Walking Humbly Through the Looking Glass of Self-Righteousness

During my midlife crisis, which started when I was around 37 and ran well into my 40’s, I dove head first into spirituality, among other things.  I was determined to “find myself”!

Kabbalah was one of the most significant teachings that came across my path, and I still live each day rooted in its principles.  As part of my studies, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a trip to Israel with the Kabbalah Center.  I couldn’t wait to go, until I got there and realized how alone I was, in spite of the fact that there were thousands of us traveling together. 

I eventually met up with two sisters and their friend, Mike, and we all spent the day together.  It was a great day filled with exploring, eating and shopping, and I finally felt more connected to the experience.  A little over half way through the day, the two sisters return to the hotel, and Mike and I decided to spend the rest of the day together.  We had a lot of fun, until the walk back to the hotel.  I was tired and bitchy and my feet felt like they were on fire because I wore the worst possible shoes!  I don’t recall what I said to upset Mike, but I must have said something that wasn’t very nice.  He responded by saying, “You are so self-righteous!” 

“What did he just say?”  “Is he serious?”  “He doesn’t even know me!”  I thought to myself as I became increasingly irritated and defensive.  “How dare he say that, I’m a nice person!”  “What a jerk!”  “%*&^$#%^@!” But then something happened that I had never experienced before.  I took a few deep breaths and thought to myself “Am I self-righteous?”  When I got quiet and looked inside I could see HE WAS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, I WAS SELF-RIGHTEOUS!  I never realized I was self-righteous before and nobody ever had the guts to tell me, but I can assure you, they were thinking it!

Mike woke me up to the fact that I was self-righteous; previously I was in the dark and had no choice but to continue to be.  I recognized for the first time that hearing something seemingly negative about myself was actually a precious gift.  I heard teachers mention this concept, but I thought they were all crazy.   “How could an insult ever be a good thing?”

This realization drove me to do a mini social experiment; this is how I “prove” everything before I buy into it, maybe this was just a fluke after all.  I started paying attention to the comments people made to me, to others and the reactions these comments elicited.  Sometimes people got defensive, I observed, and sometimes they didn’t.  Once I made a mental spreadsheet of my findings, I came to the conclusion that in every negative comment there are two very important things to consider.

First, if somebody says something offensive to me, my job is to look inside to see if it’s true.  I have found that if I get even the slightest bit defensive, there is some truth in what they are saying or else I wouldn’t feel the need to defend.  The next step is to be honest with myself so I can see where it is true.  The gift here is in knowing oneself.  If we know ourselves intimately, it’s easier to create healthy boundaries, and as a result, we are able to truly love ourselves and do what is in our best interest.  

Secondly, I have to remember that they are very likely telling me exactly how they feel about themselves.  In this case, I am their mirror, and they are seeing in me the things they haven’t resolved.  As they say, “If you spot it, you got it.”  If they are awake to the fact that I’m their mirror, they win too, because now they are clear about something they needed to see in themselves.  It’s a beautiful thing!

It may not always be crystal clear or an exact comparison.  For example, if somebody calls me disrespectful.  My first thought is, “Am I being disrespectful?”  Chances are I am if someone is calling me on it.  My next thought is, “What am I showing them in my mirror that they need to see?”  It may be that they are disrespectful, and it’s that simple.  But perhaps they are being disrespectful to themselves by putting others needs in front of their own, or by overeating, overspending or overworking.  It’s possible they are having thoughts that are disrespectful towards themselves; they aren’t thinking or speaking kind words about themselves. In most cases, I noticed during my social experiment, the two people are brought together to help each other.  In my case, I realized he was right, I am self-righteous.  I’m incredibly grateful to know this because I don’t want to be.  I also realized that I was his mirror because he was self-righteous too.  I hope he also received the gift of knowing that night, but that’s his business, not mine.

Learning I was self-righteous was an amazing gift a stranger gave to me in the 12 hours we spent together, and this gift has permanently changed my perspective.  Now when somebody gives me a piece of their mind, I really listen. I wait for the sting to go away and then I dive in because I want to know the truth.  Ignorance is not bliss. 

The next time somebody throws an insult at you, consider looking inside to see if it’s true, and also consider having compassion for the person who said it to you because now you know the truth about how they feel about themselves deep down. Just keep in mind, it’s not your job to point it out to them. We all have our own path and our own learning curve. As tempted as you may be to share your findings with them, be grateful for the gift and just breathe.

It’s all his Fault!

