Author Archives: balanceandjoy

Mindful photography: Find your ‘self’ in photos

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

One of the most surprising compliments I’ve ever received is when a reader of my Help and Healing for Parents of Estranged Adults website thanked me for the nature photos and said she identified with them. Her words made me take a closer look. All but a very few of the photographs here and at that site were taken by me—most using a smartphone. And rather than take specific photos for each article, I usually match up existing pictures from among the random shots already taken on my morning walks.

Mindful Photography

I’ve been practicing for years what is known as “mindful photography.” Put simply, it’s the act of attuning awareness in a practice that captures the present.

parents of estranged adult childrenMy photos and my most recent book illustrate that I’m drawn to nature, particularly as it changes. Images that capture the spent blooms that have fallen in a colorful blanket at the base of a tree, the possibility held in fresh spring bud, or the opportunity to start again that’s evident in greenery that has gone to seed. These things generate a sense of meaning for me. A connectedness to life and the earth around me, and to the regenerative rhythms of nature that feed my soul.

Taking photographs trains the eye to be mindful and figuratively seizes the moment. Mindfulness in general helps us derive nonjudgmental understanding and meaning in our lives. But mindful photography provides a unique perspective that can be enjoyed in the present, and as I’ve discovered, provides insight even later.


Summer is often full of action, adventure, and even chaos. The longer days lend themselves to extra events. There may be pressure to complete some good-weather project because we only have so many days. I see that urgency reflected in the hundreds of bees that gather at my pond on summer days. They walk the lily pads and drink from their tiny pools of water. They’re working while they can.  parents of estranged adult childrenTaking advantage of the season just as people do. While we may love the bright sunlight and extra activities, they can also make us weary.

One afternoon, I was drawn to a lone bee, sipping in a quieter spot. I observed the insect, listened to its mellow hum as it moved about in a bird bath, and enjoyed its presence. Then a few days later, as a summer of projects and activity wore on, my photographs of that bee brought a deeper, more personal meaning that provided me with helpful insight. That’s one of the things that makes mindful photography so special.


In my book, Done With The Crying,  I recommend awareness of emotional triggers. For parents estranged from adult children, these might be times of the year that remind them of loss. Maybe that’s the back-to-school season, as I wrote about several years ago in this article. Or it could be birthdays, holidays, or other significant dates. Awareness allows for planning, and the self-care  that’s vital for our peace. Triggers, though, can be tricky things. And some you may not even recognize or expect.

For all its business and fun, this summer has also been chaotic. As August wore on, and things settled down, I felt physically and mentally spent. Some of you noticed that I hadn’t updated my sites or sent a newsletter and you asked if I was okay (thank you).

I was okay. I am okay. But it wasn’t until looking through some of my photographs that I understood. In revisiting that one lone bee, I felt a connection. I identified with its need to sip by itself. To escape to a quieter place, and rest. Even the most productive of people need time off. Each of us needs time and space to regroup, reconnect with oneself, nature, a higher power . . . to fill the well and find new energy.

For all my self-awareness, I’d forgotten to be kind to me. To provide myself with care. Self-care can elude us because we’re not used to giving to ourselves, because we feel guilty for putting our own needs first, fear we’ll disappoint those who count on us, or for whatever reason.

In retreating from the chaos and providing myself with a little rest, I realized something else: daughter hates meThat summer holds some emotional triggers that I’d forgotten. Past events that maybe I didn’t deal with thoroughly when they occurred. It’s nothing necessarily earth-shattering or related to estrangement, but the effects of hurts can be cumulative. That’s why this realization is so important. The realization helps me to take care of myself. It will help me next year, too. I’ll be ready to physically and spiritually nurture and tend to the hiccups of those old wounds rather than bury them in the busyness of summer. Parents of estranged adult children or anyone (we have all suffered hardships and possibly have emotional triggers) can benefit from a change of pace.

Finding yourself

Among my catalog of casual snapshots kept in a digital folder, I can almost always find something that fits. I’m drawn to capture what speaks to me in the moment even if only at face value.  My innermost being seems to know intuitively what’s there, even when I’m not aware of what I seek. That’s why that lone little bee drew me in, and it wasn’t until looking at those photos of it later that I understood the wisdom that moment held.

Get started

Consider mindful photography. Don’t get hung up on the definition, judge yourself for the quality of your photos, or what you choose to take. Just spend a few minutes with your smartphone or other camera, find what speaks to you in the moment, and enjoy. As you do, attune yourself to the present, observe what you’re drawn to, and make a mental note of what you think and feel.

