Acceptance Does Not Mean Approval

Things happen that we don’t like…it’s just a fact of life. How we adapt to those negative things can make all the difference in the world to how much serenity and peace we walk around with. I’ve never met a person that just plain wants to be unhappy, but I have met many people who are just plain unhappy. I would guess that many of these people are unhappy because they are not in acceptance of the circumstances in their lives. If that’s true, then

how do we find a way from unhappiness and non-acceptance toward happiness and peace (acceptance)?

I have written about acceptance before in a few of my blogs. The reason that I keep “harping” on this topic of acceptance is because it is crucial for peace, to un-attach and let go of resentments, for forgiveness, and for a life of letting others make the choices they need to make to live their own authentic lives.

In my forgiveness blog, I wrote, “I personally don’t believe that someone can betray me. What that person can betray is my values, such as trust, honesty, commitment, etc…As long as this person fell in line (met my expectations) with what I wanted him or her to be, I remained in “approval” of him or her.

As soon as “that thing” happened that I didn’t like, I was confused, felt betrayed, and then “disapproved” of that person.” As soon as I let go of needing to approve or disapprove of someone else, I realize that all I really need to do is accept him or her for being a unique person who is fully capable of making his or her personal choices.

To require or expect that someone fall in line with your values to stay in your life is controlling behavior, yet can give you the illusion that they are willing “to do anything for you.” At the end of the day, if I alter my life in order to gain acceptance from a person or persons, I essentially abandon authentic parts of myself in order to be accepted. When that happens, I will resent myself yet I will blame the person I’m trying to gain approval from…and nothing goes right in the “blame game.”

I know, this relationship stuff is tricky, yet it really comes down to some very basic fundamentals.

You do not have to approve of everything that someone does in your life…what will help (help, help) you though, is to accept the decisions others make as what they needed to make. If they are important to you and it affects you to the point that it goes completely against your values, my recommendation would be to employ open conversation techniques like I discuss in the pink elephant blog.

Relationships don’t have to end if you can find acceptance that others make decisions that you might not make.

You want people to be unique and bring a dimension to your life that enhances it…and even a negative dimension can bring you a necessary trigger so that you can process unresolved issues. Thank you for “accepting” whatever portions you want of what I’ve written here (no need to approve, I promise :-))…it’s my belief and I hope it gives you some steps away from the need to approve toward the freedom of acceptance.

Elephants are Cute…But Pink Elephants Suck

“There’s a pink elephant in the room.”

We’ve all heard that phase, right? What is a pink elephant and how did it become the spokes-animal for poor communication or things that people are avoiding? If you’re looking for those answers, I doubt I’ll be able to provide them. But if you’re looking for some thoughts about the importance of communication and overcoming pink-elephant syndrome (I made that up), you came to the right spot.

In my opinion, effective communication is at the top of the list (I believe it’s number one) of essentials in relationships. This does not have to be romantic relationships only…it can be at work, with family members, with friends, and even effectively communicating honestly to oneself. To me, a “pink elephant” represents fear…fear of rejection, fear of intimacy, fear of vulnerability, fear of shame, fear of judgment, and on and on and on.

When we solicit the pink elephant to the room, the thought pattern goes something like this, “If I tell her that I’m not happy with how we discipline the children, I’m afraid she’ll get angry with me.” Or, “If I tell him that I feel smothered when he gets upset about me for hanging out with my friends, he’ll be hurt.”

Both of those statements might be true, but they definitely remain true if they’re not verbalized. You see, the problem with the pink elephant is that the longer these unspoken feelings go on, the more poor communication calories the pink elephant consumes and the larger that big guy gets. Eventually he will be so large that you won’t know what the issue was in the first place…all you’ll see is a pink elephant dividing a relationship full of resentment.

How do we work through pink elephant challenges?

First, honestly talking about “tough stuff” takes courage, vulnerability and walking through whatever fear is being avoided. For me, I have to take ownership of my experience and not make the other person responsible for how I feel, which isn’t easy…this takes a lot of insight and honest self-reflection. I have to look inward and ask myself, “What am I experiencing and what am I fearing?”

