The Pep Talk

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Over the last few days, I’ve been feeling like someone of importance has announced that a meteor is on a course for earth and will inevitably collide into our planet, causing insurmountable damage and destruction. Not the case, but the tone in messages from almost every media source is either peppered or overseasoned with fear.

Truth is: It’s March of 2020. NASA has photos of Pluto, taken billions of miles away. Trump is president. DNA can be edited with CRISPR. Toilets are still amazing inventions. It’s springtime in Wisconsin. Kenny Rogers died of natural causes. And there’s a virus. It spreads easily. Most people who catch it are fine, some don’t even know they have it. It can make a small portion of the people who catch it really sick and sometimes causes death. I’ve seen estimates that after running its course, if it continues on a current trajectory, that anywhere from 200,000 to more a million people could die from Covid 19 out of 7.8 billion on planet earth. Social distancing and staying home impacts the trajectory.

Being human means we are naturally scared of getting sick, of seeing our loved ones get sick, of seeing the health care system push its resources to the max, causing impossible ethical decisions to be made like who gets to use equipment and who doesn’t.

Viruses have been around for millions of years. We’ve evolved in partnership with them. But death is scary. And right now the whole globe is in the midst of an existential crisis.

The things that support and drive our society’s functioning like: public schools, access to income, access to child care, social connections, human touch, church gatherings, group celebrations, and any number of other countless ways we feel value in our lives, has been stripped fairly bare.

Big systems and ideas are under the microscope. Death! Ethics! Science! Government! Education! Transportation! Trade! Finance! Poverty!

I’ll name all the ways we have earned the right to feel stressed the fuck out with what’s been happening, but first I wanted to note that given what you’re seeing each day in the media, just as easily headlines could read:

Humanity Bands Together!
Governments Finally Listen to Scientists!
Humankind Make Drastic and Rapid Changes to Assist Loved Ones and At-Risk Strangers!
Pollution Slows and Humans Spend Time in Nature!
Hard-working Truck Drivers and Grocery Store Clerks Celebrated as Heroes!
People Cook at Home for their Families and Eat Meals Together!
Teachers Find a Way to Get Shit Done, As Usual!
Technological Communication Proves Its Value to the Human Race!
United Global Effort Slows the Spread of Virus!

There are reasons to celebrate being human here, for sure. But there’s also uncertainty and worry. Alot of it. I’d like to pause for a moment to acknowledge the shitstorm of anxiety we’re either seeing in our own selves or witnessing in others.

Why is the media spraying fear everywhere about this? In part because scientists want people to take action now in order to avoid the calamity of overriding our health care systems. As my Dad once said, “Death is a great motivator.” The thinking is that if action is taken quickly and extensively, like yesterday, it will slow the virus down and buy time.

We are essentially buying time because any number of positive things can happen to the trajectory of the virus’ effect if there is simply more time. More time=more resources. More time=more research. More time= more knowledge.

So….fear-based messaging. Would anyone have changed any bit of their lives if the message was, “There’s this bug going around. Most everyone will likely be fine but not everyone. Maybe wash your hands more?”

Fear causes action.

And in the best sense, this action, even if motivated by fear, shines a major spotlight on what we hope is true for all of us. That we care deeply about the well-being of our fellow humans. We are willing to give up our jobs, our comforts, our routine, our church, our education, our timeline, our plans, and our income if it means we can save lives. That’s pretty remarkable don’t you think?

But I don’t want to ignore the fact that for some families and individuals, social isolation for weeks or months will cause such a strain on their mental and emotional health that avoiding one health crisis may create entirely new health crises. Not to mention financial crises along the way.

Everything in my perspective on mental health is partially influenced by what life was like in the midst of debilitating panic disorder in my 20’s. If I were experiencing that at this time, with such a whirlwind around me, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, or calm down, or leave the house even if I wanted to. I needed people back then to help me name what I was feeling so I could work my way out of it. So here in this post, I wanted to spend a few moments to name what’s happening for a lot of people in the emotional world and to give some hope and resources.