Later, think back to those moments. Let your photographs remind you. If you find any insights, I’d love to hear.

A positive attitude: Setting the tone

positive attitudeby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

A positive attitude can help in the worst situation—but keeping one isn’t always easy. Fostering a positive attitude is wise anytime, and essential during troubled times. Don’t lie there and let a barrage of worrisome thoughts fill your mind and take your mood hostage. Here are seven ways to set a positive tone for your day.

Seven steps for a positive attitude

1. Start the night before. This one’s a no-brainer. Devise a strategy that focuses your mind and make you productive, and then stick to it. Maybe that means making routines easier so that you’re out the door without frustration. You could lay out the next day’s clothing and accessories, fill the car with gas, or pack a work lunch. Knowing things are ready can help you sleep better too. And keeping a positive attitude is simpler when you’re well-rested. For others, letting go of the current day’s stress with a good laugh helps. Read something funny, or watch light TV. The show, America’s Funniest Home Videos, comes to mind. What can you do the night before that will make your morning go easier?

2. Give yourself more time. That doesn’t have to mean jumping out of bed. Waking ten minutes early to read a good book can fill your mind with poetic images. Meditating over a daily devotional or scripture can calm the mind and inspire a peaceful day—no matter what’s happening around you. Or you could rise early for an activity that’s good for you or makes you happy. Walk the dog, do tai chi, ride a bicycle, or write a poem that depicts your day. What can you plan ahead to make your morning easier more focused, or fun?

There once was a woman whose grinpositive attitude
matched the tilt of her chin.

3.. Get out of your rut. Morning routines are useful, but change can be good for a positive attitude. Something as simple as taking your coffee outdoors where you can enjoy birdsong, notice the sky, and witness the world awaken around you can set a more connected or even spiritual tone. That’s better than a media breakfast of bad news and all that’s wrong in the world. If you give yourself extra morning time, getting out of a rut can include useful tasks, too. Fill the bird feeders, water the plants, clean out your handbag or briefcase, put new rugs in the bathroom, or set a pretty dinner table you can come home to.

4. Change your perspective. Are you feeling overwhelmed? If so, shift your thinking. You can choose to dread your full day of appointments and suffer a bad mood. Or, you can choose to find the good. Look at each calendar entry and remind yourself of the “why” behind each one. Do you have a doctor’s appointment? Going means you’re taking care of yourself, which supports you in doing what’s most important to you. Do you have clients all day? You’re doing an important job that helps others and provides you with income to achieve your dreams.

positive attitudeIn each of these scenarios, it helps to focus on positive aspects of the people you’ll see, too. Maybe your doctor’s bedside manner is gruff. What’s one thing you do like? Is he/she the top in that field? Maybe you don’t like the long wait, but your doctor lets you ask a lot of questions when you’re finally seen. In the case of appointments with clients, find one thing you can appreciate about each person. A tone of appreciation can help convey customer service and care that might even change the client’s attitude for the better.

5. Be mindful. Be aware of troubling thoughts. Notice when your mind wanders down dark alleys of emotional pain, worries, or overwhelming to-do lists or troubles. Take notice. Accept the feelings. Then purposely turn to a plan of action, something you can feel grateful for or look forward to in your day. Tell yourself, “I’ve got this.”

6. Practice gratitude. We often hear about the value of keeping a gratitude journal we write in each night. Try thinking of a few things you’re grateful each morning instead—it sets up a grateful tone that fosters a positive attitude. Are you grateful for a flavorful cup of coffee or slept well? Maybe your thankful for a caring partner to start the day with, or that rain arrived to water the garden. What can you remind yourself your grateful for?

7. Remember who you are. In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, readers are encouraged to remember who they are and what’s in their heart. Write down a positive statement that gets to the core of who you are, your essence as a human being. Then, look at that statement each morning. Reminding yourself who you really are without all the trappings of work, position, and others’ needs provides focus and fosters a positive attitude.

Here are a few example statements:

* I live a life of prayer, which helps me demonstrate grace to myself and others.

* Even in the tensest moments, I find what’s funny. I can make people laugh.

* I notice what others miss or what doesn’t get done, so I often pick up the slack. It feels good to help.

* I am a good listener, and because of that, I have insights to share.

A Positive attitude helps

Having a positive attitude has been linked to better cardiovascular health, longer life, less depression, and more effective coping during times of stress. Help yourself to a positive attitude—and help yourself.


