Saturday, February 21, 2015


Looking at my blog statistics, my last post about apologies seemed to have touched something in people who read my blog. I did not drum up the conversation I had intended, so I can only guess why people liked the post so much. Maybe it was just to see how another person interacts with their children? Perhaps simple curiosity. But if I look deeper, I believe that we all have people in our lives with who we desire one thing: reconciliation. After the brokenness has been caused, we long for closure through acknowledgement and validation. The longing we have  to be connected to each other is a powerful force in our lives.
I think we all have someone we wish would have recognized us in that moment, would have known how they had hurt us, would have cared one little bit.
And maybe we have deep remorse for a hurt we have caused someone else and aren't sure how to make it right.
A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about our culture sucking at apologies. It's true. And since our current times has been called a "culture of narcissism", it makes sense that the entitled and unempathetic would eschew apologies in favor of dismissing and disposing of people.
For inspiration, I offer this:
Apparently people have been so inspired by this work on forgiveness they have set up forgiveness "booths" and so much more. If you have a day you are needing hope and inspiration and a good cry, peruse this site.
And although this next article is long and full, it does touch on some of the things I have been writing about lately: (This sounds remarkably close to Internal Family System's 8 Cs of self-leadership:  calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness.)
I believe apologies, giving and receiving, cleanse our souls. I believe taking responsibility for our words and actions builds self-confidence and trustworthiness. I believe caring for each other this way is a force of Love in action and is a peaceful way to live.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


You know, in the traumas of life there are gifts.
 I believe this with all my heart.
 I love metaphors and this  one came to mind: a painful situation can be like a dark glass jar that is shattered. There are the shards, lying on the floor, the jar looked like it was holding together but it broke, and there you go. Now you can really view what was inside. It looks like black, tarry, sticky goo...really messy. You are picking out shards when some ardent curiosity compels you to clean off the goo, to probe further. And once you really get going in cleaning off the goo of sadness and anger and resentment and rejection and grief and betrayal and lies and any ugly thing that was in that jar, you find things. In that sticky goo are hard objects that are not shards. Clean them off, burn them off, sing them off and look. They sparkle and shine. They are diamonds! Treasures! Oh lucky day! Your jar was full  of jewels...pearls...glittering beauty! You just had to break it open and clean them off!
Maybe someone else broke the jar, maybe you invited someone in your jar and they imploded it. Maybe a situation broke the jar.
But had the jar not been shattered, you would not have found those diamonds. Diamonds such as self-worth, grace, joy, compassion, forgiveness, God, trust, and truth.
I see women today rising up in their own power.  I see them tired of being controlled and criticized and demeaned and lied to by forces of patriarchy and even their own husbands, ex-husbands, fathers, and sadly, sometimes, other women. I see them angry, rightfully so, and motivated out of this anger to bring healing to the hurt that is in here and out there.
One of the diamonds women find in their traumas is the "church of each other"...the great sisterhood.
I call such sisters, such finders-of-jewels, "Metamorphosisters". These are the sisters who fearlessly embrace their own lives, who make their own names, who value each other.
They have no fear of grief, of anger, of joy, of laughter. They have no fear of speaking their truth, even if that truth is fear at the time. They have no qualms about showing compassion. They will make their mistakes out loud, with relish, and BE all woman, with gusto. They are not afraid to be humbled by their own folly.
They have been to the depths of unworkable marriages. They have known relationships where love hurts and have learned the hard way about emotional abuse. They have been laid low by life, and love. They have lost babies. They have lost dreams. They have lost parents.
They know how to have a good bitch session. They know how to lovingly call  you on your own stuff. The embrace honesty and building character. They have complete empathy because they can say they've BEEN there. They apologize to patch up rough spots because they care. They have weakness and they have great strength.