So, let’s look at the two examples above for an anti-pink elephant syndrome communication:

* In the first one, if I were to say, “Honey, there’s a part of me that’s uncomfortable with how we discipline the children and I’m curious if you would be willing to discuss it with me?” This isn’t placing blame, it’s saying, “Hey, we’re a team. Let’s find something that feels right for both of us.”

* In the second one, if I were to find the courage to say, “Hey babe, sometimes I’d like to go hang out with my friends and it feels like that can be a challenge for you. Am I reading that right and, if so, can we talk about it?”

All you’re looking for is an opening to the conversation. How your husband, wife or partner hears it might create some defensiveness, but stay present, breathe and keep rephrasing how it “feels for you” (without blaming).

I’m not saying that you will solve all of your problems in one sitting…but the opening will occur, the pink elephant will start to shrink, you will gain some courage, and you will start having honest dialogue with those who are important to you.

Look, you are going to be in relationships with others…it’s just a fact of life. You owe it to yourself to be you and speak your truth. If you find yourself not wanting to speak to someone important to you about an issue, look inward.

What is it that you fear?

Is the fear valid or is it just fear of an uncomfortable conversation? You can even start the conversation with, “Hey, I feel like there’s a pink elephant in the room. I respect and value our relationship so much that I want to talk about something that’s bothering me. You mean that much to me. Are you willing to sit down and talk?” Those conversations are amazing and intimate and will take your relationships to the next level. You deserve that. Paco (my dog) agrees…we just had a tough talk about treats. It wasn’t easy, but it was important. Don’t worry, we’re fine :-).

Addiction…from Friend to Foe?

I believe there is a purpose for everything…finding that purpose is another thing. When the topic is addiction, what if the very thing that eventually will kill you saved your life at one point? This can be a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended), especially if you are currently addicted or you are someone who loves and is slowly watching an addict die.

For the last couple of years, I had the privilege of working with homeless, addicted veterans, many who were diagnosed with PTSD (trauma)…mostly from combat, childhood abuse or sexual abuse.

As a retired veteran myself, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Since all of these veterans had PTSD with co-occurring addiction, integrating the role that addiction played became necessary for these veterans to quit shaming themselves and to start taking their lives back.

Addiction is one form of “numbing out” or “escapism.”

It suppresses feelings and emotions, many of which are connected to the trauma the addict is trying to avoid…and for good reason. Trauma is scary, confusing, and painful. No one wants to have flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and the other negative symptoms associated with trauma. Numb appears the better option…until numb doesn’t work anymore. A time will appear when the addiction is now killing the person and there remain two options: Get clean and survive or remain in the addiction and slowly die.

So, why do I think addiction might temporarily serve a purpose?

Glad you asked. Sometimes “feeling” is too much, too painful, scary, and overwhelming and immediately processing trauma might be too much too soon. In immediately reliving trauma, many don’t make it, as the horrible veteran suicide statistics will confirm. Their traumas were too much, which created the need to “numb out,” which then led them down the path to addiction.

For a temporary time, their addiction kept them alive (barely) until they found the will to survive and regain their lives. At some point, if they don’t get the addiction under control, they will eventually die from it…it temporarily saves by numbing and then eventually turns and starts killing the addict.

Obviously, the “healthy choice” is to process traumas, emotions, negative experiences, and how we react to those things as soon as possible…without addiction. My hope is that those suffering with trauma could immediately start the emotional healing process to regain their joy, peace, happiness and freedom. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. It takes time and compassion…segmenting the trauma and learning new coping skills to find peace and, all too often, addiction becomes a part of that journey.

If you believe you might be an addict, start with getting help with your addiction.

When you’re clean from drugs and alcohol, you will gain liberation not possible when you numb. You will naturally process your trauma at your pace. Recovery is a daily beautiful journey.  Promise.

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Be the change.

The thought, “hell yes, one person can change the world!” passed through my mind recently. That’s big progress, considering the mega-trillion random thoughts that this girl gets to deal with on a daily basis.

So friend…some thoughts about that thought: A smile, a hug, a handshake, soft eyes, connection, honest communication…truly, it’s small AND it’s what will change the world. It starts with self-connection, learning to connect to “self” in the presence of others ultimately helps you connect to them…it’s not being afraid because of differences…it’s feeling good and hopeful, trusting that they want peace, love and connection as much as you do.