Affirmations? Maybe it’s GAFFirmations

Book Review: Mobbed

Book review of
Mobbed!: What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You

by Janice Harper, Ph.D.
Self-help, Abuse
234 pages, Backdoor Press (2013)

Reviewed by Anne Smith

Janice Harper is an author and cultural anthropologist. In her book Mobbed!: What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You, she combines her career and personal experiences. The result is a very well written examination of mobbing. First, it is good to know we define bullying as when one person repeatedly and purposefully hurts another. More than one person bullying is known as a mob or mobbing. Harper states that group mentality (a mob) takes on a mind of it’s own and is much more difficult and devastating for the target. Everyone is at their worst in a mobbing explains Harper. The tension and stress is high. What is very interesting is that Mobbed! is written for work place mobbing, but the similarities between parent estrangement by your adult child and mobbing in the workplace are strikingly similar.

Harper begins with research and information about animal behavior and reveals similarities to human behavior. She then focuses on what to expect when someone attacks you, spreads lies, alienates or shuns you, defames your reputation or character. It is good to hear you are not alone and that your feelings are ‘normal’. It’s also good to hear what you could do to make things better and what you should avoid doing so you don’t make things worse.

Harper’s approach is very different from the many authors who write on the subject of bullying or mobbing. While most will tell you to ‘talk it out’ with the bully or ‘stand up’ to the bully, Harper suggests we stay quiet and step out of the way of the bully and focus on ourselves instead. We cannot change the mind of someone who is full of rage, hate, or anger. You will not change the person who is bullying so do not try. If you could manage to move forward knowing that, you are likely to find peace.

Harper emphasizes that is extremely important to find a way to feel compassion for those doing the mobbing. Without it, it will be very difficult for you to grow from this experience and heal. She explains that in any social situation, we must stop thinking in terms of good, bad, or evil. What we are seeing in a mobbing are good people going wrong.

Speaking to others, going on and on to family and friends about the situation may alienate you even more. Even your closest family member or friend will tire of the stories. The problem is that you are rightfully overwhelmed, scared, and engulfed in this situation. You must find peace with the compassion for those involved, and then redirect your focus on yourself.

You may be shocked at the turn around from some family and friends. Accusations from the ones you once trusted will hurt you the most. As the mobbing continues, a shift in thinking may occur in some people close to you as they move from ‘what they are doing to you’ to ‘what you did to deserve it’. This is not because those bullying you are correct. It is a normal reaction in a very crazy situation..

I highly recommend Mobbed! to anyone who is mobbed at work or estranged by his or her adult child. The topics covered and the expertise provided delivers a powerful message. Harper does a great job as she explains we cannot shun people, mob or bully them. It is not the way to handle our issues. Also, we cannot change someone else. We can only help ourselves and learn from our own experiences

Book Review: Life Code

Book Review of Life Code: The New Rules For Winning in the Real World

by Dr. Phil McGraw
Self-help, Success, Motivation
244 pages, Bird Street Books

Reviewed by Kathy A. Snyder

Some people live by the Golden Rule and some people don’t. That old saying
of do unto others as you would want done unto you. Have you ever said, “I just don’t understand how he/she could do that!” We have all met people who do their own thing no matter who it negatively impacts. Like that woman who decided your husband is going to be her next husband and wins. That unqualified co-worker who manipulates the boss into promoting him. That relative who tells your unruly teenager that she doesn’t have to follow your rules. Their Golden Rule might be he who has the most gold rules. If your life is impacted by one of these people, then Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World by Dr. Phil McGraw will speak to you.

Life Code is a primer for people who wouldn’t harm a fly and don’t understand how and why other people would or could. Dr. Phil’s theory is good or nice people (my terminology) don’t recognize or understand the mindset of people bent on backstabbing, abusing, showing a false front, taking, exploiting, and who don’t care who and what they hurt. He’s used six words to make up a new term: BAITER or, backstabbers, abusers, imposters, takers, exploiters, and reckless. We all had the experience of people who we thought were a great guy or gal but later find out they have no conscience about doing others harm. These people may be a co-worker, a boss, a friend, or even a spouse or relative.

Chapter 3 is titled, “The Bad Guys”/ “BAITER” Secret Playbook. Dr. Phil gives 15 rules or lessons to recognize how these people end up winning and succeeding. For those of us taught to be nice and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, these may be new and even shocking ideas. I’ll give you a little taste: “#1: They infiltrate your life, seducing you with promises and flattery” and “#15: They are masters of passive-aggressive sabotage.” Those people who make us think we are best friends but then they do something to hurt us emotionally or physically or even damage our reputation or finances. Often we don’t even see it coming and are left wondering why and how.

