View Post

Hair Despair

In the Daring Way™ we talk about wanted and unwanted identities. These are the personas we’d prefer the world to see; you know, instead of the imperfect, flawed humans we really are. For example, as a parent of teenagers I wanted to be seen as involved, compassionate, relaxed and all knowing. That was my wanted identity, as opposed to: clueless, over-protective and anxious (my unwanted identity). Of course, the reality of who I am as a parent is neither of those extremes. I fall somewhere in the middle… flawed, loving, concerned and at times, terrified.

Fast forward 15 years, and a more recent adventure took me into the unknown territory of a new wanted identity. Since I began to gray in my early 30’s, I’ve colored my hair for more than 20 years. 2 years ago I decided I was tired of spending the time and money, let alone dowsing chemicals over my scalp, inches from my brain… an organ I consider fairly important. Not only that, but I wanted to be that woman who loved her gray. I wanted to “own it”. I wanted the identity of that modern, beautifully aging woman who rocked her gray hair, free from the chains of dye and chemicals (aka wanted identity).

So, I announced to my hairdresser and my loved-ones that I was going to embrace it. I then spent the following 7 months torturing myself and everyone I loved. The more my gray hair grew-in, the more obsessive I became. It felt like a sentence. I was digging myself into a hole I’d be stuck-in for the rest of my life. But oh the praise and compliments I received… You’re so brave! You look beautiful! Congratulations! I wish I could do that, etc! Ugh, how the hell was I going to get out of this one?

If I stayed gray I’d be miserable, but if I colored it again I might be seen as vain, self-involved, environmentally irresponsible, or worse yet; insecure.  Let me say this again… I hated my grey hair. Not only that but I teach workshops on authenticity and owning our stories, I teach women about shame,  how to say “no” and creating healthy boundaries. Why on earth would I spend one more minute caring about the opinions others have on my choice of hair color?

Here’s what that epiphany sounded like: “I don’t give a shit what other people think! If I decide to color my hair until I’m 80, SO WHAT? I canNOT waste one more minute thinking about this. Where the hell is my phone so I can call the salon?” I couldn’t wait another day to embrace my beautiful brunette locks from that stinky bottle at the hairdresser. When I walked in the door, my hilarious and irreverent colorist called me over with her pointer finger and said in a tone of all knowing, “We’ve been waiting for you.”

I called my daughter and nonchalantly mentioned that I colored my hair. She stopped in her tracks, “Wait a minute Mom, you colored your hair?” I said, “Yes.” Her reply: “Well that’s 7 months of my life I’ll never get back.” So let me apologize right now to my daughter and my women friends who listened, gave advice and eventually gave up. You know who you are.

Of course I have absolutely sworn that never again will I succumb to those insecurities.  How many times in our lives do we learn this lesson? I will not waste another ounce of my brain cells on this kind of thinking (that is if I have any left). What could possibly bring me back to that insecure adolescent-like feeling at this stage of my life?

You’ll be the first to know when it happens.

Here are my words of wisdom for women and men of any age: First of all, offer yourself compassion. Striving to be someone you’re not, doesn’t work. Ever. And whatever you believe others are thinking of you, it’s all made up. We will never know. Most people are busy worrying about their own wanted and unwanted identities and therefore haven’t given you a second thought.

Years of personal growth will never completely free us from our concern about others’ opinions. In fact we should care, just not at the expense of hiding ourselves and striving for perfection and wanted identities.

If you’re willing to be vulnerable, please share about your own experiences with wanted and unwanted identities.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Happy fall!
Joan

View Post

Finding Connection

On Sunday I attended the 5K Boston AIDS Walk that finishes at the Hatch Shell along the Charles River. Years ago when I was a School Counselor, I’d bring our group of LGBT students and friends to the Gay Pride March, which took the same route.

I experienced the same feeling of connection that I remembered so vividly from years ago. There is something about a cause that gathers people (mostly strangers) in the spirit of love and deep caring that gives me the chills – the good kind. I believe the feeling is community, something I’ve personally been searching for during this period of my life. Many people find this in their spiritual communities, or they may live nearby to close friends and family, which creates organic connection. Of course, finding others with the same interests and values is key, but it doesn’t always translate to community.

There’ve been times in my life that I’ve felt that deep connection – my summers in Vermont as a teen, during college, mothers groups when my children were young, and when I worked for an organization or a school. Even now I have a tribe of fellow colleagues, though we’re all over the world.

These days I feel a bit un-tethered. Our kids are grown and launched and as a solo practitioner, it takes effort to connect with friends, family and colleagues. In this culture we are so scattered about. Creating community takes work, and for an introvert like myself, it can be exhausting.

I was especially tickled on Sunday to see so many people with their dogs at the Hatch Shell. It’s amazing how animals create ease between strangers. I showed the photo above to the two people featured and they both asked me to send it to them (I actually sent it in the same text, just in case they wanted to get in touch!).

