your attention, please!

Greetings!

As I was reading the transcript of Larry King's show called Beyond Positive Thinking (http://www.mrfire.com/article-archives/new-articles/larry-king-spreads-the-secret-again.html) I found myself halting midstream to marvel at this simple statement by James Ray:

... Well, energy flows where attention goes. If you have a relationship, a romantic relationship, and you're grateful and you love him or her, you give them attention, right? If you have children and you love them, you give them attention. Attention equals love.

The whole What is love? question has been simmering on my mental back burner for a very long time. In my curiosity, I've gathered lots of opinions -– love is a need, love is a vibration, love is a feeling, love is a choice. Howard Jones sings, " ... maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be."

All are very interesting ... and none very practical in terms of expressing or experiencing more of it. It simply never occurred to me to link attention and love together in any meaningful way. Yet suddenly, it seems very difficult not to! Just for the sake of playing devil's advocate, I have been scanning my memory today for any instance where I expressed or received love in the absence of attention. I can't find even one.

Could this be why so many people feel somewhat slighted when their partner reciprocates their "I love you" by parroting it back in a flat tone without shifting their gaze from the television screen? Might we already intuitively know that words alone mean nothing without attention backing them up? And that even traditionally loving gestures can feel empty if they spring from habit or autopilot rather than conscious intention in the moment?

I generated some variations on the theme to see which felt most deeply satisfying and practically useful to me. Here's what I came up with:

Attention expresses love.
Attention demonstrates love.
Attention distributes love.
Attention engages love.
Attention is love in action.
Attention is love in 3D.
Attention is proportional to love.

I have no idea if any of these are really true. Heck, I don't know if anything is true! But I thought it might make for an interesting experiment: if I conceptualize my attention as the currency I use to express my love, will I find myself spending and investing it differently?

I notice that attention comes in lots of packages – it doesn't necessarily require my physical presence. My attention is in the birthday card I picked out, the flowers I had delivered, and the email I sent. It's even in the thought I just had of you, which made me smile.

And when we ARE together, maybe the most satisfying expression of love for both of us would be to give each other our full attention. I'm predicting that a little dose of conscious and loving attention feels much better and lasts a lot longer than rote communication driven by habit or expectation.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts or experiences on this topic, if you feel inclined to share ...

warmly,
karen
www.karenalonge.com

safety is job one

greetings!

As promised, here is the first of several articles inspired by the Back-To-School teleclass I attended with Dr. Bryan Post and Heather Forbes from Beyond Consequences Institute (BCI).

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I've already absorbed and integrated this material into my own internal database, so it may well be that I have diluted or contorted their message. Pop on over to their website: www.beyondconsequences.com for the purest dose of their profoundly transformational wisdom. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of their work!

***

Parents and professionals alike often operate under the mistaken assumption that misbehavior is a power play or control tactic by the child. BCI proposes a re-assessment of the roots of oppositional defiance: some children, whether due to trauma in their early life or temperamental disposition, perceive new situations as threats, and the fight or flight response kicks in.

Once that adrenaline rush occurs, the child is in survival mode, and higher functions stop; higher functions such as thinking about consequences and redirecting aggressive impulses into verbal communication. Generation upon generation of evolution (or a magnificent Creator, if you wish!) designed humans so that when we are fighting or running for our lives, all non-essential body and mind functions shut down to funnel every ounce of available energy to our muscles and heart. The thinking brain takes the back seat on this ride. Basically, the child becomes like a caged animal fighting for its life. Anything goes. He or she may appear frantic and defensive, and things can get ugly fast.

Attempting to reason with your child while her or she is deep in reaction to a perceived threat is a waste of your time and energy, and carries a large opportunity cost in that it does not foster connectedness and love between you. Remember, reasoning is a higher function, and it is not included in either fight or flight. Before your child can think at all, which includes absorbing the fact that their current behavior is not going to work well for them, they must relax. And before they can relax, they must feel safe again.

And so, Parental Job One becomes crystal clear: Create/restore safety. Which means no yelling, no accusations, and no punishment. Instead, we can reduce the stimulation level when possible, and increase their feeling of connectedness with us by deepening our listening, showing empathy, and focusing our attention on the answer to the question that can lead us both out of the danger zone: What is the underlying fear that is driving this child's behavior?

