Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Apologizing is Awesome. (Part II)

This might sound weird, but I have come to really love apologizing. Possibly more than any other interpersonal transaction between humans, it has radically transformative power.

To contextualize that statement: I do the best I can and I actively endeavor to be as kind and generous and non-harming as possible. I say actively with emphasis, because it is a mindful practice every day. I have some default, reflexive ways of being that are not as kind and generous as I would like. So I really do try, every day. But, like all of us, I still screw things up fairly routinely. I say stuff I shouldn't say, and sometimes my behavior is thoughtless, selfish, and/or passive-aggressive. Usually this is unintentional, but sometimes...I'm just behaving like an a**hole.

Example: I was out with a friend saturday night, sitting on the sidewalk in the CWE. The service at the bar where we were was spotty and slow, and I was getting a little bit impatient with it. My friend is pretty chill, so he doesn't get too annoyed and is usually just amused if I get activated by something. We'd had three different people take our orders and at least one of them simply failed to return (ever) with the drinks we'd ordered. Then we ordered a round from the guy who eventually came to check on us, and when the he came back, he'd forgotten part of the order. I made a snarky comment to my friend about it, not realizing the server was still standing there. My friend pointed out that he'd heard me, and I felt embarrassed, because while I was somewhat annoyed with the situation, it didn't specifically have anything to do with that particular server and I didn't actually want to make him feel badly. So, a few minutes later, I went inside, found the server, looked at his face, and told him I realized he'd heard my off-handed rude comment, that I was sorry for being a jerk, that I was frustrated with the situation and not at him personally, and that my behavior was inexcusable. He looked surprised and admitted it was only his third day, and so he probably had screwed things up. (Obviously at this point I felt even worse!) So I assured him he was doing fine, and he accepted my apology. It was unusual, probably, but it wasn't awkward or difficult to do, and it may or may not have affected his night in the least. But what it meant for me was that I didn't have to sit outside feeling bad for being a jerk, (or worse, NOT feeling bad for being a jerk). The moral of that story is that I shouldn't make snarky comments that I don't really mean, period, because although I probably wouldn't have felt bad saying what I said if he hadn't heard it, it was still rude and gives an impression of me to my friend and anyone else near me that I don't feel proud of.

So I guess what I'm saying is something I've actually written blog posts about in the past: apologizing is awesome. The greatest gift I can give myself and my relationships (with not only people I love, but also the other people in the world) is to recognize when I've done something harmful and immediately attempt to repair any damage I've caused with careless words or actions. Just today, I made a seemingly off-handed (read: passive-aggressive) comment to a dear friend and watched it land poorly and hurt her feelings. I assured her I didn't mean anything by it and moved on. But after thinking about it, I realized I had kind of meant what I said, or what I was sort of trying to say, but I hadn't expressed it in a good or loving or productive way. It had come out sideways, as unexpressed feelings often do. So I sent her a message apologizing and clarifying where the comment came from and what I really meant and how I should have said it differently. And we had a good talk about it, and it's okay now, and we both feel better.

So, listen to me: you're never going to be as awesome as you intend to be. Your words will come out in ways you don't intend them to, and you'll sometimes (probably) be an a**hole. It's okay. Work on it, but in the meantime, learn to apologize. It can be hard on the ego, so for those of us who are very prideful, this will be very difficult. But it's worth the effort. This is the practice. This is the work. This is how we build and stabilize and rebuild relationships. Trust me. I'm a professional. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Thing Is

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Emotional Unavailability.

This is a great read that a friend sent me recently. It reflects what she's dealing with in her own life, but I think many of us can relate. We often find ourselves in these emotional loops where we are consistently disappointed by the reality of our relationship(s) and yet *endlessly hopeful* that things will change. The challenge is knowing when to keep hoping, and when to just let go. Even more difficult is taking responsibility for our own role in the pattern we've co-created, and seeing that we agreed to it by continuing to participate. It's easy to blame the emotionally unavailable person, but it is harder and ultimately more useful to see how our own stuff got us here. A gentle acceptance, coupled with the challenge to interrupt these patterns, is the kindest way to treat ourselves when we recognize what we're doing and wish to do it differently.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Make No Assumptions.

“If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don't tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don't understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions.”
― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Assumptions are what get us in trouble when communicating with the people we care about. It is SO IMPORTANT that we ask direct questions and actually tell the truth to each other. Otherwise, we invent a million possible scenarios to fill in the details we don't know. We project our own insecurities and worries and biases onto other people's behavior and presume to know what they mean or meant by a thing they did or said. And sometimes we even act as if we are right about what was in the heart of the other person, without actually finding out. But if we don't go to the source and ask for clarity around what we don't understand, how can we know what was truly meant? So often, relationships get destroyed, or friendships damaged, by the passive act of allowing silence. By permitting assumptions to replace investigation and curiosity, we close ourselves off from the sort of true connection that is born of authentic communication. Much can be gained by mustering the courage to ask and listen and be able to hear the truth from the other instead of inventing our own explanation that suits us.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


...what goes around comes back around; this is nature's way.
be conscious of what you do, because you will be repaid.
if you put turnips in the ground, you will not harvest grapes.
you are what you attract, and this is why I say:
if you want a butterfly, you've got to be a butterfly. 

