Jul 152020

While clearing physical spaces to make them more functional I, of course, started wondering about applying the principles of simplification to other areas of life. Learning. Exercise. Relationships. What should stay and what should go? What — and maybe even ‘who’ — is reciprocal and essential?

I got there by way of a fairly logical flow. Interested in the history and development of helping relationships, a friend has decided she wants some of my older conference notes and handouts. I’m not sure what she plans to do with them, but I’m happy they’re finding a second life. Most of the time I’m able to take a quick look and add them to whatever box I’m filling for her. (I send other things for other projects.) But this time, something caught my eye.

Setting a Theme for the Day

The program was for M.D.s, PhDs and other addiction professionals. Every morning and every evening we gathered as a large group; typically the morning speakers set a theme for the day before we headed off into varied study tracks. The theme of the day was the healing power of relationships. The scribble that jumped off the page said, “physicians who adopt a warm, friendly and reassuring manner are more effective than those who keep consultations formal and do not offer reassurance.” The speaker went on to show us data from reinforcing studies, acknowledging that while skills are important, the most significant factor in a healing relationship is the relationship itself.

Intense suffering can be physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. When in the depths of that sort of pain, the sufferer needs someone they trust. Whether a person (or an animal) is suffering from physical, mental, or emotional pain it makes sense that they will seek relief from someone who is genuinely interested in their recovery and overall well-being.


Seeking Relief in Trusting Relationships

I’ve experienced this from both ends of a clinical relationship and know that my willingness to accept advice is directly related to the degree to which I feel the practitioner knows what’s going on with me. As a practitioner, I asked a lot of questions to make sure we were on the same page. I believe that level of interest and investment — or lack thereof — is something we can all feel. I know my dog can.

Yesterday Alex had surgery. He had been droopy for several days. At first I attributed it to the heat but, eventually looked inside of his mouth where I found some issues worthy of a vet visit. Turns out he had some things that needed to be addressed and yesterday was his day.

Unlike one of my German Shepherd dogs, Alex LOVES going to the veterinarian’s office. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a girl gang created simply to fuss on him. They get on the floor with him. They serve up way too many cookies. They talk to him. His little tail wags so fast he looks as if he’s trying to fly. It’s clear that they love him — and he loves them right back. I’m sure the fact that there’s no stress associated with his visits helps any healing he needs to do.

I remember more from the conference. One of the instructors talked about congruence: when what a person believes agrees with their actions. Living ones values. Being authentic. Walking the talk.

That’s where Alex comes in again. We brought him home from surgery and set up a little space for him near the couch. It was great — until I got off the couch to do something else. Despite still being sedated, he insisted on going with me. He has such trust. He knows I’ll take care of him. And that he’s going to be OK. There’s a sense of optimism and peace between us as well as a serious lack of sleep for one of us. But the gift is that we’re on track to transform hurt into healing. And isn’t that what happens in most close relationships? What kind of clutter needs to be cleared away to make it so?


Hi there. It’s easy to tweet about this.

There’s a sense of optimism and peace between us, transforming hurt to healing. Click To Tweet

The fact that there’s no stress associated with his visits helps any healing he needs to do. Click To Tweet

While skills are important, the most significant factor in a healing relationship is the relationship itself. Click To Tweet


Jul 082020

Humans don’t fly, right? Sure they do. Who remembers learning how to ride a bike? Didn’t it feel like flying? All of a sudden, we were able to move at a formerly incomprehensible speed, leaving ordinarily life a dot disappearing in our wake. These days, biking is more like a cruise through nearby neighborhoods at a speed that lets me notice. And today’s ride was literally for the birds.

Moving the bike from the garage was halted by the presence of a hawk on the wire. And one on the small palm. And another from the side fence and one from the feeder. As one of the neighborhood squirrels soon discovered it was a hunting party. Fortunately for the squirrel, they’re young and not very good at it. I guess if you wanna soar, first you’ve gotta grow, then you need to get unstuck.

I remembered to be grateful. Let’s get back to the humans who want to fly. Click To Tweet

Not far into the ride I happened upon a large family (or two) of geese waddling along the hell-strip, feasting on grass and weeds. It’s the time of year they can’t fly: the new flight feathers are still maturing. So the walk. Or waddle. Sweet, soft little grunting noises and the sound of ripping grass stayed with me as I pedaled  slowly through a cool, shady neighborhood. I remembered to be grateful to the planners and developers who work around beautiful, mature trees. Another mile or so down the road a mature tree on the edge of a large pond looked like a well-decorated Christmas tree — only the dozens of “ornaments” were delicate white egrets.

Not Everyone Enjoys Using a Bike to Fly

Let’s get back to the humans who want to fly. Not everyone enjoys a bike. What does flying look like for you? How about soaring?

“Before I can fly, I’ve gotta _______.”

How are we going to fill in that blank for you??? And what’s up with the ugly little bird?

I took this picture at my home in New Hampshire where I’d been watching a mother bird feed her little ones. She decided it was time for them to fly.  Only this little baby wasn’t convinced.

I’ll never know whether he didn’t want to fly or he just wasn’t physically ready.  It probably doesn’t matter.  Somebody else set a goal for him and he didn’t achieve it. Well… actually….  That’s not 100% accurate.  He and his sibs “flew.” Straight to the ground.  The other little bird-os made it to the top of the garden fence.  And then higher up into a tree.  And on to the roof of the barn. Except for this one.  He was on the ground and going nowhere fast. And not at all happy about it.