By taking these steps, we help our child to anchor themselves to our stability and protection, thus allowing them to experience the feeling of safety again. If we yell, shame, blame, or punish, we are only contributing to their feelings of fear, insecurity and danger. The time to teach alternatives to misbehavior is AFTER the child has calmed down.

It is important to know that you may or may not share your child's perception of what counts as a threat. Anything unpredictable could trigger certain children into survival mode.

To some kids, recess is a nightmare. All that freedom with so little supervision and protection! Adult equivalent: the downtown mall during Christmas season.

Transitions can be bewildering, because the line that defines the change in expectations is not always clear. Think of the differences between the rule in your home and the classroom, and between the classroom and the playground! Giving your child warnings and time to prepare in advance can help. It can take time to understand and master the distinctions and boundaries. In the meantime, it's stressful trying to keep track of it all.

The cafeteria at lunchtime can be sensory overload. I know I don't need an adult equivalent to understand that one! I can still hear the noise and feel the energy levels bouncing off those concrete block walls as if it was yesterday.

A substitute teacher might ruin the whole day, no matter how sweet and kind she is. Imagine spending months learning to please your boss and then a new one comes along with an entirely different set of requirements.

I think you get the idea. It's not a leap to grasp that kids have as much stress in their lives as we do, once we look at things from their perspective. Add to this fear and anticipation, and yikes, it's amazing they aren't acting out more often!

So to recap: kids do not misbehave in order to gain power or control. They act out after being triggered into an instinctive mode of dealing with a perceived threat: fight or flight. Their need in these situations is for protection, safety, empathy, and reassurance. Our guidance and education about how to handle future such situations will only be effective after the child has calmed down.

There is so much more to write about, but my kids will be home any minute, so that's enough for today. Stay tuned, more articles to follow ...

Warmly,
Karen

PS: I offer parenting consultations by phone and email, as well as in your home if you live near Boulder, CO. Give me a call if this sounds like just the kind of help you have been wanting ...

www.karenalonge.com
720 771 8915

a sweet delivery

My friend Bernice died early Saturday morning. Her last days in her physical body were not pleasant ones. She was restless and seemed uncomfortable, and the medications she was receiving did not seem to make any difference in her state. I guess sometimes that's just the way it is.

When I heard the news, I did not cry. I felt no grief. Instead, I immediately issued an intention to be open to any communication from her wherever she was. She had told me she would find me. I wanted to make sure I could hear her knock on my door when it came. I was eager to see what direction our friendship would expand into now that she had left her body behind.

Later that afternoon, I found myself standing in the aisle of Walgreen's, holding a box of my dad's favorite cookies in stunned disbelief. (Apparently Maurice Lenell still makes pinwheels in their Illinois bakery. I have not seen their label in almost 20 years, and they turn up on the bottom shelf in the drug store one block from my house?!)

I was immediately transported to a sweet memory of my dad's obsession with Fancy Chocolate Chip cookies. My mom used to make a special trip to the baking factory to buy him huge striped boxes that contained about 6 dozen of them stacked sideways in rows. He always stored them on top of the fridge. Which did not stop us kids from getting to them – we just climbed up on the kitchen counter!

So I am smiling there in the Walgreen's aisle, remembering my dad who died in 2000, and suddenly, I am jolted with the awareness that Bernice is there with me. I had not thought about her for hours. My heart was at peace with her passing. I had released her in joy, with no unfinished business between us, and was enjoying my day with no grief or sadness.

She popped up out of nowhere. Grinning. Triumphant. Playful. I did not see her with my eyes ... rather I felt her with my heart, and knew her with my mind. It was as if reminiscing about my father had opened the door to the other side, and she just snuck right through. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had found me, and that she was fine, and that her last weeks of suffering had made no lasting impact on her well-being. I laughed out loud with recognition and glee. Walgreen's!!

Can I prove it? Nope. But that makes no difference to me. The message was intended for me alone, and I got it. Message received. Zero distortion.

Some of you may find this story disturbing or feel skeptical. Some of you may find it comforting. In any case, you could still try to experiment with opening your heart and mind to the possibility of connecting with loved ones who have died. You don't have to know when or how or any other details. Just adopt an attitude of expectant curiosity. They'll do the rest.

