Category Archives: Self Savvy

The Other Side of the Couch – Home is Where the Cats Are

 

Thursday night – my husband and I returned home from work (home still being the extended-stay hotel where we have lived since December 14 due to a water heater failure in our new home).  I was checking phone messages when I noticed that one of our cats was nibbling the leaf of a plant that we brought home from church last Sunday.  It was an Easter Lily.

For some reason I thought to myself – I should check on that – I don’t know anything about lilies and cats.

I googled it – and discovered to my horror that Easter lilies are extremely toxic to cats, causing kidney failure and death.

We immediately called our vet.  We were referred to the Pet ASPCA. We learned that the Easter Lily is the most toxic of the lily family to cats; they both needed immediate treatment, involving 48 hours of IV fluids and repeated bloodwork to determine whether kidney values were going up.  If they were, there was little hope of survival.  If the cats had even had pollen from the lily on their coats and ingested it while grooming, the toxicity would still be significant.

Four days later – the cats survived.  We are out a significant amount of money.  Most importantly, we learned a huge lesson – and it is not that Easter Lilies are dangerous for cats.

The lesson I learned is that my animals, my companion animals, are a significant part of what has kept me in balance through the turmoil of the last several months.  Having that consistency of caring, snuggly fur babies has given me comfort and helped me make it through another day.  Needing to be there for them has made it easier to keep going.

I imagine that there are many people out there whose companion animals make life a little less challenging and a lot more satisfying.  When I was afraid that I would lose them – well, let’s just say that I didn’t like what was going on these last several days. Learning that they would be ok has lifted a huge cloud from my world. It has also asked me to examine my definition of “home”.

Robert Frost, in his famous poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”, juxtaposes two definitions of home –

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

From The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems, 1969

These two definitions have always troubled me – one exemplifies what I call an ethic of righteousness, focusing on merit and a kind of grudging acceptance of responsibility for someone who probably doesn’t deserve it but is taken in anyway.  The other focuses on an ethic of mercy or grace, recognizing that sometimes creatures just don’t deserve care, but receive it anyway out of grace or compassion.

What do my cats, or any companion animals, have to do with this story?  The cats, for me, are the carriers of grace.  We have a responsibility to the animals in our care, and they give us without condition the experience of unconditional love and acceptance.  The prospect of losing them brought home to me the significance of their living presence.  I am grateful, and wherever they are, is certainly home to me.

I wonder – what makes “home” for you?  I have found through all this that home has little to do with place, and a lot more to do with the connections with people and companion animals who surround me.  I will be very happy to return to our home – hopefully within the next two weeks.  However, I know that what makes it home has a lot more to do with my husband and my cats than with the place itself.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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On Being Human

Love-and-compassion-are-necessities-not-luxuries.-Without-them-humanity-cannot-survive.

This week I did something I’ve never done in my professional life…I missed a deadline. In fact, I missed my deadline for publishing this post! I don’t know how or why, and I’m pretty embarrassed about it. I consider myself a responsible, mature professional who is able to manage time well. But somehow, it happened.

As you can see, I’m beating myself up pretty badly about this. And I can’t help but wonder why. Why are we so hard on ourselves when we behave in a perfectly normal, natural, understandable manner? Is it perfection we expect? Are we afraid of letting people down, of being a disappointment?

Last week I spent much of my time preparing my home for the holiday of Passover. This requires cleaning my food pantry and clearing it of any food items containing flour and other foods forbidden during the weeklong holiday. In our household it means moving things from one place to anther, swapping out my everyday dishes for those reserved for this holiday, along with flatware. I also shopped, cleaned house and prepared food for the seder, festive meal, we hosted for 18 people at our house on Friday night. And, my adult daughter arrived to spend the weekend with us. In short, I DID A LOT OF STUFF! At various moments I reminded myself that I also had to write this post, but obviously, that didn’t stick. I can’t imagine why not! Ha!

Obviously I am someone who can accomplish and juggle many tasks. I pride myself on that fact and consider it one of my strengths. Heck, I raised three kids, went to grad school, worked full time, started two businesses and held volunteer leadership positions. I’ve set a pretty high bar for myself and usually can meet it. So is that why I can’t seem to shake the shame that I feel? Or is it something deeper?