I have made myself miserable by comparing my insides to others’ outsides — and by spending energy pursuing goals I didn’t set. Click To Tweet

I can relate.  I have (at least once in my life) managed to make myself miserable by comparing my insides to what I see others doing. It’s  just not good for my attitude or outlook on life. Even worse is when I expend energy trying to achieve goals I didn’t set.  I can’t think of a better way to stay grounded. Stuck. Unable to fly.

It’s a Combination of Science and Art

Whether writer, visual artist, direct seller, or parent… living up to our potential requires a combination of science (skills and information) and art (choosing the right combination and making them a part of what we do).  And as much as we’d sometimes like to pretend otherwise, there’s no magic bullet. When it comes to getting unstuck there is no ‘one size fits all.’

Some days my gratitude list includes that fact that my parents were busy and overwhelmed learning how to take care of me – otherwise, they might have had time to learn that teen parents are destined to poverty and failure.  Fortunately they didn’t know that. At the age of nineteen, they were married, full time university students and parents. Whatever their plans had been until then, they now had responsibilities to take care of.

Fortunately, their parents had taken the time to plant their feet on the ground and aim their eyes toward the sky.  It never occurred to them to do anything BUT to figure out how to create the best possible family they could.  They were blessed with the examples of hard work, goal setting and ‘stick-to-it-ive-ness.’  It took ‘early parenthood’ to bring these skills and attitudes into focus.

Circumstances – often unpleasant ones – help them catch fire, get to work and accomplish the things that matters to them. Click To Tweet

That’s the point.  Everyone starts somewhere.  People are born with unlimited amounts of potential, most of which never gets tapped.  Early in their lives, something or someone creates a spark.  Circumstances – often unpleasant ones – help them catch fire, get to work and accomplish the things that matters to them.

Commercials Pay the Bills

Are the tough times in your life fanning a spark that will grow into a flame? So many ways to get unstuck! Tell us about some of your favorites in the comments. I know I’d love to hear them.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this something, at whatever cost, must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie

Jun 242020

boxer dog faceRoo. That’s what he was called. Roo as in Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend from the Hundred Acre Wood. It was a cute name but one that did not seem a good fit for such a strong, muscular young pup.

Choosing the right dog name is always a little daunting. One or two syllables, easily fitting with commands. Easy to yell when you’re recalling him. And there are other factors as well. A long time ago a breeder advised me to “never call a dog something you don’t want it to be.” That both makes sense and reminds me of a cartoon panel in which two dogs are introducing themselves. One says, “I’m Ginger.” The other, “My name is No, No, Bad Dog.”

In addition, Alex was born deaf and  I found myself doing more than my usual amount of overthinking. On one hand I could call him Herbie one day and Winston the next. After all, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” right? (Favorite Husband does that. But he does that with all of us.) On the other hand, this little dog needed a title to suit his stunning appearance and oversized attitude. Besides, I didn’t think it was fair to ask the veterinarian’s office to label his medical file with a name sign.

My name is “No, No, Bad Dog.” Click To Tweet

Like so many of my writer friends I have occasional moments of brilliance — at least with names and titles. Typically I really shine when I don’t need such a thing. (Yep, that’s right, random titles just show up. Especially when I’m not working on anything significant.) When I couldn’t come up with the right answer for this one, I turned to social media. I posted the boxer’s picture on my author page, asked for name suggestions, and got all kinds of good ideas. Then something weird happened.

In addition to my social media survey, I had posed the question to three animal-loving yet dogless kids in my life: a niece, a nephew, and my stepson in Germany. Each of the three kids gave me a list of 5 or 6 proposed names. And guess what? Each of the lists had the name Alex on it. So Alex it was. And his name sign is a peace sign. Because … just because. What old hippie doesn’t like to flash a peace sign every chance they get?

Whether we’re naming children, pets, streets, or boats, a name represents something. They become a stand-in for the person, place, or thing that carries it. A symbol. There are other considerations as well:

  • how popular is the name e.g. will there be 6 Debbies in every elementary school class?
  • do the initials spell out something strange?
  • does it remind you of someone or something you’re not crazy about?
  • is the name or symbolism somehow offensive or hurtful to others?

With the recent concerted effort to improve race relations in the US, ‘offensive or hurtful’ has certainly been brought to the forefront, especially with many in favor of renaming military installations currently named for Confederate military officers.

Naming makes a thing more real. Maybe friendlier. Click To Tweet

I recently had an opportunity to speak with a large group about The Inner Critic Advantage. They enjoyed the concept of renaming “the thing in their heads” so it felt less powerful and daunting. Friendlier. It’s a bit like when the littles are acquiring language — there’s a great relief that comes with being able to name something and to communicate about it. (And I can’t think of anything or anyone that’s friendlier than my Alex.) Over the years, Alex and I have developed our own system of sign language: some obedience signs, a few from ASL, and some routine gestures.  Naming makes a thing more real — maybe friendlier. I think that has something to do with our system of communication. Name it. Claim it. Tame it.

Do you like your name? Is it easy for others to pronounce? Does it have special meaning within your family? Do you have a story about names or naming to share? I’d love to see those in the comments. Thanks!