They'll send a messenger – a bird, a song on the radio, a headline on the newstand. A book that falls off the shelf. A whiff of a fragrance. Something they loved or shared with you when they were in their physical body. You'll feel in your bones that it came from them.

If there is unfinished business, it's not too late to finish it. Write them a note. Speak as if they can hear you. Unburden your heart and mind to them. Ask for help, guidance, or information. Offer and ask for forgiveness.

What if the only reason they have not been able to communicate with you is because you believe it to be impossible?

What if they are waiting patiently, grinning non-physical ear to non-physical ear, for you to open up a crack of possibility in that belief so they can pry it the rest of the way open and tell you a new joke?

The way I see it, you certainly have nothing to lose. And so very much to gain ...


blessings,
karen

www.karenalonge.com
720 771 8915

beholding

I'm heading off to spend the day with bernice today. I have to tell you, so many conventional beliefs are being stripped away from me thoughout this process. As I sat at her bedside yesterday, I realized that my heart was just soaring with joy and gratitude, and that I have never seen her look more beautiful. She was wasting away ... no dentures, mouth gaping open, hair a mass of tangles. just skin and bones. So it wasn't physical beauty.

It wasn't inner peace, either. She's restless and keeps wanting to get up but she can't, and it upsets her.

so what was beautiful then? I don't know. Maybe her essence. Maybe the angels around her. Maybe I become a person who can see only beauty when I am loving her.

In any case, it helped me to drop some of my fears and insecurities about my appearance. If I could see that in her, so independent of how she actually looked, then maybe others might see it in me, regardless of the flaws I perceive in myself when I focus my critical attention.

Maybe that is exactly the key word here - attention. Maybe I was not using my physical eyes to observe her physical body. Maybe when we look with the heart, we see most truly.

And I love this idea, because it is my choice which lens to see anyone through. So if I am not seeing beauty, I know I am not looking with my heart, and a simple shift can restore my true vision.

silver linings

As I write this, a dear elderly friend may be taking her last breaths in the bed of a nursing home 30 miles from here. Bernice and I bonded like super-glue nine years ago when her son, who I was dating, brought me home to meet his mother. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just KNOW them ... how they think, how they react, how they feel ... with no need for words? That was me and Bernice.

When her son and I broke up, it was friendly, and had no impact whatsoever on our relationship. She and I shared an understanding – friends for life, no matter what.

For years I would drive out to her country home to visit her every other week. We’d laugh and pay bills and take care of business and eat lunch together. Early one morning a few months ago, her legs just collapsed right out from under her and she fell, hitting her head. When her home health aid found her, she had been lying there for at least 2 hours, blood seeping slowly from the cut on her scalp, body too weak to make itself get up.

After the hospital stitched her up, it was clear that she could not go home again. So when she set up a new headquarters at the nursing home, I started visiting her almost every day. (this, my friends, is why I have been slower in returning your phone calls and emails this summer.)

We would still laugh and take care of business together – but business became what was for lunch today, and what would she wear tomorrow, and scheduling her appointment at the in-house beauty salon because she did not have the energy to keep doing her own hair so she wanted a perm.

I watched as the weeks passed and she gradually declined. I’ll spare you the details. I have learned a few things from this experience that I think might be important to share, so here they are in no particular order.


1.) Little things matter. Smooth the sheets, fluff the pillow, fold the blankets. Bring a small treat or a flower from your garden or a sample-size hand lotion. Share pictures or a funny story. Bernice loved to hear about life outside in the world, no matter how trivial.


2.) Ask what they need. The remote or phone might need to be relocated within easy reach. The clip on the call button was too hard for her to squeeze, so she would hold it in her tense hand like a vice-grip until someone clipped it to her pillow. Sometimes she wanted me to comb her hair or trim her nails or take her out on the deck for some sunshine and fresh air. I’m not sure she would have felt comfortable outright requesting those things if I had not asked what I could do for her.


3.) The TV is often their only link to anything in the real world. That dang television remote would give her fits all the time – so many small buttons, and her arthritic fingers would hit too many at once. (note to some inventor out there – can you whip up a remote that only has power, channel, and volume, with BIG colorcoded buttons that elderly folks can easily see and push?)