I have a theory. I think my overblown shame and embarrassment stem from my underlying insecurity. It’s a feeling that, no matter how much I accomplish, I am not good enough. So when I fall short of my own expectations, it’s as if my suspicions about myself are right, and I am exposed. The world can now see me for what I really am: inadequate and incompetent.

My insecurities have their origin in my childhood, of course. I’ve had enough therapy to know from whence it came. The question is how do I move past this? It’s a difficult task. There are no easy answers or shortcuts. What I know is that this is part of my life’s journey. Learning to accept myself as I am, to value myself for who I am and to grant myself the compassion I give to others.

The lesson of Passover is to understand our past, and to remind ourselves of our journey from slavery to freedom. This year, I want to free myself from the bonds of insecurity and self-doubt. I want to remember the lessons of my childhood so that I can make new, better, kinder choices. One of the blessings in the seder services says, “This year we are slaves, next year may we all be free.” We are all slaves to something. What does it take for us to be free?

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Losing a Friend

It all happened gradually – so gradually that until it had been going on for months, even years, it was hard to notice.  Taken individually, the changes could be explained.  Lost keys.  Forgotten purse.  Trouble with managing a smart phone.  Struggling with finding a word on occasion.  Each one of those experiences has happened to all of us at some time or another.

However, suddenly, all those things were significant, because more things began to happen, more often.

Someone who had been the most fastidious of people had hair that needed washing.  Someone who had always been full of ideas seemed to have lost her interest in others.  Someone who knew her city well began to be confused about how to get from one place to another.

When the day came when she tried to write a check and didn’t know how to do it – when she sat at lunch with us and forgot there was food on her plate – we knew.

We knew what we hadn’t wanted to know, that we had written off as depression, as Attention Deficit Disorder, as just growing older – we knew that our friend was facing progressive dementia.  Because of her family history, we also knew that this was most likely early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Our friend is fortunate in that she has a caring family who intervened, who helped her make the changes she needed to make.  She will be loved and safe.  Although she will no longer be in this city, she will be with people who love her.

Others who live alone and/or who have no family are not so fortunate.

We are facing an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and other dementias as our population ages.  What I have learned by going through this process with my friend is that it is all too easy to dismiss the visible signs of early dementia because we don’t want to know it is happening.  This denial does a disservice to the person who is suffering, because early detection and early use of the medications available that slow the process down are essential to preserving the functional parts of the brain.

This terrible illness that ultimately eradicates the person’s memory and ability to function can be treated (not cured, but treated).  If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.  Don’t wait; don’t live in denial.  If you see a friend struggling, speak up.  In the end it serves no one to pretend that all is well.

This link discusses some of the early signs of dementia.  It is worth reading. The Alzheimer’s Association is also a wonderful resource and support for caregivers.

https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/early-warning-signs

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Business 101: A Savvy Woman’s Book Club

Book Club

A few of us savvy women are currently part of somewhat unique book club. Rather than reading the latest bestseller, romance or historical fiction, we are reading a business primer of sorts, focused on learning how some major US companies grew into some pretty great ones. The book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins was written in 2001 and while some of the businesses profiled are no longer with us, the deep dive into the successes of these giants is proving to be both fascinating and moving.

The book details a multi-year study into 11 industry giants, which over a 15-year period, grew from being a good, solid business into a truly great company. Collins compiled a team of about 20 researchers who helped develop benchmarks against which to measure their subjects. They painstakingly defined the concepts of, “good,” and, “great,” compared the subjects to other similar companies, and what resulted is this book. It may sound dry, and I confess I was skeptical it would hold my interest, but to date I am about halfway through and I cannot wait to get to the next chapter.

