Mother’s Day Is Complicated

Mother’s Day is complicated. Nonetheless, I hope you have a happy day.

For those of you who have good relationships with your mother… Or have good relationships with your children… For those of you who have lost your mother… and those who lost your child… For those of you whose babies weren’t born…. For those of you whose mothers weren’t the mothers you needed or wanted… For ambivalent mothers and mothers who are certain they aren’t doing what’s right for your kid because you have no idea what that is… For mothers flying by the seat of their pants… For women who are pressed to be mothers when they don’t want to be… And those pressed to not be mothers when they DO want to be… And those who are trying, TRYING so hard right now to become mothers…

For those who want to be mothers but for whatever reason can’t be… For those whose children are driving you legitimately bonkers right now… For those who have good relationships with their mothers and are partnered with someone who does not…And vice versa… For step moms and adoptive moms and foster moms and the people who step in when there’s no mom available… For those whose mothers are sick right now… For mothers who are worried about their children’s health… For those who wanted more children… and those who wanted fewer…

Happy Mother’s Day. May you have the space to feel the complexity of grief, bitterness, love, gratitude, anger, joy, peace, frustration, loss and fulfillment that comes from navigating these relationships.

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

Whether this year has been awful or glorious, messy or tidy, full of heartbreak or full of love, I hope you give yourself a pat on the back this week.

One of my most important annual rituals is making a list of accomplishments. Over the years, I’ve found this ritual provides something important to my recovering Good Girl: Letting myself see what I’ve actually gotten done.

It doesn’t matter if the thing you hoped for is incomplete still, or if it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. It doesn’t matter if you wanted to do better or if it could have been some other way. It’s about writing down what you DID. And giving yourself some credit for that.

So whatcha got?

  • Did you make more money this year? (Even if it wasn’t as much as you hoped, it still counts!)
  • Did you set a boundary with someone that you needed to? (Even if you wobble sometimes, it still counts!)
  • Did you do something for your health? (It doesn’t have to be perfect to be moving in the right direction.)
  • Did you check something off your bucket list? Make a new friend? Do something that scared you? Do more of something you had wanted to do? Complete a 30-day challenge? Make art? Move? Keep your room just a little bit tidier? Learn a new skill? Were you more honest with someone? Did you keep your plants alive? Did you keep yourself alive?

It counts!

Write it down. A year is a long time, and you did some amazing things this year, as well as things that aren’t maybe all that impressive to others, but they matter to YOU and deserve credit.

So write it down and congratulate yourself. However it went, you deserve to acknowledge what you’ve done. These guys can help:

via GIPHY

I’d Rather Be Crazy

“What’s worse? Looking jealous or crazy? Jealous or crazy?
Or like, being walked all over lately, walked all over lately,
I’d rather be crazy.”

This lyric from Beyonce’s album Lemonade (which she performed at the VMAs on Sunday) has stuck with me since the I first heard it in April.

Jealous or crazy? This pairing is painfully frequent. And not just “jealous.” You can substitute any strong, potentially messy emotion and get the same equation: Angry or crazy? Violated or crazy? Sad or crazy?

I can’t even count the number of clients I’ve worked with who lay out precisely how they feel about something, and then, at the end, tack on “Or am I just crazy?”

“Crazy” is an ableist term that is used disproportionately on women to describe and discredit their emotional reactions, particularly when a woman’s boundaries are crossed. So often a woman’s feelings are written off as “craziness” as she is told, basically, to behave herself in the face of something that is not okay with her.

People use the word “crazy” when they want to keep women and femmes from putting themselves at the center of their own emotional experience. It is also an effective way to introduce doubt in a woman about what she is experiencing. How often do we hear “Oh she’s crazy” as a way of saying “Oh don’t take her or her feeling seriously”? How often are women and girls told “Don’t be crazy” as a substitute for “Don’t feel that”?

How often do women tell themselves not to be crazy when they have an emotional reaction to something that isn’t working for them?

One of the core expectations of being a “Good Girl” is that a feminine person remain calm, manageable, emotionally pliant, and willing to set aside her feelings in service of other people. She is not to bring her messy, hard emotions to the table, as it might upset someone. Her emotions are a threat to the service of taking care of other people’s feelings. We’ve internalized these ideas of who we are supposed to be, and we call ourselves and other women “crazy” when we don’t comply.

