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…


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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Week 28: Learning How to Take a Compliment [Loveable 029]

“Once upon a time, before our wounds and our world made us forget, we knew the good things about us were true. We believed them so thoroughly it didn’t hurt to hear them spoken to us.”

In Episode 29 of The Loveable Podcast, we focus on the art of receiving compliments. You see, for most of us, the problem is not that we are given no affirmation; the problem is that we have difficulty truly receiving the affirmations we are given. They roll off us, like water off a duck’s back. Here, we talk about how to absorb them, take them in, and allow them to remind us of our worthiness…

loveable podcast episode 29

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

  • Loneliness cannot be eliminated, but it can be shared, and thus dissipated.
  • Certainty is a method for staving off feelings of loneliness, but it leaves us feeling more lonely than ever.
  • In our circles of belonging, we can trust compliments are sincere, because they’ve been preceded by sincere challenges.
  • Oftentimes, compliments challenge our perfectionism—we don’t believe we should receive them until our performance is perfect—but true compliments are not about our performance, they are about our person.
  • When someone affirms us, they are not telling us who we always are, they are telling us who we truly are.
  • Sometimes what is being said about us is truer than what is being said within us.
  • You can’t force belonging, you can only invite it, and every affirmation is an invitation.

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Week 27: The Essential Building Block of Belonging [Loveable 028]

“When our egos lose, our hearts win.”

In Episode 28 of The Loveable Podcast, we dive deep into the topic of empathy, including how essential it is for true belonging, and the five barriers to cultivating it and communicating it. It’s time to exchange protection for connection. It’s time to quit living from your ego and to start loving from your heart… 

loveable podcast episode 28

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

  • In places of true belonging, you do not necessarily agree with the opinions of others, but you do honor the personhood of others.
  • In order to cultivate true belonging, you must replace certainty with curiosity, because curiosity drives out all judgment.
  • Belonging is cultivated during the hard and messy times, and it is ultimately felt when that hard labor eventually produces fruit.
  • Empathy is a gift to the other, and the gift we receive in return is a growing sense of belonging.
  • Hurry is the enemy of empathy.
  • When empathy is used for protection rather than connection, it is called codependency.
  • Empathy creates space for pain to exist, without pressure to immediately fix it.

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Listening for Invisible Blessings

Tuesday morning.

I awake with loud ringing in my right ear. I stick my finger in it. Wiggle it. Blow my nose. No such luck. The ringing grows louder. I turn to Google and search “sudden onset of tinnitus in one ear.” Google says tumors and blood clots and, hopefully, ear wax. I resolve to never search a symptom on Google ever again. The best recommendation: ambient sound, avoid silence at all costs.

I go to my hushed therapy office for a full day of work.

It’s torture.


Photo Credit: nitimongkolchai (Bigstock)

By the end of the day, I’m jumping out of my skin. I’m starting to get anxious. I will be traveling to Virginia on Saturday for a speaking engagement, and I can’t imagine doing so with this ringing. Of course, people live their whole lives with tinnitus, but silence has always been my best coping method—the idea of living with this forever almost undoes me. It is always a little terrifying when a lifelong coping strategy quits working.

I go to sleep, hoping for magic overnight.

Wednesday morning.

No magic. After a restless night, I rise to the ringing even louder in my ear. I call my chiropractor, and he takes good care of me, but afterward, the ringing continues unabated. I can sense something dark lurking at the edges of my hope. For the rest of the day, I do my best to ignore it.

Thursday morning.

I awake and the ringing is louder than ever. Remembering the ear wax thing, I call my doctor and set up an appointment for Friday afternoon. Then, I try to concentrate on producing my podcast. Around noon, with the mercury pushing seventy for the first time all year, I finally give up. I put air in the tires of my bike and go for my first outdoor ride in six months.

Nature has been stubborn here. Though it has been spring for more than a month, there is no green to be seen. I ride through brown, barren forests. With no foliage yet to obscure it, the death and decay on the forest floor is laid bare. Toppled trees. Lightning scorched stumps. Rotting leaves and branches. A month from now, on this very same ride, I will be unable to see any of it—it will all be obscured by the resurrection of springtime, the dense blessing of new growth. The death and decay will still be there, but it will be hidden within the beauty.

I ride through the barren forest and, suddenly, I realize I can’t hear the ringing.

The rush of air past my ears is is obscuring it.

The brokenness of my hearing, hidden within the beauty of the wind.

The dark thing at the edges of my hope retreats a little.

Usually, I insist on believing that blessing is found in the absence of brokenness. But I’m reminded once again, blessing is not the absence of brokenness; it is beauty amidst the brokenness. Beauty is the blessing that helps us bear the burden of our brokenness. Beauty is given to us, in seasons, so we may pay attention to it for a little while, rather than the brokenness, rather than the death and decay.

I get home and do the dishes. I realize the running of water obscures the ringing even better than the wind, and I live in a town with a river running through it, and in the middle of the town is a dam. I imagine spending the remainder of my years—my march toward death and decay—with a broken ringing in my ears, and I picture myself going down to the river daily, to let the sound of the dam replace the ringing in my head.

Beauty amidst the brokenness.

Brokenness lost in beauty.

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Week 26: The Opposite of Loneliness [Loveable 027]

“The world we live in is aching with loneliness. Yet, we are rarely aware of it, because in a loud and crowded world, loneliness has a thousand busy disguises.”

In Episode 27 of The Loveable Podcast, we discuss how our mass connection culture produces fake news and fake belonging, we explore the necessary requirements for true belonging, and we identify the one word that will help you build true belonging over a lifetime. 

loveable podcast episode 27

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

  • For true belonging to happen, the only requirements are an awareness of our shared humanity, and a willingness to reveal our shared humanity.
  • The people we belong to not only tolerate our growth and transformation, they encourage it.
  • The core reality of our existence is wholeness and belonging; our task is to become aware of this.
  • You can’t find peace by seeking it, but by cultivating the conditions that give rise to it.
  • Belonging can be created in any moment when someone is truly seen and heard.
  • Belonging does not require total transparency; it requires total presence.
  • Belonging can be found in a moment, but it requires a lifetime to build.

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