One of the things that surprised me is how the characteristics, principles and practices that Collins and his team have uncovered in the great companies can be applied to most facets of life. Chapter Two, for example, looked at the five levels of leadership and defined what makes up each level. One by one, each member of our group began measuring herself against the top level and found herself coming up short. Our discussion that morning centered around how people in general and women in particular, judge ourselves harshly and often fail to see or acknowledge our own strengths and successes. The discussion led me to reflect on my own tendency to set a high bar for success and then when I don’t reach it, I feel like a failure. And this concept does not only apply in business. I can see it in my relationships with my children, my husband, friends and colleagues. I can see it in how I evaluate my own concept of success and failure.

The best part of reading this book, though, has been the group itself. Each of us has found something that resonates either personally or professionally and often, both. Our discussions are deep, funny, interesting, educational and sometimes frustrating, as we learn more about ourselves and our individual journeys. It’s exhilarating to be learning new things and facing new ideas in concert with others.

This savvy gal highly recommends you find a similar outlet. Books provide a springboard for so many wonderful discussions. Let us know your experiences with a book club or new experience. And if you haven’t already read it, try, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Road Rage in the Age of Victimhood

Recently I was involved in a road rage incident while on my way home. It all began, as so often happens, with a passive aggressive driver who would speed up every time someone tried to pass him. Eventually he was stuck behind a plumber’s truck and a line of vehicles blew by him of which I was driving the last.

Apparently the driver was so enraged that he followed me into a nearby grocery store. If I had known a nut was chasing me I would have swung by the local police precinct instead. I became aware of him when he tried to block me against a deli case so that he could spew a stream of profanity-laced filth, wrapping up by calling me a fat c—t and a lesbian. (Why is it that inadequate frustrated men always call women lesbians?)

I have lots of friends in the gay community so being called a lesbian isn’t particularly insulting. I’ve also been called many vulgar names while doing collections work and I worked a factory job long ago where I learned to out-cuss a drunken sailor. This guy was a comparative amateur. I couldn’t help myself. I smiled; almost laughed.

That set him off again and he followed me for several minutes through the store spewing comments about my putative lesbian love life.  He didn’t scare me at the time. There were plenty of people around and it was obvious that the tubby little man wasn’t going to get physically violent. When I left the store, he didn’t follow me.

Later I couldn’t help thinking about the guy. In my experience, that kind of rage boils up from months, even years of frustrated ambitions and blighted expectations. In other words, the guy felt like a victim and he needed a target for his victimhood.

We live in an era of victimhood.  There are economic victims of globalization, job automation, and the financial industry meltdown caused by blatant greed of the global elite. There are racial victims, ethnic victims, sexual harassment victims, and religious intolerance victims.  All victims have suffered a grievance based on a valid and real injustice.

But populist politicians who lack any sense of morality and decency are cynically exploiting the sense of victimhood by promising that the perpetrators will pay.  The perpetrators are some hazy “other” group that is racially, ethnically, and religiously different from the victim.  For an alarmingly large number of men, who feel their status has comparatively dropped, the perpetrators are females.

Populist politicians use inflammatory language that encourages their audience to take action against the alleged perpetrators.  We’ve seen it in the rise of hate crimes.  It also might explain why an angry, chubby, balding man followed a woman into a grocery store to spew hate.  That’s when I started feeling scared. Thank God he didn’t have a gun.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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The Other Side of the Couch – The Gift of Waiting

Another month has passed – and we are still not back in our home after the twin disasters of mold in a wall (due to failure of roof flashings) and damaged hardwood floors (due to a water heater failure). Living in a hotel and eating most meals out is not glamorous in any way – and it is just not home.

What is taking so long? I wish I knew. In part it is due to timing (over the holidays), the weather (Arctic air mass that stopped work of any kind), Nashville’s booming construction industry (which makes finding contractors for relatively small jobs a challenge). However, in large part it is due to several entities having to sign off on what needs to be done and how much it will cost. These include the homeowner’s insurance agent and the adjuster, the moisture mitigation company, the contractors and their schedules, and the HOA (Homeowners Association). Throw into that mix the need for movers and packers (all the furniture has to come off of the damaged floors) – a lot of cooks are stirring this broth!

We wait with what patience we can muster. I am very clear that fretting and worrying will do nothing other than make my life harder and will do nothing to change the outcome of this process. I am trying to cultivate the practice of living in the present.

