Tag Archives: resilience

Mending Broken Dreams

by Kim Childs, CPPC

At some point in the process of recovering from my divorce, I realized that I was having trouble dreaming new dreams. While I’d done a lot to heal the emotional pain of my failed marriage, this was something different…and deeper.

Eventually, I came to realize that I needed to mourn the dreams I’d had for me and my ex-husband that didn’t come true, and the hopes and plans I had for my own life when I got married.

“I feel as if I need to hold a funeral for my marriage,” I told a dear friend. “It was one of my biggest dreams, and it died.”

“What you really need to grieve are the expectations you had for your marriage,” she replied. “Your dreams are still there.”

I’d heard this kind of message before from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, who’s helped millions recover their dreams and creative desires from the ashes of failure, shame, disappointment and discouragement.

“It’s important to give yourself the dignity of grieving your wounds, creative and otherwise,” Cameron writes in her new book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. “Many times people will acknowledge their wounds but feel they should somehow be beyond them.”

In other words, we cannot heal what we don’t allow ourselves to feel.

By grieving and honoring unrealized dreams with self-compassion, we can “metabolize” the pain and prevent emotional and psychic “scar tissue” from building up and blocking us, says Cameron. Otherwise, these unhealed wounds may cause us to lose faith in ourselves and hesitate to pursue, or even name, new dreams.

Margaret Lynch, an author and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert, has a term for these often unrecognized losses: goal traumas. They occur when cherished dreams fall apart despite earnest efforts, hard work and sacrifice. Lynch says that goal traumas may leave us feeling less trusting of ourselves, other people, and whatever higher power we believe is in charge. We might then resist getting our hopes up and setting big goals, letting “Why bother?” and “What’s the use?” replace “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”

Goal traumas need to be healed, and the first step is to grieve what didn’t happen, and admit that it mattered.

“If those tears have never been cried for you, you need to cry them for yourself,” Lynch writes in her book, Tapping Into Wealth. “Until you honor the grief, loss and pain, it stays stuck.”

Heeding all of this wisdom, I gathered some friends and held a “Funeral for a Dream” ritual. We each brought a failed dream to honor, mourn, and transform. They included aspirations that centered on love, family, creativity and career.

Here is the process we used:

Part 1 – Write your honest answers to these questions, allowing any emotions to flow in the process:

–What was I hoping for when I pursued this dream?

–What actually happened?

–How did/do I feel about that?

Sitting in a circle by my friend’s fireplace, we took turns reading our answers aloud and receiving the gift of compassionate witnessing. After I named the dreams I’d had for my marriage and wept over how they’d gone so wrong, my friends looked into my eyes and said the profoundly healing words that no one had said about my divorce, including me:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

One by one, we named, witnessed, and honored our pain. We then gave it over to the fire of transformation, burning the papers on which we’d each told our tales of heartbreak. Afterwards, we cleared our energy with simple shamanic practices and prepared to rise from the ashes.

Part 2 – Assess the failed dream and ask:

–How did I/others learn, grow, benefit or strengthen from what happened?

–What is my new dream?

My friends and I again read our answers aloud and acknowledged our growth, gifts, and resilience. We then named some new dreams for our lives and offered cheers and words of affirmation to support each others’ forward movement.

By the time we ended our ritual, we each felt lighter, brighter, more energized, and loved for the whole of who we are – failures, painful stories and all.

If you feel you have a goal trauma or failed dream that’s “stuck” somewhere in you and keeping you from going for new dreams, I invite you to try a process like this. Enlist the support of friends or helping professionals if you sense you will need that. Be gentle with yourself before, during and after, and drink lots of water afterward to flush your system.

As you endeavor to heal the pain of dreams that didn’t (yet) come true, take heart, and dare to dream again. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Slowly, I identified and began to pursue new dreams (one of which you can help to support here, if you are so inspired!). Interestingly enough, some of these new dreams came straight from the ashes of my failures.

