Easy. There’s something our culture doesn’t like about this word. There’s a strong belief that circumstances have to be difficult to be valuable, and to remind us of that we have a lot of slogans that reflect it:
No pain, no gain.
There is no success without hardship.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Hard work pays off.
Setting intentions, doing our personal growth work, and manifesting our dreams is absolutely essential for a satisfying and meaningful life where we contribute to the world. But the mindset that ‘life is hard’ can lead us into a jungle of unhappiness and pushing ourselves to always do more.
When we’re in that mindset it can feel like no matter how much we do, it’s never enough. We’re not enough. We think we must go full tilt until we are exhausted or there’s something wrong with us.
Brené Brown talks about how “exhaustion is not a status symbol” in her 2012 book Daring Greatly: Having the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Doing, doing, doing until we are numb is a way of keeping ourselves from listening or engaging fully. Like running again and again into a stone wall: it may keep us from feeling other things, but it doesn't solve the problem.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Brown said that when she questions people about taking time away from work and not answering emails around the clock “their fear is: If I really stopped and let myself relax, I would crater. Because the truth is I’m exhausted, I’m disconnected from my partner, I don’t feel super connected to my kids right now.”
Is it possible that we are doing so much, not because we have to, but because it is habit and we don’t know what else to do—and that we fear what we might find if we slow down?
This kind of life is not sustainable, and eventually, it will burst open somewhere.
What can we do to get out of this?
~Imagine a life where we choose to
put what nourishes us first instead of last.~
This week I spoke with a talented and intelligent woman who told me how deeply she desired more regular time for creative pursuits in her life. As we talked it became clear that for her singing, painting, and writing were almost as important as air. When she engages creatively she feels alive, energized, content, joyful.
She also finds that she's more connected and patient with her children and husband when she makes time for art. The humdrum parts of life seem less tiresome and more doable. Essentially, there is more ease to her life!
And yet, even though she knows how much the arts feed her soul, she was putting them at the bottom of her to-do list—a luxury that she might grant herself once everything else was completed.
Dear ones, if you put self-care—whether that's creative pursuits, exercise, solitude, time in nature, or something else—as a last priority, it will not be a regular part of your life. Your cup will not be refilled by the unique recipe for nourishment that you need and it will get emptier and emptier. And that means everyday life gets harder and harder.
The ease of operating with a full tank disappears and we are left with that feeling that we have to somehow force ourselves to grind forward on those few drops of fuel that are left.
It doesn't have to be this way. You can choose ease and self-love and be an even more amazing version of yourself!
What step could you take today to add a little self-care that will fill your cup and allow you to approach life with more ease?
Post in the comments what would bring ease to your life. I would love to hear how you are caring for yourself!
With warmth and love,
Here in the northland, I can feel in my body that spring is finally on her way. I want to move furniture, paint rooms, start seedlings, and DO things. The time of reflection and turning inward is coming to a close and the sluggishness of winter is losing its hold. It feels so good!
But what I know is that the onset of May and June mean we will soon all be running full-tilt—not really listening to our inner selves—just trying to get everything on the endless to-do list done.
Quite possibly, crossing things off your list does not satisfy you deep down though. Am I right? Then here’s what I want to say, as much to myself as to you: g e t q u i e t . . .
When you are running from this thing to that you’re on auto pilot. You attend to the things you’re supposed to do, but often not what you are called to do.
In order to hear that soft voice of your wise self, you have to slow down and create some quiet space, and then ask yourself some questions.
What is my heart yearning for?
What are my true desires?
What dreams have I been pushing to the back burner for far too long?
How do I want to contribute to the world?
I encourage you to really listen to the answers.
Not your ego telling you that those dreams might be silly or impractical.
Not the fear of what people will think or whether you will disappoint someone.
Not your cautious, fact-based partner or parent who means well.
But listen to that small voice within that has the answers that are true for you.
You might not like what you hear. Or you may love it. You may think that it’s too hard/expensive/unreasonable/selfish/ridiculous. I invite you to listen anyway.
According to a long time hospice care nurse, the biggest regret of people who are dying is:
I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself,
not the life others expected of me.
The first time I read that it shook me to my core. I started to ask myself some hard questions.
What am I really here to do?
What do I love about what I’m doing now and what do I want to change?