Dr. Phil doesn’t stop with his description of BAITER behavior. He goes on to teach us how to protect ourselves and learn to not be the victim of someone’s bad intent. Its both reassuring to realize the behavior of people to avoid and shocking to read this behavior laid out in plain English. Too often we convince ourselves that the BAITER in our life didn’t really mean it or if we just say the right thing, the conflict or negative situation will end. He challenges the reader not to settle for just being the victim with a sad story but to choose to be attentive and effective in our own lives with the skills gained from the middle section of Life Code/em>.

The last section involves learning the fine art of negotiation and why it is important. Dr. Phil feels that negotiation is involved in every aspect of life, from choosing meat from the butcher, to getting your spouse or kids to do chores, to asking your boss for a raise. He describes fair negotiation in five “Strategic Steps” from understanding what other people are thinking to setting our own boundaries or limits. Dr. Phil recommends we be the best advocate for ourselves because no one else is going to.

It’s a hard topic but Dr. Phil writes in the same folksy manner that he speaks with and uses humor throughout. I believe others will gain knowledge and understanding about the BAITERS in their lives and begin to live with more self power and insight. Its helpful to recognize the pattern of behavior as they are doing it and learn to protect ourselves rather than possibly being stuck in the depression and sadness of eternal victimhood. These people aren’t going to go away quietly – someone will be their next victim. Don’t let it be you!

Affiliate Notice: Sheri McGregor is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Book Review: Breaking Through Betrayal

Book Review of Breaking through Betrayal: and Recovering the Peace Within

by Holli Kenley, M.A.
Self-Help, Relationships, Interpersonal Relationships
242 pages, Loving Healing Press, 2d Edition

Reviewed by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The experience of betrayal can be devastating. Feelings including loss, sadness, and anger are normal. Others have found ways to manage and prevail, and they have healed. In Breaking Through Betrayal: and Recovering the Peace Within, 2nd Edition (2d Edition, 2016, Loving Healing Press), author Holli Kenley, a marriage and family therapist, shares examples of real people to provide inspiration and let readers know they are not alone. Kenley helps readers to cope and recover.

A sense of betrayal can come from many sources. An early chapter that defines the topic provides a few sources of “betrayal” you might not have considered before. Whenever you invest your time, energy, money, or trust, and your expectations are dashed, you feel let down, and can experience a sense of betrayal.

Within the first few pages, it becomes evident that Kenley knows her subject well. Drawing from both her professional involvement and from her own painful personal experience, Kenley conveys her understanding of betrayal and its pain from many angles. From her professional experience, she believes that the experience of a betrayal is often behind issues such as depression, grief, anxiety, and anger.

Using plentiful examples and engaging vignettes, Kenley breaks down betrayal and its many instances to help readers better identify their own situations and the resulting distress. Readers may have invested, time, love, and money in things such as a business, an educational pursuit, an organization, a belief, or a relationship. The type of investment, for how long, and to what are all explored in terms of the betrayal experience. The nuances of each shed light on specific experiences, as well as the recovery process.

Careful and Caring

Writing in a caring voice that reminds readers to pace themselves and pause when needed, Kenley provides rare, honest glimpses into the pain and thought processes that accompany betrayal. Confusion, worthlessness, and powerlessness are common. So is a sense that one has lost control, as if imprisoned by circumstances. These strong feelings can result in thought patterns that make predictions about the future and our place in the future that we can’t know are true. Kenley gently challenges the thoughts then leads the reader to replace them with healthier, more empowering ones. Readers may not have previously been fully aware of what is keeping them stuck.

In this second edition, Kenley has added information on self-betrayal and relapse.

Breaking Through Betrayal: and Recovering the Peace Within, 2d Edition includes exercises to help identify and analyze betrayal experiences.  However, readers who choose not to sit down with paper and pen will benefit from guidance, examples, and contemplative material within the text. Intellectual acumen is balanced with heartfelt understanding written in a respectful, hopeful manner.

Divided into three main sections that lead to recovery, Breaking Through Betrayal: and Recovering the Peace Within, 2nd Edition doesn’t sugarcoat the subject. Recovering from betrayal takes time, requires awareness and work, and may at times be painful. Readers are helped to move forward without being pushed.

And Kenley points out that the understanding and knowledge gained through the experience of betrayal and recovery can be a gift.

