Week 34: Let’s Hold Each Other Like We’re Dying [Loveable 035]

“Sometimes, we fight so we don’t have to feel. Sometimes, we trade jeers so we don’t have to trade tears…and that’s a problem. Because the solutions to our most pressing concerns don’t lie within the heated exchange of our ideas; they lie at the bottom of our grief. If we don’t get better at grieving, we can’t get better at loving and living.”

In Episode 35 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about how attention to our mortality can radically reshape our reality, making us less reactive and more tender, bringing us peace, and expanding our sense of belonging to include all people…

loveable podcast episode 35

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Before we share our secrets with trusted others, we must first admit them to ourselves.
  • In places of true belonging, our people can help us to see the secrets we’ve been keeping, even from ourselves. If we let them.
  • Grieving our losses ahead of time gives us a chance to redeem them in advance by living a more intentional and loving life.
  • One natural result of contemplating our mortality is compassion.
  • Only by going through sorrow about our mortality do we exit our denial, anger, and fear and enter into peace. Sorrow is the doorway.
  • When we surrender to grief it becomes peace; when we resist it, it becomes depression.
  • The surest way to develop confidence in your courage is to grieve.
  • Our mortality is our most fundamental common ground, and awareness of it straightens out our priorities and expands our sense of belonging.

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Can You See Yourself in All of Them?

She stands there, small as any eight year-old, hidden in the towering aisles of the toy store. She picks up the Magic 8 Ball and shakes it. It comes up Yes. She sighs with relief. The question asked by this little girl of this little toy? “Will I ever fit in this world?”

In her, I see me.

compassion

Photo Credit: Taospy (Bigstock)

He hobbles forward, looking bewildered, a ten-year-old searching the crowd for help. He falls into the crushed rock and shattered shells battered by time into sand. The tender underside of his foot sliced from fore to aft. Skin parted. Blood flowing. He grits his teeth and calls it the Red Sea. He’s a little wounded and a little brave.

In him, I see me.

The teenager wakes early, before the sun, before his parents. Pours a bowl of cereal for himself. He gathers his Thermos full of ice and water, his sandwich full of turkey and cheese, and his heart full of questions and peace. He heads into the fields, into the eventually burning sun. He gives his day to the earth.

In him, I see me.

The old man moves slowly, carefully. He looks at the ground as he walks, scanning the terrain for danger. He picks his way around a rock, big as a boulder to an ant, big as a boulder to a man approaching his second century. One slip and he’s bedridden for a month, for a year. For the rest of his life? Fragile, and he knows it.

In him, I see me.

The father of two is covered in wood shavings and sweat. He’s got ten minutes to finish felling the tree. Then, he must go. To take his boy to basketball camp. To make sure his daughter isn’t staring into a screen all day. To try to keep it all together. To rest his weary bones.

In him, I see me.

The woman stands on the corner, her mouth slouched to one side, her eyes too far apart, her bra straps showing, shouting at the traffic passing by, for no apparent reason. Her words are slouched like her mouth. Something is off here, perhaps a chromosome. Her hands rest on a stroller in front of her. The baby in it hollers like her mother. A different kind of sadness.

In both of them, I see me.

The disheveled man lays on the curb, on his right side, his right arm stretched out as a pillow for his head. His resting place a street corner. His home the streets. His eyes are open but not open. Looking at him, a little boy’s heart breaks. The boy looks downward at his treasured left over food, turns around, crouches down, gives away his bounty, and enters into the gift of downward mobility.

In both of them, I see me.

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Week 33: The Healing Is in the Emptying [Loveable 034]

“True intimacy is not the absence of privacy or the absence of boundaries or the absence of a separate self—in fact, we need to have our own spaces and limits and identity. True intimacy is the absence of secrets.”

The quality of your belonging will be inversely correlated with the size of your secrets. The more secrets you harbor about who you are, what you’ve done, why you’ve done it, how you’re wounded, and so on, the more difficult it will be to cultivate authentic connection and love. So, the challenge in Episode 34 of The Loveable Podcast is this: begin the emptying…

loveable podcast episode 34

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • A useful acronym: W.A.I.T. Why am I talking? Or, where am I speaking from, my true self or my false self? Does this facilitate connection with them (true self), or protection of me (false self)?
  • Prejudice diminishes as we live less and less from our false self, but it is never eliminated completely, because our true self never completely goes away.
  • Kids need parents with conflicting strengths. When those strengths cause actual conflict, it is simply complementarity without grace.
  • To confess secrets is to feel good, healthy, unburdened. Perhaps not immediately, but eventually.
  • The part of us that most commonly keeps secrets is the little one in us who is trying to stay out of trouble.
  • When you go to therapy, reveal your secrets, and realize you are still worthy of belonging, it gives you the courage to do this outside of therapy, as well.
  • Telling secrets may continue to refine our circles of belonging. This is hard. And essential.
  • There is no detour around risk and vulnerability if you want to arrive at belonging.