What dreams would I regret most if I didn’t go for them?
The answers I received felt just right and I was delighted. I decided to shift my focus of the last several years of working with parents and women in transition—which I loved—to something that excited me even more. I had experienced this already with some clients and it encompassed a need I saw in the world from my vantage point as a woman, heart-centered change-maker, and mama to three daughters.
I made the decision to shift my work to focus entirely on women and the empowerment I heard them asking for in coaching. Yes! Perfect—a Women's Empowerment Coach! I was totally engaged and excited!
And that’s when my gremlins showed up—and they were LOUD.
Who do you think you are?
Why don’t you just stick to one thing?
What will people think?
What if it doesn’t work?
Time to slow down again. These gremlins or worries, are just thoughts, even though they feel like the voice of reason. It's the ego saying, “Wow! Don't do that! That might not be safe! Danger awaits you in the unknown!!”. But they're not factual, or real; they're just thoughts. And not very helpful ones either.
And so I chose to breathe, let them move through me, thank them, and let them know that I’ve got this. It’s what I encourage you to do when your gremlins rear their mighty heads and try to tear down your dreams and keep you from moving forward.
So what is this new adventure I'm on? A refocusing of sorts, and also a reclamation of work I began decades ago. I’m accepting an opportunity to step more fully into my authentic self and to bring the gifts I’ve been endowed with, the growing body of knowledge within me, and the desire to raise the level of engagement, joy, and life experience for as many hungry, ready, not-willing-to-settle women and girls as I can through private coaching, small groups, retreats in nature, and workshops in beautiful spaces.
If this aligns with your interests, I invite you to stay tuned for more. I will be reaching out with gems of healing, growth, and wisdom more regularly. If not, you are welcome to use the unsubscribe link below. No hard feelings if you unsubscribe, I promise. I simply want to connect with the people who want to connect with me.
I wish for you all good things, including the space to know when those critical voices in your head are just gremlins.
Here’s to a slow and mindful spring re-awakening!
With warmth and love,
Also, for those of you in the Northfield area, I have just 4 spaces left in my mini-retreat on Sunday, April 29, 1-3pm. This is a fundraiser for Prairie Creek Community School and it's focused on women's renewal and nourishment. "Reclaim Your Adventurous, Authentic Self" will be held at the beautiful Prema Studio in downtown Northfield. Get in touch with me asap to find out if this would be a good fit for you. 763.412.7319 or email@example.com
Have you noticed that you don't have the energy you want? We're only one month into the new year, have you given up on your intentions for 2018? Is cabin fever setting in and you're snapping at your kids?
The reality is that without exceptional self-care you can't be the best version yourself. You slack off, give up, lose patience, beat yourself up, and disconnect. If you slow down to think about it, that's probably not the life you really want.
Self-care is knowing what your needs are and meeting those needs on a regular basis. Not rocket science, but it does take being aware of what fills your cup and having the commitment to do it. Each of us has a unique combination of things that replenish energy, bring joy, and help us to show up as our best selves.
Why is it so hard to carry this out?
You get messages all the time that you're not doing it right, that you shouldn't be selfish, and that you can't trust your inner wisdom. So your needs often go unmet. You know what this looks like. We all do. You rush from one thing to another, often arriving late. A kid asks a question and you bark an irritated answer. Feelings of resentment lurk just below the surface, waiting to be sparked into an explosion.
Is this really how you want to live?
The truth is that everyone benefits when you practice exceptional self-care. You have the energy to accomplish your biggest goals. You treat yourself, your kids, your partner, your colleagues with love and kindness. You have the reserves to respond to bumps in the road calmly and thoughtfully. And you have the capacity to step into being the human you truly long to be.
Are you ready to upgrade your life?
Several years ago when I was deep in the realm of caring for small children and aiming to provide the most nurturing home life possible, I found I was so disconnected from my self-care needs that I was actually sabotaging my deepest desires.
Instead of engaging with the beautiful children entrusted to me I numbed myself with endless online word games. Instead of serving myself first I prioritized energy and money for everything else but self-care. Instead of listening to my inner wisdom I ignored the whispers from my spirit to attend to myself first in order to be able to give my children the love and acceptance I knew they needed.