4.) Help does not always come when you push the little button at the bed. So many patients, so little staff. Push the one in the bathroom if possible for a quicker response.


5.) Pain medication works best when it is maintaining relief, rather than starting from scratch. Ask for pain meds BEFORE the pain gets bad. Make sure they take the regular dose at the regular time whether they think they need it or not. It’s easier to keep up with the momentum of relief than trying to get pain back under control after the meds have worn off.


6.) Stay with them for meals sometimes. Get to know the other residents, grease the wheels of conversation, look for common ground, and help to plant the seeds of friendships. It’s easier for them if you are the one to break the ice.


7.) Get to know the family members of the other residents. My first dinner there I met the daughter of another resident, and we agreed to keep tabs on each other’s moms.


8.) And of course, get to know the staff! Learn their names, ask about their weekend and their family. Nursing home staff members are so overworked and underpaid it is almost obscene. They deserve nothing but our gratitude and empathy. They have hearts of gold and an undeniable calling to serve, or they would be working somewhere, anywhere, else. A smile or touch of thanks counts for so much. Be as kind and gracious as you can to them. They hold your loved one in their hands in so many ways.


9.) Please do not ever tell a loved one that their decision to enter hospice or stop interventions is a sin or a mistake! Their life is their domain. Your life is yours. The last thing a terminal patient needs is to be judged or criticized for reaching their personal limit. Please do whatever it takes to reach a place where you can honestly tell them that you love and support them in making whatever decision they think is best for them.


10.) If your loved one has six months or less to live, I have three words for you. Hospice, hospice, hospice. I cannot say it enough. They know pain control and comfort measures like no one else. They can move mountains on behalf of their clients, and they assist the regular caregivers. Everyone benefits. Please.


11.) Life is not as fragile as we sometimes think. It can take a while for the body to get the memo that the heart and soul are ready to let go. Cultivate patience.


12.) Make plans now, before anything happens to you. Take care of your family by having a will, designating a person to make medical decisions for you with durable power of attorney for health care, setting up a trust, etc. Grief alone is enough to deal with. Spare your family from also having to make a bunch of decisions that you could have taken care of ahead of time. Bernice and her husband Walter planned every detail of their memorial services ahead of time, right down to the hymns and the flowers. We can simply honor their wishes. What a gift.


13.) Let them go in peace. Don’t cling to them in fear or insecurity. Release them, and let them know they have earned a deep rest, and that you will be okay.


14.) At the end of your life, it comes down to only you. As much her family and I love her, we simply cannot be there all the time to keep her company. I think it’s a worthwhile investment of time and energy when you are young and healthy to make peace with solitude, and cultivate some kind of relationship with your concept of a higher or deeper power. We come in alone, and go out alone. It is helpful if alone feels good.


15.) You can’t take any of it with you. It all goes. At this point, a tiny morsel of her personality glimmers in her eyes when they flutter open ever-so-briefly , but she is hardly recognizable. Her body has melted away, leaving just a wrinkled bag of skin and bones. Death is the great leveler, and being in such close daily proximity with it reminds me that this is all temporary anyway, and that it is a waste of time and energy to get too worked up over anything.


16.) Touch matters. It reminds us that we are still have a body, and that we can make contact with other bodies. Bernice calms right down when someone holds her hand.


17.) Sound matters. It is often the last sense to retreat, so they know you are there by your voice long after they can acknowledge you. Keep talking to them. Don’t say anything in front of them that you don’t want them to hear. When you run out of words, sing. You know what will comfort them ... hymns, chants, even pop songs. It is the tenderness in your voice that they will hear and understand.


18.) Love matters. In the end, it’s the only thing that remains. When I showed up a couple days ago Bernice grabbed for my hand in great distress, telling me that someone needed to show her the way home. I told her to look for Jesus and her husband Walter. She protested that she HAD been looking, and she could not see them anywhere. I suggested she look with her heart, not her eyes. She found them that way, and relaxed into sleep once more.


19.) You matter. Your presence matters. To them, and to you. Spend time at their bedside, even if it seems they do not know you are there. They do. And you will face no regrets later.