Being stormed by the recent challenges has brought a lot of our human frailties and tendencies to light:

1. Rapid change is not something we as humans usually prefer. In a matter of weeks, most of us have changed our daily routine, work schedule, family schedule, financial schedule, and relationship patterns all at once and very rapidly.

2. Genetically, our minds evolved over millions of years to activate our fight or flight response when we perceive ourselves to be in the face of threat or danger. Financial uncertainty and a pandemic, particularly how they are presented in the media, are grabbing the attention of our subconscious panic buttons.

3. In modern society, most of us have become somewhat disconnected from our own emotions, particularly when we grieve or lose something or someone we love. Fear of loss looms large in in part because we are not comfortable feeling our feelings, and loss hurts.

4. Being directed how to live our lives, even temporarily, and having restrictions placed on our freedoms is a tough nut to swallow for most of us who live in a country where we are generally free to do as we please.

5. Many of us are carrying around the energy from unresolved traumas from our past: and any or all of the above can be triggers for past painful events we haven’t processed yet.

6. Feeling like our daily connections to our loved ones and the simplicity of human touch are being taken away, at least temporarily, can cause us to feel deep loneliness.

7. Feeling the risk of being yourself and owning your opinions is really active. There is a stigma of disagreeing with the practice of social distancing. The fear of losing friendships and family relationships and the love of your community because you, despite hearing the best scientific arguments for social distancing and sheltering in, just plainly disagree- fear of being outcast is an evolutionary fear, whether your reasons are religious, mental health based or otherwise.

These are BIG fucking deals. Mental and emotional health are equal in importance to physical health, as anyone who has ever suffered from PTSD, clinical depression, or debilitating panic can tell you.

And I feel the need to say that it’s natural to feel all the things right now: overwhelmed, pissed off, restricted, helpless, afraid, cautious, uncertain, powerless, anxious….we are entitled to feel every single bit of what we’re feeling.

Not that anyone asked me, but I’m cool with following guidelines of social distancing if it will save lives, of course, as long as we can also keep an eye on what happens to mental and emotional health when people can’t be with each other, go to work, get respite from caring for kids (with special needs in particular), earn money, exercise when they need it, be touched, and are inundated with messages to panic throughout their days.

As long as someone has their eye on that ball, great.

Pep talk time. There is an “other side” to this- you know, it’s the one we’ll get to and come out on. Some of my best spiritual teachers have advised that in difficult times, you use your prayers as a montage of what things will be like on the other side. This is why Einstein said imagination is more important than intelligence. It can take you places your mind needs to go in order to lift you through difficult circumstances and literally generate a new reality into existence.

You can get through this. You will emerge on the other side having used the tools you have and having learned new tools for self-care and stability. You will not be the same. You’ll be an elevated version of your current self, with a deeper appreciation for every aspect of your life including your relationships. You’ll notice things about yourself you hadn’t known, you’ll discover more about who you truly are.

People will smile more often at each other, feel grateful just to be together, and see clearly who matters most to them. Old, ineffective systems will show their wear and transition into more effective ones. People will discover they want leaders who respond efficiently and with wisdom and compassion. Communities will discover new ways of coming together and supporting those in need.

So what about the day to day? How to get through?

Visualize what your positive outcome looks like when this has calmed down. Are you closer to your family? Finally writing that short story you wanted to work on? Have a laser-like focus on what your finances look like? Managed to clean out the clutter in your home? Or just feel deeply grateful for what really matters to you. What does the world look like after going through something like this collectively? What do our systems look like when they’ve had to reshape due to the strain? Visualize best case scenarios…and then make them even better in your imagination.

Calm your nervous system. There are many tools to calm our systems down as we navigate the massive changes we’re in. You already know my favorites: meditation and breathwork. But there’s more: trauma release, qi gong, and pranayama to name a few. I’m going to share some links at the end of this post that are awesome resources for acute and low-level anxieties.

Feel your feelings and forgive yourself. We’ve been asking alot of our minds, bodies and emotions over the past few weeks. Given all that, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, OF COURSE YOU ARE. It’s ok to feel anything during this kind of uncertainty: helpless, enraged, terrified, lonely, powerless, disengaged. Your system is responding how it needs to and it’s ok to feel what you feel.