Last week I was sitting in the Nashville airport looking for Elvis.

I was later informed that I was wasting my time…Elvis is apparently in Memphis :). That’s when I had that thought about changing the world, as I was people watching. Anyway, I was on my way to see a good friend in Charleston, South Carolina, which was my first Navy duty station, 30 years ago. I was anxious about returning to Charleston, as it wasn’t one of my best experiences. I was a naïve young girl from the West and had a quick wake up call…the South was very different than the West…it was confusing. I was ready and hopeful for a new Charleston experience.

Happily, this time around I found a lot more connection to others in Charleston than I ever expected. I believe that’s because I brought a different me. 30 years ago I was disconnected from everything…Charleston didn’t stand a chance…it wasn’t the place…it was me.

I was disconnected from people, from culture, from differences…from myself.

I never wanted to be that writer…you know, the one that quotes Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” But it’s so true and, as much as I want to make others responsible, it absolutely starts with me. I have to connect first, to find myself in another person…I need to give the smile first…if the other person doesn’t smile back, that’s okay…it was a gift from me.

Maybe someday he or she will learn to receive that gift. People are defended for various reasons, all of which I know nothing about. Maybe that smile will invoke an exhale of some of that defense…it’s not up to me…all I can do is show up and connect.

The more I write, the more I’m hearing the need for positive vibes…we all need love and peace…we all need connection…we all want to know that it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay! I believe that whole-heartedly.

We get through…we adapt…we survive…we thrive.

A challenge (if you care to accept) is to connect with one stranger today…just a little eye contact with a smile. It’s small and it’s huge. It just might make his or her day and yours in return. You will connect to amazing pieces of yourself and, even more importantly, you will “be that change.” Ghandi agrees.

Perseverance…Fighting or Flowing?

I love turtles…I pretty much love most animals, but turtles and dogs are my favorites. I believe turtles are a perfect representation of the human spirit…the part of us that wants to be exposed…our peaceful inner self.

Now, I am not an expert on all things turtle; I just know that I feel peace and happiness in their presence. Symbolically, turtles have a hard shell that protects a fragile heart, just as many humans have reactively created a hard shell to protect a wounded heart. Turtles adapt and persevere. They slowly and methodically float through life…surviving on land and in the water. They are slow and serene…watching them float or sunbathe rewards me with a calming and peaceful feeling.

When I was in graduate school, we had to choose a word and write it on a rock that described one of our peers. The word that my peer gave me was “persevere.” I still have that rock…it means a lot to me and keeps me mindful of a part of who I am and what I’ve been through. It also reminds me that, although I do believe persevering has served my life, it’s not a place that I want to visit often.

If I am persevering, then I am struggling, trudging through life, not accepting my current situation, getting through, or “fighting to get ahead.” If I’m resisting my current situation, I’m not flowing…I’m not in acceptance of this moment…I’m discontent…I’m putting one foot in front of the other to get to the next moment as fast as I can.

How can we manifest the flowing and peaceful perseverance of the turtle?

With connection and compassion, for ourselves and for others. The ability to persevere shows strength in character…resilient spirit…adaptability. It positively serves in times where you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other…in times where you’re walking through the dark tunnel…in times where you have hit that wall.

It absolutely serves your resilient nature.

Persevering might mean inching along, crawling at times, then slowly walking, until we are running and eventually able to soar. There are times when we might be soaring, only to hit a wall (like the hummingbird) and have to inch along and persevere again.

I am of the belief that many of us are persevering through the current state of non-connection, of seeing our differences and not embracing our similarities, of hoping that we will get through this current time where civil unrest and retaliation is occurring. For me, persevering only serves if we can notice it and integrate positive change towards love, compassion, connection and peace.

Lastly friend, my hope is that you (and I) would persevere only as long as we need to. That we would channel our inner turtle…be adaptable…slowly, methodically, and peacefully move and float through life. Sometimes life can be painful, we get defensive and the hard shell wants to thicken with yet another layer over our fragile heart.