What I love about Beyonce’s lyric is that she starts with the familiar binary: EITHER having a truly honest emotional reaction (in this case, jealousy about her husband cheating on her) OR writing that reaction off as crazy. But then she looks at the bigger picture. “Hey, wait a second. You’ve been walking all over me!” There is a REASON for her emotions, and she’s NOT crazy. And she will not be gaslit. If having an emotional reaction to her partner disrespecting her boundaries gets her labeled “crazy,” well then, so be it.

And the album proceeds from there.

In my coaching practice and in the Good Girl Recovery Program, I see women and people raised as girls constantly wrestling with fear of being seen as “crazy.” When we work together, I encourage my clients to get honest with their feelings and specific with their fears:

  • Who, specifically, are you worried about upsetting?
  • Who, specifically, are you trying to take care of by not being emotional?
  • Whether or not it’s “reasonable,” what are you feeling right now?
  • What might happen if you were to feel that fully?

By getting honest and specific, we can then look at how a particular situation needs to be handled. There are more options than only having big emotions or dismissing those feelings as “just crazy.” When you accept your emotions as legitimate, even if they are potentially messy for other people, then you can choose how to engage with the world from a more honest, empowered place. And that isn’t crazy at all.

Self-Care Is Not Optional

“Do you know the difference between indulgence and self care?”

I looked into her tear-stained face.

“No,” she said. “My whole life, it’s been about working my ass off, and then, when it gets to be too much, give myself a ‘treat,’ which I always regret later. No one ever taught me how to take care of myself. The only way I can do anything nice for myself is if I do it for someone else, or for my dog.”

My heart broke for her. Here was my brilliant, funny, smart, sarcastic, big-hearted, talented friend, who regularly gives joy  to more people than I can count, completely falling apart. For months, I’d watched her work and work and work, and today, she was about to throw the towel in on everything she had built.

By every measure, she was a “success:” Owner of a kooky, whackadoodle dream business, adored by thousands of people who frequently thanked her for her work and for changing their lives, doing the thing she loved most in a gorgeous city with a loving partner and an awesome dog. But no amount of talking about “self-care” could override the programming she got as a child that she was worthless, and didn’t deserve to be taken care of.

Especially by her own self.

We’ve all had moments of reaching for the sugar, the no-good lover, the trashy novel, the junk food, the new gadget, the porn, the expensive shoes or the chocolate. And we’ve all had times when what we needed was a nap, someone to feed us or touch us lovingly, a walk, some sunshine, or to get out of our own head.

Some of these are indulgence, and some of these are self-care. The messages we get about them are confusing. Marketing is full of women laughing while eating yogurt and chocolate being equated with sexual abandon and men stuffing themselves full beyond belief. We’re sold relaxation at hundreds or thousands of dollars a pop, as if taking a nap in your own bed is verboten.

How many ads for vacations, food or massage have you seen that include the phrase “sinful” or “indulgence” as if taking a break, eating food, or being taken care of wasn’t valuable in and of themselves?

We are encouraged to “work work work” and any deviance from that is labeled “selfish.” It can be nearly impossible to tell whether it’s okay to prioritize yourself, and if you do, how to actually take care of yourself instead of just having a “break” that leaves you feeling worse than you did before. So let’s break it down a bit.

What’s the difference between self-care and self-indulgence?

Self-care: Leaves you feeling nourished Associated with feelings of well-being May be hard to do at first Regular and consistent Addresses core needs Builds you up Self-Indulgence: May leave you feeling depleted or hung over Associated with feelings of guilt Often surrounded with language of shame, sinfulness or indulgence Happens inconsistently Doesn’t address underlying needs Costs you Can be fun

Now let’s be clear: there’s actually nothing wrong with indulging from time to time. Sometimes, being excessive can be fun. It can be a nice break from everyday reality to have too much wine or sugar, to chase after someone who’s not a good match for you, or to run away from your responsibilities for an afternoon. I am, in fact, unabashedly unapologetic about my enjoyment of the occasional hedonistic experience.