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Why We Need to Wobble

I was accidentally sabotaging my daughter’s dream.

For two summers, Caitlin began the season dreaming of riding a bike. And for two summers, by the time the bees were on the buds and the cottonwood was on the air, that dream had been stashed away, along with her bike, in the back of the garage. I couldn’t figure it out. Caitlin is brave, but our practice sessions would always end in her fear and my frustration.

It turns out, I wasn’t giving her what she needed.

facing your fears

Photo Credit: Kobyacov (Bigstock)

A few weeks ago, signs of summer returned to our part of the world—grass got green and buzzing bees could be heard on the warming breeze—so Caitlin and I rolled her bike out of the garage, hoping for third times and charms. But, once again, the fear and frustration quickly set in. I began to wonder if a bike-riding gene had been deleted from her DNA. Then, the truth hit me. There was something missing, but it wasn’t a gene.

I wasn’t letting her wobble.

I was holding the back of her seat for stability, but I was holding on too tight. I was eliminating any sense of imbalance from her ride, so she would feel safe, so she could learn while unafraid. But, ironically, this had magnified her fear. Now, she wasn’t just afraid of falling; she was also afraid of the sensation of wobbling.

And wobbling is how you learn to ride.

Wobbling on a bike is the only way to learn balance. When you wobble one way, you lean your body in the other. When you overcorrect, you learn to recorrect. Eventually, you learn the skill of making countless minute adjustments to keep yourself upright and moving forward. Wobbling is how you learn to ride.

Wobbling is also how you learn to live.

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Week 32: Becoming Students of the People We Belong To [Loveable 033]

“Relationships can grow stale and stuck. Perhaps that’s just the way life goes and the way love ages. But maybe, just maybe, we can fall into love again by learning how to pay attention again—by giving up all of our judgment and assessment and critique and meeting our people in the field of awareness, instead of upon the field of battle.”

In Episode 33 of The Loveable Podcast, we seek love again by choosing to be in school again. Let’s become students of the people we love, curious, fully attentive, ready to learn their every nuance, and cherishing who they are rather than what we would make them into…

loveable podcast episode 33

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • When it comes to growth and transformation, small things make the difference, and the difference is usually small. Be patient. Keep going.
  • A true affirmation of someone else can only overflow from our own sense of worthiness.
  • Every good lesson must be learned over and over (and over) again.
  • Even when we don’t feel loveable, it is important to act as if we are loveable.
  • Certainty may be the greatest barrier to curiosity.
  • We cannot force anyone to become curious about us; we can only cultivate curiosity about them, and invite them to do the same.
  • We’re wired to notice what is wrong with our people, but with careful attention and curiosity, we will become aware of what is beautiful about them, too.
  • One of the best ways to practice curiosity is to clarify the meaning of the words our people use.

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What is this lump in my throat?

A few weeks ago, a friend laid an unfinished poem called “Holding the Baby” at my feet and asked me to finish it. In the finishing of it, I rediscovered a little bit of awe and wonder about this big, sacred mystery we’re all living in. I hope what we created brings you a little awe and wonder, too. Here it is…

meaning

Photo Credit: Anneka S (Bigstock)

For weeks, our dog has pawed at the thawed out patchy yard. A mommy rabbit dug her birthing home under our fire pit. The bunnies couldn’t survive the tireless winter as it beat beyond the spring doorframe. We would bring Betsy in from the cold and make her drop one of the litter at our feet. Is it a mystery that she didn’t eat them? Is it foolish to believe that she was holding the babies as a mother of all creatures?

I hold babies too. All day long. Monday to Friday. 7:15 until the parents get off the commuter train and enter home life again. The infants speak with cries and drooling spittle. Their beginning words translate my heart into a life more understandable. They’re toothless and tongue-tied; they’re the hums and babbles of the generations going forward.

What is this lump in my throat?

Make me drop the poem at your foot.

Carry me. Listen to me.

This lump is time and cosmos.

This lump is the truth of the whole thing, gathered in my throat, leaving me speechless.

Holding the babies, they are me and I am them. My bones longer now, skin less supple, teeth come and gone and come again now yellowing, hair graying, held now in the arms of aging, still vulnerable, perhaps now more than ever.

Holding the babies, I hold myself, my once upon a time self, and my one day will be gone self. In the beginning, drooling spittle, our body so new we do not know we have lips; in the end, drooling spittle, our body so used we have lost control of our familiar lips.

Holding the babies, I hold innocence, hearts without wound. In their innocence, I recall my own innocence. I remember who I was purely, who I am vaguely, who I one day will be again hopefully. In their innocence, I bear witness to the good news, the promise of how beautiful it all really is, in the beginning, in the end.

This lump is time and cosmos.

This lump is the truth of the whole thing, gathered in my throat, leaving me speechless.

And the truth holds me gently, like a baby, dropping me eventually at the feet of Eternity, the wintertime of life giving way to the springtime of being.

