Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Want to Move Forward in your Life? Shift your Focus from ‘Why’ to ‘What Now’

 Where you decide to go next is far more important than how you got here.

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

There are innumerable issues that bring people to therapy and coaching. Folks usually want to feel happier, more confident, less angry, and the like. Before diving into making changes to improve their situation, answers to the “why” questions are frequently top of mind, as in:

Why do I get so angry with strangers, or procrastinate on important projects, or turn a positive moment into waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Much as I hate to admit it, those questions often can’t be answered definitively, even after weeks, months and sometimes years of exploration. How would we know if we did get the “right” answer to the source of your anger issues, procrastination or worrying?

A closely related set of “why” questions pertain to the motivations of others. We can spend hours investigating why your wife cheated on you, why your daughter drinks too much or why [your question here].

The thing is, not much is certain when it comes to what motivates us. For a variety of reasons, we can’t even answer the “why” question about ourselves (e.g., Why did I think it was a good idea to go to law school because two years in I’m bored to death?) much less about someone else.

Why, you ask (hahaha)?

Consider how you might answer a question about yourself now, vs how you answered it one or two years ago, vs how you might answer it two years from now. As the end-of-history illusion demonstrates, our understanding changes over time, as do our narratives about our lives, even though this is very difficult to imagine.

Read more here... 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Need Some Hope in the New Year?

Anne Lamott provides nuggets of hope for most of life’s most persistent worries. 

Who doesn't need hope post-divorce?

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, by Anne Lamott, is a truly enjoyable read, or listen, which is how I experienced it. With her wry humor, wit and references to so many things that matter, it is fun and inspiring. Whether on dieting, sobriety, friendship or family, Lamott’s hopeful view shines through. There’s nothing Pollyannaish about her take on life—it comes across as sincere and authentic.

I may be prejudiced since she talks about issues I too have spoken of, but not nearly as eloquently or delightfully as she does.

A few examples so you can decide whether it’s worth the investment—or just borrow it from your local library:

1.     Chapter 4 is just one sentence which simply says:

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

You can see what I’ve had to say about self-care which includes unplugging here.

2.     In Chapter 5, “Don't Let Them Get You to Hate. Them,” she relates wisdom from her pastor:

When my pastor calls the most difficult, annoying people in her life her grace-builders, I want to jump out the window. I am so not there yet, but I understand what she’s talking about.

3.     Chapter 6 is about writing and in one of my favs, she says:

If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.

And so Karma goes.

4.     Chapter 11 is all about food, dieting and the like. Of course I would love the anecdote in which she mentioned to her therapist she was going on a diet and the therapist says cheerfully:

Oh, that’s great honey, how much weight are you hoping to gain?

Lamott goes on to say:

No one talks to me that way. I got rid of her sorry ass. Well okay, maybe not then. It was 10 years later.

Got to love a woman who can take the cold, hard truth from her shrink.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Eulogy For My Post-Divorce Cat


The loss of a pet yields a unique type of grief.

Some people’s, post-divorce acquisition is a home, other’s a car, but since I got the house and did not need a new car, mine was a cat. It’s a rite of passage for the newly single, perhaps the first time they have made a major purchase solo. Or, as in my case, the first time in a long time.

The cat was not really a solo acquisition. It was my son and me. It was the first big thing we did together post-divorce that was just the two of us.

Eighteen and a half years ago we drove to a double-wide in a slightly more rural area than ours, too close to the city to be country, but too far and wild to be suburban. It felt like an adventure.

She was a beautiful, tiny kitten billed as Siamese, which the mother clearly was, the father clearly not. It was one of those situations where, you’ve come this far, can you walk away kittenless? Of course not. I did not point out that she was obviously only half Siamese. Truth be told, I was a little afraid to question the sellers who didn’t look like they were too interested in bargaining.

Read more here...

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Quest to Mindfully Engage with the Moment

I wish I had these mindfulness skills when I divorced. This is the start of my recent piece about mindfulness, being present in the moment and all things letting go...

Learning to let go of each moment in order to be fully present in this moment is key to mindfulness.

 Being present in the moment is a mindfulness essential. Unless you've willfully ignored 15 years of health and wellness articles, you know that research shows that mindfulness meditation improves health and wellbeing in a variety of ways (e.g., it reduces anxiety, depression and blood pressure). The jury is in: Cultivating mindfulness makes a lot of sense.