It was the middle of the night, and I found myself crouched down next to the stove in my tiny kitchen, sobbing. My heart was aching like somebody was stomping on it with all their might. “He isn’t making me happy!” “I need to get out of this marriage, right now!” Incessant thoughts played on a loop running through my head. “It’s his fault I’m sad, he works too much!” “It’s his fault I’m angry, he doesn’t make enough money!” “It’s his fault our marriage isn’t working; he doesn’t tell me he loves me enough!” “I don’t want to face another minute of this pain he is causing me!” “How could he do this to me?”

“I wonder what would happen if I ran away and never looked back.” Except I was seven months pregnant, and running away wasn’t an option

Fast forward two months.

Wobbling my way into the hospital room, I was excited to finally meet my beautiful baby girl, Sydnee! I hopped up onto the bed (okay, maybe I didn’t hop), the on-call doctor placed the heart monitor on my belly, and with zero compassion, she told me my baby didn’t have a heartbeat. My world stopped. Everything I was so angry about that night faded away. Nothing else mattered.

So there I sat, healing from one of the most devastating experiences of my life and I couldn’t find anybody to blame. I was in uncharted territory. I couldn’t blame myself, I was a first time mom who had no idea what to expect before giving birth. I couldn’t blame Eric, what could he have possibly done to cause the umbilical cord to accidentally restrict Sydnee’s breathing. I couldn’t blame my doctor, I was in his office weekly and everything checked out when I was there. I couldn’t even blame God because, at that point in my life, I didn’t believe in God. For the first time in my life I was forced to consider that placing the blaming on others was just a series of stories I told myself to justify my bad behavior.

With nobody to blame, I had no other option but to look in the mirror. For instance, when I thought about how Eric didn’t make me happy, it finally dawned on me that maybe my mother was right when she told me that nobody had the power to make me happy or unhappy; that was my job. When I blamed him for not making enough money, and I looked in the mirror, I realized that we didn’t have enough money because I wasn’t working and I was over spending. When I blamed him for working too much, I realized he was doing so because I put so much pressure on him to make money. When I blamed him for not telling me he loves me enough, it became clear that it was me who wasn’t loving me enough; I was not taking very good care of myself.

As I started to turn all of these thoughts around, I began to see how everything I put on Eric was just him lovingly holding up a mirror for my benefit so I could see all of the things that were getting in the way of living my life to the fullest. Instead of berating Eric, I should have been thanking him, because the truth is, Eric was a loving, caring man, who only wanted to make me happy. And yet, I made it impossible for him to do the very thing I demanded from him. I didn’t love myself, and as a result, it was impossible for me to recognize love coming from him.

Once I made it my job to love myself, I no longer felt the need to blame Eric. Taking responsibility for my own shtick, rather than blaming, is the very thing that brings me peace. I know that every single thing that comes into my life is for my benefit to help me grow, not something that happens to me. It is within each of these experiences, that the universe is actually conspiring to help me grow to my fullest potential, whether I like it or not.

Tragedy isn’t the only road to peace, however, one does need to be willing to look in the mirror to get to the truth in order to find peace. Ironically, for me it wasn’t until after I lost my daughter, a heartbreaking experience, that I could see that I was responsible for everything in my life. Losing Sydnee brought me to my knees, and then to peace – one of the many gifts she left behind.

These days when I find myself starting to blame somebody else, I take a few deep breaths, look in the mirror and think to myself “Why is this situation/person in my life?” “What are they here to teach me?” Once I turn it around in my mind, I no longer feel the need to blame, and I place my attention on learning and growing. I can’t say it’s always easy, but with each experience the next one becomes easier.

k soulspring pic

Zoe – Serendipity!

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

ZOE (SERENDIPITY)

Zoe was a six-month old golden retriever that came into my life when I was pregnant with my daughter, Sydnee.  She was sweet, beautiful, loving, quiet, and most importantly, fully trained.  I wasn’t looking for a dog because I was having a baby, and I didn’t want the responsibility of a dog and a baby at the same time.  My sister-in-law couldn’t keep her though, and something in me told me to take her anyways-she was so cute!

I am incredibly grateful that Zoe came into my life because shortly thereafter Sydnee passed away, and Zoe was my constant companion.  She stuck by my side day in and day out.  Her unwavering, ooshy gooshy love helped me get through one of the most difficult times of my life. She sat by me while I cried and journaled, walked with me everyday and kept me company all day and night. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the loss of my daughter without her.

Zoe coming into my life was no accident; she was right there on the road map just exactly where she was supposed to be, and she stayed there until the summer I had to move out of my house and into a condo that didn’t allow pets.  She passed away just two weeks before I moved.  She was a very intuitive dog and one of my greatest teacher.

