In my lifetime I have climbed many fences, both metaphorically and physically. The first time I climbed a fence that I remember, I was eight years old. I was in the yard of my elementary school and saw the tops of trees from the neighboring sump. I was so curious I had to climb the chain link fence to see. My adventure ended in the nurse’s office with butterflies on my left hand. I still have the scar.
Flash forward twenty years.
I am at my daughter’s softball practice and a ball goes over the fence into the neighboring golf course. This time it is a seven-foot tall chain link fence. But no matter. Thrilled to have something to do, I jump over the top of the fence. As I bring my left leg over, I discover that I am caught in some brambles. I try to disentangle myself and wind up putting my hand through the top of the fence. This time it is my right hand. It has gone straight through the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, and I can see the muscles in my hand.
One of the coaches is trained in first aid, and wraps up my hand. “Do you need a ride to the hospital?” he asks.
“No, I’ll be okay,” I say, trying to put a brave face on things.
I leave my one daughter in the coach’s care and stop home to tell my oldest daughter what has happened. I ask her to let her daddy know what happened but not to alarm him. I am feeling a little light-headed. Attributing it to my lack of dinner, I grab a canister of almonds and make my way to the hospital.
On my way, I yell at myself for being so stupid. The pain is really getting to me. I start shaking and I don’t know why. About halfway there, I feel really woozy. I think I am going to pass out. I signal to the driver to my right to let me in, drive myself off the road, and call 911.
So the ambulance comes and I humbly repeat my story several times, although I can barely speak. On the way to the hospital, the shaking gets worse. My blood pressure is up to 160. “What is happening?” I ask the kind EMT.
“You are going into shock. You have to think happy thoughts. Put yourself in a good place.”
Shock? I don’t even really understand the concept, but it sounds scary. “Can I die from shock? I have 4 kids at home!” I exclaim. I am making things worse, knowing (with my psychology degree) that I am making things worse, and I feel helpless to stop it.
Now I’m in the emergency room, and several professionals take a look at my hand before I get the same doctor I had four years ago when my infant scratched my cornea!
“Have you been here before?” asks the tall, gaunt Russian doctor.
“I never forget a face…you had a corneal abrasion.”
He inspects, confirms no nerve or muscle damage, and guides the physician assistant in stitching up my hand. Seven stitches (and four hours) later I am ready to go but still haven’t been in touch with my husband. My cell phone won’t work and there is no public telephone. I walk to the lobby, where someone lets me use the courtesy phone.
“I need you to pick me up,” I say.
“Didn’t you drive?”
“I’ll explain later.”
A half hour later, my husband is relieved at my explanation, and I am relieved that the reason he hadn’t come was that my daughter had misunderstood the story and told him I just had a small scratch from a rose bush!
“What, do you think you’re 14?” he jokes.
One week later, I am on the mend, now able to type again. The stitches come out in another week. Over the weekend, I resisted the temptation to go over a few other fences to fetch errant balls, finding my way around or through a few.
Bio: Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller is a regular contributor to Mamazina Magazine. She blogs at The Divine Gift of Motherhood.
Photo credit: Dani Simmonds
How much of motherhood is change? It’s practically the essence of motherhood, isn’t it? From the time our children are born, they’re changing, and we are, too. But sometimes it’s difficult — change is hard; it’s scary and it’s easy to give up and give in. But fortunately, we have regular contributor Coach Julie, R.N. to help us make sense of why it’s so hard and what we can do about it.
By learning how best to approach making changes, we stand a better chance of being successful at making positive long-term changes that will stick and serving as an example to our children in teaching them about achieving goals through making changes, too.
Why does change have to be so darn hard? We struggle to lose weight, get in shape, eliminate debt, and stay (happily) married. Health issues such as heart disease, depression, addiction and obesity — preventable illnesses — are rampant. Why is it so hard to change?
Change IS hard. And it’s hard because, as humans, our brains are wired a certain way. When we understand how the mind works, we can use this knowledge to make change a little easier and stop battling with ourselves. We can use our minds to work WITH us instead of AGAINST us. We can learn to become the master of our thoughts and emotions instead of being at their mercy.
H.A.R.D.© is an acronym that stands for how we are enslaved by our Habits and Attachments and struggle with Resistance and Discouragement. In order to change, we must face these functions of the mind. It’s not that our brains are purposely trying to hurt us and hold us back; it’s just how the mind operates. They are games the mind plays with us. Accept it. Learn about them and then use the success strategies to help you to play these mind games and WIN!
We are wired to keep things the same, to create routines and structure to get things done. Habits allow us to function well and to manage multiple things throughout the course of the day. Every time you try something new, you have to concentrate — all of your attention is required to learn the new activity, be it a new route to work or learning to type. After much practice, you can perform the task without thinking about it. It has become habit.
