As a client and I were recently working on wrapping up her course of therapy she mentioned the well known words of Nanny McPhee about her time in therapy. “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.” As her therapist sitting on the chair across from the couch, the words were very touching and very true. These words have stuck with me. Leaving me with a sense of pride that I was able to be the one to hold space for her, while she did the work she was so resistant and fearful of.
New Year…New You? …Not so Fast!
If you are like millions of Americans, the past few weeks have been a mix of recovering from the merriment/madness of the holidays & contemplating change.
We all know the drill, January 1st rolls around & gets us thinking about what is and is not working in our lives. If only for a few days, making a commitment towards positive change seems like an obtainable goal.
For many, this positive change involves losing weight. Every January 1st, I leap onto the weight loss band wagon, only to be derailed at the first sight of cheese & wine.
So why is it so difficult to develop & maintain healthier habits?
By now, the “how’ is no mystery. I’m no rocket scientist and I really really hate math, but I understand that my calories out have to be less than calories in. Nevertheless, study after study indicates that while many succeed in in losing some weight, the long term results are usually poor. Why is it so hard then to stick to a healthy eating plan and a reasonable exercise regime? I’m a mom, so I could give you a thousand reasons…stress, time, lack of planning, picky children, wine. If you are R.E.A.L. Tired Housewife, the reasons truly are endless.
So this year, I am taking a different approach to better health. It’s one that I actually know quite well but have never thought to apply to the areas of weight and wellness. (Talk about a light bulb moment!) It’s no secret that I constantly sing the praises of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I am so passionate about this approach to maintaining one’s mental health, that I use it as my primary strategy when working with clients of all ages.
So it stands to reason that if faulty thinking patterns contribute a host of mental health problems, it might also be the reason they remain unable to finally achieve the healthy lifestyle they so desperately aspire to.
I would suspect that it is because knowing what to do & knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. Getting ourselves to create new habits depends largely on the silent conversation we have with ourselves: our thoughts.
Since I would never ask a client to do something I would not be willing to do myself, the ideas that come next are going to be tested first and foremost on me. I’ll agree to be my own guinea pig.
Let me state for the record that I am not focusing on losing weight. I have wasted way too much of my precious life focusing on a number on a scale. No longer a slave to the scale, what matters to me most is how I feel on a daily basis. So the goal is: be a little less tired real housewife.
I’ll first work to identify destructive thoughts keeping me from achieving my wellness goals. Once those are identified, I will develop strategies to actively challenge and change those thoughts into more helpful ones. I ask clients to do this all of the time and I am their accountability coach. You then, friends & readers, will be my accountability guide.
So what does this actually look like in real Mom Life? I’ll create cards on a ring to record new, more helpful thoughts & keep these cards in a prominent place..i.e. kitchen, car, office, or any place where I tend to lose focus and motivation. If you have children, (that’s basically everywhere and anywhere). Think of it almost as a portable vision board of words!
Here are a few examples of thoughts I plan to tackle:
- Old: I have tried eating healthier before and always fall back into my old patterns.
NEW: Changing my thoughts has led to great gains in mental health for me and this time I’m applying those techniques to wellness.
- Old: My family is full of picky eaters and they won’t be supportive of this new way of eating.
NEW: My family has supported my goals in the past and will be inspired when I succeed.
- I will have to be much less social if I change my eating & drinking patterns, and being with friends is a huge part of my life that I am not willing to give up.
NEW: I can & will still go out with friends, but I can plan what I will eat/drink in advance & not waiver from that. I will surround myself with people who have like-minded goals and bring out the best in me by supporting my positive changes.
As I say often, the goal is progress, not perfection. I know I won’t be perfect on this journey to wellness, but I promise to keep you posted on my progress and cheer you on if you too decide to make 2018 a year of change.
Today, I am just now coming up for air. Just now feel like I am getting my life back to normal. A new normal. After every storm there is a new normal. Whatever normal really means.
After taking life one step at a time I am just now coming up for air.
After being woken by the storm I am just now coming up for air.
The last few months have been a blur of events that I am just now even beginning to process. While in the middle of the storm I was emotionally paralyzed by my efforts to stay strong and show up. Two things that being a mom has taught me are essential to keep from allowing the storms in life to sweep me completely off my feet.
