him a pig and is not going to endear his family to you. Don’t be the one that starts the family war. You’re better than that.

If all else fails, there’s one skillful trick that absolutely never fails. Sit quietly, keep your mouth shut and smile. If nothing else, you will be considered the zen one this weekend. Nobody has to know about the turmoil inside. Just smile and eat your potatoes.

breathe-onlineInterested in learning more about these skills and tools? I’m teaching BreatheOnline in January. It’s aimed at people who want to learn to manage their anxiety and/or depression, but lots of us can learn to be more skillful, right?  It’s full of life-changing skills and tools. Can’t wait for you to join us! bit.ly/1TKsxq8 for more information or to sigh up. http://bit.ly/2hllZmq for even more info and community on the FB page. Always feel free to call, 785-769-5412 or email, mel@ayogikitchen.com.

 

 

 

 

Winter Travel

17 hours of travel so far. Being stuck in In Kansas City for 12 hours due to slick roads is worlds better than being stuck at LaGuardia for an hour delay.

It’s been a rough couple of days. I worked a 12 hour day on Friday, which means I’ve had back to back 20 hours days, my dad’s in the hospital, I lost my laptop and my ride is having back spasms so this day will be even longer. 

Last night I slept on the floor near a baggage carousel that was under construction. I had free Wi-Fi, I was warm and because I snore, I pretty much had the area to myself. I got five hours of sleep and while I need much, much more, my back feels great and I’m feeling pretty okay. 

A laptop is replaceable. While my dad is very ill, he’s feeling better and will probably go home on Monday. I got a free Bloody Mary on the plane. No one got in a car last night for a slippery ride to the airport. No one is in a ditch. I’m not at an area hospital. I’m going back to my corner to catch more sleep and maybe watch a little Netflix. 

Tired and ready to see my babies, but grateful for the little things. 

#gratitude #kci #kansas #kansascityairport #winterweather #roadadvisory

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Soccer Office

One of the joys of working for myself is that I get to work when I want to, how I want to. Occasionally I have a week like this one where I had clients Thursday, shopping and cooking Friday, and The Grief Journey Workshop Saturday. I want on the computer much. Then I’m behind on emails and have to catch up on social media and scheduling the week. When I’m in Kansas, Sundays are family days. So, I sneak in an email here and there. 

Today my office is a soccer field in Overland Park, KS. My son has a soccer tournament. I’m feel grateful for fun family days like today. It’s a beautiful fall day. It’s sunny and 74°. 

I feel so much gratitude to have days that are so extremely different, days that are so fun and challenging, days that are inspiring and humbling and days with so much connection. It’s the recipe for a great life. What’s your recipe?

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Pizza Office

It’s a short week and I’m working from Flying Saucer Pizza in Salem, today. Seriously, I think it’s the best pizza in town. Yes, I’m drinking on the job and that is one of the things I love about my work life. I’m so grateful for the flexibility and flow of my life. I love that I can work at 5am at Starbucks, like Tuesday. I can work from my phone on the bus or, because this is my Friday ,at 1:33 in the afternoon at the bar of the nearest pizza joint.  While you may think that seems crazy, sometimes my most creative ideas come with a glass of Citizen Cider and s slice of portabella.

Will You Be My Accountability Partner?

A few years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. I was embarrassed. I think the first thing I said to my doctor was “How can I have diabetes? I’m a yogi!” Well, I learned a lot about diabetes and I learned that while I ate pretty healthfully, I also did dangerous things like go for long periods of time without eating. I was on a glucose roller coaster, which is one of the fastest ways to become diabetic. I learned how to manage my diabetes. I took the long glucose test and found that while my body produces insulin, during the first two hours after I eat, my cells don’t accept the insulin. I’m slightly insulin resistant. I learned how to plan my meals so I eat every two hours and I maintain an even glucose level. Through diet and exercise I basically kicked diabetes’ butt. 

At that same doctor’s appointment I also found that I was anemic. I’m one of the rare people who just can’t get enough iron from eating just plant protein. I absolutely hate how iron pills mess with your stomach. So, I manage my anemia with by making sure I get enough red meat, eggs and dairy products. Again, I was embarrassed. I thought, I’m a healthy person. How can I have this second disorder? Basically through diet and exercise, I kicked anemia’s butt.