In fact, I believe they could not have been born without them.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and soulful living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Fifty Years, Fifty Lessons

50 years, 50 lessons I just turned 50 and, while it’s difficult to wrap my mind around this chronological fact, I think it begs a celebration. I’m therefore inspired to list 50 things that I’ve learned in my five decades on the planet. It’s a gift to myself, really, to honor the wisdom that I’ve received from people and life, some of which I’ve passed on to my students. I invite you to share your own lessons, too, if you’re so moved. We all learn from each other.

1) Believe in your worth. It pains me to consider how much time I wasted thinking that I was unattractive, untalented and un-everything-that-I-thought-everyone-else-was. I obsessed about a little cellulite when I had a gorgeous figure. I thought I was insignificant when, in fact, I made lasting impressions on lots of people. Enough of that nonsense. I now affirm my worth on a regular basis.

2) When you know better, you do better. That’s from Maya Angelou. My version? At 35, I abandoned the party crowd to find my spiritual tribe. At 40, I started flossing my teeth and found the right facial moisturizer. At 43, I gave up emotionally unavailable men. This year I added green smoothies and meditation to my life. It’s never too late to start a good habit.

3) Got a compliment on your lips? Let it roll. One day during an otherwise impersonal transaction at a department store, I complimented the sales clerk on her iridescent, multi-hued eye shadow. Suddenly, she was gushing about her passion for style and make-up artistry. We both grinned as she delivered her parting words, “And you really look good in orange, girl!” Voicing appreciation also works wonders in a marriage, BTW…

4) It’s good to be on time. My name is Kim and I’m a recovering latecomer. My old behavior made me, and everyone who waited for me, crazy and annoyed. Chronic lateness does a number on body, mind and reputation. I’ve discovered that it feels way better to arrive on time and unflustered. If I get there early, there’s my iPhone to entertain me, or (gasp!) a moment of mindfulness to enjoy. Feels so much better.

5) Things can change in an instant. One morning in 1996, I got a call from Thurston Briscoe, the program director at an NPR station in Newark, NJ. I’d submitted demo tapes to this man at some point, but I’d forgotten about them as I continued to work my radio production job at another station. Thurston told that me his morning news anchor was leaving and he needed someone “to fill in for a while.” Poof! That’s how I became a radio newscaster for WBGO, Jazz88.

6) You don’t have to keep doing something just because you’re good at it. In 1999 I left a “perfectly good” career in public radio to follow my heart. It led me to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I became a yoga teacher and a workshop facilitator. Eventually, I lost my passion for yoga teaching and so I left that, too. Now I’m writing and teaching messages that help people to live more joyfully and authentically. This job’s a keeper, I’m pretty sure…

7) Every feeling passes. I lived, worked and trained at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for two magical years. A chunk of that time was spent processing emotional pain from my past to get to the joy of who I really am. I sometimes felt that I’d drown in those tears, but they always subsided, and my sunny nature always reemerged. Like the weather patterns of the Berkshires, my emotions shifted all the time. Feelings, like clouds, come and go.

8) Comparing leads to despairing. I’ve squandered a lot of time and energy imagining how great other people’s lives are and using that misinformation to make myself feel crappy. No one’s life is perfect, no matter how shiny it looks from the outside. Now I tend to my own garden, savor the harvest, give thanks and feast on my life.

9) Taking risks builds risk muscles. Making bold moves and trying new things is scary. But that same energy, channeled as excitement, can propel us into taking risks with love, creativity, right livelihood, authenticity and every other good thing we want. The more I leap in faith, despite my fears, the easier it is to do it again and again.

10) Cultivate a sense of wonder and delight. Paying attention to the beauty of small and simple things, and appreciating the abundant gifts of Mother Nature, fuels a romance with life that never grows old. I put my inner kid in charge of this one.

11) Yes, I’m sensitive. A friend once called me a “champion feeler” and today I proudly embrace that label. My sensitivity allows me to empathize with people, and my tears invite others to share their own. The downside is that I can be a sponge for the unexpressed emotions of those around me, but I still wouldn’t trade my sensitivity for toughness. It’s a gift.

12) A lack of confidence wastes a lot of opportunity. I regret the times that I let my insecurities hijack and sabotage exciting chances. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” is a chestnut of wisdom that tells me to say yes to opportunities that come my way, even when I don’t feel totally prepared for them. I can always become a quick study, or ask someone for help.