Affiliate Notice: Sheri McGregor is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

New Year’s Resolution

by Sheri McGregor

new year's resolutionThis time of year, as the days grow shorter, and news of storms hit, I remember early eastern storms that hit several years ago. The early snow fell on trees that hadn’t yet loosed their autumn leaves. So, rather than slip through barren branches, the snow caught on clinging leaves. Weighted by the heavy snow, branches split and broke.

Seeing these trees, I saw a parallel.

When we hold onto emotional hurts, keeping injustice or difficult periods alive in our minds, new hurts have a way of weighting us. Injustices collect, one upon the other, until there’s too much to bear.

The role of stress in illness, imbalance, and disease has been well-documented. If a tree’s branches break under the weight of snow on clinging leaves, what might collected burdens and held hurts do to us?

When one dreaded emotional storm follows another, caused by the sometimes rough seas of life, the burdens can pile up. Remember to shake them off.

Several New Years ago, I remember thinking I’d had one of the roughest years ever. I had broken a bone the first week of January, and life continued with an onslaught of personal and professional storms that at times had me forming emotional callouses, withdrawing, or asking the dreaded why? — for which often there is no logical answer.

This isn’t like me.

Maybe  I can’t stop all life’s storms, but I can make helpful choices about how I react. I can remind myself of my more childlike resilient self. I can decide that no matter how devastating, hurtful people and events will not break me. I refuse to ruminate, and keep hurt alive. I can take positive action on things I can change, and let go of things I can’t.

As 2014 comes to a close, I will make like a tree that drops its useless leaves. I will shake myself free.

You can, too.

When icy life storms hit, and resulting “snow” falls, it can then slip past lightened shoulders. When it settles at your feet, shuffle past it.

Flexible and free  the path looks bright.

P.S. This might also include lightening the proverbial load by making fewer commitments and taking control of your time.

Related articles:

How’s your life bouquet?

How’s your life bouquet?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A., CPLC

balanced lifeIf your life was a bouquet, what would it look like? Neat and tidy, with every bloom positioned for appreciation? Or overcrowded and bedraggled?

Just as a lovely mixed bouquet must have a balance of greenery and color, our “life bouquet” also needs a bit of balance. It can get scraggly over time.

A bouquet needs pruning back and removal of spent blooms to keep it looking and smelling good. And it’s the same with the bouquet of one’s life. . . .

As busy individuals, we have a wide variety of things to attend to. If we don’t evaluate from time-to-time, some of our life “flowers” get lost. In a too-busy bouquet, some flowers can get smothered down inside the neck of the vase. A sloppy, too-busy bouquet detracts from each flower’s beauty.

Balanced life: Evaluate your bouquet

Take a look at your life “bouquet.” Do some flowers need trimming to bring them back to life? Are some smaller joys not getting enough attention and becoming smothered by bigger (perhaps not so sweet-smelling) blooms? Do certain flower varieties no longer bring you joy? And what about the water? Is it murky or clear?

Today, give some thought to what’s going on in your life. Think of it like a beautiful bouquet. Prune out what no longer fits. Snip or re-shape whatever that needs more attention. And tug into the light some of the smaller joys that may be smothered by larger, not as pretty, “blooms.”

As for the water, when you take your shower, imagine the spray washing off any residue of regret or incompletion from what you’ve pruned away. When you step out, imagine starting fresh, like a tended bouquet – – and don’t forget to sniff the roses along the way.

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Get Free of the Pain of Betrayal

getting over betrayalWhen People Hurt Us: Getting Free of the Pain of Betrayal

In the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, let’s talk about getting free of the hurt and pain that goes along with betrayal.

When it comes to betrayal, the effects that can seem to go on forever, Sometimes tough questions can help. Here is one to consider asking yourself. Take a few quiet moments to reflect upon the thought, and see how your own responses might make a difference.

Getting over betrayal: How am I participating?

When it comes to the emotional upheaval, the upset, the pain, the anger, and continued hurt that can go with getting over betrayal, are you acting in ways that keep the effects of the betrayal alive?

Getting over betrayal: Setting yourself up for hurt?

Laurie, the mother of a daughter who’s been estranged for nearly four years told me she never fails to send a card or text at every holiday and on her daughter’s birthday.

“I don’t know why I bother anymore,” Laurie says. “I’ve learned by now that it only means I’ll be waiting for a reply. Then when there is none, I grieve all over again.” This mom has reasoned that she can’t let those special days pass without comment. “I feel like it’s the only way to let my daughter know that I still love her,” she says. Laurie is hoping that one day, if she keeps up the contact, her daughter will come around. But she also admits, “I know I’m setting myself up for hurt, and I’d like to stop doing that.”

