Category Archives: Recovery

Danny made me cry again

I called my father, Danny, last week to wish him happy birthday. He made me cry.

He was pleasant and somewhat engaging on the phone. Often he’s abrupt and clearly has no interest in speaking with me. I get that. It sucks, but I get it. His life is awful, and he’s understandably depressed. He’s only (now) 75 and mostly paralyzed and living in a nursing home. Who wouldn’t be depressed?

Those phone calls usually make me cry as well. This was different.

After a few minutes of decent conversation (yes, I know my expectations are low), he asked me “Are you okay?” That made me cry.

A few years ago I dealt with some health issues that made it nearly impossible for me to visit him. He’s (conveniently) about an hour’s drive away from me – it made sense at the time to put him halfway between PA and NYC. If I could, I’d move him now.

I couldn’t make the hour drive for quite some time, and every now and then I again don’t feel comfortable making it. And I guess I hadn’t been to see him in a bit (I’ve been very busy – have I mentioned that in addition to all the other wonderful, time-consuming aspects of my life, my book will be published this fall?)

To many, “are you okay?” might seem innocuous, a question to barely notice. It made me cry.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that Danny loves me. I never knew that growing up. His love was, I guess, shown in ways I didn’t understand. In his own admission, expressing love is not something he does; it’s more something he pokes fun at.

As a child, I lived with a huge hole inside of me, defining me. A hole that longed to be filled with my parents’ love. Either. Both.

So when he asked me if I was okay, I saw, heard, and felt the love. Each time I’m aware of his love, it knocks me over.

Each time I write about my longing for Danny’s love when I was little and my complete surety that that love was not there, or at least not shown, Danny’s friends – one, two, many – comment that he absolutely loved my brother and me. “He was so proud of you,” they tell me. “He talked about you all the time,” they write back. Each time it blows me away. That was not the Danny I knew. That was not the message I got. It was more rage and snide and poking.

I know enough to know why my father is crusty on the outside. Why he can’t express affection. I know that his mom “taught” him to not be as loving as he was. Every now and then he admits to me that he can’t admit to me (or anyone) how much he cares. He jokes. He teases. He neglects the simple words of love.

And then every now and then he shows me, when he asks if I’m okay. And I cry.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

Categories: Recovery

Be okay with exactly where you are

Okay, so maybe I’m just repeating the wisdom my yoga instructors share in our classes, but I figure if they touch, inspire, and help me, they might be useful to others as well. So here we go….

“Be okay with exactly where you are.”

Now, clearly, the instructor was referring to our yoga practice, and poses. Because in a world (and a class) full of over-achievers and over-doers, I humbly believe that we can never have too many reminders. Okay, so I can never have too many reminders. Each time they pause me and center me. And ground me.

Be okay with exactly where you are. Be okay with exactly where you are.

I caught the “not enough” bug at a young age. I know I say that all the time here, but it’s true. I caught it well, and I caught it hard.

I lovingly put the “not enough” bug away each time it kicks back in. The shame washes over me, and I breathe. My stomach clenches, or my heart tightens, and I breathe. I remember that it’s exactly okay – I’m exactly okay – where I am.

I know my yoga instructor was referring to our yoga class, and pose, and I know she was referring to life outside of the yoga studio as well.

The mood I’m in? It’s okay. The parenting I’m doing? It’s okay. The tasks I’m crossing off my to-do list? They’re enough…and okay. The steps I’ve taken on To The Moon and Back today? They’re okay.

What a weird concept to be okay with exactly where I am. EXACTLY where I am. Even as much as I’ve healed and wholed, just the other day I noticed – again – how much I watch my situations, how much I read the emotions and reactions – real and imagined – of everyone around me. Or at least the people who matter to me.

If I’m aware of everything, I can do whatever I need to to make things right. To keep me safe. If I pay close attention to the reactions and needs of others, I can manage things. Handle things. Control things.

Wow, these reflexes are deeply ingrained. And wow, I no longer want them. They may have helped and saved me years ago, but wow, now I long to be free.

I long to be okay with exactly where I am. How I am. Who I am. I love when I am okay with exactly where I am and how I am and who I am.

Be okay with exactly where you are. It’s a much, much better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

Categories: Recovery

Whatever you do is enough

Again our yoga instructor offered this to us during our practice. Again it resonated.

As someone who has, and can, get stuck with “I’m not enough.” As someone who has worked at replacing that self-defeating (and lambasting) mantra with a full-blown recognition of my own enough-ness, I latched onto our instructor’s gift. And held on tight.

Over the years I replaced, “I’m not enough,” with “I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.” I still have visions of myself riding in a taxicab home from a support group one evening, repeating over and over and over to myself, “I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.” Over the years I replaced “I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.” with “I am more than enough. I have more than enough. I do more than enough.” Somehow the extra “more” was necessary – or at least helpful – to pull myself out of the not-enough-ness that I could throw myself into.

So when our instructor suggested that whatever was enough, there in class as well as outside in the “real” world, I felt myself ease again. As a friend said to me recently, while reflecting on our similar reflex to push and punish ourselves, that reflex comes from a desire to “control everything happening around me.” If I don’t make mistakes, I reduce the chance of being hurt or abandoned. And if I try harder, and harder, and harder still, and hard “enough”, I reduce the chance of making mistakes.

It amazes me how many of us are wired so hard and so tight, with such lack of self-compassion. It amazes me how prevalent this self-defeating and lambasting mental approach is.

It also amazes me how easy it is to let it go, at least for a moment. How permission from outside – from my yoga instructor – reminded me to ease up on myself.

It also amazes me how I’m getting better – and better – at this. The other day another friend asked me how I juggled all that I had going on without freaking out or going into (too much) overdrive. I’m diligently (and delightedly) working on moving my memoir towards its publication date in September. I’m relatively managing (and enjoying) my leadership consulting practice that is booming and busier than ever. I’m still a (extremely lucky) parent with one child at home. It is a lot.

I laughed when my friend asked me, and I acknowledged that I’ve learned to just do what I can do, do what’s in front of me, and trust that somehow everything else that needs to happen will somehow happen. So far it’s working at least relatively well.

Which means that somehow deep down inside of myself I must be reminding myself, as my yoga instructor did, that “Whatever you do is enough.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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