-(india.arie "butterfly")
I say this to people a lot. Well, maybe not exactly in reference to butterflies, but more the gist of this lyric, which is that people will treat you how you let them. 

Let me say that a different way: what you think you deserve is exactly what you’ll get.  If you feel poorly about yourself, and believe yourself unworthy of being treated well, you cannot rightfully be surprised when you find yourself involved with someone who doesn't treat you particularly well. That's not to say if someone treats you like garbage, you deserve it. Nobody deserves anything less than to be treated respectfully and with kindness. But it's not enough to hope for that; you have to require it. You must be courageous and willing to walk away from a situation where you're not getting -and giving- respect and appreciation. If you plant turnips in the ground, you will not harvest grapes. Which is to say: you have a responsibility to be the best version of yourself possible, and to treat the people in your life as you'd like them to treat you. Be nice. Be patient, and kind, and not an a**hole. And sure, sometimes you have to teach people how to treat you, and sometimes they turn out to be worth the effort, but sometimes they don't. And that's okay. If you do an inventory, get right with yourself, start feeling good and knowing your own worth, you're more likely to attract the sort of partner you want and deserve. 


Besides couples work (which is my favorite), I particularly enjoy working with men. It is a strange and difficult thing to figure out how to "be a man" in our modern age, and the expectations of what that means is ever-evolving. I was thinking about that this evening and was reminded of one of my favorite poems. To be honest, I don't think these qualifications define a "man" so much as a they do a "decent person"; it's nonetheless a standard of living that's worth aspiring to.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Personally, I don't believe in having regrets. That said, if I had my first 34 years to do over again, some of these things I'd definitely do differently. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I can't find a better place to put this than right here. 

FYI and just in case this doesn't go without saying: 

This blog is NOT intended as psychological advice. Anything I endorse here is simply my opinion. If you are having emotional or mental health problems, please feel free to contact me to make an appointment or find someone who can help or call 911 or whatever you need to do. But please note that  I am not responsible for any changes you may implement into your life based on what you've read here, good or bad. You are! 

Thanks for reading. :) 

Don't Take Anything Personally.

Have you read “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz? If not, I recommend it. I read it awhile ago, but I was thinking about the agreements today and reminding myself to keep practicing them. Here they are: 

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. 

2. Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering. 

3. Don't Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. 

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” 

I’ve written before about the third agreement; when I talk about taking the time to consider the intentions of others, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about not making assumptions, because we never know what’s really going on with another person unless we look at their face and ask them with words. But what about that second one? Let's look at "Taking Nothing Personally"? That’s a hard one. 

This is a thing many of us struggle with. Some people are just more hardwired than others to take things personally. I think it’s merely an aspect of our temperaments, that some of us are simply more or less sensitive to the actions and moods of others. If you happen to be a person who struggles not to take things personally, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are self-centered or that you think you’re the center of the universe. It just means things feel really real and visceral to you, and that you are easily impacted by others around you. 

So, do your best to work on it and don’t beat yourself up over it. You just have to work harder to follow this Agreement. I have to admit, I kind of admire those people who just let everything roll off their backs. Some people seem to be innately inclined to follow this Agreement. Good for them! 

For the rest of us, we have to work on this. One thing that is really hard if you’re someone who struggles with personalizing things, is being okay with ambiguity and with not really knowing what’s going on with someone you care about. And more importantly, even when we are not okay with it, not letting it immobilize us. It is true that things others do very rarely have anything to do with us, but it often doesn't feel that way, and so we decide that how we feel is how it is. 

 We have all had people sort of just disappear from our lives without warning or explanation, and that is a terrible feeling.  Personally, I don't mind things ending or changing- as things do- when I have a clear understanding of why it happened and if I am allowed the corresponding sense of closure. But when we love someone well and they leave us, whether in a friendship or a Relationship, without telling us why or what happened, we feel blindsided and confused. In other words, we take it personally. Or if somebody doesn’t love us the way we think they should, we take it personally. 

But how about if instead of making it about what you’re doing wrong and what’s wrong with you, you could just understand that for whatever reason, that person just doesn't have the capacity to be in your life right now. Or they simply can’t love you right now, and it doesn’t have anything to do with you. That way you don’t have to take it personally. You can let it go. It doesn’t have to hurt you.