One morning while stealing a few minutes of quiet before the kids erupted from bed, I realized that I was not living a life I was proud of. I was not role modeling for my daughters what life could be. I was failing to do exactly what I had set out to do: create a loving and nurturing haven.
I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.
Climbing out of this hole took self-reflection, commitment, and asking for help. Slowly I began to identify the things I needed to bring back into my days to be the person I wanted to be.
My life looks a lot different now. My daughters are now teens and young adults and we have wonderful, vibrant relationships. I have incorporated exceptional self-care into every facet of my life so that I can show up every day as the best version of myself.
The life you desire IS possible... and you can take the first small step today. There's nothing to lose and so much to gain.
What one word describes what you want in 2018?
For the past few weeks I've been pondering how to sum up my intentions for the new year in just one word - a kind of shorthand to keep me on track and guide my decision-making.
It's been difficult though, maybe because I want this year to be so amazing. After working out my plans, goals, areas of development, etc., there's still a lot of things that apply. There's AUTHENTICITY and ABUNDANCE, VISIBILITY and VIBRANCY, FLOURISH and FREEDOM, PROSPERITY and PEACEFUL, CONNECTION and CONTRIBUTION...
It all comes down to clarity. When we are clear on what we need, what we desire, where we want to put our energy, what things are an absolute YES for us, then choosing from all the opportunities becomes easy. We can give a clear NO to all the rest. As one of my coaches says, "It's either HELL YES or HELL NO. There is no HELL MAYBE."
One of my clients a few years ago was stuck on the progress of her book. She felt like she was doing everything she could to move the writing forward, but things were only inching forward at a glacial pace. My client thought her intention was PRODUCTION - producing a book that had long been waiting to see the light. But the closer she got to having people read it, the slower the writing went. Eventually we discovered that there was a hidden need that had to be addressed first and that was getting comfortable with VISIBILITY. So we created a plan to ease into being more visible as a writer and then BOOM! the manuscript almost finished itself. Having clarity on what was needed was pretty much... all that was needed.
In The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life by Lynne Twist, the author puts forth the concept of SUFFICIENCY as the thing that can change our relationship with what we have, want, and value. Twist states:
"When we live in the context of sufficiency, we find a natural freedom and integrity. We engage in life from a sense of our own wholeness rather than a desperate longing to be complete. We feel naturally called to share the resources that flow through our lives -- our time, our money, our wisdom, our energy, at whatever level those resources flow -- to serve our highest commitments. In the context of sufficiency, and the flow of resources to and through and from us, our soul and money interests merge to create a rich, satisfying, and meaningful life."
SUFFICIENCY is the word I've been seeking, it seems. It may not sound like much, but it expresses exactly what I want to focus on in this new year I've been gifted.
What is the word that sums up your intentions for the new year? Post your one word intention below in the comments and let's hold all the goodness that everyone is calling in.
Overcommitment and guilty obligation are rampant during the holiday season.
It doesn't have to be that way though! Each of us has the power to choose how we respond.
To keep my sanity I've found I need a framework to help me decide what to give my energy to and what to pass on.
When I feel obligated to take on yet another thing, I put pressure on myself to say YES because I feel I SHOULD do it. Often there's pressure externally as well not disappoint someone or look ungrateful if I decline.
When this happens I need to have my criteria for an ABSOLUTE YES in place.
If giving my energy to the request is not an ABSOLUTE YES, then it’s a NO. Telling others NO can be hard and I may need to find the courage, support, chutzpah - or all three - to carry out it out.
But the space created when I stick to my framework is huge and so much healthier than trying to do everything!
I know for myself and from my clients how difficult saying NO is and the holidays really put this to the test.
Often in these situations we start comparing ourselves to what others are doing and it destroys our creativity, joy, energy, and self-acceptance. If there’s one thing you give up in 2017, let it be comparison!
Let go of what you think you SHOULD do, and tune into your authentic self to find what is an ABSOLUTE YES for you.
Here are some questions that have been meaningful in creating my own framework.
What do I love most about this time of year?
What are the most meaningful parts of our family traditions?
Who do I really value spending time with?
Reevaluating each year has brought me closer to the soul-nourishing aspects of the season while reducing the hype. Many things have shifted or disappeared in our holiday line-up while others have grown richer over time because we weren't trying to do everything. Here are a few that have been significant.