20.) And even if you cannot be there, your thoughts and prayers matter. Scientists are becoming aware of what mystics have known for ages ... at the core, we are all one. Physical presence is not a prerequisite for connection. Tender thoughts and heartfelt prayers are never in vain. In fact, I suspect that being at the bedside feels so satsifying in part because it eliminates distractions and allows us to devote our full attention to our loved one. But we can choose consciously to focus our attention on them anytime, anywhere. Attention and intention are extremely powerful.


Life and death are mysteries. I don’t know that any of us will ever fully understand them, nor am I sure that we are meant to. But what I do know is that something goes on after the body is put to rest. Today Bernice could no longer speak coherently to me. The last clear communication we had was when I leaned over to kiss her goodbye on Saturday night, and I told her I would see her the day after tomorrow. She smiled and squeezed my hand and said, “Well, if I’m not here, don’t worry. I’ll find you.”

And I have no doubt whatsoever that she will.

no credit, no blame

(some of you may recognize this as a postcard for parents . I am reprinting it for the benefit of the folks who are new to my blog and linked over from parenting sites.)

When I was in college, I came down firmly on the side of nurture in the
nurture vs. nature debate. Tabula rasa and all that. It was so obvious
. . . good parenting produced good children. Simply hold firm to a
schedule and baby will adapt. Oh yes, I knew all about raising children.
Until I actually gave birth to one!

I took one look in his eyes and knew that this was no blank slate. He
came already programmed! Within hours everything I thought I knew
thrown out the window. Nurse every three hours? Ha! Apparently he had
not read the same books I had. He thought he might take a 10 minute
break after nursing constantly for three hours. Sleep several hours at
a stretch? I was lucky to get him to sleep more than 45 minutes at a
time for at least the first 2 years.

What an awakening. Brutal, as I recall. Especially since most of the
babies I had cared for in my home day care business had been easy-going
types who just settled down and took a nap at the same time every day. I
did such a good job taking care of other people's kids. I thought I was
pretty competent. I had even accepted some credit for their good
behavior. (yes, it is embarrassing to admit!)

Now I was faced with this kid who would only sleep in my arms and wanted
to nurse all the time. Although the inclination was to blame myself
somehow, it was hard to do since he was too young for me to have done
much damage yet. Maybe I screwed him up in utero?

Thankfully my mom introduced me to her sanity saving motto for parenting:
No credit, No blame. What your kids do is not yours to take responsibility
for. It is theirs. Take no credit for their 'successes', and no blame
for their 'failures'. (quotes added because often, in hindsight, failures
become successes and vice versa. Seems easier just not to label them
from the start. But that's a topic for another postcard!)

Our kids come to us with their own agenda for their life. This does not
always correspond to the one you would have selected for them. And it
does not always coordinate nicely with the agenda you have for your own
life. As you can imagine, this can get to be a real pain sometimes!

But each of our agendas is equally valid. The dance of parenting
(actually, of any relationship, I think) is to find a rhythm that honors
both life paths. This can take some creative footwork! And we can only
begin in earnest when we take a step back and see the other as our
partner in the dance, not an enemy who must be converted to our life path
at any cost.

So, can you make space for the single file path taken by your introverted
child even as you travel the superhighway of the extrovert?

Can you allow time for your slow-to-warm up child to adjust even though
you are an eager risk-taker?

Can you accept that your sensitive child is not just trying to irritate
you when she tells you that she hates the smell of your peppermint gum?

These quirky idiosyncracies truly do make life interesting once we give
up on trying to get rid of them. There is no one right way to be. One
path is not superior to all the others. Many spokes lead to the center
of the wheel. The temperament of your child is not a reflection of your
skill as a parent. Nothing good can come from comparing you or your
child to anyone else.

Respect your child's path as your walk your own. Take good care of
yourself and ask for help when you need it. Enjoy the places where
your journey overlaps with that of your child and you walk together for
a while.

As my favorite philosopher, Winnie-the-Pooh, says:

Rivers knows this: There is no hurry, we shall all get there someday.

just go around

I've been humbled with gratitude recently as I observe the universe finding a myriad of magical and creative ways to take care of me.