Discover what heals you. There are parts of us we neglect entirely in our daily lives and parts of us we don’t even realize are within us that are looking now to come online. Massive change fuels growth. Art, movement, nature, yoga, meditation, music…use the tools that work for you to hear that inner voice and be willing to listen.

Cultivate flexibility. That saying “people never change” is bullshit. People change all the time. We are constantly evolving. By letting go of things you thought you needed, you are paving the way for all kinds of creative new energies to emerge.

Hope.  Hope is underrated. It’s a doorway that guides us forward and highlights the best parts of our humanity. Let your hope become so strong that it actually serves as a stabilizing force.  Let it create freedom within you.

I’ll be posting a meditation podcast soon called Meditate Elevate here at my website podjectivity.com. If you need a laugh or want to hear inspiring stories in the meantime, check out Solving Everything.

You can find some meditations I posted on youtube here:

If you want more, just click on my name and you’ll see links to more.

You can find a cool qi-gong immune boosting quick routine here:

If you are feeling wired and need help releasing some stored anxiety, check out Trauma Release Exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26zoFKZzbQc
and there are people in Madison who offer TRE at Red Beard Bodywork.

For a very cool look at how to piece apart the different aspects of yourselves to discover there is a calm wisdom within, check out this 2 hour meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n22a1Hf4rjk

And in the coming days I’ll be posting a Nidra meditation soon on that new podcast, so check back for that.

Here for you. And as always, sending love.

GROW Podcast: Interview with Ali Brooks, Social Worker, Artist, Goddess, Leader of Girls Empowerment group

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Ali Brooks does amazing work! She leads an empowerment group for girls with Maureen Cassidy right here in Madison. She is also an amazing artist and social worker who works with women who have experienced trauma. Find her website here: Medicine for the Heart and find the link to her girls’ empowerment group here.

 

 

Ali

 

GROW podcast: Interview with 3 wise women.

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In this episode, you will hear the voices of women who have over 230 years between them walking this planet. My mom and two Aunts join me in a conversation that will inspire and surprise you.

If you don’t have any women in their 70’s and 80’s in your life, give a listen. We talk about everything from growing up in a rigid Catholic household and how it affected sexuality, to why we still want to please our parents even when we have our own kids, to living with an alcoholic who was a hero of the community. Oh, and doctors refusing to prescribe birth control to married women. !! We talk about my aunt’s non-profit (avisionforcleanwater.org)  to get remote villages clean water and a family member who chooses a life as a cloistered nun with little contact with the outside world. Here’s a juicy quote from my mom during this interview regarding the church:

“I was livid at myself for having allowed myself for that many years to rely on somebody else to make my moral choices”

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Enjoy.

2:00 Kris gives some background for why she wanted to podcast and hear women’s stories

5:00 Introductions

7:00 My Aunt MJ: retired at age 78, high trauma emergency/surgery nurse in inner city Detroit

8:30 My Aunt Eileen starts a non-profit: A Vision for Clean Water avisionforcleanwater.org , helping 400,000 people

10:30 How do you take a step toward doing what you really want to do?

12:20 Vision boarding and Master Mind groups

16:30 I get masterminded!

18:30 Where did MJ get her positive thoughts from? What happens when all of a sudden you can’t live your life. Recovery International with Dr. Lowe

19:30 Panic attacks and not functioning

23:30 Do you know the root of mental health issues when they happen?

24:30 When external expectations from parents affect you

26:00 Church every day, rosary every night on your knees,  3 times a day pray out loud to the bells of the church ringing, visitors had a choice of getting on their knees to pray or leaving

28:30 My grandmother was a college graduate in 1931

29:30 What passes through generations?

31:30 Living with an alcoholic parent who was a great man and beloved community member

37:30 Sin. Sexuality. Makeup is called barn paint in a strict household.

41:30 Strict rules vs. Total freedom for your own kids

42:30 Finding your own way in parenting

43:30 You keep the good from your upbringing and drop the rest

45:00 Someone says to my aunt, “You taught me how to love somebody who doesn’t follow my rules”

46:00 Radical compassion may be more important than old models of morality based on rules, religious expectations, etc.