13) Nothing stays the same.  I learned this one the hard way, when I became attached to certain products (and shades of lip color), only to watch them disappear from shelves when they were discontinued. The good news is that this truism applies to both painful and pleasurable situations. That’s nice to remember when the stuff is hitting the fan.

14) I proudly wave my freak flag. I’ve danced ecstatically on sacred rocks, howled at the moon, marched for peace, drummed around bonfires, chanted in sweat lodges and assumed yoga poses in the Grand Canyon. I’ve even been to a clothing-optional gathering or two. I’m a hippie-freak, tree-hugging flower child liberal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

15) God is not Santa Claus (nor is s/he Simon Cowell). As a kid, I “parentified” God as someone who judged me when I was naughty. When I dove into New Age teachings and spirituality, I thought God would reward me for being nice. Now I know God as a source of whole and utterly generous love that’s always just waiting for my call.

16) Wish everyone well. Friends, family members, co-workers, the snippy sales clerk and that guy yakking too loudly on his cell phone…what if we’re all doing the best we can with the state we’re in and the mindsets we currently have? Wish everyone well today, especially those who vex you. I find it a surprisingly effective practice.

17) Pause, rest and integrate. I used to rush from task, to event, to appointment with no time in between for rest and integration. It meant that I was always active, yet rarely satisfied or present. Now I acknowledge the need for downtime to savor and integrate major events. Life is too rich to live on fast forward.

18) It’s easy to take our talents for granted. I can edit a rambling, 1,000-word mess down to a snappy 450 words. I can teach a yoga class and turn a group of strangers into a sacred circle. I’m also “good with eggs,” according to my husband, and I sing pretty solos. What talents come so easily and naturally to you that you take them for granted?

19) People are my treasures. “Do you collect anything?” someone once asked me. I said no, but that’s not entirely true. I collect people the way some women collect shoes. Special people from my life have special places in my heart, shining like diamonds in my memory long after our paths have crossed.

20) What doesn’t kill us actually can make us stronger. The study of something called post-traumatic growth examines how stressful events can effect positive changes in a person’s life. My own hardships forced me to grow courage, wisdom, compassion and strength. Given the chance to rewrite my history, I just might leave a few of them in there.

21) Things often take longer than we like. I’m still working on this one, which involves patience, trust and a good dose of faith. There’s also something to be said for divine timing and the lessons learned while waiting, not to mention how our desires can change over time and render some wishes obsolete.

22) A good talk with a good friend is great medicine. I am lucky to have people in my life who let me be a big, fat mess sometimes. They listen without trying to make me feel better, simply holding a space in which I can speak aloud my complaints, confessions, sorrows and fears. Ironically, I do feel better after these talks, mostly because I feel less alone and more acceptably human.

23) Work your circle of influence. When Oprah Winfrey ended her long-running talk show, she told viewers that they didn’t have to be TV stars to have an impact on lots of people. I thought about that, and realized that every person I encounter may be affected by what I do and say. We never know who’s watching our show, so we might as well make it helpful and uplifting, right?

24) The buzz is not worth the bummer. I just might be done with alcohol, coffee, and sugar. I say “might” because life is full of special occasions that call for treats, but I know that the fleeting pleasure I get from these things is often not worth their negative effects on my body, mind and mood. Practicing what works best for me, and feeling the benefits, is my new high.

25) Happiness is an inside job. I’ve heard this sentiment for years, along with Abe Lincoln’s version, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Now I finally get that happiness is a moment-to-moment choice that has less to do with what happens to us than what’s happening inside of us. Choosing to be happy takes courage and practice, and it’s bolstered by an attitude of gratitude.

26) Crazy busy no more. I used to be someone with no white space on the calendar, over scheduled to within an inch of my life. Behind all that activity was a sense of desperation, a fear of missing out and a discomfort with stillness. Today, I’m very selective about what lands on my calendar, and I guard my free time like the wealth that it is.