Maybe keep that shell only as thick as it needs to be for true survival…maybe recognize when it wants to thicken and have compassion for yourself…maybe visualize floating and flowing and take a deep breath. After all, the turtle can breath and the turtle can float…and the turtle does all of that with peace and ease.

Here’s to your inner turtle!

Be a Connection Activist.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I feel hopeful…a part of me is afraid to admit that…maybe I’m crazy. In a time where so many terrible and challenging things are illuminated in the media, how can I feel hopeful? One reason is that I am acutely aware that the media does not show all of the good happening in the world and that the good far outweighs the bad.

For today, my truth is that this is a critical period for us to unite, see our commonality and activate goodwill and compassion. The process and the communication required to get us there is not something for which I have all of the answers, but I believe it starts with me and it starts with you. So I guess I’m searching for hope and clarity and I would guess you might be too.

I have my unique perspective on my life only.

I know what it feels like to be discriminated against and afraid of losing my profession because of who I am; what it’s like to go to foreign countries and be afraid because of what my service uniform represented to others; and I know what it’s like to be glared at with disgust for what I represent to another person.

I also know how good it feels to give and receive love, to connect with others and find parts of me in them, to walk with and experience nature with my dog, to work with many who have overcome extraordinary challenges, and to keep learning about this fascinating life that I share with all of you. It’s my perspective only…what it’s like to live my life.

How do we find the perspective of others?

By empathizing or placing ourselves in their shoes to connect to and feel how it would feel for us. And just so you know, not one person has lived this life without struggle and pain. Empathy for the other is so valuable to expand our consciousness and open our hearts. When we only see people for the color of their skin, the uniform that they wear, the person that they love, the political affiliation they choose, or their religious or spiritual views,


We only see what they represent to us. We don’t see their heart, their joys, the love they share with their families, the good they do in the world. If we can open our hearts and connect to the other person’s joys, fears, sorrows, or dreams, we just might find that they are the same as ours. My goal is to stand in their shoes…to understand my version of their challenges…to not be afraid of connection and discussion…to truly listen. I’m not always great at it but it’s my goal.

You and I have a wonderful opportunity here…an opportunity to connect to the perspective of someone who lives a different experience, which is everyone who isn’t you. It’s an opportunity to be a connection activist…to treat others with the compassion, dignity, respect and empathy that you would like to be treated with. You and I also have an opportunity to look the other way, blame the other side, and keep living in fear of someone who doesn’t walk your exact path, which is everyone who isn’t you.

It’s a choice.

My hope is that we all will continue to manifest peace, love and respect for each other. I will never understand your pain, as it is uniquely yours. I connect to my version of your pain, as I have definitely experienced pain and know what my pain feels like. Respecting others and creating curiosity and compassion for their unique journey is liberating…it’s necessary…it’s peace.

I feel hopeful…maybe I’m crazy…I just see this time period as such an opportunity to bring the light in to eclipse the dark. I think it’s a time where many of us are thinking, “enough is enough.” I sure am.

p.s. For more on connection, check out my blog: We Seek Connection…Yet We Fear Connection

Hummingbirds Hit Walls Too.

A few days ago I had an experience that blew my mind and has created some personal metaphoric meanings that I’d like to share with you.

Here we go…I was sitting in the backyard with my girlfriend discussing some tough challenges that she is currently experiencing. She was sad and I was listening and providing support. It was peaceful but the conversation was heavy. The dogs were lying in the grass, the wind was softly blowing through the giant bird of paradise trees that line the yard and the weather was gorgeous and sunny.

In the middle of a sentence where she was telling me that she was feeling “held captive” by her situation, I heard a “thud.” I subconsciously knew that a bird had either hit the house or the fence when my girlfriend said, “oh God, it’s a hummingbird.” Paco (my dog) was standing over a hummingbird that was lying on the pavement. It wasn’t moving.

Lesson 1: Sometimes we hit a wall.

Whatever that wall is, there are times when life stops us in our tracks. That wall might be there to divert you from a situation that you would not recover from. That wall is probably protecting you…it just might not “feel” that way.

