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.


14 Ways to Find Stability When Everything Has Gone Bonkers

The world around us is bananas right now. Each day brings a fresh deluge of awful news, and it seems like the world as we know it is coming apart at the seams. Everywhere I look right now, the story is the same: Dozens of my clients, colleagues and friends have said they feel like they aren’t doing enough, while everything seems to be taking twice as long to do. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are clouding up our perceptions, and moving forward feels like moving through molasses.

You’re taking action. You may have added calling your representatives to your daily routine, or you might be marching for the first time in years (or ever). Maybe you’re taking extra care to clarify your values to your kids, or donating money or time to a cause you believe in. But none of it seems to be enough, and you can’t shake that deep sense of ungroundedness and uncertainty. For those tender souls who feel everything, stability and a sense of centeredness are especially hard to find right now.

Whether you’re reacting to the current political climate, or you are just trying to get through life with a pushy parent, a stressful job, a sick kid or any of life’s other major stressors, there’s not an overnight fix. When things around you have gone haywire, the last thing you might think to do — and the most important — is to give yourself some foundation to stand on.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Take a breath

Get into nature

Nature provides a different perspective. The trees, oceans, mountains and lakes have been here long before we were here and they’ll be here long after we’re gone. Plus, fresh air is good for you. Whether you wander into the woods near your house or just spend a few minutes on a park bench, a little time in nature, away from the concerns of people, might be just the thing you need. Watch some bugs, feel the breeze and take comfort that there’s an entire world that has nothing to do with human concerns — and you already live in it.

Renegotiate your relationship to social media.

self-care-social-mediaYou wouldn’t go to a party filled with people you didn’t want to see.

Why should social media be any different? Unfollow, unfriend or block people who leave you feeling unsettled after you interact with them. Hide news sources that overstimulate your emotions in order to get you to click. Cut back on how much time you spend on Facebook and Twitter and consider taking up an offline habit to replace them with. Unfollow anyone you are comparing yourself to on Instagram and start following things that inspire you instead (I hardly follow any of my actual real life friends on Instagram and my feed is mostly filled with pictures of nature, art, and cute animals. Instagram is my happy place, and I’m ruthless about it.

Notice how you feel after you use a social media site, and if it’s not good, immediately take steps to alter its role in your life.

Call a friend.

Call someone you love. Reconnect with someone from your past. Have a conversation with someone whose opinion you respect that goes beyond liking their comments on Facebook, or wondering yet again what they’re up to. Pick up the phone and call them.

If you have phone anxiety, try scheduling a phone date ahead of time or using Skype so you can see them. Ask questions about how it’s going. Be curious. Talk about what they’re seeing, what they’re noticing, what matters to them. There’s more to their life than what you hear through gossip or social media. Connecting in real time makes a difference and builds a relationship that matters to you.

Drop someone a note.

Since the election, I have started writing a lot more notes and letters. I’ve sent notes to people from my past thanking them for their impact on my life, a birthday card to kid with an intellectual disability, a note to an immigrant friend letting him know I’m glad he’s here, a thank you note to my congressman, and probably half a dozen more. It takes less than 15 minutes and it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to feel grounded and connected to other people.

You can send a private message to someone you admire on Facebook,telling them you appreciate them. Drop a card in the mail to a friend letting them know you’re thinking of them. Write anonymous love notes and leave them in your neighborhood. Thank a former teacher who affected you in a meaningful way.

Too anxious to actually call your reps? Write an email or send a postcard to your congress critters telling them about the issues you care about most.

Move your body

It’s easy to take the weight of the world onto your shoulders, so take a couple of minutes to move around. You could do a full-blown workout (it sure seems to me that a lot of folks are exercising more to cope with the stress), but just a minute or two of stretching can go a long way to making you feel like maybe you’re gonna be okay after all. (My foam roller is saving my life right now.)

After reading upsetting news, 20 pushups or jumping jacks can help reset your nervous system. Literally, actually “shaking it off” gives the adrenaline and fear someplace to go, and is really good for you.

Shake It Off GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Get more sleep.

Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Take naps. Let yourself unwind away from screens for an hour or two before bed. Keep the stressful stuff out of the bedroom. Go get some acupuncture and pass out in the chair. Or a conk out during a massage. Whatever gets you there.

Take care of someone (or something) else.

One of the best ways to get out of your own head is to put your attention on someone or something else. Now might be the time to make your garden extra nice or to adopt a pet. Show up for a sick friend, or start doing that volunteer work you’ve been thinking about for a while.

Look for good news.

marcia-baczynski-good-girlI’m not saying that you should pretend that everything is all rosy or that you should ignore that awful things that are happening. But it’s easy to get disheartened or to think that efforts at protest and pushback aren’t working if you don’t acknowledge them when they do. So pay attention when there is a small victory, when tens of thousands of people spontaneously protestwhen millions of women march to have their voices heard, when CEOs of massively influential companies take a stand in the streets, when a boycott works when there’s a win of any kind, even if it’s imperfect.