July 4th – I was awoken by a summer storm rolling in to discover my father was in ICU hundreds of miles away as me and my boys were on vacation. Within a few days the label of Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma was cemented in my brain. FEAR, panic, bargaining, HOPE all set in at the same time.
July 24th – I became an Aunt for the first time. I witnessed my sister’s life grow fuller as she held her first born. With new life comes HOPE, joy and endearing love.
August 3rd – 19th – Aways a whirlwind in my home since both of my boys celebrate birthdays. I have 16 precious days with my Irish twins being the same age, this year both being 7 until my big boy hit 8. This means each getting their special family day to dictate where they want to celebrate. I am always relieved when they request family fun at any local establishment that comes with a side of Pinot Gorgio. Then comes the big friend party at whichever hot, stinky, germ invested party venue they choose. This year was another round at the local trampoline park topped off with a “Chill” cake and “poop” cupcakes. (the summer of Emojis for sure, is “poop” a feeling)
August 20th – My father peacefully went to heaven after being in my home for hospice for a short 48 hours. disbelief, shock, heartbreak, sadness, PEACE.
August 21st – First day of school. 2nd & 3rd Grade here we come! relief, sadness, anxiety, excitement.
This is where it all goes fuzzy like the old TV’s with the black and white static when no signal is read. This is where I slipped underwater into very unchartered territory. My father was gone. From feeling the ‘best‘ he has felt in a long time to “hitting the bed” as one doctor referred to him in just a matter of weeks. Typing this feels so unreal, its not true, there is no way. Typing this makes my heart race and that lump in my throat to pulse.
This is still so UNREAL.
The days that immediately followed were full of family and friends coming to our side. Great friends parading in with casseroles, muffins and hugs, oh…and wine. Friends I would have least expected called, texted, and showed up at my door with offerings of love. My home was filled with flowers, but the bed my Dad once lay in was now empty. Insert the frantic picture sorting and song picking that is requested by the local funeral home and a run to the mall for clothes suitable for a now 7 and 8 year old to wear to their Grandfather’s funeral.
He was gone. So UNREAL
There is no coming up for air when you feel like the waves are constantly engulfing you. There is no coming up for air when you are trying to keep your kids first week of school as normal as it can be while you read them “Grandpa Went to Heaven” for bedtime and console them as they are hit by the waves that Grandpa is not coming back. There is no coming up for air as you lay in bed staring at the clock as the nights tick away. There is no coming up for air when you are trying to hide the tears that uncontrollably pour from your eyes.
There is no coming up for air when the strongest women you know just lost her husband of 45 years, your husband just lost the most of a father he has ever had, your children just lost one of the best man in their life, your days old nephew will never know how amazing his grandfather was.
What does coming up for air feel like? Surreal. What once was, is no longer. Family has all gone home, the casseroles have stopped coming, the flowers have been put on the curb. Surreal is just when your heart begins to ache there is a subtle reminder that he is still here. It is when guilt hits you because it has been a few hours too long you have not missed him, yet my heart tells me it is okay to refocus on what is before me. Surreal is when you hit quick dial in the morning to call him as you would while driving to work so you call your Bestie instead. Unreal is when you go to mom’s house and your mind wants you believe he will be home any minute. When you go to the Ranch, but he is not here.
Coming up for air is unchartered territory. You cannot prepare your self for your parent to pass away especially a daddy’s girl losing her father.
My life changed the day my Dad passed. My life will never be the same, I will never be the same, my family will never be the same. Now that we are starting to catch our breath we find small ways to talk about Papa as often as we can. Just a couple days ago as we saw a boat being pulled down the street Cooper asked when we can go to the lake again. Papa loved family day at the lake. Whenever we see a John Deere tractor we wave to Papa. When Papa’s dog proudly brought a dead rat to the back door we laughed knowing that Papa was snickering at his proud catch.
Coming up for air feels like I can breath again, yet moments still take the breath out of me. There are no clear definitions of how to grive so navigating this unchartered territory is scary without my Dad. There are no right ways, no certain time lines, no ending really. Grieving my father is now part of me as I try to keep breathing. Now I have more reason to live in such a way others see him in me.
I Love you Daddy.
How many more ? How many more precious souls will be lost before we collectively seek to understand and heal the underlying causes of mass murder in America?
As a mental health professional, I wish I could say I was hopeful about finding a solution but unfortunately, I am not. If we did not make this horrific problem a priority the day 26 innocent children & teachers were senselessly slaughtered in their classrooms, I fear we never will.