I got up, went over to the hummingbird, picked him up and put him in the palm of my hand. I thought his neck was broken and was positive that he was dying, as he was weak and limp. He was a beautiful little guy, no more than three inches long, had tiny glittery patches on his chest, and feathers that were multicolored and soft.

Lesson 2: Sometimes the hits we take are so hard we need help to get up.

Have you had the wind knocked out of you or felt completely numb like you just don’t have one more ounce of energy to get up? Me too. In those times I needed help to get up…I needed support…I could not do it alone.

I wanted to do something but didn’t know what. I truly thought that my purpose was to hold him and be with him while he died. I was hoping that he was just stunned and needed a few minutes to recover but that didn’t seem likely. I stroked the top of his head. The only two things moving on him were his left eye (slowly blinking) and his tongue (poking out as if it was telling me to find it some nectar).

Lesson 3: Trust that others are there to help and support us.

People want to support us but many times have no idea how to do that. When we are wounded, it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to ask for what we need, even if we don’t know what that is…it could be a hug, an ear, a meal or a glass of water (or nectar in this case). Start somewhere. What if the most courageous thing you did today was tell someone you’re hurting, ask for help and get his or her support?

I walked him over to one of the giant bird of paradise trees to see if he could get some nectar but he was too weak. His eye was blinking slower but his tongue kept coming out of his beak. My girlfriend asked if we could get him to the vet, but the vet was too far away to be of any help. I told her that there might be one thing we could try and to go into the house and get some sugar water. She ran in the house to get the sugar water. I sat down with the little guy and prayed.

Lesson 4: If we listen to our intuition, it will lead us in the direction toward mending and overcoming our injuries.

We instinctively know what is best for us, but we have to trust and pay attention to our deepest inner wisdom. It’s always there and will always guide us in the direction that life is meant to traverse.

I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t make it and I was sad. I also had a small amount of hope that he might recover. Either way, I knew it was not up to me. He was so peaceful and beautiful with his tiny blinking eye looking up at me. My girlfriend returned with the sugar water in a small saucer and I tilted my hand down so that his little tongue and edge of his beak would get some of the liquid. I really had no hope that he would recover but wanted this last “Hail Mary.”

His tongue hit the liquid and he lay there for a second and then…he jumped to his feet on my hand! It shocked me! He hovered over my hand for a second and landed back on my hand, remaining there for one last second before he flew away like nothing had ever happened!

Lesson 5: Getting back up requires action on our part.

The bird got up! We all have the ability to get up in some capacity, but that takes action and courage. Once we are able to take the action to get up, then and only then can we integrate the physical and emotional wounds to positively serve our collective life experiences.

In that moment, the joy and gratitude that I felt cannot be accurately expressed. I thought the little hummingbird was going to die. I looked at my girlfriend (with what I know was a look of shock, joy and disbelief) and the relief we both were obviously feeling was overwhelming and brought tears to our eyes. It was truly what I call a “God shot,” an unexpected miracle that created pure joy and amazement.

Lesson 6: At the end of the day, I really know very little, I am not in charge, miracles are everywhere (when I am noticing) and life is one big beautiful mystery.

Understanding the lack of control that I have over the complete outcome in life gives me peace and freedom. I can contribute to the health of the universe…I believe and trust that the outcome is entirely up to a higher power.

So there it is friend…my mind-blowing (for me) hummingbird story. In the moment before the hummingbird hit the wall, things felt emotionally heavy and challenging. That little guy shifted all of that heavy energy into elation, joy and gratitude.

I have no idea of the subtle forces around me and I hope to keep noticing the hidden meaning in each situation. If you find yourself hitting a wall, find support, ask for help, take action, and remain open to this beautiful mystery we call life. That wall is probably your friend, to stun you and then wake you up…and someday you will realize that after finding yourself on the path that it diverted you to.

It might take minutes, days, months or years to find the gift that wall was there to give you. Hit it, notice that you hit it, lay there and nurture yourself, ask others for help and, when you’re ready, get up and celebrate. You deserve that. My little hummingbird deserved that. I am beyond grateful that I noticed.

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Steps for Creating Balance and Reducing Dis-Ease.