Zoe taught me how to be unconditionally loving before I became a parent and had to learn “on the job”.  She taught me to listen without the need to make the conversation all about me.  She taught me to be loyal and to stick by people even when they aren’t at their best.  And most of all, Zoe reminded me that the universe brings us everything we need and right on time.

Isn’t she the sweetest!!!  Miss you!  xoxo  zoe

It’s Cinderella Fault… #15

It’s Cinderella’s fault that the divorce rate is so high!  Don’t believe me?

Most women grow up with Disney’s version of a storybook romance, fueling their desire to fall in love, get married, have children and live happily ever after. As time goes on, movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman, The Notebook and The Holiday keep our fantasies alive. We almost have no chance; we are pumped with romance, not only in movies, but in novels, magazines and of course societal pressure to get married before we become “old maids”.

What’s a girl to do?

We finally meet a guy, “the One”, who is worthy of our love.  We get decide to get hitched, and get lost in the excitement of “the wedding”. We have been waiting for this day all our lives – planning, dreaming, picking out colors.  Unfortunately, nobody tells us just how much work and dedication it takes to make a marriage thrive, especially once children come on the scene.  It’s not their fault though, we wouldn’t believe them anyways because we’ve been brainwashed by Ms. Cinderella.cinderella

I was no different. I bought into the whole handsome prince taking me away on his white horse nonsense, and I loved it!  It was exciting to think about how one day I would be rescued from my simple existence and whisked away to some amazing new life. And one day, I met my prince and he was a great guy! I had a ball planning my wedding. I got so busy planning my wedding that I forgot to pay attention to my relationship.

Several years and a few kids into my marriage, I decided I wasn’t happy because my ex wasn’t the prince I imagined him to be.  In other words, he didn’t sweep me off my feet every single day, tell me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me every day, regularly buy me big expensive gifts, whisk me around the world, showing me all that life had to offer, read my mind, and oh yea, he didn’t help me enough with the extensive list of chores required to run a household and raise children. Most of all, he didn’t “make me happy” like the prince was supposed to do.  Didn’t he see the movies?!  Didn’t he get the script?!

Looking back, he was a great prince.  He was kind and loyal, worked hard to put food on the table, showed up for his family, even when he didn’t want to, bought me nice things, took me on nice vacations and bought me a beautiful home.  But, I was so buried in my happily ever after fairy tale that I couldn’t see my own reality.

I saw those princesses dancing and singing about how much they loved their man, and I wasn’t singing or dancing!  In fact, I was kind of depressed, and incredibly bitchy. I was a lot more like the wicked step mother than Cinderella.  Did I get the wrong script?!  I built up years of resentment and that made matters even worse. This prince could not win!

The husbands who play a role in these fairy tales are often shocked and surprised when his princess announces she is leaving. He has no idea he is playing the role of the prince, let alone what the job requirements were.  He goes to work each day and works hard to provide for his family like young men are taught to do. He is told by the other men that if he works hard to get ahead and provides for his family everything will work out great for him.  He is under the impression that everything is just as it should be; the house is clean, check, dinner’s on the table, check.  He has a job, a house, a wife, a dog and 2.3 kids, check, check, check.

What I didn’t realize until after I got divorced was that I was the one who was supposed to “make me happy.” Go figure!  All those years I blamed my ex for not making me happy, and it wasn’t even his job!! This is a common misconception in relationships on both sides, actually. We so often look outside ourselves for happiness and in reality the only person who can make us truly happy is ourselves.

Once I was on my own, I was still miserable, and realized I was the common denominator!  I could no longer blame my ex because he no longer lived with me. I was forced to look inside and see what was causing me so much grief, and realized that my perspective was way off!  I did a lot of studying, found some amazing teachers and learned to love myself again.  Of course the yoga and meditation helped me to move through it all more gracefully, and I managed to survive all of my crazy!  You can too! I promise. xo

Love your Children More Than you Hate your Ex

smallest just breathe logoGolda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel, once said “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.” As quoted in Media Bias and the Middle East (2003) by Paul Carlson, p. 10.

The same is true for two people getting divorced when children are involved.  In order for everybody to win in a divorce, we as parents have to love our children more than we hate our ex, and more than we love our assets!  There is nothing worth fighting over and no material possession worth damaging the well-being of our innocent children.

Every time you make a decision regarding your divorce, you need to step out of your drama and into reality; you may be harming your kids with reckless decisions that are made out of spite for your ex.  Take time to think long and hard before you make any decisions.  It’s easy to get worked up in an adversarial situation such as divorce, but this is no time to lose your sense of doing the right thing.