Getting over betrayal: Reliving the hurt?

Jackie, another mom, told me, “My son won’t speak to me anymore.” Jackie kept the email her son sent when he cut her out of his life. “For two years, I would pull up the email and re-read it,” she says. “And when I did, I was angry all over again.” For Jackie, the anger represented a bit of independence. “It was better than feeling sad,” she explains. “So pulling up that email now and again when I was sad actually helped.” Then Jackie’s hard drive crashed. “At first I was mortified,” she says. “My last communication from my son . . . gone.”

Losing the email was like facing the entire loss all over again. Jackie cried off and on for several weeks. “I even tried to remember the exact words he’d said and write them down,” she says. “But focusing so intently on remembering his horrible words also made me realize that I was continuing to relive the experience. I’d set up a shrine of sorts, holding those last words he’d said to me as sacred, even though they hurt. It was like engraving his cruelty on my heart over and over again.”

Jackie describes the realization like a weight being lifted from her shoulders. “I was lucky to have that computer crash to do the hard work for me,” she says. “Losing that email from my estranged son was freeing. Life’s too short to relive the past and be angry.” Since then, Jackie has taken down photographs of her son, and packed up his sports trophies and other effects she’d been hanging onto. “I don’t need the constant reminder of somebody who doesn’t care about me, even if he is my son. And it’s made more room for people who do care about being my life.”

Jackie isn’t the only mom to hang onto anger as a step up from the horrible pain that goes with an adult child’s estrangement. People in all sorts of betrayal situations find themselves holding onto anger because, at least in the beginning, the anger feels better than the crushing pain of rejection. But for many, there comes a time when anger hinders them from moving on.

Getting over betrayal: How can I hold myself accountable?

Once we recognize what we’re doing to renew our hurt, stay angry to avoid another type of pain, or otherwise act in ways that keep our hurting fresh, it can help to devise a plan to halt the behavior.

“I’ve decided that I won’t send out holiday cards anymore,” says Laurie. “And on my daughter’s birthday, I will only text. No card. No present or money.”

An emergency call out.

Because Laurie believes it’s so important to keep the door open with at least some contact, she’s made a compromise with herself to limit her efforts. Laurie believes this will be difficult, so she’s asked a close friend to provide support around the holidays and as her daughter’s birthday nears. “She won’t have to do anything, really,” says Laurie. “Just listen if I call or text, and remind me of the decision I made and why.”

Laurie’s plan is a sort of emergency call out, which can be effective.

Keeping reminders ready.

Candace, a young woman who had an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend she kept returning to, created note cards to help herself. On each card, she listed reasons why she didn’t really want to get back together with him. In times of weakness, Candace would turn to those cards she pasted up in frequented areas at home, kept in several handbags, and in her desk drawer at work. “Whenever I’d get lonely for him, I’d pull out the cards,” Candace says. “Eventually, the longing went away.” Three years after making a decision and creating those note cards, Candace got married to a man who treats her well. “We’re a good match and very happy,” she says.

What ways can you hold yourself accountable and break free of activity that keeps the hurt of betrayal fresh?

Please share your thoughts and your wins by leaving a comment below.

Related articles:

Five ways to move on after an adult child’s rejection


Affirmations can help when you add action in support

can affirmations help youAffirmations can help: Adding action and support to make them work

To err is human. To laugh about and forgive yourself for your errors is divine.

Most people know about positive commentaries called “affirmations.” Affirmations can help move us forward, promote belief in ourselves, and foster trust that all will be well in our worlds. Affirmations can help, but without action and supportive structures that provide the fuel to drive those affirmations forward, they may just be empty sayings.

First, let’s look at the negative stuff we tell ourselves.

The negative sayings that run through are minds are errors, pure and simple. If we make a mistake, it isn’t evidence we’re stupid, that we always mess things up or we’ll never get ahead. Often, though, we make those statements to ourselves. Some of us even then dig around in our memories to connect a current mistake with a past one. Soon, we’re on a put-down loop that does us no good. Regardless, our unintentional gaffs are just dumb mistakes, errors that prove we’re human. The dumb comments we end up telling ourselves about our mistakes then are also mistakes. I call these negative self-talk sayings GAFFirmations.

Self-talk: G-affirmations can help.