Last fall I was in my doctor’s office again and I asked her to feel this grinding in my back, cause I was worried that I had arthritis. She barely touched my back and said “Yep, that’s arthritis.” Now, I wasn’t completely surprised because I’d been inbackpain pain and I could feel the grinding and I’d had an x-ray of my hand a few years ago after a car accident and the doctor deemed by hand fine, but whispered that there was a touch of arthritis in my thumb. I wasn’t surprised, but I was upset.

I called my best friend crying. The arthritis in my hand already meant I didn’t practice hand balance poses anymore and because of that I rarely taught them. How could a yoga teacher have arthritis in her back and keep teaching active classes?

Well, you’re probably way ahead of where I was that day. There are lots of ways a yoga teacher can teach active classes and manage her arthritis. On top of that, I’ve been vowing to stop teaching regular classes and focus on workshops and my private clients. I wasn’t there yet, though. I was indulging in my devastation. 

My friend called back. A massage therapist, who went to Chinese medicine school and gives exercise homework to her clients, she reassured me that this was okay. In Eastern medicine arthritis is considered easily managed, if not curable. Arthritis is an indication of instability in the body. Totally manageable.

You’re waiting to hear that I kicked arthritis’ butt. Nope and that’s why I’m writing. Cause I wrote this post about how I was going to eat well for the inflammationinflammation and learn to stabilize and manage the arthritis. You won’t be surprised to hear that I haven’t really been doing that. 
My pain has been relatively manageable, but recently I found myself dealing with it again. I remembered all the things I thought I was going to do and realized that when the pain was better I forgot to do the things that help with my long-term back health. So, here I am again starting over. I went to the Salem Y last night. I spent a bunch of time stretching and on the foam roller. This morning my body felt awesome.

What I know, what I’ve been taught and what I teach over and over is that this thing we’re doing isn’t a one stop destination thing. This thing, this life, is a journey, a long stroll. I forget that. A Lot. When I started writing this post a few days ago, my intention was to come clean. To confess. To atone. Then over the days, I’ve realized, this isn’t a mistake/screwup/failure. This is just life. Some days we balance it well and focus on all the little important things. Sometimes, one thing gets really big and wants to be the biggest, most important, birthday girl. Then we focus on her exclusively.

What I thouaccountabilityght might be helpful/good/easier for me is to be accountable to this healing. So please be my accountability partner. Please hear my journey, share any experience/suggestion/help you might have and maybe we’ll do a little bit of healing together.

If you go back to the arthritis post, you’ll find that I think you’re the best readers ever. The fact that I want to share the dirty, nitty-gritty details about my back, its pain and my sometimes resentful thoughts about arthritis and my healing means that I really trust and like you and need some accountability. Thank you for always being there for me.

 

A few months ago a reader sent me an email praising the blog and revealing a connection with our family, specifically my doctor dad. I was so honored and pleased by the compliments and shocked by her figuring out that she’d worked with my dad 20 years earlier. Somehow, I’ve deleted/misplaced/lost the email. I fully intended on replying. If you’re still out there, PLEASE email me again and I promise I’ll reply promptly!

 

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Breakfast soup

Shitake mushrooms cleaned, stemmed and sliced for Breakfast Soup. I developed this recipe with a client. She is a busy professional and one day only had soup in the fridge to grab on her way to work. She actually loved how she felt with a big dose of protein and veggies in the morning. It kept her till a late lunch. Her brain felt clear and productive. it’s the benefit of eating a lot of protein first thing. It was low-carb so she didn’t have any kind of a slump. She overall felt great! So we created Breakfast Soup, full of a great combo of super-foods. Ground turkey, onions, turnips, kale, garlic, Shitakes and carrots. I added the garlic with the onions first to simmer with the ground turkey as I broke it up and then at the very end to keep all the health benefits of raw garlic. Next time we’re talking about a bit of potato just to help it stay with her just a little longer.