They are the ones you cry out to when you are feeling darkly human, and lost to your own self.
They are unafraid to plunge the spiritual depths of love and life, with each other.
They know how to take broken things and make them into something beautiful. They are masters of transformation, creators in the moment, designers of their own destiny, mothers, lovers, workers of love.  A metamorphosister and I were talking today, and she was saying how it is BECAUSE of our traumas that we thrive, not in SPITE of our traumas. BECAUSE of them. This, my dear friends, is the very meaning of the strong and beautiful metamorphosister.
I am so deeply grateful for these women in my life.
Happy Galentine's Day to metamorphosisters. You inspire me every day!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Broken Things Part Two

For New Year's, my children and I set intentions for the year. I broke our intentions into "being" and "doing". My 6-year-old could better understand "doing" and my eleven-year-old could be asked to think about how we are all being with each other. On our doing list were things like going camping, taking a trip, sports, riding bikes, riding horses, doing yoga. On our being list, we wrote things that ended the sentence, "In our family we are______" and we came up with things like kind, helpful, encouraging, considerate, we take care of each other,etc. The goal for me is to create a home that is emotionally safe and free of judgment. This, to me, is emotional house cleaning. I may not be so good at physical housekeeping, but it is easier for me to focus on emotional housekeeping (not that I have it mastered at all).
Of course, you cannot live and love your children without completely and totally mucking it up at times. And you cannot parent them without leading them to their own mistakes.
 I believe that learning how to handle one's mistakes toward others is just as important as teaching children good habits and manners. In keeping with a judgment-free zone, this also means keeping deep shame out of the picture. It is not an opportunity to make someone inherently "wrong". It is an opportunity to fix a mistake. It does not mean that when you mess up you do not feel remorse or sadness at how you have (mis)treated someone. It does mean that you know how to clean up  any emotional messes you might make.
The reasoning behind this for me is to help my children be people of integrity. When you have integrity, you do things that make you feel good about yourself deep, deep down. Even if you make a mistake, you can trust yourself when you take care of your mistakes. You trust that you have the strength and creativity to work out a problem with others. This builds your integrity and helps you be true to your nature, which is to be connected with others, and treat them in ways that make you feel good about yourself. Others in turn can grow to trust you.
In fact, a person who has developed courage will not hesitate to apologize when they know their actions have caused someone grief. Apologizing is a sign of strength, not weakness. I think we've gotten it wrong with apologies. Somewhere along the way, through forcing and shaming children into apologizing we have lost sight of what an apology actually says.
To me, an apology says, quite simply, "I care". "I care about you and about our relationship. I am aware I may have done something to burn the bridge between us. I want to repair that." It doesn't say, "I'm wrong and I suck and I know you will jump on this bandwagon of flagellating me". It creates peace and demonstrates love. It invites forgiveness and the act of forgiving.
NOT apologizing gives the message: "You're wrong and I don't have to apologize and you can't make me so I will just excuse myself and expect you to forget I mucked up, or I will just pretend you don't exist any more." It adds to the mess and creates distrust and loss of hope. It divides people in their hearts.
In my family, my single-mom-take-two family, we take care of ourselves and each other. That first of all means having a family culture of expression. Everyone is allowed to express their thoughts and feelings freely without fear of judgement. Taking care of each other and our own expressions means that when we mess up, through disrespect, harsh words or tone of voice, judging, or just plain developmentally appropriate defiance, we take steps to repair our relationship.
I have kept it simple, this addressing of breaches of relationship. I feel it is important to wait until the anger has abated. My first daughter taught me that one cannot apologize from "the angry place", and she was absolutely right. After the "angry place" has moved away, I will usually initiate conversation about what happened, and then each person involved gets to tell their side of the story. Once that is done, and appropriate apologies given and voiced, we hug. Often, just being able to speak one's story and have it be received brings enough validation that apologies seem unnecessary. I feel it is important to end any emotional storm with a stated apology and hug and a feeling of, "We are ok together. We are put back together." In stating the apology there is validation, an the person giving the apology develops a courage to own mistakes. In receiving an apology, there is an empathy towards the other person gained, and a receiving of validation. There is an experience of forgiveness for everyone.
I don't like for there to be things that simmer or are left unfinished. Holding things in causes a different kind of suffering.
The situation can be as simple as taking another's toy without asking. Experiencing even small acts of forgiveness, both giving and receiving such, consistently in family, is powerful and loving.
Of course, with my 6-year-old, this process is not directly stated, but rather it is modeled, with children and adults. I make sure my kids hear me give sincere apologies, as appropriate. If I accidentally knock off the glass of water at a restaurant, I say, "I apologize, let me help clean up." With my eleven-year-old, some of it can be directly stated, and as she grows and develops we can go deeper in our conversations with each other, and I can help her learn self-care and boundaries as part of  relating to not just her family, but her peers and the world at large.
I know this all sounds idealistic, and it is, for me, a work in progress. I have to often clean up after the "mean mom" voice is trotted out, or I forget a promise to draw with my child, or a hundred other times where I fail to______.  It is a statement of my goals as a parent, and how I am figuring it out for me. I am nowhere near perfect and have plenty of room to grow.
I do know that I want to create a culture of rebuild and repair in my home, and that I want apologies to come from a strong sense of courageous Self and not shame, and that teaching the art of apologizing and valuing your friends and family this way is as important as brushing's all self-care.
How do you teach forgiveness and relationship repair in your family? What ideas do you have?