Pay close attention to your self-talk. Catch your GAFFirmations and identify them for what they are: mistaken thoughts. Then laugh at the way your subconscious has been trained to put you down. Funny, isn’t it? So enjoy the silliness of your thoughts, then get clear on turning them around. Ask youself:

  • How can you demand perfection from a human?
  • Does it make sense, and is it helpful in any way to condemn yourself as totally stupid for a single mistake?

If you look at your Gaffirmations openly, you’ll see how silly they really are. And you can laugh at yourself for thinking them.

Even better, your GAFFirmations then become LAUGHirmations.

A recent Texas A & M University study found that the use of humor increased people’s sense of hopefulness. So laughter is great.  Perhaps particularly if you are going through severe stress (which can negatively affect hope the study found).

Rather than believe negative self-talk, make fun of how overstepping and ridiculous is is. Enjoy the condemning thoughts for what they are rather than believe them and wallow. Smile, then move on. Or better yet, turn them into affirmations. Okay, so now we’re at: GAFFirmations to LAUGHirmations to AFFIRMATIONS.

Affirmations can help.

When you make a mistake, forget where your keys are, forget to set your alarm clock . . . Be aware of your immediate thoughts. Then, even if negative and burdensome, laugh at the way your mind works. Next, turn the thoughts around, and make positive statements that support you . . . and take you away from the negative thoughts that don’t.

What are your GAFFirmations? Become aware of them. Laugh at them for what they are. Practice turning them around.

Adding action: The next step to making sure affirmations can help.

There’s another component to positive affirmations that is often missing in discussions about them. Life coaching is about taking action, so while telling yourself something positive is a great start, in some cases, an action step, a support structure, or some learning is necessary to put the affirmation into practice.

Let’s take a simple example of losing one’s keys – – a very common problem. Telling yourself an affirmation is a start, but won’t work by itself. Try it. “I always know where my keys are.” First of all, if you don’t know where your keys are, that statement doesn’t feel genuine – – and you know it.

Let’s add action. You’ll need a support structure (a key hook on the wall, a dish on the table by the door, a special pocket in your handbaag. . . .). You’ll also need a committment, a habit (put the keys on the hook, in the dish, or in the purse pocket as soon as you walk in the door). That means you’ll need to make a pact with yourself to utilize the support structure. Simple right?

Don’t forget that habits take time. Devise some sort of a reminder. A post-it on your steering wheel or front doorknob that reminds you. In time, a forced action once connected to positive results (I really do know where my keys are!) becomes automatic (a habit).

What about more complex things that affirmations can help you master? It’s fine to tell yourself, “I’m good at accounting.” But if you don’t know the slightest thing about accounting, you will need to get some instruction.

In a 2004 issue of the journal, Nursing Education Perspectives, an article discussed the fact that Master’s and Doctoral level nurses often don’t know how to write – – but must write for publication to succeed.  Educators themselves, the article said, complained that nurses don’t know how to write. If the teachers were saying this, imagine how the students felt. As a result of becoming aware of the accusatory nature of their belief (“These nurses can’t write!”), the support structure of training in writing was added. These teachers, as well as the Master’s and Doctoral nursing students could have simply used affirmations (I’m a good writer. I write very well.). But without the structure of added training to help them write, for most of the students, the statements couldn’t come true.

Ask yourself: Where can I provide structure that supports me, so that affirmations can help?

Affirmations really can help, and can be part of a living in balance and joy.

Related reading:

Humor Can Increase Hope, Study Shows

Turn accusations into affirmations: Transform nurses into published authors




Wabi-sabi: Letting go, living in the present

wabi sabi blooming weeds by Sheri McGregor

What seems like eons ago, in a junior high sewing class, a teacher we’ll call Mrs. Horne instructed with an air of rigid perfection. She was tall and thin, and wore her creamy blonde hair in a flawless French roll secured with a tortoise comb. She made all of her clothes: polyester pantsuits with sleeves hemmed to highlight French cuffs with pearl buttons, and leg lengths just right to show off polished ivory pumps.

Letting go, staying mindful of the present, embracing the process. . . . These bring balance and joy.

Mrs. Horne’s apparel with its perfectly aligned buttonholes and even top-stitching in complimentary hues was nothing like my own home-sewn garments. Her clothes looked factory-made, where each piece is the responsibility of a single skilled person who works with practiced precision.

Having learned to sew at age 12 on an old treadle machine that was once my grandmother’s, my sewing creations had never been so perfect. Like many youngsters, it wasn’t about the perfection. It was the doing, the learning, the creating of the moment that brought me joy. I loved those imperfectly handsewn clothes anyway, and loved the process.