In the process, thousands of neurological connections have formed in your brain in order to make this activity ‘automatic’. You now know how to type without paying attention, for example, and perform the task subconsciously. In other words, you don’t need to focus on where to put your fingers and which key represents what letter. You just type.
Those neurological connections will need to be replaced in order to change to something new. It requires consistent attention and persistent action, something most people do not do well. When we are learning something for the first time, those neurological connections don’t exist; but when you want to change how you have been doing something, that’s when it becomes a challenge because you are ‘hard-wired’ to think and act a certain way.
We cling to people, places and things. Most people have a difficult time letting go and going with the flow of life. We want and expect things (and people) to last forever. We hold on tight to our youth as our bodies age, our ideas even when we are wrong, and our relationships even when we are very unhappy. To detach would require we accept things as they are, not as we wish they were. We hurt ourselves greatly when we hold onto our ideas about how things ‘should’ be as opposed to how they are.
Emotions are the key to identifying attachments. The harder you fight, the more stubborn you are, the more attached you are.
Resistance shows up in many ways including self-doubt, judgment, procrastination, and excuses. Resistance is FEAR. Identifying your fear is the first step. Notice the behavior pattern such as making excuses or procrastinating, then name the fear so you can tame it. This is just another way the mind plays with you and keeps you stuck. As you begin to change or even think of changing something, you are threatening the status quo. Adrenaline is released just as if you were in real danger causing the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction. And you respond with resistance.
But you are bigger than your fear. You just have to learn some tools to stand your ground.
We get discouraged when things don’t progress as quickly as we’d like them too. We may have unrealistic expectations for just how long something will take. We may think it will take a few weeks to find a new job when it can take many months. Our relationship with time causes us to become frustrated. We are impatient. And if we are not very good at acknowledging what success we do experience along the way, we will quit even though we may have come quite far.
Change is H.A.R.D. © because we succumb to what we know and give up. It just seems easier than to fight for what we want. Motivation is crucial for success and for continued progress toward our goals.
To be successful at making a change in your life, befriend your mind. Understand a little bit about how it works so that you can learn how to use it to assist you in creating the kind of life you love and enjoying the progress. Your mind is a tool for you to master and use to your advantage.
Bio: Julie Donley, MBA, BSN, RN knows firsthand what it means to conquer adversity. Having overcome addiction, a grave illness, divorce, single parenthood, obesity, indebtedness and being laid-off three times, Julie brings a wealth of experience to her work. Tired of life being SO hard, she went in search of an easier way. What she found was quite intriguing: “Hard or easy, it’s how you think about it!”
Julie has worked in psychiatric nursing since 1993 and founded her company, Nurturing Your Success, to empower you to achieve your goals and work through change by educating, inspiring and motivating you to succeed. She is the author of several books including Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? and The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance and is named one of the top 100 thought leaders in personal development. For resources and to learn more, visit www.NurturingYourSuccess.com. Contact Julie at Julie@NurturingYourSuccess.com to have her speak at your next meeting or conference.
Coach Julie’s new book Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? is available in bookstores.
Photo credit: Woman On Coronado Beach by Bill Kuffrey
We often think of mothering as a kind of “all or nothing” sort of thing. One either is a mother or not, commits to mothering or not, enjoys time with her children or not. But motherhood isn’t really like that. No relationship on the planet is really like that. I think we give ourselves permission to feel complex feelings in most other relationships but have a harder time allowing such a thing for moms. The truth is, we are capable of both desperately needing the touch and voice of our children and also desperately needing to feel only the feel of our own skin on our own bones.
I have this lovely teapot that my partner bought me for Valentine’s Day; it serves just one. It came with a matching cup into the top of which the small pot sits. I put a tea bag in the cup and one in the pot to let them steep and then sit for a while by myself and drink them both. One of my favorite things is to sit alone in the dark with a cup of tea or joe where the only sensory or other stimulation I have is that warm cup in my hand and that soothing drink in my mouth and, ideally, the feel of a cool wind coming through an open window, or of the heat coming from a fire. This time is so important to me that I’m willing to get up nearly every morning, at least half an hour earlier than I have to, just to gift it to myself.
I discovered the necessity of this time about seven years ago when I was approaching a breakdown and I’ve been prioritizing it since. With this time, I am able to start my day off more grounded, and now I can’t bear getting up and jumping right into the day. On the few occasions when I have to get up and get rolling right away, I’m pretty rattled. It took me a long time to figure out that this time alone, when I’m not anybody’s anything, was not just lovely and not just helpful, but that it is right and just and absolutely reasonable that I have it. I need it to gather my sense of self for the day. And when I see my children later or even my partner for that matter, I can be grounded with them in ways I’m not capable of when my sense of self is scattered.