But as a substitute for self-nurturing, indulgence will always fall short. Because indulgence costs you, after you indulge, you may feel icky, tired, blown out or even more overwhelmed than when you started.

Self-care, on the other hand, helps you build your energy reserves. It leaves you feeling balanced, sated, clearer or more grounded. It’s listening to your body when you need a nap, or drinking a glass of water when the sugar cravings hit. It’s turning down a date with a needy-but-entertaining friend and exercising instead. Or Inviting that friend to go on a hike with you, so you can get your exercise in.

Self-care is not working for the sake of working, but working toward your goals, which are in alignment with your values. It’s knowing what your goals are in the first place, and how those goals support you as a person. It’s setting yourself up to win, not at the expense of other people, but by pro-actively creating an environment around you where you (and others) can rest, recharge, and evaluate.

Self-care is asking for help, letting others know your limitations, and picking your battles.

Self-care is not selfish.

When you’ve been taught that your job is to take care of everyone else around you, when you are expected to be responsible for other people’s emotions, when you’re the person in your family who is literally responsible for the survival of everyone else, taking care of yourself may seem selfish. It may seem like you are putting yourself before the family or the community.

But the thing is, self-care is what enables you to continue to be of service to others. It is the precise opposite of selfish. Without self-care, you are not able to continue caring for others. As Jada Pinkett Smith puts it, “You cannot be good to other people if your health is declining. You cannot be good to other people if you’re miserable. You cannot be good to your children if you have them, to your spouse if you have one, to your job and your career if you are not emotionally and mentally and physically healthy.”

What does self-care look like?

What's on your puppy checklist?The details of what self-care looks like will be different for each person, but it can be helpful to start with what my pal Q calls “The Puppy Checklist” — that is, doing for yourself the things that a puppy needs to be happy and healthy:

  • Eating appropriate amounts of healthy food on a reasonable schedule
  • Drinking enough water
  • Moving your body, even if it’s just a few walks a day
  • Spending time sniffing around your neighborhood and noticing things
  • Playing with toys and with others
  • Being petted
  • Getting to bed at a reasonable hour and getting as much sleep as you need.
  • Taking care of your basic health needs, going to the doctor and taking your meds on time
  • Listening to your body and doing what it tells you it needs

Other self-care approaches may be impacted by your health or what you do for a living. For example, someone who experiences frequent migraines may take steps to adjust the lighting in their workspace and home. At work, self-care may be about leaving your desk at 5:30 sharp, or setting clear boundaries with clients about when you’re available. (Boundaries in general are an important self-care tool.)

Take Action

Wherever you’re at in your self-care journey, I invite you to take a look at one thing you could do today to take better care of yourself. Think of one habit you’d like to build (the simpler the better) or one thing that you will say no to. What’s on your puppy checklist?

Remember that although you get to indulge and be selfish when you need to, that self-care is not selfish. It is vital and necessary for your wholeness and your ability to be a light shining into the world. Please take care of yourself like you’re someone you love.

Even if that someone is a puppy.

New Year, New You?

joy1New Year New You? That’s what all the advertisements say right now.

It’s a new year, you should lose weight.
It’s a new year, you should make more money.
It’s a new year, it’s time to finally find a partner.
It’s a new year, better buy a house. Or a car. Or some bedding or something.

The ads say once you do all these things, then you can finally be happy.

What. A load. Of crap.

I love the new year, but I hate all the emotional manipulation that goes with it.

You don’t need to change who you are to be happy.

And you DON’T need to accomplish a bunch of stuff that may not even be what matters to you in order to deserve happiness.

In fact, trying to achieve happiness through goals that aren’t even your own is the surest path to dissatisfaction.

Now I’m not saying don’t set goals. I love goal-setting and right now I’m in the middle of setting my own 2016 goals and intentions.

But your resolutions, goals, and intentions for the new year need to be about who you are, what you want and what actually lights you up and turns you on. When you include the things you care about — not what you were told to do or what you should want — your goals may be odd and a little surprising, but they will lead you to a kind of happiness not found in the gym or with a financial planner.

So as you figure out what you want your 2016 to be like, here are some questions to consider:

Is this goal based on a felt desire within myself? One that I can feel in my body? Is there an internal yearning for this? Or is this a goal I’ve been told to want, feel like I should want or feel like I should do?