So, my questions dear readers are: How do you find and/or feel connection? What does community mean to you? I have some ideas of my own, but I want to hear your voices! Please share your thoughts/tips and feelings about this.

Wholeheartedly.

Joan

View Post

The Space Between

This morning in yoga class my teacher talked about the gap between accepting where we are right now and longing for something different. He called that the suffering. I agree that the more we hang out in that place, the harder it is to find joy, to appreciate where we are and even more importantly to “be with” whatever is challenging. This is the space where self-criticism lives and where we often get stuck.

I also believe that the path to accepting what’s challenging is through self-compassion, and that this space of suffering can be quieted by simple practices throughout the day that bring us back to the present and quiet the negative chatter.

Before I talk about these practices, I would like to share a quote by Kristin Neff, researcher, author and co-founder of the Center Mindful Self-Compassion:

“When we give ourselves compassion, the tight knot of negative self judgment starts to dissolve, replaced by a feeling of peace, connected acceptance – a sparkling diamond that emerges from the coal”

I love that vision of the sparkling diamond, the reflection of light from the ocean, the sound of birds in the springtime – What image or sound brings you peace and comfort when you find yourself in that space of suffering?

Self -Compassion really is a practice. We are not raised to give ourselves love. Instead, our culture promotes scarcity, distraction, the longing for more – feelings of not enough. As a matter of fact, more than one of my coaching clients have said that they cannot even imagine practicing self-compassion, but here are some simple and very effective tools for quelling the hard moments of our day:

• When you find your head filled with negative self-talk. Stop. Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes and just breathe. Replace the negative message with acceptance of this moment of suffering. In a loving voice say “This is hard.” Notice your breath and you’ll quiet your mind.

• We numb when we’re hurting. Notice when you reach for the cookie, the drink or the credit card. Again, stop for a moment, breathe, and ask, “In this moment of suffering, what can I do instead of __________ to fill the void?”

• One of the key components of self-compassion is the recognition of our Common Humanity. Offer yourself the gift of remembering that we are not isolated in our suffering, and that all humans struggle.

Sometimes, the simple act of placing a hand on your heart is soothing enough. I encourage you to try it right now with closed eyes. Stop, and listen to your breath. You may not “get it” the first time, but that’s why they call it a practice!

I am excited to announce that I will be co-teaching a Wednesday morning Mindful Self-Compassion class in the fall with Kathy Elkind.  Link here to learn more and sign up!   http://www.elkindnourishment.com/mindful-self-compassion/

If you’d like additional information about Mindful Self-Compassion, check out these links – they are jam packed with research, guided meditations and upcoming events:
The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion: http://www.centerformsc.org
Kristin Neff, Ph.D.: http://self-compassion.org
Christopher Germer, Ph.D. http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org

View Post

Grateful

Everyday I take a morning walk with my dog Clover on the trails near our home.  We pass through open fields, past ponds and wooded areas. I love to breathe-in the changing landscape and acknowledge how grateful I am to live near such beauty.  Last week I noticed a dangling mobile someone had created out of bent bows.  It was hung out on a limb over the pond.  A lovely surprise.

Today I spotted this little guy sitting in a tree.  He’s made out of birch bark, acorns and two blue stones.  I love him!  I have no idea who the artist is, but I hope he or she continues to surprise me with what feels like little gifts or nods to nature.

I know that when I’m paying attention, the treasures appear.  I hope this season also brings you small pleasures to open your heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~  Joan

 

View Post

Stuck

I took this photo in Montana back in June, and feel just like this little guy stuck on the wrong side of the fence. In my work I thrive on a creative pulse. It compels me to write or think of new ways to work with my clients. More recently I’ve been art journaling and dabbling in photography… but I seem to be at a stand still with it all. Feeling stuck is an uncomfortable place to be, so the impulse is to get busy. That’s what we’re conditioned to do, right? When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

But this time I’m bagging the hustle to figure it out. I’m staying with the practices that bring me comfort and allow time for reflection. What I notice is the less I push, the more gentle the sting.

One of my primary practices is Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC).   This is about holding the discomfort in awareness without judgment. Boiled down, it’s changing the voice in my head from “What’s wrong with me? I should be able to figure this out!” to “I’m feeling stuck, and this feels hard.” It’s about acknowledging the difficult feelings with kindness and ease. It allows for perspective shift and growth, which is a more gentle way of healing. When I have compassion for myself, it also flows more easily toward others. After all, we have compassion for that sweet little cow, right? We don’t call him names for getting stuck on the other side; we just want to help him get back to his herd.

What do you do when you feel stuck? How can we support ourselves when we’re in this place?  Please share your thoughts!

Also, check out the website link to MSC if you’d like to learn more.

May you live with ease,

Joan

I’ll be co-facilitating an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion workshop in January with my friend Kathy Elkind. More to come on the specifics of that as we work out the logistics.