As I experience this time of waiting, I am aware of other times of waiting. I remember my father saying things like, “I can’t wait until she is old enough to…” – whatever the next milestone might have been. He had a hard time enjoying what was due to his anticipation of what would be. I remember waiting to graduate from high school, waiting to start a career, waiting to find a romantic partner, waiting for a child to be born. I am not sure that I waited with patience, nor am I sure that I ever had the wisdom to cultivate the practice of living in the present.

My guess is that I have missed a lot. This time of waiting has lessons that I need to learn. So I look around and am grateful for time spent with my daughter, who is awaiting her first child. I am grateful for the warmth of a space heater next to my feet as another round of Arctic air descends on Nashville. I am grateful for a new down coat that arrived just in time for the coldest days of winter. I am grateful that I am alive, here in this world, with eyes to see and ears to hear and a mind that works.

In the grand scheme of things problems with water heaters and walls are small compared to the grace of being alive in a world full of beauty and brokenness.
Perhaps you have worries that are fretting you. Perhaps you are spending too much time in the land of the future (the land of What If) or the past (the land of If Only) and not enough time in the land of Right Now. Let yourself enjoy it if possible or mourn it if necessary – but above all, be in it. It is all we really have.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Parenting Our Parents

When did it happen? At exactly what point did the tables turn? Did I see it coming? Yes, I know my mother ended up with a horrible outcome from what was supposed to be a relatively “simple” surgery, and that has resulted in her dependence on my sister and me, but I don’t think this is exclusively the reason. I know many of my friends are in the same situation. Even if their parent(s) are not disabled in any specific way, they share their concerns with me about their parent(s)’s behaviors, decisions, etc. I hear them express their disapproval of a particular decision or attitude. They express these to the parent(s) only to be rebuked. Then there is angst between them. Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t get resolved before it is too late…

As children, we looked to our parents for everything; clothing and housing, food and education, more. We depended on them to make “the rules” and lay a foundation to lead us into responsible and respectable adulthood. They made, or at least helped us make, important decisions. Most of us were fortunate enough to receive all of these gifts from our parents. So what happens when we begin to see and feel the need to take care of them and make those same kinds of decisions for them?

From an article at elderoptionsoftexas.com, Roll Reversal: Should You ‘Parent’ Your Parent?:

Because of advances in medicine, more and more people are living well into their 90’s. But quality of life isn’t always keeping up—and many older adults have mobility issues, chronic conditions, dementia, and other health problems that mean they need live-in care.

Many adult children make the decision to take care of their elderly parents—either part-time or full-time. But caring for a parent comes with some pitfalls. Often, it comes in the form of ‘roll reversal’. When your parent needs significant help to do basic things—even things involve very intimate hygiene-related tasks—it can be tempting to start seeing this as a reversal in roles. 

If you haven’t had to face this, let me tell ya, it ain’t easy. My dear sister, Joan, now lives with my mother. Granted, the loss of Mom’s leg is truly tragic and she often expresses feelings of uselessness. While she still balances her own check book, lays out her vitamins for the week every Saturday, folds laundry, and writes out checks for her bills in her same beautiful, perfect handwriting, “I’m a cripple,” she cries. “I hate my life. I just want to die.” Yet, whenever faced with some kind of challenge, like coughing to the point of choking, she clings to life in a panic. I don’t think she really wants to leave us. She just gets frustrated and depressed. Understandable for sure. She led such an active life before and still takes care of herself pretty well, with some limitations, of course. She has a caregiver most days while Joan is at work and I take over care duties full-time whenever Joan goes out of town.

For the most part, it’s routine. For instance, breakfast in the morning consists of cereal or eggs and toast, occasionally with a little bacon because she loves it, but has to avoid too much salt. BUT, if I ask her if she’d like some sliced tomato with it, I am met with gritted teeth and fists banging the table. “Noooooo,” she roars, “I just want eggs!” I want to ask, “Who are you and what have you done with my mother?” Joan gets this same type of reaction when Mom can’t find some piece of paper she feels is important and Joan doesn’t quite grasp the significance.