For years, I set financial goals for myself that I failed to meet. “Pay off all your credit card debt. Save 20% of your income.” Reasonable stuff like that. It took me a while to realize that the reason I failed wasn’t because of some horrible flaw in myself. It was because I hadn’t connected my financial goals to the rest of my values and my life. Once I set financial goals that were connected to things that genuinely excited me (instead of just doing what I was told I should do), my finances suddenly and sharply improved — because my reasons were intimately connected to my values.

Similarly, I never got much traction on any “exercise more” goals, but when it became about “having fun in my own skin,” suddenly dancing, hiking, swimming and sailing on a regular basis naturally followed.

What do I want my goals to feel like when I achieve them? Are the things I’ve written down for 2016 things that will lead to me feeling that way?

Have you ever accomplished something, and when it was all over wondered, “Is that all there is?” Sometimes we become so focused on WHAT we’re trying to accomplish that we lose track of why we even started in the first place, or whether we should have changed course in the middle. Connecting your goals with how you want it to feel will keep your life from just being a giant checklist.

Do my goals encompass all parts of me? Or just the parts that I feel are acceptable to pursue?

It’s easy to be ambitious about things that your family, your friends or your society rewards you for. But what about the things that the people around you don’t understand or don’t ever talk about? Over a decade ago, I decided my annual intention-setting needed to include goals about developing my relationship to my own sexuality. At the time, I knew no one who did such a thing and it felt incredibly risky to even write it down in my own journal. But now I enjoy so much spaciousness, self-knowledge, autonomy, pleasure and freedom that I want to go back and give my younger self a giant high five. What parts of yourself (sexually, creatively, financially, relationally) feel similarly risky to have goals or intentions around? What baby step can you take this year to include that in your goal-setting?

Dream big this year if you want. Or don’t. Try something bold this year. Or don’t. It’s not about what it looks like on the outside, and it’s certainly not about pleasing other people.

Make a life for yourself this year that is about you and your heart… I bet it will be extraordinary.

 

Mighty fine thanks to Martin Talbot for the photo.

12 Ways To Say No Gracefully (Without Saying “Maybe Later”)

Grace: (n)simple elegance or refinement of movement; courteous goodwill.

We all want connection. Saying no can feel terrifying, especially if you are afraid of losing connection with someone you care about. Rejecting someone you love sucks.

In many cases, even if we don’t know the person, we want to avoid rocking the boat. But “not really saying no, and then hoping that the other person will somehow magically abide by it anyway” is not an effective strategy for maintaining your boundaries OR getting what you want.

Here are a bunch of ways to say no to loved ones, strangers, people selling you things, coworkers, lovers and everyone in between. Practice them all, and find the versions that work best for you.

No Thank You final

(Download a printable, poster-sized PDF version of this graphic here.)

Remember:

  • You don’t have to justify your no. Resist the temptation to explain why it’s not a good fit, why you feel stomach-churny, or why you need to build more trust. Avoid making excuses.
  • When you state what’s true about your experience, it’s harder to argue with you.
  • You get to have boundaries.
  • “No” is a complete sentence.
  • When you say what you do want instead, it gives you both something to work from (if you want that.)

21 Things to Stop Tolerating This Year

So we’re a few weeks into the new year, and by now your goals/resolutions/intentions are either sticking, or they’re not.

If they are, great! Gold stars all around!

If they’re not, it might be because you haven’t made room for them. There’s just too much stuff on the table. You know that feeling of overwhelm and too many demands?

Yeah that.

The easiest way to make room for what you want, is to stop tolerating things you don’t.

Toleration: (n) the people, events or situations that you put up with, that drain your energy.

Tolerating things is a waste of time and effort. They keep you from being yourself and enjoying life to the fullest. Generally, it’s a fast-track to anger, frustration and irritability, and almost everyone does too much of this. 

We do it because we don’t want to make a fuss.

We do it because it’s easier to just put up with it.

We do it because “Who has the time?”

But tolerations add up. They’re like holes your personal happiness cup. You put happiness in, but you end up feeling drained anyway. Every little thing that doesn’t matter that much, but makes you a little bit annoyed (or downright grumpy) is something you’re tolerating, and if you’re like most people, I bet you have dozens, if not hundreds, of them.