I do love being the mother of my family. I enjoyed my time this past weekend with them and with my extended family immensely. My partner and children and I got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home from my parents’ house and I was strangely satisfied sitting there, gridlocked. I was so content to be in the company of these people, no matter the context. I felt wholly connected with them and crazy love for them and deeply loved by them that day. And then, because people are many-sided, I loved shopping by myself yesterday, and having coffee and writing this post by myself this morning.
The place where I see the most starkly honest representations of emotional complexity in maternal feeling is on Twitter. I’ve seen numerous mothers tweet about looking forward to some time alone, to some time to think, when the children go to grandparents’ houses or go off with someone else for a long day. And then these same moms tweet, once everyone has left and the house is empty save for them, that they are rather frozen. And then they’re annoyed with themselves for being frozen this way. I’ve done that. I do that. Usually what I do is develop this absurdly long list of all the things I’m going to accomplish when I have some time alone, and then end up doing pretty much none of it, probably because what I need more than time to accomplish tasks is time to shut off, time to not be anybody’s anything.
I must confess that as I write I wonder what my children will think when they read this, and whether they will know that I can love to mother them and also love times when I’m not called upon to. Maybe they won’t understand until later. But I hope that they can see, even now, that this is not different from the things they feel about people, including what they feel about me, and that this is right and just and absolutely reasonable for both of us.
BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.
Photo courtesy mconnors/MorgueFile
I just finished listening to the book on CD “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. Duh! All kidding aside, the reality is that there are things I want to do with my life — in addition to (or maybe in spite of?) being a full-time working mom with a very active pursuit of music during nights and weekends. And my usual hero/martyr/perfectionist self is only going to make it harder to take on any more. There’s just no more room — something’s got to give. And this is a good thing!
So I write this acknowledging that it’s a bit self-serving. It’s an exercise in awareness that I’m personally using to break old habits and build new ones.
At the very end of the book, Goldsmith walks through a visioning challenge where you imagine yourself as a 95-year-old person, and write a letter to yourself as you are today. What would you tell yourself, in all of your wisdom? This is where I would start.
1. Pursuing your dream takes a lot of courage. You are courageous. You are brave.
2. Don’t put it off. Make a habit of finding the small steps every day that help you work towards your big dream. Each small step helps to build your new habit — working towards what is most important to you rather than falling through your day, not knowing where the time went. Overnight success does NOT happen overnight.
3. You may feel guilt, or doubt at times — and that is normal. Just notice it, and move on. You may think — or others may say — that you’re spending too much time away from your family. You may doubt — or others may say — that maybe you’re not good enough. Look into your heart, and know that not only are you good enough, but you are grounded in a belief in yourself and your passions. You know that both music and family are your passions. Passion is a very strong emotion — and some people are threatened by that. Just know that and see it for what it is.
4. You don’t need to have it all — you just need to know what you want. And lucky for you, you already know! Some people spend their entire life and never figure it out. Realize that you are blessed for this.
5. It will not be easy — nothing worthwhile ever is. Who said that? Who knows. Just know that you will be tested. You may even want to walk away. Know that it’s just a test of your resolve. The passion and belief in yourself will come out on top if you let it.
6. Trust yourself. In many ways, you already know what you need to do. Maybe you don’t see the answer yet — but that solution is out there, and you will find it — and know it is right for you — when you are ready.
7. Know that your commitment to your passion makes you a wonderful role model for your children. You don’t have to apologize for *who you are*. What a wonderful lesson to pass on to your kids! In your heart, you know this to be true. Your children will learn this from you, because in all of your passion is also the desire for them to find their true selves as well.
I have ideas on how I can improve my balance, but I also know there isn’t a destination, a point in time when I will feel that everything is perfectly as it should be. I also know that there it will take time and resources to figure it out. And risk. And lots of open communication with my Dear Husband. Oh boy. Am I sure about this?
As they say… it will not be easy. Guess I’d probably be bored if it were easy. Guess that’s why it’s a big dream. Passion is complicated. Striking a balance as a mom, as part of a family, with another parent who has his own passions, is also complicated.
And as I said when I was 95, I already know what I need to do. I bet you already know too. Start small — just put it in writing!
Bio: Sitting still has never been easy for acoustic/indie/folk singer-songwriter Kim Jennings. A singer, piano and guitar player for years, the songwriting bug only bit her in 2007. Not three years later, Kim released her debut CD “My Own True North,” co-founded the indie record label “Birch Beer Records” with fellow singer-songwriter Dan Cloutier, and launched the We Support Local Music blog along with the “I Support Local Music in Massachusetts” Facebook page.
Named to Metronome Magazine’s Top 20 Hit List for 2010, and voted Best Female Vocalist in the 2010 Worcester Music Awards, Jennings keeps a busy schedule, performing as often as she can and running her record label. Not bad, considering that in her “free time” she’s also a full-time working soccer mom.
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Photo credit: Singer In Pub by Anthony Maragou