Let’s say for example, you are talking to a friend or family member, telling them how you plan to get back at your ex in court.  Your child is listening to every word you say, even if you think they aren’t.  If they aren’t listening, they sense what you are up to, don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t.

Kids are far more tuned into what we do than what we say.

What are they learning from you?  To start, they are learning to be greedy adults.  They are learning hate.  They are learning to fight dirty.  They are learning that marriage is a bad thing and ends in horror.  They are learning not to trust the opposite sex, and chances are they will end up in the same type of relationship as you did.  Most of all, they are realizing that their best interest is the last thing on your mind.  Is this really what you want your kids to walk away with from this experience?  Don’t do this to them or to the relationship you previously worked so hard to build with them.

When I filed for divorce, my ex was understandably pretty angry with me.  Our kids were 2 and 4 and I told him up front that he could go as low as he needed to, but that I would not go down with him.  Thankfully, he agreed that there was nothing worth fighting over, and that our childrens’ welfare was all that mattered.  Just because we wanted a divorce that didn’t mean the kids had to suffer.  In fact, it is our job to be sure that our children don’t suffer as a result of our divorce.  It wasn’t their choice to get married, divorced or to be born for that matter.  We brought them into this world; it is our job to protect them!

We also agreed never to say anything negative about each other in front of our kids and definitely not to our kids.  The more kids know they are loved by both parents, that both parents respect each other and that they are going to be okay, the faster they will adjust.  We respect each other and remain friends, which makes life easier for everyone.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Parents who fight in front of their kids, who trash the other parent and who use their kids as bait to get what they want in a divorce are simply being selfish.  Do right by your kids!  Quit being narcissistic – you brought the kids into this world; you owe them responsible, loving parents. It’s the least your could do.

In the end, the only thing that matters is that you and your ex come out of the divorce learning from your mistakes, and showing your children how to resolve unpleasant matters with respect and dignity for yourself and for others.  You don’t have to go down that dark road just because you are getting divorced.

You have a choice, it’s YOUR divorce.  Do the right thing!  Love your children more than you hate your ex, and more than you love your material possessions.  It’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it?

A+ Student, not so much #13

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A+ STUDENT, NOT SO MUCH

As long as I can remember, I thought of myself as the person in my family who had the good grades, the first to go to college and so on. I prided myself on this story, until recently when I had to request my high school transcripts and was shocked to find that I bombed several classes in 9th and 10th grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they were the classes I thought I excelled in, math and English. It’s ironic that I eventually chose to become a writer when I literally failed English in 9th grade and managed to raise my grade to a whopping D the second time I took it in 10th grade. It just goes to show you that a high school transcript is not necessarily a picture of one’s future.

I’ve always seen myself as a numbers geek too, I still do today. I find things related to numbers interesting, like investigating and tracking financial accounts to determine the trail of funds, for example. My memory of math in school was that it came very easily to me, and that I got straight A’s. And yet, I did not do well in math my first two years of high school. Hmmm…perhaps the brownies and cookies I gave to my teachers didn’t work as well as I remembered.

The good news is I eventually woke up and improved each semester until I graduated 34th in my class of 350 students (I’m not even sure how I know that). It may or may not be a coincidence that my grades improved significantly after we moved in 11th grade, and again in 12th grade.  I am certain all of the drugs I did in 9th and 10th grade had nothing to do with the D’s and E’s either.  But, because I have chosen to be completely honest, I have to admit I got into drugs starting in 7th grade and this continuing on through the end of high school. It obviously showed in my grades, and evidently effected my memory of my grades too!

The thing about honesty though, is that we all have a very different perception of the truth depending on our vantage point and our experiences. In this case, since my mother never yelled at me about homework or my grades like she did my siblings, and since I spent many of my days high on one thing or another during those years, the part I played in my movie was one of a straight A student. The truth was a very different story. If you had asked me prior to seeing the grades in black and white, I would have sworn to you that I was a straight A student. mymovieWe all see life through different lenses. Some people see the glass as half empty, some see it half full. Some people see life through rose-colored glasses, some with dark shades. Some folks bury their heads in the sand or sweep things under the rug, but each of us sees life through our own viewfinder which is continually changing throughout our lives based on everything we see and experience.  If we were to witness an event at age 20 and then witness that same event at age 40, we would have very different stories to report. Similarly, when several people are witnessing the same event, you’ll hear them tell different stories of how the events unfolded, and they will defend their individual positions vehemently. The truth is, they are all right, because they all saw it happen through their viewfinder. It’s their truth.

So the next time you find yourself defending your position, just breathe, and consider that maybe being right isn’t all that practical, and maybe it isn’t all that important either. Maybe having peace in your relationships is far more important than being right.