On top of that, we tell ourselves little lies to make it seem okay:

128H“It’s not a big deal.”
“He didn’t mean it that way.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Or big ones:

“I’m not good enough to have that.”
“I don’t deserve that.”
“If I were really enlightened, this wouldn’t bother me.”

So not only are you putting up with things that don’t work for you, you’re also confusing yourself about what’s actually reality.

From there, it’s almost impossible to know what you actually want, much less make it happen.

So, for the new year, here are 21 things to stop tolerating.

  1. Relationships that drain you
  2. A work environment or career that you hate
  3. Work that isn’t aligned with your worth
  4. Uncomfortable beds, shoes or chairs
  5. Not having the right tools for the job
  6. Making plans with people you don’t really want to see, or to do things you don’t really want to do
  7. That voice in your head that tells you “you suck”
  8. Other people’s negativity
  9. Not getting enough sleep
  10. Sitting too much
  11. Not drinking enough water
  12. Trying to make everyone happy all the time / what other people think of you
  13. Keeping up with the Joneses
  14. Thinking that perfect exists
  15. Bad sex
  16. Unfinished business
  17. Dishonesty
  18. Lack of intimacy
  19. Constantly managing your emotional state to “okay”
  20. Not getting the help you need
  21. Not saying what you need

Because we’re so used to putting up with stuff, it may be hard to even see it at first. I invite you to lean into your self-honesty here, and ask yourself:

What am I tolerating?
What is this costing me?
Why have I been tolerating it? (i.e., What’s the payoff been?)
What’s actually true about what I want?
What is one small but powerful step I can take toward the truth?

Then write it down, and post where you can see it:

I will no longer tolerate …
Instead, I choose to…

 

For more on tolerations, download my free ebook: Good Girl Gone Bad (where I share over 50 things I’ve been tolerating.)

A Broken Down, Hurting Howl of Want

You know what I love? I love it when one of you replies to me and plays the “I Want” Game from the Uncover Your Desires e-course. The answers are so varied and heartfelt and I feel touched every single time one pops into my inbox. Some are simple. Some are playful. Some are so, so sad I can feel the longing and want jump out of the screen at me.

SadnessI found one of my own “I Want” games today, and I wanted to share it with you. This is from a few months ago, when I was in the midst of what felt like an incredible betrayal. My mind was going crazy. I had been hurt tremendously by someone close to me and I was in so much pain. Every moment was consumed with “Why? Why? Why?”

I knew from experience that playing the “I Want” game was a path to reconnecting with my own desires. Circling around the endlessly unanswerable question of why this had happened to me was getting me nowhere, so I played.

It didn’t fix everything (it took months of conversation with the person who had hurt me to sort things out fully, and that bit is still tender for me.) But playing did crack the door open to other parts of myself that were getting lost in the pain. It was reminded me that what I wanted was bigger than just the fear and grief and loss.

Every bit of my own insecurity, ambition and pain is in this list, a snapshot of a moment of desire. So much felt so scary to me at the time, and this “I Want” is my own hurting howl of want, entirely unedited… which makes it especially edgy to put it out for the whole internet to read. But I believe that it’s only by sharing our messy bits that we get the space and permission we need to be whole, so I’m sharing it here with you, now. Here goes…

***

What I Want…

I want him to pay attention to me, to realize how much I’m hurting, to take more than just 20 minutes and actually GET ME, to realize I’m not demanding anything of him, that I”m simply asking something of him, and for him to give me an answer.

I want to not have to walk away because he won’t give me an answer.

I want to be able to enjoy the incredible beauty I’m surrounded by right now, here at my friend’s estate, without thinking about the pain I feel from having been dropped.

I want to relive that moment of eating the apple and the orange from the garden, slow it down even more.

I want to throw my iPhone in the trash. It seems, in this moment, to be the source of so much of my pain.

I want to pay attention to my breath. I want to not sound so much like a hippie when I say stuff like that.

I want to remember. I want to hold on. I want to hold all these moments. I want to capture these things. I want to not want that, because I know the futility of it, but I want it anyway, and I’m letting myself want it.