The end of the year can be enjoyable, relaxed, and meaningful, with the focus on quality time and gratitude instead of on racing through events and accumulation of goods if we're intentional.
You deserve to enjoy this beautiful season of light and love - and your family deserves to have you at your best.
Nature is often the messenger of wisdom in my life. Leaning against a tree, standing on a mountain, paying attention in a field is where I most often have epiphanies that allow me to see more clearly. Sometimes they are so simple I wonder how it wasn't obvious to me before, but I always listen and am grateful.
A few days ago I was walking in the Carleton Cowling Arboretum near my house with the intention of recharging my body and clearing my mind. I stopped to sit at the edge of the stream and listen to the water babbling over the rocks. Watching the water flow by it occurred to me that no matter how much water moved past me, there was still water in front of me and more coming in. No break, no emptiness, just a constant flow.
And so it is with our energy. What we put out into the world comes back to us in other ways. Why then, I wondered, do we sometimes feel like we're running on empty? That there is scarcity instead of abundance? Women who come to my workshops almost always connect with the image of filling their cup because they have been functioning from a place of emptiness for so long.
The eclipse today, as I understand it, symbolizes change. A new era, another chance, a fresh start. What does that mean to you? To me it sounds fun, exciting, and adventurous. I love a new notebook, a new plan, turning over a new leaf.
But sometimes change is not so glamorous.
I spent this past weekend at home and under the weather. Outside it was glorious! Sunny, warm, and breezy after days of gray skies and rain. There were so many possibilities for activities, but my body told me to stay home.
At first I didn't listen - totally ignored the message - like we do. So it spoke more loudly and I felt more miserable. Finally, I got it: slow down, look within, do the work.
It was time to clean house, both literally and figuratively. Change is not only about embracing the new, it's also about letting go of the old.
Shedding what no longer serves us can take many forms: clearing out belongings you no longer need, shifting habits and thought patterns that aren't working, reassessing goals to align with where you are now, letting go of limiting beliefs.
My tasks turned out to be inner work motivated by outer work. The burr-covered weeds that covered my clothes, tangled in my hair, and would not let go were great metaphors for obstacles that were plaguing me. The pile of discarded clothes ready to be donated finally made it out of the bottom of the closet and into the car so they can help someone else instead of cluttering my thoughts and draining my energy. The sore throat that was so aggravating reminded me of limiting beliefs around being a public speaker.
The weekend was full of symbolism, even if it was short on entertainment.
So I ask you, what weeds do you need to pull from your internal landscape? What roles are you wearing that no longer fit? What patterns hold you back that you need to wash away?
Start by spending some time in your garden, closet, or bath tub and see what bubbles up when you get really quiet.
All photos ©Mary Upham 2017
Surrender was not a word in my personal vocabulary until very recently. I thought of it as giving in, giving up, a sign that I was weak. But I'd been getting the message that I needed to delve deeper into Surrender and its connection with Trust. On a weeklong camping trip with my daughter I had plenty of opportunities.
One of the things that I discovered is that Surrender is not a form of weakness, in fact you have to be strong to see when to sit back and chill.
Another insight is that surrender is another way to say accept things as they are, be ok with what is, and know where you can take action and where you can't.
While it takes a lot of strength to be ok with what is, it uses much less energy than railing against something you can't change. Or worrying about it incessantly. Or getting all bothered because you think the situation is someone else's fault.
When you toss Trust in there with Surrender it works even better. Not only can you mellow out on your reaction to the situation, you also get to relax about whether it's going to turn out ok or not. Because frankly, if you're going with this mindset, whatever way it turns out is all right.
Take the Lost Shoe Debacle, for example. After a long day of exploring and driving and hiking and exploring, my daughter realized she had lost a shoe. You might wonder how one could lose something attached to one's foot (I did), but if one goes barefoot as much as possible and just keeps shoes in the car in case there's an ice cream shop where they are mandatory, there's less concern over where those shoes are in between times.
They might even fall out of the car when you leap at the chance to pet a friendly horse. At least, that's where she thought she might have lost it. But at bedtime after a day of exploring I couldn't begin to problem solve about the lost shoe.
So despite the tears and upset from the animal-loving daughter, I chose Surrender and Trust. I decided this in the moment: I can accept what is, you are missing a shoe (and you have hiking boots to wear tomorrow) and I can let it go for now and trust that it will work out, and spend no energy worrying or wondering or berating (either myself or you).
