What It Takes to be In Relationship

Every now and then I read a book that I wish was required reading for all, and the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F Heller  is one of those books that has something for everyone.  As a marriage and family therapist, I see lots of relationships. There are many reasons why people struggle in their relationships and seek counseling, and one of the big reasons has to do with attachment science. Of course, no one comes to counseling saying “we need help with attachment science.” But nearly every couple comes in saying they want to work on communication.

When I dig into what kind of “communication issues” a couple is struggling with, what they really mean is “attachment science”.

I recommend this book for you if:
-you are in a relationship and you would like to work on communication.
-you are in a relationship and feel like you’ve gone around and around the same issues.
-you are not in a relationship, but you are in the dating pool because it will help you sort out what you are really looking for and how to recognize it.

This book takes you on a discovery to figure out which attachment style gets triggered in your brain in a relationship.

Do you know which of the 4 types of attachment you use?

“Secure; you feel comfortable with intimacy with your romantic partner and don't obsess much about the relationships or your partner’s ability to love you back.

Anxious; you crave intimacy and closeness but have a lot of insecurities about where the relationship is going.

Avoidant; you feel uncomfortable when things become too close and intimate and value your independence more than the relationship.

Combined; if you are uncomfortable with intimacy and very concerned about your partner’s availability, you have a rare combination of attachment anxiety and avoidance. (Only a small percent of the population have this type of style)” from the book Attached 

Ok, maybe you found yourself in a hot second. Why read the book?

You can learn how each attachment style will enhance your happiness or misery.

Did you know that the majority of people in the dating pool are avoidant?
The reason there are so many avoiders in the dating pool is that people who attach securely are usually in a committed and satisfying relationships. The key word here is satisfying. Why sign up for a miserable relationship?

If you spend some time getting to know your attachment style and that of others, you can aim for satisfying. Yes, you can learn new ways to respond to what feels automatic for you. You can move between attachment styles to create the kind of relationship you truly want.

If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to meet your needs, you will feel tormented.

Yes, of course as a grownup it is up to you to also know yourself and do your self-care. When you are in relationship, you still need to do your self-care, but you get to have something else too. Deep in your brain there is a mechanism for attachment and that is about how we care for each other.

I think this book will be eye-opening and give you a sense of empowerment and possibility.

*Warning: The authors do NOT have a strong background in boundary work. They  assume that there is just one kind of boundary and avoiders use it to create isolation. Huh? Well just ignore that. In my experience boundaries are essential for self-care, for understanding what you each need, for intimacy and connection. So just ignore their stuff on boundaries as you read. If you want to know more about boundaries, read Transform Your Boundaries.

And even with this limitation, I highly recommend this book.

Is your hand up?

I was speaking at a national medical conference and I asked the audience, “How many of you are a model of self-care?” 
Four hands went up.

This is the usual response at conferences. When I ask this question, it is a moment of truth. And the audience responds with an honest reckoning of where they are with their self-care. They are being real.
I am posing the same question to you.
Are you a model of self-care?
What does that mean?
It means that you prioritize taking good care of yourself and others can look at you and literally see your self-care. You model it for others.
Modeling is extremely important if you are leading or managing a team.
Your self-care shows on your body, attitude, and how you feel.
You are calm, unhurried. 
You do not carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. 
You are eating healthy, getting the 7 hours or more of sleep your body needs. 
You are not stressed or overwhelmed.
You are running on a full tank inside, not an empty one.
Your day ends and work stops within reasonable hours. You are not overextended in your work hours. 
You have time each day for simple pleasures and do things that give you joy. 
You may have health needs, but you are doing everything you can to take the best care of you concerning your health. 
You have quality time for your relationships.
You have practices such as meditation and journaling, and make time for reflection.
How do you get from here to there?
This is what growing your boundaries is all about. When you do the work, it shows.
I get emails all the time from people who see a big difference in how they are treating themselves. Here are some of their self-care breakthroughs:

Do what is needed to live well with a health issue.
Taking time for beach walks.
Saying No to working extra hours.
Speaking their truth to a family member.
Declining events that interfere with their precious family time.
Sticking to their budget.
Taking time to think before making a big decision.
Pursuing a dream and making their dreams real.
Trying new things that help them with self-care.
Making time with friends.
Not getting snagged by someone's anger.
Not obsessing about what other people think or feel.
Going to counseling when they are hurting and worried and scared.
Asking for help, letting others in.
Taking time to be alone.
Listening to their soul. 
The pay off is big for those of you on this journey with me.