It seems that almost everyone, including myself, struggles with maintaining or even creating balance. Achieving life balance is one of the biggest challenges for almost all of my clients (okay…all), for many of my friends, and I’m guessing (I’m willing to bet) even you.

This seems like such an easy topic; yet how come maintaining balance eludes us? I believe we are intended to “lose our balance” as life evolves and circumstances change, which results in our need to adapt and find new balance based on life in this moment.

There might be times when I have to place more attention on my career so that I can afford my home, pay my bills and support my family. As a result, something will get less attention, such as family, friends, health, unless I am so evolved that nothing rattles my cage (I’m not there…yet 😊).

For example, I was recently speaking to a friend about how two years ago he was working really hard to increase his business and make more money. Back then what he wanted was more money, more clients, and financial stability. Today his business is extremely successful, it’s more than he can barely keep up with (obviously all of his hard work paid off) and clients are on a waiting list.

He’s super content, right?

The business part of him is, yet…what he now wants is “more free time.” It’s like the spoke on the wheel that was bent (business) is now fixed, only to find a spoke on the other side bent (free time) and in need of attention. And, this is not only a story about my friend; I believe it’s a story about all of us.

So then, how do I identify when I am out of balance and then, how do I place my attention on the areas that are being ignored without creating imbalance in another area? From a personal perspective, it’s super challenging. Let’s look at some possible steps:

Step 1: Identify areas that you value and that feed your soul.

It starts with the question, “What’s important to me?” Start by identifying the areas in your life that fall in line with your values. What areas do you always want to give attention to? These are not necessarily the same for all of us. If you can think of parts of yourself as little kids that all need adequate attention, it’s a great place to begin. It might look like this:

  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Mental & Emotional
  • Physical & Nutrition
  • Family
  • Social
  • Career & Finances

Step 2: Identify which areas are lacking attention and which areas you’re spoiling.

Identifying if I am out of balance can seem challenging but, when you connect with your intuitive self, it becomes much clearer. The sure indicator of noticing when I’m out of balance is: I’m discontent…I have a lack of ease…I have dis-ease.

When one of those kids (parts of us that are our values) is not getting the attention he or she desires, temper tantrums or other maladaptive behavior will occur. If I am placing all of my attention on my business and not getting adequate exercise and sleep, I will create dis-ease and health problems. Eventually, my business will suffer due to my health-related problems. It can become a vicious cycle.

Step 3: Fine-tune it…add a small amount of attention to areas that are lacking.

Fine-tuning the wheel might just mean adding in 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, getting to bed 30 minutes earlier than you previously were, getting some quality alone time, adding more social or family time, or adding in some meditation. I recommend starting with small changes that will not completely throw another cog in your wheel out of balance.

Step 4: Feel it, experience it, and live it.

Okay, so now you have made some minor changes, whether that is spending more time with your family, paying more attention to necessary alone time, doing an online course, or adding exercise to your weekly routine. Now what? My advice is to feel it.

Truly. See if some of your discontent is gone…see if you feel more in touch with your emotions…see if you have less anxiety, more energy, less depression, more happiness. Let it soak in and try and connect with you (the only one that truly knows) to see if you’re on the right track.

Step 5: Breathe, smile and start again.

The gift of being discontent is that it gives you a necessary signal to make positive changes in your life. When that signal goes off, know that your life is constantly evolving, be grateful for that and return to Step 2 to fine-tune again.

Lastly friend, if you find yourself seemingly on track, I would recommend staying the course until something icky occurs…which I would label discontent, dis-ease and imbalance. Really? Yes. Not joking…sorry. Achieving and maintaining balance is a life-long challenge for all of us. It’s intended to be as we keep changing and growing. Attention goes where attention is needed…a new baby, a new job or loss of a job, a new relationship, loss of a loved one, or a health challenge.

Areas in your life will need adjusting to compensate for any new scenario, just as sometimes one of your children needs a little extra attention to get through a tough patch…and that’s perfectly perfect.

When you’re at the place where it’s time to do some adjustment, you’ll know it because that discontent itch will start to fester. Be compassionate with yourself. Everyone deals with imbalance and we all have to fine-tune our lives to adapt to changing variables. Life is complex, amazing, challenging, and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

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