Uncover the Sun

Dealing With Disappointment

Many people tell me that they knew something was supposed to happen, a relationship, a career opportunity, or some kind of success, and then it didn’t. And this is after they hired a coach, did self-growth work, saw a therapist, practiced every manifesting idea they could, and followed all the “right steps” toward their goal. They got education, assistance, and even looked at what might be blocking them. They were even willing to sacrifice comfort and financial stability for a time.

Not everyone makes it to the Olympics or winds up on Broadway. And sometimes the people who do aren’t even as talented or skilled as the ones who don’t. Why is this? In the US, we usually blame people for their lack of success, rather than looking at privilege and access to opportunities. For example, being born into a family in which a certain access is already established, like show business, makes establishing an acting career much easier. We often see children of famous writers getting writing contracts at fairly young ages, and so on.

A business professor looked around the class and told us that only ten percent of us would have successful businesses, not because we didn’t get good grades or couldn’t do accounting or anything like that, but because business was fundamentally dealing with people day in and day out. He said many people aren’t good at communicating, and having good people skills was one of the most important things for success in business. How often are people skills taught in school?

I know a dentist who wanted to be a pro baseball player, but he couldn’t run very fast no matter how many miles he logged, how much he worked out, and how hard he tried. He said it was devastating to have to give up that dream. It was a turning point in his life not only to have to work towards another career, but to also find out what he was like when he was thwarted. He said dealing with that disappointment was the single most important experience of his life. He had to figure out who he was when things didn’t go his way. And as he later found out, no matter how competent you are, things often don’t go the way you would like and expect.Continue reading

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Authentic Voice

Each of us has a unique tone of voice and mind that is particularly ours from birth. We may share that tone by speaking, singing, creating art, writing, dancing, performing, etc. When I was a kid, I sang to myself every morning, made up little ditties throughout the day, and as my sister can attest, crooned to myself every night when she was trying to get to sleep.

In this culture we don’t usually sing at the grocery store or in public. I’ve heard from friends overseas that they are often shocked at how little we spontaneously sing and dance here. Many of us are taught that we are not good at it, and so we don’t sing for fun or pleasure or to comfort ourselves and each other. We are also often told that we are not important enough for our voices to matter, so we sing only other people’s songs and quote only their words. However, expressing yourself so that your creativity matches your intention simply takes time and practice.

As I grew up, I never learned to read music or play an instrument, despite attempting the piano as an adult, but songs still popped into my head. I had to sing into a recorder, because I couldn’t write them down in musical notes. My kids also composed songs and we sang them together to remember them. I’ve written more poetry than songs, although several singer/songwriter friends have insisted my poems were songs and set them to music for me.Continue reading

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Many years ago, I read in a child development class that kids who were physically and emotionally abused, if they survived their childhoods, had a better chance of healing than kids who were completely ignored. Being yelled at was better than no communication at all. Infants who were not held and cuddled, often had failure-to-thrive syndrome and many of them died. I thought about this recently, how ironically, the hater maintains a connection with the hated. To actively hate someone or something is to keep in contact with it, to maintain a kind of twisted relationship. Carl Jung would probably describe that as someone dealing with their own shadow.

There has been a lot of talk about hatred lately. And some of the talk has been about how to turn hatred into caring, to give people another perspective about the hated, to humanize them, make them real, and remind people how to connect with love and caring rather than fear and mistrust. We don’t tend to trust that which we hate. But even haters, given the opportunity to listen, to hear other points of view, may ultimately respond to another’s humanity.

I once talked to a gentleman who taught conflict resolution and peacemaking classes all over the world. He would teach government leaders in a room for a week. They had to eat together, were given problems to solve together, and were forced to acknowledge each other’s humanity. He described his experience with a group of Israelis and Palestinians. He said initially, they would barely communicate besides yelling at one another. At the end of the week, they were able to call each other by name, smile, and recognize each other as valuable human beings who had all suffered grave losses. It took a great deal of work and willingness to get to that point, but it was possible.Continue reading

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We humans like making distinctions. We spend a great deal of time classifying and naming things, even categorizing each other by skin color, gender, age, socioeconomic status, culture, ethnicity, and religion. People we can’t pigeonhole often make us nervous, as if reducing people to categories makes them more real somehow. If we can label people, we assume we will know what to expect from them. It’s a way to make the strange more familiar. And we humans are predisposed to view the strange with suspicion.