50:30 Common traits of grandchildren

52:30 Virgins getting married, consequences could be eternal fire or getting disowned?

53:30 A snowstorm creates an sexual ethical crisis

55:30 Doctors refuse to prescribe birth control to a woman getting married

59:00 A priest causes an existential sexual crisis

1:00:30 Living in denial: when you let other people make your choices

1:01:00 My dad almost wipes a shoe full of shit on a priest’s desk

1:03:00 In 1968: Vatican 2 includes the idea that personal conscience is a factor in how to make your own choices

1:04:00 If a system doesn’t support your beliefs, you leave the system

1:06:00 Cloistered Nun life: Linna.Sister Maria

1:25:45 The letter about Communion to the mother of the atheist husband to be

1:28:30 Trying not to lie to your mother even as an adult

1:30:00 Why don’t you speak your truth to others

1:31:00 Girls in the 40’s getting their periods

1:38:30 Birthing in the 1960’s and 70’s

1:42 Skin to skin…not a thing in the 70’s,  and, by the way, let’s do that epidural at home

1:43 The trauma of a birth when the birthing woman is not supported and the wishes of the couple not respected

1:46 Kris tries not to get furious

1:49 When you feel excluded from having a say in your birth

1:51 Being mistreated in birth affects your entire life and your ability to trust

1:52 Bonding is something than can happen at any time

1:54 How therapy can help repair any missed bonding opportunities

1:56 Letting go of systems

1:57:10 The power is with the mother birthing: yes, MOM!

1:58:30 The benefits of hospital birth

2:00:00 The benefit of a doula

2:05:00 Sometimes you need intensity of connection in childbirth (This interview has flipped: Kris talks about her birth stories)

2:08:30 This childbirth class is bullshit

2:10:00 Childbirth is big and what about postpartum

2:11:00 Childbirth is spiritual

2:13:00 Postpartum depression when no one is talking about it

2:17:00 My Aunt gives me a dose of reality

2:19:00 Kris forgets to pick up her child from school

 

Breakdown of minutes soon to come.

A Mother’s Rights #11: You have the right to feel however you feel about parenting right now.

 

You love your kids. You are devoted, you work hard, you want them to have what you missed as a kid. You want them to have more, to know how loved and important they are.

Those things are true on days when you feel happy, loving it all. And it’s also true on days or weeks or months where you feel unfulfilled, lonely, stressed or boxed in.

 

 

you have the right to feel

 

Other feelings you might have about parenting but are afraid to admit it to yourself:

Regret
Jealousy
Resentment
Disappointment
Grief
Longing
Neglected
Overlooked
Unappreciated
Angry
Sad
Unseen
Impatient
Ignored
Powerless

This is some deep shit. Those aren’t fuzzy feelings. One of the greatest dangers we face as parents is denying how we feel about parenting. If we only allow ourselves one feeling: “I love being a parent,” we suppress  much of our daily experience. Squashing feelings down creates anxiety, depression, and physical imbalance.

Let’s just assume and know that the love is always there underneath whatever we are feeling day to day. If you are frustrated because your child just did something dangerous or reckless and you want to shout and swear at them but know that you can’t, where does that fear and frustration go? Your body holds onto it for you and is ready at any moment for you to acknowledge that it’s there, and find a way to release it through exercise, art, movement, breath, journaling, or whatever works for you to see yourself and acknowledge your experience. Just as we teach our kids, we need to recognize all the feelings, even the unfuzzy ones.

When I interviewed my mom about her birthing and postpartum experience, she shared that she went through a low postpartum period where she remembers rocking her baby back and forth saying to herself, “I love being a mom, I love being a mom,” scared by the words because she couldn’t quite feel them and she wanted to convince herself of their truth.

She knew there was love there somewhere, but what she was feeling in that moment was scared and sad.

Whatever feelings we go through about parenting, the love is always underneath. But if we don’t allow ourselves to feel the frustrations, anger, sadness, disbelief, fear, and helplessness that often come with raising kids, those feelings will keep asking to be seen until they are seen, so they can be released.