27) Parenthood is not for everyone. I am childless by choice. I just never felt the urge to be a mom. I love being with kids and I relate pretty well to them, but I just don’t want to raise one and have that 24/7 responsibility. Maybe it’s because of my tendency to worry, or maybe it’s because I’m still growing up.

28) We’re ready when we’re ready. Regarding change, I once heard someone say that, “We can only go as fast as the slowest part of us can go.” Not sure I believe that entirely, but I do know that some major transitions in my life took their own sweet time to incubate. While it’s uncomfortable to hang out in the unknown, and we feel impatient to move forward sometimes, readiness is a key to lasting change.

29) Contentment is underrated. Maybe it has a lot to do with being middle aged, but I’m pretty content to be content these days. It doesn’t seem to be a very popular sentiment, so I sometimes feel out of step. But savoring who I am and what I have brings me peace and joy, and that, to me, is more satisfying than the latest i-Something.

30) Tell on yourself. Last year I published something with a major typo thatDoh! made me cringe. I couldn’t fix the error, so I told people about it. The outpouring of support that followed was astounding to someone who once thought that mistakes made her a target for ridicule. Screwing up is evidently something people relate to, so we might as well admit that we do it.

31) To-do lists are good; ta-da lists are better. This idea comes from Julia Cameron, my guru in the work I do as a creative living coach. She recommends that we write “Ta-da!” lists to honor what we’ve done in the course of a day. When I acknowledge all that I’ve accomplished, I feel good about myself and energized to do more. After a little reward, that is…

32) Turn your defects into assets. My brothers would probably tell you that I was a bossy big sister. But a tendency to be authoritative comes in handy when teaching yoga and creative recovery classes (“Lift your sternum, drop your shoulders, write your Morning Pages, breathe…”). Likewise, my overblown sense of responsibility makes me pretty reliable. What character “defects” can you see as assets?

33) Walking is cheaper than therapy. The other day I was all worked up about stuff and my husband asked, “Did you take your walk?” in the same tone someone might use to inquire, “Did you take your meds?” So I took the hint and went outside to walk off my stress and get out of my own head. About 30 minutes later, the knot in my stomach dissolved and I smiled up at the big, blue sky, grateful for this free and gentle remedy.

34) One man’s dirt is another woman’s dishes. I’ve lived with people who had different cleaning habits than mine. I’d go nuts when the bathroom was grungy, and they’d nag me to do my dishes before bed. One day after much grumbling, I got it: they didn’t see the dirt and clutter that I saw, and I was oblivious to the pile of dishes in the sink. What if no one is wrong and we’re all just wearing different lenses?

35) Don’t believe everything you think. I was 32 when I first heard those words from a guru. Today they make a lot of sense, as my meditation practice causes me to watch the tireless parade of thoughts that march across my mind, many of which are repetitive, judgmental, fearful and banal. Were I sitting next to someone voicing this chatter, I’d move away. Watching my thoughts gives me perspective on them, and the chance to shift.

36) Nature is the ultimate thriller. I’ve seen skyscrapers, cities that never sleep and award-winning movies and plays, but nothing thrills me like a hummingbird, a breaching whale, a Technicolor sunset, the full moon rising, the power of the ocean, a majestic mountain or a sky full of shooting stars. Mama Nature is the original artist, and she is such a diva.

37) I dare to love my imperfect self. Our brains are wired to look for what’s wrong; it’s how we’ve survived over the ages. But while that impulse was designed to protect us from real danger, we often use it to pick ourselves mercilessly apart. If “God don’t make no junk,” as the saying goes, who am I to nitpick? I’m willing to love myself—warts and all—even as I acknowledge that there’s room for “new and improved.”

38) Be a good receiver. The other day a friend told me that I looked beautiful and I simply said “Thank you!” because my intention for 2013 is to be a better receiver – of compliments, assistance, money and all kinds of blessings. This can be challenging for those of us who are hardwired for self-sufficiency and used to deflecting, but receiving keeps good things in circulation, and I’m doing my part to keep that energy flowing.

