Monthly Archives: October 2013

Practice what I preach

I have to admit that caring for Danny since his stroke – being his primary care-giver in fact – is not easy. I think caring for anyone, especially an aging or challenged parent, must be difficult. And those of you who know my father may agree that, at least in some ways, Danny makes it harder.

But the other day I was teaching one of my leadership classes, and I was reminding people to look for the positives, any positives, at least one positive, in the people they felt challenged by. And I decided to give myself the same advice, and to remind myself of – and list here – at least a few of the things I appreciate about Danny, from now and from the past. So here you go:

    • He was fun – Danny was not the serious father. Never. He liked to play, and to play with us. He questioned authority and allowed us to color outside the lines, paint his kitchen floor yellow with squiggly blue designs, play in the snow without snow boots, and roll down hills until we felt nauseous. He kept us out of school for a month when life fell apart; he tickled us with his beard and took us for rides on his motorcycle; he held our hands for balance as we walked on high fences and crossed “Crazy Street” – Astor Place in New York City, where you had to pretend to be someone else or life would get crazy and you’d be swung around in many directions. We’d pretend to change our names, and he still swung us around in many directions.
    • He always welcomed more – Danny would host Christmas for our family…and anyone and everyone else who needed or wanted a place to go. There was always room for one more (or two more), even when there wasn’t. I’ve noticed people who, when hosting, stop their invites when they’ve run out of space at the table. Or chairs in the room. Not Danny. From his approach I’ve learned to invite, to entertain, to welcome, and I believe to make people feel welcomed.
    • He pushes through his pain – I can’t even imagine how hard it is for Danny to get around. He’s half- paralyzed – has little use of his left side of his body – and he lost his right eye in the stroke as well. Yet he keeps going. And he shows up for my kids when it’s something important. For my daughter’s graduation he, understandably, insisted on attending. I, understandably, insisted on his using a wheelchair, so that we could more easily get him into the auditorium. He agreed, albeit begrudgingly. He hates being in a wheelchair; he hates being identified as a “cripple” (his words); he hates asking for or needing help. But he would do anything to be there for my daughter, and he did.
    • He loves me – I wouldn’t have said this years ago, but I sometimes now realize that Danny loves me. He hides it well at times, and I deny it well at times, but it is true. He really loves me. He wore the scarves I knit him when I first learned to knit – even though they were barely long enough to wrap once around his neck. He let us buy and heat and eat a TV dinner when we first moved in with him – even though he warned us that it was disgusting and we would hate it. (He was right.) He came to visit me on his one day off every week when my son was born – so that he could hold my son and I could sleep. He was the only person to do that for me. Every week. He still tries to buy my children presents that are different and meaningful – even though he can’t shop by himself and has no idea what to get them.

When I look hard I can see that Danny loves me. And when I look hard, or remember hard, I am flooded with things about him, and about his being my father, that I love and appreciate. Why is it that we forget these things on a more daily basis? Why is it easier, sometimes, to see what isn’t good? And how do we let them both, them all, be true?

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I need praise. Lie if you must.

It’s a button I have. My husband found it one day when we were wandering through a store. He bought it for me as a joke. It works for me. I wear it proudly, albeit somewhat self-consciously. The truth is – and you can ask anyone in my immediate family about this and they’ll agree – I like praise.

Okay, so maybe I’m a praise-junkie. Maybe I thrive on hearing good things – about the world and about myself – more than a “normal” person would. But then what’s normal? And who’s normal? When I was in college I had a button that said, “Why be normal?” Guess I’m still not.

Praise feels good. That’s my belief anyway. It feels nice to hear nice things, and it feels nice to say nice things. I like pointing out to others what I love and appreciate about them, and I like hearing what they love and appreciate about me. Often. Some might say too often, but I might disagree.

I know not everyone wants, or likes, to be praised. I don’t necessarily get it, but I know it. Maybe they just don’t like it as much as I do. Because in my heart of hearts, I think we all might feel better if we got stroked every now and then…and perhaps more often than not. But I can admit that not everyone feels that way.

But maybe everyone else has something else that they like. That strokes them. That works for them. I’m there wanting praise, throwing out praise, and showering others with praise, when maybe what they really want is for me to run an errand for them. Or spend time with them. Or keep them company, or hold their hand, as they tackle a challenge. Or maybe a hug makes some people feel better, instead of praise. Who am I kidding? I’m probably a hug-junkie too. I always want a hug from someone I love.

I’m not embarrassed by admitting I like praise. And I’m not embarrassed by asking for it when I think it will help me feel better, or get me through a tough time. I know that not everyone is comfortable with my wanting it, or asking for it, but it still works for me.

I need praise. Lie if you must. What do you need?

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In every moment there is a choice

I had a dream the other night. I can’t tell you what it was about. I don’t remember. The only memory I have is knowing, for certain, the message that my dream was giving me. As I awoke, one thought was clear in my mind – “In every moment, there is a choice.”

I’m not sure why this was the message I received, but it is what I was given. “In every moment, there is a choice.”

I teach this in my day job – in my consulting and coaching work. I guide clients to be in choice and to make active, conscious decisions as they move through their days. To be aware that even no choice is a choice, and no action is an action. Am I not doing the same? Are there ways that I can be more deliberate, more purposeful?

It is so easy to go on autopilot. To move through the day unconsciously. To make choices I’m not aware I’m choosing, and decisions I’m not aware I’m deciding. What would it be like if I took each moment, or at least more moments, and made active, conscious choices? In each moment – to intentionally choose what I’m next going to do, or how I’m going to interact with someone, or what I’m going to spend my mind and energy thinking about, or how I’m going to feel? I think my days would be better.

I called my mother this afternoon to share with her a nasty, yet funny, “monkey-brain” thought that was playing in my mind. I was making up a wild story about negative consequences of something I hadn’t done. Even I knew my thoughts were preposterous. Yet I could feel my mind leaning towards it, and I saw the choice I could make. I could choose to think my nasty, self-defeating thought, or I could choose to call it out and think, actively choose to think, something else.

I interact with people all day long. My family. My friends. My business partner. My clients. How often do I think carefully and consciously through my moments of interaction? How often do I choose, deliberately and mindfully, how I want to show up and what I want to share? How I want to connect? Probably more often with clients than anyone else, but maybe not all the time then either. And maybe my day would be sweeter, my life would be sweeter, if I remembered to make a choice about how I connected with someone in every moment that I did.

At this very moment I’m tired. And I have a choice what I will do about that. I can push myself to get more done, like I often do (or at least used to do). Or I can give myself the gift of a cup of tea and a book on the couch. In this moment, I have a choice.

“In every moment, there is a choice.” It is the message – the gift – that I was given. Let me remember it every now and then.

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