I found an article at agingcare.com entitled Switching Roles: Coping with Your Rebellious Aging Parent by Carolyn Rosenblatt.  She says,

“Some people call this “switching roles”. What it means is that your job, one you’ve never done before, is to be sure your parent is safe and cared for, just as your parent once did for you. The problem is, your parent is not going to grow up, become more mature and eventually appreciate your efforts. So where does that leave you?

For most adult children who must learn this new job of safety monitor, taking on the new responsibility of “parenting your parent” leaves you with a fair amount of stress and anxiety. Some adult children still feel intimidated by an imperious aging parent, even one who is infirm, demented or unable to care for themselves independently. It takes some doing to face this and cope, but it can be done.”

Rosenblatt offers five “strategies” for coping with the new role of parenting our parent(s). She also refers to several other articles the agingcare.com website offers on the subject.

Mom is still mighty sharp in most aspects, but sometimes she can get downright belligerent. That is probably our greatest challenge. We’ve decided she is bored, since she stays at home with rare exception, and could use some stimulation, input from outside her little world. It’s hard to get her out, though, because she claims getting in and out of the car is “exhausting.” No doubt. It would probably be so at 92 even if she had both legs. At this point, however, we have introduced her to the idea of a senior residence that seems absolutely fabulous. She now goes to a class there every Wednesday and admits (albeit reluctantly) that she enjoys it. Moving there is under consideration, but she’s “not ready for that yet.”

For now, like everything in life, we’re taking it one day – one minute at a time. And loving her all we can for as long as we can. Perhaps you are facing similar challenges with your parent or parents. Do you have any suggestions?                Any and all are welcome.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Kitchen Kitsch

I love to cook so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My cooking is pretty basic; I don’t use exotic ingredients and I have a battered set of pots and pans.  I grew up poor and learned to use what was available and in my price range.

These days I have more income but I stick by my old habits.  I buy in bulk and I look for what is on sale and then build recipes around those items.  Recently I realized that I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables. I actually enjoy the process because it allows me to think about the various combinations of food, spices, oils, or whatever I need for the finished dish.

Kitchen time fills more than just the need to prepare my next meal. Kitchen time also allows me to reflect on ideas or issues that are important to me. I could get the same benefit from a long walk but at this time of year I’m doing my exercising indoors on a treadmill facing the TV.

Because I spend so much time in my kitchen, I began posting important messages for myself.  I always find it ironic when gifted, educated and powerful women say they struggle or have struggled with their sense of self. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to think of myself in those terms, despite every accomplishment and achievement in my life.  So my refrigerator and kitchen walls are covered with inspirational notes to remind me of what I am; not what I used to think I was.

When I was a child, I was taught to cook because it was considered a “womanly” skill. Despite that handicap, I still enjoy cooking. Only now my kitchen time is usually spent thinking about reinforcing my self-image and building a stronger, successful business.

As a small business owner, I’m constantly thinking about where that next client will come from or the best (meaning most effective) method for prospecting for new clients or what tasks I should delegate to others.  Sure, I could sit down at a desk and cogitate on all these points. But it seems to flow more naturally when I’m doing other things, like chopping vegetables to make a stew.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. My company works primarily with employers that have up to 50 employees.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Waiting

 

The house seems so strange now.  Furniture is shunted into other areas – the rugs folded or removed.  A sheen of dust covers the shining surface of the dining room table, and the living room couch stands in solitary splendor against the wall where the sunrise picture used to be.  The floor, from which the buckled hardwood has been pried, is a minefield of unexpected nails waiting to slice unwary toes, even toes protected by shoes.

In the kitchen a section of hardwood remains isolated in the corner close to the adjoining wall of the condo next door.  Black discoloration stains it at the corner closest to the outside wall.  We think it is mold.  The adjuster found that the flashings on the roof were not properly attached, and water has been splashing into the wall for some time.  We are not sure for how long, but it is long enough for whiffs of mold to be apparent at times in the house.

This is going to be a long process.

We have been out of the house for twenty-two days.  We expect to be out for another month.  All this happened over the Christmas/New Year holiday season – so while adjusters have adjusted, and driers have kept the water damage from the water heater failure from extending to other areas of the house, no decisions have been made about what to do and when to do it.  We don’t expect that decision to be made until after the New Year holiday is over.