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Week 31: Turning Pro at the Art of Loving [Loveable 032]

“You have a relationship gift. Something you are naturally good at. A way of loving that no one else can do in exactly the way you do it…You can stop being humble about it. You can stop suppressing it and burying it. You can stop being an amateur at it. Own it. Claim it. Inhabit it. You can decide right now, here, today, that you are going to become pro at that particular act of love.”

In Episode 32 of The Loveable Podcast, we uncomplicate love. For a week, put aside all the marriage blogs you’ve read, relationship books you’ve bought, love promises you’ve been made by the experts. Simplify. Focus on practicing one act of love with the people you love, and build your belonging now. 

loveable podcast episode 32

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The successful negotiation of conflicting boundaries is essential for healthy belonging.
  • Growth usually follows a painful pause in your life. Be patient. Learn from the pain. Then move forward.
  • You are not here to love all people in all ways; you are here to love the people in front of you in the way that you love best.
  • There’s a difference between nurturing others and pleasing others. The former is a way of connecting, the latter a way of protecting.
  • The mutual willingness to self-examine is essential for true belonging.
  • Belonging is not an empire (vast and grand), it is a well (narrow and deep.)
  • Being loveable is not a feeling you have within you, it’s a fact that’s always true about you. When you don’t feel loveable, you remain loveable.

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Week 30: Letting Grace Show Us How to Love [Loveable 031]

“Relationships do not thrive on big things; they thrive upon small things done every day. They don’t thrive necessarily on doing new things; they thrive upon doing old things we used to do and quit doing somewhere along the way. And, if we can set aside our ego for a little while, we don’t need anyone to tell us what those things are. We already know.”

In Episode 31 of The Loveable Podcast, we shift our focus from cultivating new places of belonging to reviving the places of belonging we already have…

loveable podcast episode 31

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • When you ask for help and you are specific about what you need, more often than not, you will discover that others are eager to help, because you are giving them a chance to be fully human.
  • It is a part of normal, healthy development for adult kids to seek places of belonging outside of their family-or-origin.
  • In a place of true belonging, you can worry someone and they will still want to be with you.
  • The voice of grace within us first teaches us we are loveable, and then shows us how to love.
  • Sometimes, relationships heal most quickly not when you do something new, but when you rededicate yourself to doing the things that worked before.
  • Suffering becomes tolerable, perhaps even peaceful, when we know we are not alone in it.

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Week 29: Embracing Your Limitations and Being Embraced by Your People [Loveable 030]

“To live from our soul—the great, powerful, divine thing at the center of us—is, paradoxically, to become aware of our dependence on other souls. When the bad stuff happens, it’s a chance to rely on the good stuff in other people. And the people who bring the good stuff are the people we belong to.”

We find our places of belonging when we ask for help. However, in order to feel safe, be independent, and appear strong, we resist asking. In other words, to ask for help is to invite belonging, but we don’t send enough invitations. In Episode 30 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about the limitations of our independence and the rewards of having the courage to ask for help. 

loveable podcast episode 30

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • True belonging may not be possible apart from the passing back and forth of grace.
  • The people we belong to are the people who show up in our time of need, no questions asked.
  • The people we belong to don’t show up for a crisis and then disappear; they linger, lovingly.
  • Asking for help earlier in a time of need lightens the burden on everyone involved. Ask early. Ask often.
  • Belonging is a paradox—it is the place where you feel safest, so it also becomes the place where you take the biggest and scariest risks.
  • Letting go of the people we wish we could belong to always feels like grief.
  • As we grow, our growth includes grace for those who aren’t growing at the same pace we are.

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Nothing Is at Stake

My eyes open, and I’m scared.

In two hours, I will be speaking at a Sunday morning service. I’ve come to love speaking, but this time, I’ll be speaking to a thousand people. In the round. I’m a clinical psychologist. I’m trained to speak to one person at a time. And the only thing I’ve ever done in the round is roast marshmallows on a camp fire. My eyes open and I worry about whether or not the technology will work, I worry about a hundred other things that might go wrong, but mostly I worry about this:

I worry that I won’t be good enough.

performance anxiety

Photo Credit: Dean Drobot (Bigstock)

I worry about blanking out and freezing up and goofing up, but mostly I worry that my performance simply won’t measure up. In other words, I worry because my sense of worthiness is too often rooted in what I do, rather than in who I am.

This is normal.

As a psychologist, I talk with teenagers about their identity all the time. They tell me their peers base their value in the stuff they have: iPhone Xs, cool cars, and name brand clothes, to name a few. But even more so, they base their value in the stuff they do and how well they do it, and they’ve got all sorts of ways to measure their worthiness in this regard: GPAs and college admissions, awards and rewards, SnapChat streaks and Instagram followers. These young people grow into adult people, and what is true of them remains true of us:

We base our sense of worthiness on our performance rather than our person.

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