I used to lament my lack of intuition back when I conceptualized it as hearing an inner voice immediately answering any question you could ask. I am not internally visual, and I believed I was handicapped in some way when other people could take magical journeys in their imagination and come back with clear answers, and all I saw in my mind's eye was darkness.

But now I know better, much to my relief. My Reiki teacher, Laurie Grant, taught me that inner guidance comes in many forms -- auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and in my case, just a clear and untraceable feeling of knowing. Although my intuition is quick when I tune in for clients, when I ask for myself, it is not that direct or immediate. But it is reliable and trustworthy, if I am willing to watch and wait for it.

I can't tell you how often I have asked for guidance on some decision that I need to make, and within an hour a song I have not heard in years will come on the radio, and the lyrics will contain the insight I was seeking. or a random quote will come by email and present just the re-frame I was needing. or a friend will call to tell me a story that happened to him and inside that story is the last piece of my puzzle and my next step becomes clear.

Today while walking along the creek pondering obstacles to happiness or success, and wondering about the many different ways to handle them, I looked over into the water, and there was a big rock right in the middle of a little waterfall. And you know what? The water was not at all perturbed by the presence of that rock. Its flow was not diminished. It just went right around it, effortlessly negotiating the path of least resistance.
boulder creek

so often I think we humans get the idea that we have to remove obstacles in order to progress along our paths. but maybe it's just quicker and easier to navigate around them. if we see only one way, and that way is blocked, it might be easier to take a step back and see if there is another way to go than to dynamite the rock or try to lift it up or shove it aside.

what's more, the water, in time, will have its way with that rock. effortlessly, just by surrendering to the forces of gravity, it will wear it down and carve it away. no hurry. no strain. no force. just alignment with natural laws. hmmmm....

boulder creek

knowing no-thing

Is it part of growing older that you realize you know nothing?

I'm not talking about that saying that goes 'the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know.'

I'm referring to the knowing part of knowing nothing.

Let me try to explain this as clearly as I can. When I was younger, I thought I knew things. When I fell in love at 19, and then married him at 21, I knew that we would be together forever. I knew where my life was going and how it would get there. I knew what was important to me and what I wanted. When I had kids, I knew what they needed to grow up healthy and happy, and I knew how to give it to them.

Suddenly, I find myself approaching my 40th birthday this summer as a single mother who most days doesn't even know what she wants to eat for lunch. I am keenly aware of the fleeting nature of everything. All I know for sure is that anything could change at any time. I have a hard time answering questions about my opinions or preferences, because new information could come in and my perspective could change before I finish my sentence. When I go back and read articles I wrote years ago, I sometimes cringe and wonder how I could have been so sure about things.

It's tough for me now to make promises about the future, especially if emotions or feelings are involved. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, but did not acquire any kind of tangible evidence that planning for something consistently results in its occurrence.

As Stephen Levine says, "How then shall we live?" Being aware that anything could change at any time is unorthodox, and a tad unsettling until you get accustomed to it. I write my daytimer schedule in pencil, because one ring of the phone in the morning could reorganize my whole day. Back in my days of knowing, that phone call could trigger lots of resistance and thinking that things should not happen that way. Now, my thinking is more likely to sound like "Huh, okay then! This will be interesting." The deepest personal integrity I can muster up is to warn people about my ephemeral nature, so they can choose to hang out elsewhere if constancy is important to them.

But you know what? I kind of like it that way. I like not knowing. It's lots more fun than figuring it all out ahead of time. How boring it would be for my life to be limited to only what I can imagine! or even worse, to be limited only to what I can know or figure out.

I ask and then answer my own question: How then do I live? by embracing the paradox. by accepting that I can truly not know anything anymore, and nevertheless I can take the next step on the road to nowhere. or now-here, which I like even better. no more than that, and no less. just one step at a time, sauntering along a path that has no destination, and savoring every minute of it.

returning to love

You cannot restore someone to their Connection with Source by belittling them or by punishing them, or by being disgusted with them. It is only through love that you can return anyone to love. And if you do not have a way of returning them to love, they will always be a problem to your society. -abraham-hicks (see a new quote each day at www.abraham-quotes.com)

seems to apply nicely to parenting ... we can't shame or blame our kids into behaving better for long. they behave poorly when they are not feeling good about who they are or what they think they can contribute or accomplish. if we want better behavior, it's much more effective to look for ways that our kids are already making a positive contribution in some way, no matter how miniscule, and reinforce that by offering our attention to it. a kid who feels like what he does matters to someone is much more likely to cooperate.

in the absence of communication ...