My mother taught by example not to waste, so when a garment came out too big, I took it in. When the sides of a frustrating zipper didn’t close evenly at the top, I trimmed down one side of the band, or wore a shirt out to cover the flaw. An accidental hole was incorporated into the design by using a homemade patch in the shape of a heart or flower. For me, sewing was an expression, a joy, a useful way to fill my time. That’s why my less-than-perfect classroom grade didn’t bother me. 

lady bugMany years later in an art class, I learned about Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, of embracing mistakes, and I realized I’d been practicing the art all along. For instance, my garden is a lovely tumble of imperfection. Some parts of the happy family home I’ve worked at for more than two and a half decades are a mesh of mistakes, but beautiful anyway. Wabi-sabi is the art of embracing life as it comes, and creating beauty with the happenstance.

In Japan, pottery cracks may be mended with seams of gold, generating strength and making use of the broken. Here in my American life, I might interpret wabi-sabi as looking for the silver lining in a bad situation. Or finding strength in my weakest moments – – and transforming loss. I might slather more butter on a too-dry slice of home baked bread, or decide that even weeds look pretty when in bloom. And there are plenty of weeds. They also attract beneficial insects.

Mrs. Horne could have used a little wabi-sabi. One day, she singled out a student who had joined our class mid-term. She called attention to the “dull blue blouse” the girl wore each day, and the “dirt-caked jeans” Mrs. Horne figured she never washed.

The bell rang, and as we all got up to go, I looked back and saw the girl still sitting at the long table close to the front of the room. Her limp dark hair parted over slumped shoulders. Was she crying?

By the end of the day, we all knew the student’s story. That blouse and jeans were the girl’s only clothes. That’s why she had joined the sewing class in the first place. Amid her circumstances, she was attempting to learn and grow.

I imagined Mrs. Horne discovering her mistake. I saw her brushing back a tuft of corn silk hair that had fallen loose during her outburst. The feathery tendril softened the sharp planes of her face. As the story around my school went, Mrs. Horne had used the machines in the home economics department to launder the girl’s clothes during lunch. She told that student she could stay after school to wash her clothing anytime.

I don’t know for sure, but I like to believe that teacher helped the girl even more that year, maybe sewing her some new clothes from the scraps of fabric and full bolts of cloth she kept in the classroom storage closet. Maybe she dragged out students’ old tries at sewing that they’d left behind. Taught her to fix a zipper here, take in a waistband there. Nips and tucks that made those discarded garments the girl’s very own. We saw the student around school with a widening wardrobe.

Purpose from loss

And as the years passed, I like to imagine that Mrs. Horne looked for other students that might need her help. If she embraced her mistake, learned from it, and became a better person, then she practiced wabi-sabi. And through the student’s attempt to transform loss and make the best of her situation, she helped Mrs. Horne find more meaning and derive a deeper purpose from her profession.

Even a seemingly perfect teacher without a single hair out of place could learn from her mistakes, set aside her ready judgment and look past the surface to what might exist beneath. I like to think that young girl taught her something. That student was attempting to transform loss. She had lost her parents, and was living with relatives who didn’t have much. So, she was learning to sew.

We can all use a little wabi-sabi attitude, and learn to appreciate the unexpected accidents, frustrations, and grief of life. When it comes to dark periods and daily problems, we can choose to grow brittle and bitter, and be as ready as Mrs. Horne was to find others’ faults. Or, we can embrace the happenstance, let our negative experiences benefit us and those around us, transform loss, and make ourselves more useful. A little wabi-sabi sweetens the flavor of life’s accidents and mistakes, helps us recognize the growth in grief, and softens the palate to find what’s right in the wrong.

Stuck? More like sitting pretty

Not long ago, my husband and I were stuck in a traffic jam in an unfamiliar area. Although we tried to find side streets, the roads all led back to the bottleneck.

I’m not always so sensible, but on that day, I made a good choice. “Well, at least I’m with you,” I said, letting go of the annoyance of being stuck, and relishing the isolated time with my best friend instead.

He settled back into the soft seat, and flipped a CD to an old song that always makes us smile.

What accidents or irritations can you embrace? With a new perspective, can you turn to gold or silver the stuff that happens? With an open mind and a willing attitude, even in the worst of life’s challenges, we can find beauty and value, and give life as it is a hug.

When you do that, you’ll be practicing the ancient art of wabi-sabi.

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