Collect bits of good news as though they are balloons and let them lift you up when you need it.


Say Thank You.

“Thank you” is an interpersonal form of gratitude, and it can really make someone’s day. Make a point to thank the people around you who make your life better. From your barista to your coworker to your Lyft driver or the person bagging your groceries, a brief, heartfelt “thanks” can make you feel connecting to others and remind you that everything is not all bad, and basic things are still working.

I recently called a big corporation that was doing something I liked to thank them, and the woman on the other end of the phone was absolutely delighted to hear from me. No one ever calls to say “You’re doing a good job.” It feels good on both ends. Try it.

Meditate (or something like it)

It seems like everywhere I look these days, people are using the Headspace app. So many folks I know are using it right now to get a grip on things, and it seems to be working. So if meditation is your thing and you could use a little help, check it out.

If, on the other hand, you prefer less traditional ways of meditating, try coloring or playing with boxes of sand. However you find your way to the present moment is a good one. Just 10 minutes will make a world of difference.

Let yourself rest.

marcia-baczynski-self-careIt can be tempting to try to stay up-to-date and current, but being emotionally keyed up isn’t the same thing as taking action to make a change. When you are wound up and can’t seem to get a grip, it’s time to rest. Get off the treadmill of needing to know what’s happening at all times. Turn off the news at 8pm and do quiet things until bedtime.

Take a 24 hour media break over the weekends.

Let your time be filled with companionable silence instead of trying to understand another slice of what’s happening.

Don’t worry, the problems aren’t going anywhere

They’ll still be there for you to pick up when you’re ready. For now, stop. Rest. It’s not your job to know all of the things.

Call your representatives.

Yes, I know everyone is telling you to do this. If like me, you have some phone anxiety, it may not seem like this is a grounding activity. But if you’ve been ranting on Facebook about your opinions, and feeling like no one important is hearing you, it can be immensely satisfying to call your reps and hear someone on the other end of the phone thank you for telling them what you want.

And you’re much more likely to get what you want when you ask the people who might be able to do something about it.

I found that 90 seconds of phone calls to my reps each morning is much more grounding than 3 hours of scrolling through the “news”. If like me, you need a little structure to lead you through, here are some guides to help:

Prioritize pleasure and joy.

self-care-pleasure-maria-baczynskiRemember your senses and tend to them. Run your fingers through wet grass. Inhale the scent of the flowers that are starting to bloom. Snuggle up with a loved one even though your mind is racing. Play games with your kids. Watch a comedy. Lose yourself in a good book. Wear the sexy underwear. Make art that makes you feel good. Make your favorite meal and dine by candlelight. Learn a new skill. Make an altar. Cozy up by the fire. Drink the good bottle of wine. Don’t let these things be taken from you. They are what make you feel alive, no matter what is going on around you.

Hang in there

If things seem extra hard right now, you’re not making it up. But that doesn’t mean you have to make it even harder on yourself. Developing practices to keep you centered and grounded will help you get through the hard stuff, whether it’s the fresh hell of daily “news” or the pile of pain that life has a habit of throwing our way sometimes.

As Audre Lorde put it, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” The road ahead is long. Plan for a marathon, not a sprint.

Embodiment for Brainiacs – An Interview with Leela Sinha

rodin-thinkerDesire. Bodies. Feelings. Pleasure.

Some of us look at these things with a skeptical eye.

Others run screaming in the other direction.

For a lot of us, phrases like “Listen to your intuition,” “Trust your body,” and “What does your gut say?” sound like gibberish at best, or an invitation to disaster at worst.

But for heady people who have learned to listen to their bodies, the intuitive and gut-level is additional information that can help you navigate your world more gracefully and intelligently.

It’s just information. It’s all information.

And we all know that knowledge is power.

0622130850My friend Leela Sinha and I know this, because we’ve been there. Coming from families of engineers, mathematicians and medical professionals, we both learned from an early age to value the life of the mind, and to “figure things out.” As adults, though, we’ve each come to discover that there’s a lot more to creating a life you love than you can “figure out.”

Sometimes your gut has a lot to say, and it’s worth listening.

We recently got together to talk about this and got into the nitty gritty details of:

  • What it means, practically speaking, to be “embodied” and why it’s useful
  • How to use your body to figure out what you really want (in life, love, work and in the bedroom)
  • Simple practices for listening to your body and figuring out what it wants
  • What “intuition” is really about
  • How to use your body’s wisdom to help your mind make better life decisions
  • And loads more…

It was awesome! Lucky for you, we recorded it.

You can listen right here (right click to download)

How to Talk to Your Monsters

We all want stuff in our relationships. Better sex. More sex. To not have to take the trash out. 15 extra minutes in the morning for snuggles. Whatever.

Let’s assume you know what you want.

Why aren’t you asking for it?

If you’re like most people, There Be Monsters.