... where do your thoughts take you?

this morning when I logged on to my internet dating service to confirm a first meeting over coffee for saturday, the profile of the man I was meeting had disappeared from my list of matches without a trace. yesterday we were discussing a time, and today, poof! no sign of him anywhere.

it was fascinating to watch what my mind did with this information. I was bewildered. it seemed so out of character for him to just delete me without any communication. my first reaction was to worry that I had somehow unintentionally offended him. then I mentally retraced our earlier communications to see if perhaps I has misread his character and missed some signs of emotional instability.

finally I decided that an ending without closure was not okay with me, so I dug out his direct email and wrote to him, saying that he was gone from my connections, and if that was intentional on his part, then I wished him well and had enjoyed talking with him. as I hit the send button, I released it all and prepared to just move on.

minutes later he responded to my email and told me that the online dating service was having technical difficulties, and that he had not deleted me, and that we were still on for coffee. this explanation would never have entered my mind.

so I learned something about myself today. I leaned that in the absence of communication or information, I will assume that I did something to screw it up. I suppose some people might assume that someone else is to blame, or that things always turn out badly for them, or who knows what else. becoming aware of my own mental predispositions helps me to take my thoughts less seriously, and to consider that it's just my tendency, and not necessarily the truth.

I also discovered some good things about him in observing how he handled this bizarre situation. And I am relieved that my character assessment instincts seem to be pretty accurate after all.

joint custody

if I can share only one piece of advice with single parents who lament having to send their kids off to another house, it is this:

parenting time does not equal parenting influence.

be the very best parent you can be when your kids are with you. make good use of the time they are away to nurture yourself physically and emotionally.

you cannot control what is happening at their other house, but you can absolutely control the quality of attention and presence you share with them when they are with you.

don't get caught up in arguing with your ex over hours or days of parenting time. stay centered in what is important ... demonstrating your love and appreciation for your children, listening to them with your full attention, and living your own life as a model by behaving in ways you would be proud to see your children imitate.

love transcends time and space. keep that truth close to your heart.

diving in

I have a feeling this new format might render my postcards by email obsolete ...

this afternoon I was driving past a school as it was letting out for the day, and as a green minivan approached me in oncoming traffic, I saw what appeared to be a mother absolutely RAGING at her son, who was cowering in the back seat. I was sure I could see veins bulging in her neck, and I can only imagine the volume of her screams based upon the contortion of her face. It triggered a visceral fear response in me, and I was safely protected in a separate vehicle traveling rapidly away from her!

Tears came to my eyes, and a lump formed in my throat... for the child, who could not have been more than 8 or 9 years old, and cannot have done anything even remotely deserving of the magnitude of her response to it... and for the mother, who lives inside that body filled with venom 24/7. all I could figure out to do was send a silent blessing to them both, and pray to whoever might be listening to send them help.

it's just so sad that there is still so much pain eating away at the love we naturally have for each other. I so rarely come in contact with that kind of energy anymore that I had forgotten it was out there.

that mother might be driving around actually thinking that her child deserved what she gave him -- not at all aware of the toxic emotions that are surging through her system just waiting to explode with volatility on the nearest bystander, innocent or not.

she might think it's his fault, and therefore miss her opportunity to change her thinking and change the experience of her life. she may feel victimized by external circumstances and react with rage to her perception of powerlessness.

she might think that yelling and threatening and scaring her kid is going to motivate him to change his behavior.

none of those thoughts would be true.

and all of them are a direct route to living in a personal hell.

but so few of us know that we hold a set of keys that unlocks the cage of our personal hell. one key that brings my clients astounding results is The Work of Byron Katie. she suggests we ask ourselves four simple questions which examine the beliefs upon which we have based our actions and assumptions and stories about how life is. check it out if you want. www.thework.org

I can't do anything more for her or her son, but you are here, so I will share it with you. thanks for listening ...