I want to be heard. I want to be loved. I want that what he said was true to be actually true. I want my trust to have not been misplaced.

I want to be a better cook. I want to know what flavors go with what and to be able to just know that that is the sausage to get, and those are the greens that go with it. I want to not be intimidated when people are having a potluck and I’m supposed to bring something. There are so many foodies here!

I want to be more disciplined about my writing. I want to be able to transfer the discipline I have in showing up for difficult conversations or creating experiences for people into my writing.

I want to understand the longing that other people seem to feel that I feel so rarely. I want to get what it is that makes other people tick. I want to not feel aversion to some of the things that lay under the surface of that ticking. I want to be able to be with it all.

I want flowers in my home on a regular basis.

I want less of my life to revolve around my damn iPhone.

I want to be sending and receiving more letters in the mail. I consider myself lucky that I have that at all. I want more of that.

I want to be speaking on stage in front of hundreds of people on a regular basis. I want my book to be written and published. I more than want these. I will make these happen. I believe these things will fulfill something deep in me that is more than want. I want to fulfill that.

I want my family of choice to feel stable again. I want to know where I fit in, whether there is a there there anymore. I want to be able to relax into knowing when I will see people and that I will be held. I want us all to stop being in so much pain over so many complex and hard things. I want my friends to stop breaking up and separating and for things to feel settled again.

I want to be producing more than I currently have the means to produce. I want more support professionally, and I want it to feel good and inspiring.

I want to go on a book tour. 🙂

I want to stop arguing with him in my head. I want to be heard.

I want to know how to end this list.

***

(If you don’t know the “I Want” game, sign up for the free Uncover Your Desires e-course right here, and you can play too.)

What’s Stopping You Around Money and Sex?

Amy_Jo-222_LowResI’m really excited to let you know about a bonus interview I did with my colleague and friend, Amy Jo Goddard — an amazing sexual empowerment coach and sexuality educator based in Napa, CA. Amy Jo helps women and couples have more pleasure, better sex, and deeper intimacy in their relationships… and lately, she’s bringing in a whole new piece around money and business.

We dug deep into the patterns and beliefs that many women carry about money and sex without realizing it. She’s gave a seriously interesting head’s up about upcoming work in the Napa Valley that you won’t want to miss!

Listen in to find out:

  • what is money shame… and how does it impact intimate relationships
  • the cultural socialization around sex, relationships and money that specificallylimits women
  • why women have such a hard time asking for what they want
  • the hidden archetype that blocks women around money and sex

Click here to listen.

Are You Letting Yourself Get What You Want?

Sick couple resting in bedI see this way too often: A couple loves each other. They communicate pretty well. Sex has been hot before. But something’s just not… going right.

You want to make your partner writhe with pleasure, and if all goes well, give them a pretty fantastic orgasm.

This sounds like a good thing. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with THAT?

Nothing, except… GIVING your partner a good time is only half of the equation.

The problem, far too often, is that both partners are trying to please each other AT THE SAME TIME.

Which means there’s no receiver.

Which means no one is GETTING what they want.

It’s not that either of you are “giving too much.” It’s that there’s no one there to appreciate the gift.

For most people, it’s less vulnerable to give than it is to put your desire out there. If you let your desires be known, you may risk rejection. So many of us just give and give, in order to stay safe.

After a while of this, it might start to feel like you’re going through the motions. “I just want to make you happy” is not a recipe for bedroom success. If it goes on too long, resentment can build.

So how do you change that? Practice receiving.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Slow down. Breathe into the sensations and allow yourself to feel them.
  • Let yourself enjoy what is happening without doing anything in response.
  • Ride the edge where it feels like you’re being “selfish”… and let yourself be.
  • If there’s something you like and want more of, say so.
  • Acknowledge and thank your partner for their attention, their desire, their touch.
  • Explore taking what you want sexually.
  • If you don’t know what your partner’s boundaries are, ask! (When you know where the line is, you can go all the way up to it, and that’s hot!)

touch-compassionhands-404x297Opening up to your desires can feel edgy, and accepting your partner’s sexual gifts can feel selfish. Yet without some selfishness, the sex can end up feeling blah. So push that edge a little, be receptive, and see what happens!