Boundary work is not one size fits all. If you are willing to do your inside work, you will hear your own truth showing you the way to what you really need for your self-care.

The hardest part is to trust yourself and listen to your truth. 
Next time I ask the question I want to see more hands up. 
For now, I just want to know, is your hand up? 
If not, it is time for you to do the transformative boundary work. 
Please check out my online classes and book, Transform Your Boundaries to help you. 

When You Enter Deeper Waters

"The first time I had a request to do something I didn't want to do and the word "no" popped out of my mouth, I thought lightening would strike me dead. It felt so weird to tell the truth in a direct way without modifiers." Mary Pipher, Women Rowing North

It shouldn't surprise me, because I have heard this sentence so many times. But it did surprise me because she is Mary Pipher, a famous clinical psychologist and author who has written extensively about the journey of growing up female.  Even Mary Pipher is just like the rest of us, still working on her boundaries because it truly is a life-long process.

In her book on women and aging, she shares the powerful experience of learning to say no in her seventies. Her book is about more than this one particular story. Women Rowing North is about the life stage of 60's and 70's.

This year I have noticed many changes as though I am entering a new life stage. Signs of it were everywhere. I found my priorities shifting to being more present for my friends and caring for them, spending more time with friends, traveling to see them. I spent more time caring for friends who were going through hard things and who were ill or injured. Then suddenly, I found myself needing the care and support when I fractured my hip and femur. The sort of injuries that often happen to older people.

I couldn't put on my shoes myself, or get in a shower, or put my pants on, drive a car, lift a plate, do my laundry. I was suddenly completely infirm and wondered is this what it feels like when you are old and need help with everything? Is this what it feels like to be completely dependent for everything?

Though I am going to recover, I found myself reading about aging. I work with many clients who are in their 60's and 70's and I get to understand the life stage through their eyes. I see it as a life stage that has many changes, some with very sudden onset. Changes that we are not necessarily ready or prepared for. But it can be overwhelming as those changes multiply. I have learned from my clients how they find freedom and joys in this life stage along with acceptance and losses, on the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual level.

I found so much comfort reading Women Rowing North. Not comfort in the sense that aging is easy, but comfort in reading words that were truthful and reflective about this life stage. She shares strategies that have helped many women and these are strategies that need to be shared.

Aging is one of those things that is worth thinking about. Not everyone lives to be old. But as we age, everything changes. There is so much to prepare for and in our culture, we talk of retirement and money. But there is so much more to it. I feel like my injury has given me a preview of what it is like to be older. Just a taste. And I see how big it is. More to come on this. 

I recommend this book. If you are in this life stage, her words will feel like a companion as you navigate this stage. If you are just on the cusp of this life stage, it will give you some things to think about as you enter these deeper waters. 

Barking at The Buddha™️

Barking at The Buddha™️
 (In 3 parts)

Part 1: What Is.

There are times when we are stressed and may struggle to accept what is.

A month ago, I had an accident, tripping on a sidewalk to avoid a construction zone. It turned into a trauma as I was rushed to an emergency room and into surgery on my femur and hip.
What is raw
What is harder than you expected
What is not what you wanted
What is painful
My new phrase to describe this difficulty to accept what is,
Barking at the Buddha.
I bought this beautiful handmade statue of a sitting Buddha, because it reminded me of a visualization, I had a long time ago of a healer. He was small, very round, and bald and appeared to help me get through a difficult time.
It’s been more than thirty years since I met this little fellow in my visualization, and when I saw this statue. It was him.
I brought him home.
My daughter visited with her dog, and the dog stood barking at the little statue.
The dog got me. I found myself so frustrated, so injured, I was barking at the Buddha.
Until I was able to go from seeing myself as injured
to seeing myself as healing.
Whatever “it” is that you are going through now, be right you are.
It’s okay to Bark at the Buddha.
The little round Buddha statue can take it.

Part 2: How does this relate to boundaries? 