39) Season, reason, lifetime. Those words refer to the length of time, and purpose, for which certain people are in our lives. It took me a long time to get this, and maybe longer to accept the fact that some friendships and significant relationships do not last as long as I want them to. I can only appreciate whoever shows up, try to receive the lessons and gifts they bear, and really value those who are with me for the long haul.

40) I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I use that idiom because I’m an avid tea drinker, but the point here is that some people may never like me. Ouch! So I have to ask myself, “Well, aren’t there people who leave me cold, annoy me or push my buttons?” Well, yes. “What if it’s because they mirror a part of me that I don’t want to see, or some part that I’m uncomfortable expressing?” Could be. Or, maybe tea just isn’t everyone’s beverage of choice.

41) I believe in a good cry. It turns out that tears are actually good for us. They lubricate the eyes, remove bacteria and toxins from the body and reduce stress. But even before I knew that, I believed in the power of a good cry to release pent-up feelings of anxiety, anger and grief. I don’t always feel great right after a big cry, but eventually I do feel lighter, clearer and less afraid of my feelings.

42) Rituals matter. My childhood rituals included going to church, sitting down for family dinners and celebrating birthdays and holidays. As an adult, I create my own rituals based on what truly nourishes me. My mornings now consist of prayer, meditation and journaling. If I skip them, I feel “off.” Rituals ground me, enrich my life and connect me to what’s meaningful.

43) I forgive myself. I’ve made choices in life that caused me pain and suffering. I’ve hurt people and said things that I wish I could delete from the universal record. Today I forgive myself for making mistakes and causing harm. I make amends when possible to those I’ve hurt, including me, aiming to be kinder and wiser.

44) I forgive them, too.
Resentments, grudges and grievances are like toxic waste piles that litter my mind and poison my spirit. Forgiveness, on the other hand, feels liberating and clean. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that I condone bad behavior or want to become best buddies. It means that I no longer let another’s actions hold me hostage or define me. It also opens the way for healing.

45) Jealousy is a messenger. For years, being jealous of people who had what I wanted was something I just did. Once I became aware of my jealousies, I felt bad for having them (compounding the misery). Now when I catch myself feeling jealous of someone, I know it’s pointing me toward my own desires. I then remind myself that it’s an abundant universe, and only I can block my good.

46) Find the good and praise it. Author Alex Haley used these words to sum up his philosophy, and they describe a practice that I’ve been building on. It’s called savoring, and it’s related to the “glass half full” concept of looking for what is good and what’s working in our lives, aiming our focus there and giving thanks. This is especially useful when times are hard, and it’s a great relationship tool.

47) I love my body and it loves me back. I haven’t always been a wise or well-behaved inhabitant of this precious body, but it has steadily performed for me nonetheless. I’m amazed by what it can do, heal and repair, all by itself. The older I get, the more I want to reward my body with healthy food, lots of water, good supplements, massage, ample rest and movement. Whispering words of love also helps, and so I do.

48) Easy does it with expectations. There’s a saying in the 12-Step world that expectations are “premeditated resentments.” Translation: Don’t hinge your happiness on what other people do or don’t do. My unmet expectations of people and life have led to many disappointments and pity parties. A more useful attitude is to be grateful for what is given, cut everyone some slack and keep filling my own well.

49) I turn to face my shadow. Wisdom teachers say that if we don’t acknowledge and integrate our darker impulses and internal saboteurs, they’ll thwart our best efforts, tarnish relationships and trigger lots of bad behavior. Failing to see and own our shadow sides, we end up pointing fingers instead of looking inward. I’m willing to explore the aspects of myself that I’d rather not see, and shine a loving light on them.

50) Life is for learning. Agenda for the next 50 years: quiet my inner critic, calm my inner control freak, grow my gratitude and patience, be of greater service, appreciate the heck out of my parents and family, be more generous, stay curious, keep asking for what I want and have more fun. Not necessarily in that order…

When the Going Gets Tough, Go Easy on Yourself

I’ve had a rough couple of months as some major bummers have rattled my faith, dashed a few hopes and driven me to big, fat tears. However unique my circumstances, I know I’m not alone. A glance at the news reveals countless people grappling with crumbling economies, joblessness, violence and bullies of all kinds as we Americans head toward a pivotal presidential election. Lately, even our peanut butter and painkillers are tainted.