Broken Things Part One

So often people lament that we live in a culture that has a disposable mindset...that when things have lived out their use or popular aesthetic, we replace them. It's true there are things we dispose of, things we make do with, and things we value enough to repair.
Right now, I have a lot of broken things in my life. They take my energy and drive me crazy. After nearly three years without a dryer and nearly 3 months without a washing machine, I have gotten them repaired. I have to let go of my van which requires more to fix it than is worth the trouble, so I undertake the absolutely torture-for-me process of car shopping. I really do hate that process I am getting a new water heater, and making a financial plan to update the other things in my house that so desperately need it. Fixing the broken thing of "not finishing my degree in my 20's" is an absolute joy. As hard as it is to find the time to do it, it feels good to finish business.
In finishing business, which for me is deciding to fix or let go of broken things, I learn that I can handle it. I can handle anything that comes my way, no matter how impossible or overwhelming or painful it might be. It is in this discernment that I tap into my own wisdom and power. Often I don't believe that I CAN handle it and this creates in me a sort of inertia.
Letting go of people is harder. I'd rather fix what is broken than actively discard someone. But I am learning that I cannot naively trust everyone to honor my boundaries, and that if I want to avoid consistently being on the receiving end of someone's inconsiderate behavior I'd better be choosy. And that people are fluid...sometimes I am a a preferred friend, sometimes I am not. I have seen that with my "business"-I use that term lightly because I have never truly delved into business-there is simply a natural ebb and flow.
I've been working with this with my own children. Some of the values I want to instill are: taking responsibility for one's own behavior, kindness to each other, and lack of judgment in personal interactions. That is for Part Two.
In my own life, I have blundered and stumbled and caused broken things. I have been moody and crabby and unintentionally made big messes, both emotional ones and literal ones. I often make my mistakes out loud, Some days it feels like I blunder a lot. Some things in my life become broken beyond hope of repair. Relationships, when broken, ideally can take those broken pieces and like with chemistry, can create a synergy of pieces that looks nothing like the un-working thing it was before, It can be better and stronger. But sometimes the raw materials themselves are irretrievably broken.
And I remind myself I can handle it. I have the ability to clean up my messes, no matter how big, how angry, how unintentional, how expensive, or how uncomfortable it is to do so.
Cleaning up your messes will inevitably involve apology. In learning about forgiveness, I am also learning about the fine art of apologizing, both giving and receiving. I find it is of great value to learn how to clean up your messes, for there one can experience the fullness of life...grace, love, forgiveness, strength, and healing.