There is a difference, however, between making distinctions and judging. For example, we might distinguish between foods we like and dislike, without deciding that all grapefruit are bad because we don’t like them. Having our own opinion does not necessarily negate someone else’s. And yes, it is possible to disagree about the merits of grapefruit, without condemning every single fruit and deciding that all those who love grapefruit are wrong.Continue reading

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Gratitude and Acceptance

After my daughter died, some well-meaning person told me that even though I had lost my child, I should be grateful for what I had. Although I was not grateful for that comment, ironically, I had just been appreciating the fact that I had enough food, a sweet husband, family, hot running water, and a warm place to sleep, and was marveling that I could still feel absolutely wretched. It occurred to me that gratitude and grief could coexist, and that in fact, most of us are grieving losses and managing to do so while going about our lives and being able to focus on other things. And we can simultaneously feel grateful and ungrateful at the same time, complex creatures that we are.

That same week another person mentioned, in relationship to injustice, that we have to accept the way things are, rather than the way we wish them to be. I immediately thought that we can simultaneously accept what is, and still strive to improve our lot in life. In fact, if we didn’t have this capacity, we would probably have remained at the hunter-gatherer stage.  Women would not have the right to vote, and without the civil rights movement, well, you get the idea.

A client once told me that her spiritual teacher explained that it was her karma to be hit by her boyfriend, and she should “be in the moment and accept what is.” I won’t print what my response to that was, but I encouraged her to leave the situation immediately. We had a nice conversation about how she could apply the statement in a different way, i.e. she could accept that her boyfriend probably wasn’t ever going to change his behavior, and she needed to make decisions based upon that “acceptance.” She chose to leave, both her boyfriend and her spiritual teacher.

Gratitude practice can be a great way to move out of despair, to appreciate the people around you, to cherish your life and the world. Finding the positive can help you balance gloom with joy. But telling people that they should be grateful when going through utter hell, merely shames people by denying their experience, reducing complex emotional states into simple “ingratitude”. Gratitude also may be used as a way to minimize our pain, and I’ve heard numerous people with chronic illnesses saying how they probably should feel grateful that they’re not homeless while they are screaming in agony. Comparing pain, comparing grief, comparing suffering, isn’t the best strategy for honoring our experience.

However, finding things to be truly grateful for, the people and things in life that fill us up, that encourage and support us, gives our lives more meaning.  Genuine appreciation goes a long way. People who can deeply receive others and joys in life are lovely to be around. And accepting the current state of affairs with the intention to improve them, keeps us from despair.


Uncover the Sun

Navigating Through Mayhem

How do we navigate a time period in which cruelty has become commonplace, and we are sensitive to everything around us, including other people’s feelings as well as our own?

Many of us are grieving the loss of the kind of world/country/life we thought we could have. Not that we already had it, but we had hope that someday we would. That we would have leaders that cared about us, all of us, people of color, every gender, age, sexuality, religion, all living creatures, and especially our planet.

You are not alone. Many caring people feel as you do. Those who pay attention to racism, sexism, prejudice, politics, natural disasters, climate change warnings, and other current events, have been facing enormous personal and collective grief, which includes, fear, dread, sorrow, anger, frustration, feelings of hopelessness, and the grim specter of the end of human doings.

Many of us are not at our best under stress, and this is a time of extreme stress. It is many times worse if we are sensitive. If our hearts are open and we feel the collective pain on the planet, right now it may be debilitating. Maybe we are going through the motions of living while wondering why we should care about regular, everyday tasks when humanity may not make it past the next 50 years. Maybe we have been so angry, sad, and fearful that we can barely sleep. And this takes a toll on our bodies. We may be experiencing strange aches and pains, and reacting to things that normally don’t bother us. Even when we turn off the news, and try to pretend things aren’t going badly, our bodies may let us know how we really feel about current events. Being around those who support and encourage us, who deeply value connection rather than separation, may be vital during this time.Continue reading

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My Friend

I lost a friend again yesterday.

I say again, because I originally lost her when we were 12 years old. She was one of those kids who never had an awkward phase, never looked clumsy or gangly, but was always stunning. I remember seeing her baby pictures on the wall of her mom’s apartment and marveling at her beauty as a newborn. I watched people take a deep breath when they first saw her, and then stare as if they couldn’t help themselves. Sometimes they couldn’t even talk.

When we first met in school, we were nine years old, and I was both skinny and gawky. I trailed along after her like a grateful puppy. She was smart, creative, and had a deep belly laugh that made you want to join in, even when you weren’t sure why she was laughing.

She was the kind of friend that was not only fun, but easy to talk to. We did art projects and ran around outside. We had far ranging conversations about life and death and why some people are popular and some aren’t. We wrote a poem called, “What is it Like to Die?” and other less serious ones. We wrote stories together and could tell each other anything.

We were almost ten years old when she told me that one of her parents’ friends had climbed into bed with her at a party. I didn’t really know what it meant, or why an adult would do that. I didn’t know about inappropriate touching, only that my friend was constantly being gawked at by boys and men, and now she was telling me something I didn’t understand. “Why did he do that?” I asked.