So nice to hear from someone who recently went through this big transition. She shares what helped her the most when it was time to go. Written by my Summer intern Karley Knight who spent the first half of her summer studying abroad in Ireland and the second half helping me get more “put together.” She offers parents a few hints as to what your budding college freshman really need from you as they get closer to move in day.
The big transition…
Consider two fruits- apples and bananas. They’re both fruits, nutritional, and have the same goal- to fulfill hunger. However, they differ in crucial ways. They’re different colors, taste differently, have different benefits, and so on. Compare the similarities and differences of apples and bananas to high school and college. Both high school and college are forms of schooling, have the same goal of educating students, and so on. However, they also have defining differences that make them seem like two completely different concepts.
Almost every high schooler can’t wait until they can finally escape the immaturity and monotony of high school to flee to the magical idea of college. They’ve enviously eyed college students and their wild parties, autonomy, and seemingly glamorous lifestyle from the confines of their dreary hallways for the last four years, and they’re more than ready to join the cool crowd. Although dreaming about their idealistic future can be exhilarating, their excitement can be easily squashed when they realize the other, more sobering factors that go along with leaving home. They have to think about the less fun realities of college- harder classes, doing their own laundry, having to shop for groceries, and other things they’re used to having their parents do for them.
I was just like the majority of overly enthusiastic students whenever it was my time to depart for college. After graduation, I was so excited to finally exchange my all too familiar small town for a new, diverse college environment. I was so busy planning how I would decorate my dorm room, constructing my class schedule, and picking out school supplies that I didn’t leave any time to think about anything else but the pros of moving away. As the summer drew to a close and move in day crept closer, my blind enthusiasm slowly began to be replaced by a growing realization of what I was leaving behind. I had been waiting for move in day for so long that I’d forgotten that it was actually going to happen. I now thought about how drastically my life was about to change, and had the same worries that most college freshman have, such as the first week of classes, dorm life, a new social scene, and so on.
My parents were a huge help in assuaging my newbie college anxieties. Their support helped my transition from high school senior to college rookie smoother. There were three main things that my parents did in the time leading up to my farewell that really encouraged me:
- Constantly reminded me that my core social support (my family) would always be there for me with unwavering love
- Advised me that I wouldn’t be 100% successful, and that it was going to take me a minute to get used to my new situation, but that it was okay to not be perfect at everything right away
- Always demonstrated genuine confidence in me and my ability to adapt and thrive in college
By having a secure, supportive backbone to fall back on, I felt less alone in my journey to college. In addition, by being told that I wasn’t expected to automatically be perfectly established in college alleviated the pressure I put on myself to prove that I could be successful on my own. The third, and probably most important one, was the way my parents responded to me whenever I expressed my apprehension about leaving. Both my mom and dad always assured me that they had no qualms concerning my capability to do well in college. They constantly told me how proud they were of me for going to college and how excited they were to see me flourish in the coming years. By hearing about how others believed in me helped me believe in myself, which was crucial in assuaging my fears. I encourage parents with kids preparing to leave the nest to practice these same strategies to help their children feel better during this time.
Parents shouldn’t expect their kids to be perfect, but instead expect them to learn from their experiences and become a greater person because of those opportunities. And although they may want to, parents can’t do everything for their kids. They can support and advise them, but ultimately adolescents must learn for themselves how to manage their affairs on their own.
This progression period is a tough time filled with conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety, but the transition from home to college is a very important time in a person’s life. College helps develop one’s true identity and realize what they really want in life. It seems daunting in the beginning, but after acclimating to college, life becomes much more exciting.
Written by Karley Knight
How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change
1). Listen Fully
2). Validate their feelings.
3). Consider the Positives
4). Let go….
“I want to go to my new school!”, squeals my (almost) 3 year old. In a few short days she’ll be transitioning to a new daycare . My husband and I have been prepping her for this change for a couple months… and prepping ourselves as well. Due to multiple changes occurring within this month ahead (hello baby number 3, kindergarten here we come) we figured why not just throw in one more thing. Changes all around! No man left behind! Let’s go all in!