There are things I love about being a mom and things that are hard. Really hard. I sometimes feel resentful or sick to death of getting up early or burnt out on caregiving. Honoring myself through these feelings can help me access the joy and love underneath. It doesn’t have to be either/or. I love my kids and I feel tired. I love my kids and I feel sick of the tantrums. I love my kids and I feel angry they won’t eat the dinner I cooked.

Parenting is a long road, a forever road. To be well on the journey, we can be who we are and we can feel how we feel.

A Mother’s Rights #8: You have the right to explore who you are now.

Whew.

This could be 18 posts, not just the one. But I’ll try to keep it short. If you need more about how important it is to honor yourself and your journey and to find a way to fucking own it, you can find more here and here. And go to Oprah.com.

Here it is in a nutshell. You are important. Motherhood is transformational. You have a right to know who you are.

 

you have the right to explore who you are

 

Motherhood is as much about self-discovery as it is about discovering your children and the world through new eyes. As the spiritual guru Rajneesh said:

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

And that is you.

You may find yourself thinking new thoughts, feeling unsatisfied in relationships, wanting to leave a job behind, hoping to go to school, wanting more sex or not caring about things you used to think were essential: religion, fashion, status, whatever.

To mildly put it, keeping up with who you are improves your quality of life. You have every right to explore your feelings, thoughts, sensations, body, preferences, regrets, longings, nuances, hopes, and passions.

If self-exploration is new to you, future posts will include ways to help you get started. Or check out the services I offer to work with me.

“Where my yoga at?” says 13 year old me.

All things are tied together. When you cut a tree, whose roots connect with everything, you must ask its forgiveness or a star will fall out of the sky.

 

West before East

13 years old, backyard cement slab, suburban spiritual desert
cigarette smoking, Virginia Slims stolen from my long blonde dance teacher
she kept them next to the record player and my hands
hit the ceiling of her basement studio
when I jumped, really just looking for freedom
and the other side of the world, home to wisdom keepers
finding paths through movement to higher planes
unknown, they rang the bell in me, a light in the smoke,
a silent unseen hope, hope, hope

At 13, I wanted to feel more freedom than I was feeling. I sensed there was some element of explanation to myself and life that I needed but couldn’t locate. Where was the missing essential component, an unnamed magic that would explain all the various and separate activities, messes, mysteries, disappointments, awarenesses and relationships of life?

I needed a unifying theory and cosmic explanation for why some people were liars, why getting A’s mattered, why I was the last person in my whole class (or maybe galaxy) to get my period, why intuition didn’t count as intelligence, why sometimes a shout was not loud enough, why my mom’s church thought people were born with dirty souls, and why sometimes you lose the things you love.

Naming these questions, this demand for explanation didn’t come until later, like today in my 40’s as I am blending a green smoothie, hoping it doesn’t taste like leaves.

Back then there was just a sense that…. people around me believed they weren’t connected and somehow that wasn’t right and I knew it wasn’t right.  So gimme a cigarette, says 13 year old me.

I didn’t know there were others also seeking breadcrumbs on a path inward and searching for wisdom in life’s everything.  The absence of that knowledge created a loss that defined a lot of my teens and 20’s. It created devastating anxiety and depression, and big issues with trust and relationships- and it scared me to my bones.

In my neighborhood and culture growing up, the idea that nothing and no one was really interconnected with anything else created systems that validated us by measuring us.

Like the Catholic church, where they were happy to tell you what was right and wrong or good and bad for you and how well you were doing with your salvation….(don’t get too stressed out, though, because if you don’t do well, the consequence is ETERNAL HELLFIRE, so relax.)  Or friends motivated by insecurity from always needing to be better, who acted calculating and contradictory. There was a continual need to strive for pretty, thin, cool, smart, accepted. And, of course, a grading system at school that measured how well we could adjust to outside standards of what intelligence and accomplishment looked like. I felt assessed by the systems around me. Systems I didn’t support but was already in.

Why am I thinking of this today? Because like so many of us, I’m healing myself of those wounds from my past by diving passionately into the present.

Our authentic selves require expression, attention, love and security. When we have unresolved pain, there are parts of us that bind up or scab over. So even though we’re not actively in pain anymore, we’re still living from a place that has restriction and scar tissue, which affects our ability to move smoothly and freely through the world. Both within ourselves mind-body-soul and within our lives intention-action-manifestation.