The familiar processes of living are truncated now.  Cooking?  Meal planning?  With one skillet and a hot plate, there is not much possibility.  Entertaining?  Tiny hotel suites don’t give much space for traditional New Year’s parties.  We had a little Christmas tree, because I couldn’t bear to have NOTHING that denoted the Christmas season – so our little artificial kitchen tree, decorated with angels and a tiny knitted creche, took the place of the tree that we had decorated so hopefully just after Thanksgiving.  That tree, deprived of all its familiar decorations, stood in the midst of the drying fans for days and turned into a brown shell much more rapidly than it should have.

We are waiting.

Waiting is not an easy process.  This kind of waiting increases feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.  Those experiences are not pleasant, and they can lead to ill-considered actions.  Impatient people sometimes don’t treat others well.  However, so far we have managed to remain civilized.  Rather than screaming at adjusters we have remained calm and collected. We laugh at the inconveniences and focus on gratitude rather than resentment.  Sometimes things happen that are just outside our control, and railing at the situation does no good.  We wait for good things to happen; we wait for news; we anticipate future events – the ability to wait and to reach into a possible future is both a blessing and a burden for human beings.  Seeing all those cats in the picture, who are indeed waiting for a possible future that includes eating fish, made me laugh about our long-term anticipations.  Living in the moment really is the best we can do.

I think of others who have lost more than a momentary loss of convenience. The situations of refugees, whose whole lives have been destroyed with no hope of return reminds me today of the grace that we are given.  We have a home to which we will return.  Surely we can endure a season of waiting.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions image

I admit I felt pressure to make this first post of the year profound, deep and inspirational. Isn’t that what we savvy women do? Set the bar high, then lose sleep trying to get there and finally, beating ourselves up for not meeting our own high standards. At least that’s what I do. But this morning I found some inspiration of my own in the morning paper. Yep, leave it to the New York Times to be there for me just when I need a little jump-start.

Help came in the form of an opinion piece by David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northwestern University. His column was titled “The Only Way To Keep Your Resolutions.” The gist of it is that standard resolutions are hard to keep because they require so much mental energy that we eventually burn out. But what is sustainable are efforts that are born from gratitude, pride and compassion. DeSteno calls these traits, “social emotions.” These are the qualities that make us human and help us form positive relationships. It is these relationships, and the feelings that come with them that help us to feel grateful, which in turn leads us to step outside ourselves and learn new skills, try new experiences and ultimately, to have real, sustainable personal growth.

I love this theory! For me, feeling connected to others and to something bigger than myself is what I thrive on and what I seek out. I enjoy being in community with people. I am most myself when I am with others, connecting and sharing thoughts, feelings, time and emotions. In short, I am in my element. And I can report that for me, these experiences do indeed make me feel grateful and happy to help when called upon. These past couple of years, I have been called to serve in a leadership role in my faith community. It’s been a challenge and has stretched me in ways I never imagined. But if I had made resolutions on some arbitrary date on the calendar to learn the very same things, I probably wouldn’t have had the same level of success in learning and making changes.

The work I’ve done has also helped me to feel pride in myself. Pride at learning new things and accomplishing goals I’d set. And again, that feeling of satisfaction has led me to want to share my lessons with others. I have helped to mentor the next leaders of my community and look forward to continuing to offer advice and counsel when called upon.

Finally, these last couple of years has taught me humility and forgiveness. By that I mean forgiveness to myself when I fail, and humility for being human. I like to think I’ve always been a compassionate person, but in retrospect, I’ve learned that real compassion comes when we can recognize our own shortcomings, forgive ourselves and then share awareness that with others. When someone in my world falls short or disappoints me, I am better at empathizing and understanding that we are all just trying to do our best in spite of our human flaws.

So if I have anything to share about New Year’s resolutions it’s this: cultivate gratitude for what you have, feel real pride in your accomplishments big and small, and find compassion for the broken parts in all of us and in our world. And this time next year, look back on the changes that have occurred. You will be amazed. Happy New Year everyone!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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