If you’ve read any of my most recent posts you understated that for me, change usually brings anxiety. But, we are not here to talk about anxiety today. I’m taking a break from anxiety for a while. Instead, I’m focusing on being proactive, positive, and peaceful. I’m keeping in mind that I can only control so much. The rest I must leave up to faith, hope, and trust. I have come to realize I really do know very very little about predicting the future. Psychic readings are not my calling. <huff>
Let’s take some time, shall we, to focus on these 3 “P” words: Proactive, Positive, and Peaceful. Given that there is much to be said on each one of these “P” words I am going to break it down to 3 separate posts over the next 3 weeks, which will be just in time for most of you as you get ready to send your kiddo off to a new school year. We’re going to start with the first, and most important, in my opinion –
Not an actual picture, a mental picture. Children function through images. They develop understanding through seeing and doing as opposed to hearing. Learning through hearing is an acquired skill that develops more through development and growth. When children are young, they need to see and do in order to fully grasp ahold of a concept. This helps them feel empowered and in control.
Here are 3 simple ideas for how to do this:
- Draw a picture together
- Enact a scene using dolls and other toys.
- Dress up and act out a scene together of the first day.
How to get started:
- Start out by reminding your child about the upcoming change.
- Tell her that today you’re going to draw a picture/play a game together about the first day of school.
- Allow her to select the materials to get started.
- Ask questions along the way to help shape her mental picture, such as what will it look like, what colors will the room be, what will her teacher be like, what will she play with, what will she eat, etc. There are no limits really to how imaginative you can become. *It is important, though, that this picture be one grounded in reality. You want her mental picture to closely reflect what will actually happen.
- Also helpful to include here is a play by play. “Mommy will bring you to school and walk you to your room where we’ll meet your new teacher. I’ll get you settled in your room then mommy will leave for work. After work I will come back to pick you up. I’ll be so excited to see and hear what you do on your first day!” Always great to end with something you can both look forward to.
My mind feels quieter lately, less disturbed, and much more calm these past couple of weeks. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs this pregnancy and I feel that I’m finally coming to a place of peace, which is somewhat ironic given that soon I won’t be pregnant at all, but instead will have the change of my new baby to grapple with. At which time I’m sure I’ll have a lot of newness to contend with, but for now, I feel calm, quiet, serene even as I enjoy these last few weeks of holding my baby inside.
Friendships have been on my mind a lot lately....
Probably because last weekend we said goodbye to a beloved member of our mom tribe. She is moving to Houston and taking her cute hats, her humor, and piece of all of our hearts with her.
The “big girl panties part of me” knows that we are not really saying goodbye, but rather, see you soon. The “pull-up” part of my heart says, knowing that doesn’t make it any less painful.
Saying goodbye to friends is not exactly new territory but it did get
me thinking about my mom’s take on friendship. She shared her wisdom with me a few years ago, when I was mourning the loss of another friendship.
“In life, there are there are both road friends and heart friends. In your lifetime, will have many road friends, but you’ll be lucky to have even a handful of heart friends…those are the important ones.”
. “How will I know the difference?” I asked.
“If I throw my whole heart into most of my friendships (which I do), aren’t they all heart friends?”
“Road friends,”she said, “are the ones you’ll meet along your journey through middle school, motherhood and midlife. They will make life a little less lonely for a time. They will share memories and mimosas, midlife madness, and more. You’ll find yourself drawn to them because you’ll share something in common; kids, summer camps, careers, and kindness. They will love you dearly and you them; for a time. They will fulfill their purpose in your life and you in theirs.”
“There may or may not be a dramatic ending, no break up or blow up. Just as you looked up one day and they were there, you may look up one day and they’ll be gone.”
It’s being ok with the later that I’m struggling with lately.
And heart friends? “Well, it will take years sometimes before you know which ones those will be. They will be the ones who will come into your life and never leave. You may not see them for months at a time, not talk to them as often as you would like, and then one day you’ll need them and they will be there. They will call you to check on you, be there in a crisis, and invest their time and energy in loving your kids as though they are their own. The two of you will pick up right where you left off and then you’ll understand that this one was meant to stay. It took me 43 years to finally start recognizing the difference between the two….
Pay attention to those who reach out to you, not just when they are in need, but when you are. They will make an effort to be a part of your life; not matter how busy they may be in their own.
Heart friends are sometimes miles away, but often closest in your heart. So here’s to road friends and heart friends & to the wisdom & insight to know the difference. Thanks to both for making the journey more fun.