I’m fully on board living authentically and seeking spiritual truths and unity. It all feels like the freedom I’d longed for as a kid, when I couldn’t identify why things felt disconnected or what I was missing. I wasn’t exposed back then to ancient wisdom traditions and texts, mystical studies, meditation, movement and meditation practices that had been teaching things like enlightenment and unity for thousands of years. And so to discover that this path exists and has existed for so long feels like I’ve been sitting on a pot of gold I never knew was there. I just thought I was sitting on a really uncomfortable chair.

And isn’t that everything? To discover the riches that are already here? We live in an infinite universe. The answers, the healing, the relationships, the love we seek is already here. But if we don’t find it by seeking it and focusing it into life, we are like the story of the fish not knowing they’re in water.

If we keep seeking deeper and deeper affirmations and questions, only then can the universe answer us. The avenues of living intuitively, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathwork, energy psychology, self-reflection, self-awareness, compassion and gratitude are what heals the scar tissues and enables us to evolve and live our lives free of energetic, mental, physical, and ethereal restrictions.

Freedom from the past, from the way it’s held in our bodies and minds allows us to be fully in the present. And focusing on the freedom in the present releases the ways our bodies and minds have held onto things.

I wish I could share this news with myself back when I when I was 13. And I can. Through releasing the restrictions that were formed through those years of struggle, and offering gratitude for the wisdom and resiliency gained. By intending that future lessons be gentle and learned through love. By doing that, I scoop her right off that cement and into the arms of the unconditional love that awaits right here with me in the present.

Holding Space

Today I had a rather large emotional release. I was thinking about my senior year in college- a tough time in my life and about to get tougher. My close friends had graduated the year before and moved away, my dad and I were struggling to maintain a relationship of any kind, I was relying on weed and alcohol for stress-relief, I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation, I hadn’t recovered from a summer breakup (nonchalant for him, devastating for me,) and that winter a friend committed suicide. I would discover later that his confused soul invaded my space and attached to me, causing terrible confusion and increased my already high anxiety and panic that affected me for years.

The rising anxiety and daily panic attacks affected how my body processed weed and alcohol. They had been working for years as self-medication, but now seemed to exacerbate anxiety. Enter xanax and therapy and somehow I managed to make it through finals and graduation.

I remember coming to one of my last finals.  As I was walking down the hallway, I could feel a panic attack coming on. When I got to the room, that familiar surge of overwhelm and raw panic welled up into me like a tidal wave. “Shit, not now,” I thought. There was no way I could take one more step into the room. The walls were closing in. My heart was exploding, my chest was pressing in on me.

I waved to the teacher, Blane Harding, from my spot in the hallway and he graciously walked over to me. I simply said, “I can’t go in there.” He took a look at me and could see how agitated I was. I likely looked like I had seen a ghost and would bolt out of the building at any moment. Which was true.

Without a fuss, and as if it were the most normal thing in the world, he pulled a desk from the room out into the hallway and said, “Will this work?”

I’ve never been so grateful for someone’s kindness and matter-of-fact way of handling the situation. I took 1 and 1/2 xanax and battled my panic until it kicked in as I did my exam alone in the hallway.

What I learned that day, and what has stayed with me, was the power and importance of seeing what is right in front of you, without judgment, and allowing it to be.

Professor Harding could have done any number of things but instead he noticed me, listened to my words, and responded by offering an alternative that would work for me and where I was at in that moment. He didn’t try to fix me or even ask why I was needing what I needed. He simply noticed me and allowed me to be just as I was. In that space of noticing and allowing, some of the greatest healing can occur.

This process of noticing and “being with” is often called holding space. It is an integral part of how we connect to our own bodies, and in turn, with each other. It is how true connection begins.

To begin learning how to hold space for yourself, within your own body, I recommend this book:

The Power of Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell

It will teach you how to listen to and be with yourself without judgment. Through this process, connecting to the innermost parts of you can happen. Those parts are extremely wise and have much to communicate with us.

To learn more about the sessions I offer that incorporate this kind of work, click here.