How does a woman who couldn’t even lift herself out of a chair, stand or take a few steps on her own start to teach herself to eat and walk all over again? How does someone whose income disappeared get through each day and find resources to survive? How does someone who hits rock bottom, find the will to climb back up?
The person in the story might say, “I had no choice. I had to keep going. What else am I going to do?”
If there is “no choice” than what is it? Somehow despite feeling that one has reached a physical, mental, or health disaster point, something within can sprout new life prompting drive and perseverance. Could it be a similar energy to what pushes a sprout through the ground into the light?
Maybe the energy that moves through living beings is always there, always dynamic just not in ways that measure change. Perhaps a tree is not as still as it looks, nor is the image we see in the mirror that seems to be the same day after day. Maybe things that we perceive to be separate and apart, a tree, a person, an animal, are interconnected through the life energy that moves within and between us, or simply that it’s something we all have within us.
I wonder if we are so focused on our day to day problems that we miss noticing the energy that holds us up against gravity, moves us forward, keeps us wanting, yearning, and looking ahead. Instead we think hard about what we need to do, about our problems, about the things going wrong. Ultimately, the thoughts themselves about our problems become the biggest obstacles we face.
Our bodies know how to sense danger and react, they know to be hungry, to feel full, to fight colds and disease, how to feel love, how to feel happy and sad, how to keep moving, how to sleep. Our bodies will do all these things. Like the baby who wants to walk, like the sprout in the ground, our bodies connect to a system of energy that wants to keep going.
What if we could trust that system just a bit more, and let go of the need to feel fully responsible for everything that happens to us? To trust that our bodies have a deeper wisdom?
Research shows that our minds and bodies are more connected than we have thought previously.
You know when someone smiles at you in such a way that you catch it and smile back without even thinking? That feeling of connection that lights you up? It can be sharing a funny story with the check out person at Trader Joe’s, getting together with a friend, or smiling at a neighbor on the street.
Creating moments of connection with another person creates what researcher Barbara Fredrickson calls “positive resonance” that can boost your positive emotions which contribute to your overall health and well being. “Under the influence of positive emotions, your sense of self actually expands to include others to greater degrees.”
Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle” or “love hormone.” It is a key player in establishing our attachments and bonds to other people, but it also has immediate benefits for hugging. It calms anxiety and stress, increases trust and connection. It’s what makes holding a baby and cuddling with someone we love so relaxing.
According to the National Institute of Play, play relieves stress and builds resilience. “It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” So, you’re never too old to play. Let loose a little, play pretend, tell jokes, and make people laugh!
Do something you love at just the right amount of challenge so that it captures your attention, time disappears and you get lost in it. Research shows that this state of “flow” improves your emotional regulation and your productivity. You may experience more confidence, self esteem and find more meaning in life.
We experience awe when we encounter something so vast and exceptional that we struggle to comprehend it. It can be seeing the starry sky from the desert on a clear night, watching Niagra Falls, standing on a mountaintop, encountering a breathtaking work of art, or watching someone display Olympian skills that surpass our imagination. The positive emotions experienced through awe can promote health and well being.
Whether or not we are moms, many of us are caregivers of some sort and could derive happiness and long term benefits from these five experiences.
I was still in the parking lot when my distressed daughter called me. One of her costumes had not made the trip with her to the theater for the final dress rehearsal of her upcoming dance recital. We lived 30 miles away, and had just slogged our way through rush hour traffic to get there. I had plans to eat dinner with local friends and didn’t want to cancel for this.
Inventorying the choices, I couldn’t help but register the various parent voices and opinions that exist in the parent-sphere. I thought about the parenting paradigm of not helping, letting the child deal with the consequences as a learning experience.
What am I enabling if I go home and get her costume?
Why not let the child learn to remember by negative example?
Was I hovering and protecting too much if I got her costume for her?
Years ago, as a new mom holding my infant daughter, I had the realization that what I most wanted for her was to learn to trust herself. I knew that meant cultivating that trait or skill within myself first.
So, that’s what I did.
After some disappointment, heavy sighing, and hearing all the arguments in my head, I decided to follow my instinct. I told my friends I’d be late for dinner, and got back on the highway. (Thank you friends for waiting for me!)
Later that evening, in the car ride home, my daughter thanked me and said that it made her feel good that I had helped her. It made her want to reciprocate.
That’s when I understood what my instinct had meant. I had lived my values of kindness and compassion in the way I treated my distressed daughter. Listening to her, I knew that for who my daughter is at this moment, for who I am right now, I did what felt right. Hopefully, she will remember the event as a positive example of caring and kindness.
By now, you probably have an idea of what you would done in a similar scenario with your child.
Would you like an opportunity to reflect on your values, and how to align your parenting goals with them? Join us for our next webinar, or contact me for a complimentary coaching session.
When I was a young child, my dad took us to see Damn Yankees at the dinner theater just a few miles from our home. It was the first live show I ever saw, and one that launched a life of longing for the stage.
The show gave me a feeling of floating and soaring and I distinctly remember the private elated feeling I had humming to myself while walking along the wall of the lobby in my white knitted poncho with stripes at the bottom that my great Aunt Mary had made for me.
The songs still evoke vivid memories from seeing the show. Echoes of images from seeing the show then have lingered longer than any memory of seeing the 1994 revival on Broadway have.
More than any images, I have physical, visceral emotional memories of how certain songs, or energies made me feel.
Decades later, cast in a local production, I make sure to be back stage when Joe transforms from middle aged man to young baseball hero and rushes onto stage singing the end of “Goodbye Old Girl.” He has sold his soul to the devil for a chance to live his dream as a baseball hero and bring his team to victory against the legendary Yankees of the 1950’s. The rush of youthful energy full of anticipation and possibilities that young Joe brings on stage with him touches the 7 year old child in me whose heart opened wider that it ever had hearing that song for the first time.
Middle aged Joe Boyd as young Joe Hardy, gets to live his dream. He in facts finds a way to live his dream and reunite with his wife, safe from the devil’s domain. Listening backstage again to this song, I felt a kinship with the longing and the dream, and this time, a deep affinity with Joe Boyd and his commitment to his wife. My life has always been a tug of war between my visceral need to connect with people through the arts to express myself on stage in song, dance and theater, and my need to feel connected and close to family, friends, and communities.
In life, we feel tension between our desires, our sense of responsibility, our wants and all the “should’s” that we learn.
How many of us suppress our dreams and desires and do what we are supposed to do instead?
What would it look like if we could feel as free as Joe Hardy when he finishes that song to bring our energy, enthusiasm and desires into the way we live our lives?