Sometimes, it’s just all too much.

“People are just hunkering down and they seem to be on overload,” says a colleague in California who, like me, experienced a sharp decline in business this fall. “We just need to get this election and this 2012 thing over! In the meantime, I’m giving myself a break. My husband and I went to a lovely mountain town last weekend and I sucked it up like a dry sponge.”

A weekend in the country is one way to escape, but how else can we soothe our sagging spirits when the going gets tough? First, it helps to acknowledge our true feelings, says spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra.

“Just telling yourself to ‘be positive’ isn’t much help, because moods can have a life of their own,” he writes in a recent article, “But the most satisfying project you will ever undertake…is to discover how to build a sense of happiness that no one can take away from you…”

Fiery orange maple leaves

An infusion of joy from Mama Nature.

“Building happiness” looks different for everyone. For me today, it was making a pot of chunky vegetable soup, baking some apple crisp and photographing the luminous orange leaves outside my door. Creativity heals and boosts morale, writes poet Sharon Olds. “Writing or making anything—a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake—has self-respect in it,” she says. “You’re working. You’re trying. You’re not lying down on the ground, having given up.”

Hearing from friends about their own challenges also gives me comfort during difficult times, as does sharing my pain with those who can really listen, including God. I asked some of my friends to share what they reach for when the stuff hits the fan, and I heard about favorite TV shows that distract and songs that uplift or validate feelings. “I turn on music that makes me cry,” says one pal, while a former co-worker says “I run, with Pearl Jam on my iPod. Nobody knows my pain like Eddie (Vedder).”

Comfort foods made many people’s lists (I’ve personally cooked bushels of mashed potatoes, lately, well buttered), and a former student tells me that she has a collection of “comfort books” for tough times. “They’re not especially enlightening—Peter Wimsey mysteries, Jane Austen’s novels, a sci-fi series I love and Harry Potter,” she reports, “but re-reading them is like visiting old, well-loved friends or cousins…works to remind me of who I am and what I love and that the world can be all right.”

I give myself lots of space when I’m hurting, deliberately keeping my schedule open. One trip I do make time for is the library, which feels like a refuge of goodness and stability as the calm librarians scan my books and DVDs. Getting there via good old-fashioned walks, sans headphones, also shifts my mood by putting me outside, where nature and other people pull me out of my mental melodramas.

My sister-in-law says, “I recommend volunteering when life’s been tough. My neighbors and I just met to plan our monthly meal for the local homeless shelter, and I feel so much better realizing that my own life is so sweet.” Clearing clutter for donations is another mood-booster, since having unwanted stuff around can weigh us down psychically. One former student purges her closets and bookshelves when she’s feeling down, occasionally rewarding herself with champagne and a nice dinner. “And I must admit, I get a little buzz on, which I also enjoy,” she adds.

Yes, I’ve reached for Merlot instead of mindfulness at times to get that “What, me worry?” sensation. It’s not a good long-term strategy.

A local colleague allows herself brief pity parties when things go badly, before taking a deep breath and reaching for something better. “My absolute favorite is to pick up one of my puppy’s toys and play with him,” she says. “He’s never too tired, moody or distracted by anything other than what’s happening in the moment. I feel the joy of his spirit while we play.”

I like this idea, too, from a yogi friend. “Sometimes I just hang my head over the edge of a bed or couch,” she says. “It’s an easy way to be upside down to get blood and nutrients flowing to the brain.” I tried this and it made my head feel kind of shiny inside. Others tell me that they dance or drum to shift their energy when life disappoints.

Mira Kirshenbaum, a psychotherapist and author of Everything Happens for a Reason, writes that big events in our lives, good and bad, help us to learn, grow and renew ourselves. The trick is to trust that process when we’re in the midst of big events that feel like big heartbreaks. Perhaps learning that we can adapt and survive is enough sometimes.

Meanwhile, there’s always cinema therapy. I recently treated myself to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in which one of the main characters repeats, “In India we have a saying, that everything will be all right in the end. So, if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

Now that’s an idea I can embrace right now.