And then, we got some sleep, for I was not about to go driving about in the dark to see if we could find footwear in the moonlight.
If you're curious about the outcome, she did find the shoe. In the morning with clear heads, we decided to get straight to our big hike for that day and to leave the shoe search for late afternoon on our way out of the area. It was, in fact, right where she hoped it would be, though the horses were not.
If you are curious about adding a new word to your vocabulary, I highly recommend Surrender, and its companion Trust. They will serve you well.
All photos ©Mary Upham 2017
If you find yourself wishing that you could make some shifts in your life that would give you some breathing space, a little time for yourself, more smiles and fewer growls, I want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Many women are stuck in a cycle of feeling overwhelmed and undervalued and even find resentment creeping in where they want to have love, acceptance, and joy. This is what I know: it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you get some clarity on what you need, you can begin to learn tools and take small steps to make those shifts happen. Here’s how it played out for one of my clients. I’ll call her Leah.
Leah was a part-time teacher with a preschool-aged daughter with whom she had a very close relationship. Before her daughter's birth Leah had been quite active and she longed to get back to a regular exercise routine, but between the precious hours at home with her daughter, her teaching job, family life, occasional socializing, and so on, Leah's time for herself frequently got pushed to the side. Leah noticed that she was not the mom she wanted to be. She sensed resentment creeping into her emotions instead of the love and kindness she wanted to feel. When her husband was home she would try to slip out for a short run. Her daughter would cry for her to stay home and play. Sometimes Leah would give up her run and come back to calm her daughter, but since Leah's needs hadn't been met she was crabby and impatient. Other times she would go anyway and come home to an exhausted, post-tantrum child and an agitated spouse. It felt like no matter how hard she tried to do the right thing, nothing worked.
Leah's daughter needed her mom to be fully present when they were together, and Leah needed regular exercise to fill her cup so she could engage with her child. Since Leah was often running on fumes she didn't have anything left to give her daughter and the child was unsatisfied and clingy. Neither Leah nor her daughter were getting their needs met and it was a source of major tension.
When Leah became aware of this cycle she decided to make some changes. She talked with her husband about how important it was to have time for exercise and solitude. She also pledged her support for him to carve out time for these same things. A little later, when things were calm, Leah set the situation up for success with her child. She snuggled her daughter close and told her about her new plan to run and go to an exercise class a few times a week. During this conversation, she explained her values for health, meeting one's needs, and being a good parent in very simple terms that her child could understand. She told her daughter When I come back from exercising I will come home happy and we can spend time playing. Because of how Leah took time to explain it, her daughter felt connected to her mama and agreed to cooperate.
Leah took action and followed through. She set up a regular exercise schedule on the calendar so that her family knew what to expect. When it was almost time to go, Leah reminded her daughter, took a few moments to give her some hugs and kisses, and committed to playtime when she got back. Because she set it up for success and spoke from her heart instead of from a place of resentment, Leah's daughter was more easygoing about the time apart. She even got in the habit of saying, Goodbye, Happy Mama!, as she waved to her. The change this brought in Leah's family was huge. The resentment disappeared and was replaced by joy. Leah supported her husband to get more regular exercise, and as a family they played outside more, knowing it was something they all enjoyed. They commented on how great it felt to have their everyday actions in alignment with their values and their needs met.
If this story resonates with you in some way here are some things you can do:
It’s been a long while since I sent anything out and I have exciting things to share with you.
What’s been happening? Over the past year I’ve been asking myself questions like “Where do I want to focus my energy?” and “How do I want to share my gifts?”. Mulling this over while walking in the woods led to the birth of my new venture, Lucina’s Wisdom, (pronounced loo-see-nahs) which focuses on ‘Life Coaching for Moms with a Mission’.
What does that mean? It means I help women approach life from the inside out by first discovering their own needs, desires, and dreams, and then supporting them to create a life built around those things. We aim for the sweet spot where they are in right relationship with their self-care, relationships, and purpose so they can thrive.
What does this look like?
What can you do? I’m so glad you asked! One is to click below to check out my new website. Two, is to contact me if you're connected with an organization that could benefit from a workshop. And three is to stay tuned for more.