Trauma and Health issues are two of the six extreme boundary challenges I teach about. Here I was having a double hitter.
Our boundaries feel weak and can collapse under the pressure of both a trauma and health condition. So many decisions to make, I struggled to decide even the simplest of things, what to eat each day. The expenses piled up quickly as I spent 20 days in the hospital. It was as if there were no boundaries on expenses. All this is part of the extreme boundary challenge. Decisions about when I could leave was out of my hands. The medicine, I did not want to take, I had to take. The decision was out of my hands. It’s hard to hold up your boundaries when so much is out of your hands.

Part 3: Where do you find friends like these? 

I am home recovering. I am being loved and cared for. I am seeing so much giving from my family and dear friends.
Someone asked me, “Where do you find friends like this?”
One of my girlfriends Karla, moved into my house for the entire time I was in the hospital, and she cared for our dogs.
My daughter Somer, took a week off of work and flew to be with me in the hospital to help get me moving.
My girlfriend Tammy in Florida where I fell, was with me day and night, communicating to my family till they could get to Florida, and she was bringing all kind of comforts to the hospital.
My husband slept in my room in each night in the hospital.
Where do you find friends like these?
My friend Charlene texts me every morning, what do you need? I am here.
My daughter Aliza reads all of my labs, looking for signs of hope, visits me at home with bright golden flowers.
Friends are cooking, a book is delivered on healing, a friend, Debra brings a huge basket of things she has baked, flowers are brought, the dogs are getting walked, I am lifted and carried.
A check came by mail. My office rent was returned because the landlord knew I couldn't work last month. 
Where do you find friends like these?
I have no idea.
Show up for others. Participate in circles of love and support. 
Give what you can. 
One day, you never know when, you’ll be grateful as I am for their compassionate care.

I will heal. This will take time. I'm being with what is. Grateful for so much love. 
May you be well.

What Happens at the Annual 3-Day Boundary Retreat?

The annual 3-day boundary immersion takes place only one time a year. It is intentionally held at the Whidbey Institute. The setting matters for this deep inner work. The trees, quiet, uplifting architecture, incredible food, simple cabins, walking trails, makes this a supportive setting to do deep emotional truthful inner work.

Why only once a year?   This is very courageous, brave work. It takes time for people to commit to this workshop.  It takes lots of energy to hold this space with the group and ensure that everyone is getting what they need from the experience. The rest of the year, I work with clients individually, I write, and teach in unique settings each month. Most of my workshops are privately scheduled for private groups. There simply isn’t time in my schedule to offer this more often. If you are interested in attending for 2020, please send me an email and I will be sure you hear of registration early.

What size is the group for this workshop? This year the group was 14 people. There will be a maximum size of 18 people for the future. It is intentionally small to ensure your questions are heard and addressed throughout the weekend.

What kinds of things happen in the workshop? All of the activities are designed to give you insight into your own experience with your boundaries. We use many mediums in the weekend to assure you are accessing your inner wisdom. We use clay, art, theater, journaling, music, collage.  This is not a boring lecture. It is playful while at the same time being deep and there are many tears.  Together, we work with the material and experiences you have lived through. You get a chance to ask your biggest questions and then we work on discovering the answers with you.

Here is a sample of some of the questions people brought this year

If you are thinking of attending next year, I would love to hear from you. I promise you coming just for the food would be wonderful. Here are some words from the participants who attended this year. 

"The location was amazing. The work was hard and rewarding. I learned so much. I'm looking forward to checking in with progress and questions."

"The workshop was extremely useful as a re-launch for clarifying my boundaries and next steps. I am going to try to do baby steps and move forward. Thank you for your gifts and sharing them with all of us."

"I learned. I grew. I felt supported! I have been avoiding setting my boundaries. We did a lot of work!"

"Thank you it was a great weekend. Glad the group wasn't any bigger. Your knowledge, wisdom, guidance is so greatly appreciated. The location, food, group was perfect! I loved the variety of things we did." 

"I gained a lot from the Boundary Theater. It was hard to be so honest. I recognized that although my boundary challenges may be complex and extreme, the way I can address them will be pretty straight forward. Thank you for a deeply meaningful workshop weekend." 

"I'm very pleasantly surprised with the depth and insight of the weekend. I'm so grateful."

Your time is precious. I hope you will make the time to join me next year for this extraordinary experience. May you allow your boundaries to take care of you.