To be in this moment, you must release all those moments that came before. This idea of letting go of each moment before the present moment, which, by the way, is now past, is one of those persnickety meditation conundrums.

How do you let go of those moments? While it's easy to let go of a neutral moment, perhaps a thought about what you want to have for dinner, you must also let go of positive moments. That's not to say that you should not savor your successes—you absolutely must. But not when you're trying to focus on the present. Wins are a lot easier to release.

The most challenging to release are those moments with a negative tone. Maybe it's a memory of why you chose one path instead of another, or something as small as why you said one thing instead of another. Our mistakes, missteps and other misses tend to be very sticky. We seem to have a paradoxical need to hang onto them.


Monday, July 5, 2021

12 Coping Skills You've Discovered In The Last Year That Can Sustain You For Life

Divorce is its own kind of trauma. Any new coping skills you've picked up to help you cope with COVID will also be helpful in dealing with your personal crisis. This is the start of a piece I wrote about the skills you may have discovered...

There is considerable research in psychology to suggest that after a trauma we can come back stronger than before. We can become more resilient. 

Tragedy can prompt the development of new coping skills.

This can be the case with the Coronavirus pandemic. The difficult times called for new habits in order to keep yourself, your family, and your mental health safe.

Have you developed any new and positive habits during Covid? You can decide to keep these new behaviors as you move through 2021 and beyond.

The virus didn't vanish on January 1st, but we're edging closer, so deciding on your intentions post-pandemic will help you maintain those healthy routines.

Here are 12 examples of some coping skills you may have developed and should definitely keep doing.

1. You exercise and go outside more.

A combination of not having much to do and wanting to get out of the house yielded a huge crop of new walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Like the seesaw diet, it could be a situation where once things return to their new normal, you ditch your new habits. It doesn't have to be that way.

Keep reading here...

Friday, June 4, 2021

Coping with Anxiety is Not One Size Fits All

Whether your anxiety predates your divorce or the pandemic, the solution is unique to you.

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

During the pandemic I learned I am an ambivert. It was the A.Word.A.Day, word of the day one day and it fits. Neither introvert nor extravert, ambiverts, according Anu Garg, have qualities of both.

It brings to mind something I’ve been pondering during this pandemic—the notion that one size does not fit all, whether in clothing or people. Be it those one-size-fits-all running hats, how introverted you are, how you cope with your anxiety or how you grieve a loss, we are all different and we need and want different things.

My head is simply too small for those alleged one-size-fits-all hats. I am, as I mentioned, neither intro- nor extravert—it depends on the situation and my mood. I like to run to reduce anxiety, a passion not everyone can relate to for coping. I grieve quietly, privately, unobtrusively, and can still feel the pain years later as it if were yesterday, clearly not a mode of grieving that works for everyone.

Back to the pandemic, some of my clients and friends have been more anxious during the past year. Some previously quite anxious are, oddly, less anxious—the true introverts, I suspect. They do not mind working remotely, the absence of dinners out with friends or not having parties to attend.

Read more here...


Friday, May 21, 2021

How Many Therapists Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

One—it takes one therapist to change a lightbulb. But it really has to want to change.

You're post-divorce and there are a lot of changes you think you might like to make. 

And in these trying times, when we’re all trying to control anxiety and depression about the state of the world, learning to change how you react is a process. My yoga practice helps keep me grounded in how to learn, something we adults often lose sight of.

When you embark on a yoga practice like Ashtanga, you must have an intention to master the poses, breath and flow.

Fully committing to the practice is essential for progress. It’s not that it has to be done daily. It’s more that you practice on some type of regular basis with the goal of being all in.

Experimentation is required. Does it work better this way, or that way?

It’s not about comparing yourself to others. It’s about comparing yourself to yourself. Wow! I couldn’t do this when I started.

You don’t want to phone it in. Even if it’s a crappy day and you can’t do half of what you did just two days ago. You want to be present and mindful.

These principles of learning (intention to achieve mastery, commitment to regular practice, willingness to experiment, being fully present and mindful) relate to a lot of things in life. I think they relate directly to the process of change.

If you want to change your reactions to anxiety-provoking or depressing situations, you must follow these principles as you would to learn anything. And, of course, you really have to want to change.