She told me that he was probably drunk, and it wasn’t the first time someone had acted like that with her. I had no idea what to say, but she looked okay while she was telling me, not particularly upset or angry. I asked her if her parents knew, but she said they were drunk and there was no one to tell. I didn’t realize then that she was already resigned to that sort of behavior. I did have a fleeting thought that I was glad I wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that kind of thing could happen to anyone, pretty or not.Continue reading

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On Narcissism

Many of us have the experience of dealing with narcissists. In some ways, the self-centered, isolationism of narcissism may partly be a function of the human experience. To originate from oneness and a connection to the entire universe, and then incarnate into a separate, tiny human form would seem to focus one’s attention on self and the relationship of everything in the world to the self. Our individual personalities, body, psyche, ego strategies, and senses help promote this feeling of, “I’m alone in here, and everything and everyone else is peripheral.” The development from child to self-actualized adult means moving from that self-centered existence into a greater relationship with other human beings, living creatures, and the world in general. How then do we develop engaged, deeply nourishing relationships with others, and experience true intimacy?

There are many theories of human development, psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual. And there are many paradoxes in developing a healthy sense of self. From an initial dependent state, we need to develop autonomy and self-responsibility, as well as a deep and abiding connection to others. If we do not attach properly to our primary caregivers, we may have difficulty forming healthy, trusting relationships later in life. And if we do not learn detachment from our own emotions, we may not achieve any mastery over them, and may also sabotage our relationships as well as our personal development. Attachment and detachment then, are both required in order to have healthy intimate relationships.

What happens if one or more of your primary caregivers is a narcissist? First, emotional immaturity isn’t the same as narcissism, nor is the creative urge to focus on one’s work. Self-care is not narcissism, and people may behave selfishly at times without being narcissists. There may be a confusion for children raised by a narcissist about when and where they are able to get their own needs met, or even if they are allowed to have them. Having parents who set boundaries and enforce them is not narcissism. The bandying about of the word narcissist when someone does not agree with us or insists on having their own way, helps to cloud the issue of what narcissism is. We all have motivations based on self-interest. If we didn’t, none of us would be alive.

Narcissists may treat others as if they don’t exist except in the presence of the narcissist, or when they are useful. Children of narcissists may have been told they are loved, but they do not feel real, or as if they truly matter. And in relationship with a narcissist, your needs often don’t really exist, unless you make a big deal of fighting for them. And if you dare to have needs, the narcissist may either ignore you, or punish you for having the gall to need something. In a healthy relationship between parent and child, an adult is, at appropriate times, able to set aside their own desires to take care of the needs of the child, as well as set healthy boundaries and limits, and as children grow, gradually give them the tools and practice in responsibility to ultimately take care of their own needs.Continue reading

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Grief Styles

All of us grieve differently, and depending upon the culture there may be expectations of how to do so “properly.” In some cultures, talking about the person who died is considered taboo, because it may bring back their spirit, resulting in a haunting of the living. Mentioning them by name or even naming a child after a departed soul may be frowned upon. In other cultures, naming a child after a dead relative may be a way to honor the relative and impart some of their strengths to the child.

In many countries, mourners create an altar in dedication to their ancestors, treating them as if they are still part of everyday life. The dead are not considered to be really gone, just physically away for now. Some folks keep many mementos visibly displayed around the house, others may have a special corner, or not want to share them with guests at all. And one woman told me that in her country everyone knows that sometimes dead relatives get into fights with other people’s dead relatives, and she has had to leave parties because of the spirits arguing so much.Continue reading

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We label them: mom, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, wife, lover, teacher, student, etc., but many of our connections have no description that fits easily. Sometimes we meet someone and we are instantly friends for life. Or not.

Our connections may defy explanation, like how we may tolerate the behavior of one person, but not the same behavior in another. Our friends may be as varied as our personalities. We might have many friends that we could invite to a party and they would blend well, or we might wind up with a hodgepodge of disparate folks who can barely relate.

Some people bring out the best in us; we feel safe, comfortable, and expanded in their company. Around them possibilities abound. We feel loved and accepted. Around others, we may feel small and unheard. And there may not be anything these folks are saying or doing to make us feel this way, we simply do not feel comfortable. We may love them dearly too, but not want to spend a great deal of time with them.

We might meet someone who is highly skilled and very successful, like a teacher, doctor, therapist, or business person, and we may not be able to connect to them or they with us. And because that person may be an authority, we might assume there is something wrong with us, especially if everyone else we know thinks they are amazing. And they may be exceptional, just not for us. Continue reading