You know the ones:

  • The “Fear of Missing Out” Monster
  • The “What If I’m Not Good Enough” Monster
  • The “What If They Freak Out” Monster
  • The “I Can’t Ask For THAT” Monster
  • The “There’s Not Enough Time” Monster
  • The “They’re Just Going to Laugh At Me” Monster

and so on…

(That’s what they’re called if they are articulate monsters. More often, they’ll be all like “AAAGGGG!!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! YOU CAN’T DO THAT!! IT WILL ALL BE NO GOOD NO GOOD NO GOOD!!!! DANGER DANGER!!!!!!!! BAD!!! AAAAGGGGGG!!!!!”)

Sound familiar?

The thing is, secretly, your monsters only want the best for you. They don’t respond well at all to being shut down or pushed aside. They want to be HEARD and unless you do, they’ll wreak havoc all over the place.

That’s why you have to learn how to talk to your monsters. Here’s how:

Step One: Introduce Yourself to Your Monster.

See, your Monster just wants to be seen. It’s there to protect you, so you might as well make friends with it. So often we either let the Monster run the show (because it’s Big and Scary and Loud) or we try to shove the Monster in the corner, which just makes it cranky (because Nobody puts Monster in the corner!) Start by being friendly with it.

(Pro tip: It can be helpful to assume that your Monster is very clever and about 4 years old.)

HOW: Take some quiet space where you have freedom to talk, imagine and make noise. (Your car, bedroom or journal might be ideal.) Now, say hi to your Monster. Let it know you hear it. Ask its name. Tell it what you already know about it. Be sure to be friendly to it! (Don’t piss your monster off right away.)

It might sound something like this:

Oh hi there Monster. Good to meet you. I’ve seen you around these parts lately, talking about how bad it would be if we got laughed at/ missed something / weren’t good enough. What’s your name?

WATCH OUT FOR: Your Monster might try to divert your attention from it by saying “This is all stupid and who believes in Monsters anyway?!” That’s okay. Just acknowledge your Monster’s point of view and ask for its name. Your Monster may be cranky or quiet too. However your Monster shows up is okay. It’s just doing its job.

Step Two: Ask Your Monster What It Wants for You.

This might be kind of tricky. Some monsters might seem like they don’t have anything they want for you, only things they want you NOT to do. A little curiosity goes a long way here.

HOW: Ask the Monster what its job is, what it wants to keep from happening and/or what it wants for you.

It might sound something like this:

So [Monster’s Name Here], what’s your job around here? I hear that Monsters like you are here to make sure everything’s running okay. What is it you’re in charge of? Do you have a thing that you’re here to keep from happening? Is there something you’re in charge of making sure happens?

WATCH OUT FOR: Garbled attacks that make no sense. If you get that, just be calm and patient. You might have a really freaked out Monster on your hands.

Step Three: Validate Your Monster’s Desires for You.

Monsters LOVE to know they’re doing good job, and they generally can’t relax until they know someone sees what they’re keeping an eye on. It’s time to give your Monster some solid props.

HOW: Acknowledge what your Monster is doing for you and how good they are at it. Point out that it’s been really successful at making sure that whatever bad thing it’s worried about doesn’t happen. Love up your Monster.

It might sound something like this:

Wow, you must be really good at (making sure there’s enough time/ making sure I don’t fail/ making sure I’m loved / keeping me from being embarrassed / keeping me from missing out / etc). Oh, I get that you want to make sure that I’m okay. You’re doing such a good job keeping me safe.

WATCH OUT FOR: Monsters are sensitive to false praise or anything that tries to shut them down. Make sure your acknowledgments are genuine!

Step Four: Negotiate With Your Monster.

The thing is, your Monster doesn’t always know that there may be a better way to do what it does. It just wants to know that it’s successful. But now that you’ve demonstrated to it that you know it can be successful, there might be room for negotiation.

HOW: Look for a win/win for you and your monster. Use “we” when talking to your Monster so it knows you’re in it with them.

It might sound like this:

What if we asked our Partner for more sex / different sex / to not have to take the trash out / (insert desire here) but before we did it, we made sure to ask for Partner not to laugh at us / make sure the calendar was cleared / ask Partner to be gentle with us / (fill in strategy for taking care of Monster here.)?

WATCH OUT FOR: Trying to pull one over on your Monster. Remember, it has a job to do, so if you don’t address its concerns in your proposal, your Monster is just going to flip out again. Your Monster might be wary at first. This is okay — remember it’s still doing its job.

Negotiating with your Monsters might take a few tries before you are able to get it to get with the program. Just remember, monsters don’t like to be forced into anything, especially as they take their jobs very, very seriously. You may have to be ridiculously sensible with it, or explore with them as though they might be right, or be very very gentle with your Monster. Don’t be alarmed if your Monster throws a temper-tantrum (Keep in mind, they’re usually 4 years old. It happens.) Sometimes Monsters just lie down and take a nap only to wake up cranky later. Stay in touch with your Monster and pay attention to its reactions to things. Listen to what it says to you. Eventually you will find what works so that you can ask for more of what you want.

Monsters are good at keeping you safe, but their methods are often at odds with what you really want. Take the time to get to know them and you can work together to keep you both safe and trying new things!