Tag Archives: empowerment


Since my last post (has it really been a few months?), I continue to work away at de-cluttering, a task that raises more questions than solutions. A conversation this morning about life stresses seemed to echo my own challenges with … Continue reading

On winning bronze………….

Watching the Olympics this week has provided me inspiration to write again but don’t worry, this isn’t another armchair analysis of what Canada should or not feel, be doing or not, for and about our national athletes. Others are better or maybe just more prolific at that! What captures my interest is the whole question of whether winning bronze, struggling to stay in the middle of the field, coming in dead last or crashing, being struck by illness or injury, are worthwhile endeavors when you can’t, won’t or shouldn’t take the gold medal.

Enough of the sports analogy……….now I’m talking about life on your own individual level. Lately I’m noticing a theme in conversations with clients, friends and family around goals that aren’t being met. In relationships, it may be goals for your partner, something they really ought to become that bears little resemblance to who they really are right now. Individually, it may be around definitions of yourself that you keep struggling to accomplish, a story of your life that you wish to tell, but have yet to realize. From some folks, I’m hearing of holding back from embracing the reality of today, holding out for the day that perceived obstacles disappear. From others, it’s more about not wanting to look foolish by trying for something they fear they might not accomplish or believing that certain aspirations are only for those brighter, wealthier, thinner, taller, luckier, braver, more accomplished or experienced, more connected, abler………….. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Are any of those limitations familiar?

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about a trip I was in the midst of planning, and found myself getting stuck around a part of the itinerary because I was caught up in what I should do as opposed to what I wanted to do. My very wise friend asked why I should, and very kindly refrained from laughing as I got very perplexed trying to justify some very odd and faulty reasoning. This wasn’t a huge life decision, but I know such reasoning affects me sometimes in both the minutiae of daily life and really significant choices. Here is my biggest limitation……….. trying to manage others’ perceptions of me. Fortunately, I have a few people in my life who I trust to hear my quandaries with patience and wisdom, and help me challenge that limitation. Perhaps you have some people like that in your life.

So my question for you today is whether you refrain from really living in the life you have now, or reaching for something more, because of limitations you perceive, some mythical panel of judges who will reduce you to tears by their criticisms or fail you by their bias or cast you out of the ring for daring to show up without some exhaustive list of pre-requisites? If so, try asking these questions:

  • What’s the worst that can happen? (and how long will that last?)
  • Who says?
  • How do you know that?
  • If you try and fail, is there a great story in that?
  • As opposed to what you may believe about yourself, what do you want to believe about yourself?
  • What else were you going to do with your time, money, effort, heart?
  • When will you be ready, the conditions just perfect and success guaranteed?

So whether you go for the gold, strive for bronze or really just want a participation medal for living engaged in your own life, what most likely stands in your way is the perception of limitations. It truly is within your grasp to challenge those limitations, work around them and find a way to pursue your own unique aspirations.

One step at a time………..

So…………I haven’t published a new blog in a while and haven’t really had a good reason, just feeling like life has been complicated lately. Do you sometimes feel like that? For me, there have been a lot of unexpected things to take care of, both good and bad, and it seems to have continued to sidetrack me. Part of my struggle, I’m becoming aware, is a notion that once I get a particular focus dealt with, it will be smooth sailing. Truth seems to be that life is just not that predictable. This is not a bad thing, in fact over the past few months, some occurrances that looked bad have actually created opportunities. What I needed to do, I learned, was to handle matters within my capacity and let the rest play out until I could see what was possible. Fortunately for me, none of the things I faced were real disasters, but it’s led me to think about how one faces those. My best answer?…………one step at a time.

“One step at a time” – a phrase we often use means many things. When life just seems complicated and overwhelming, it’s a good mantra. But how do you take one step if you don’t yet know the road you’re on? Imagine being blindfolded and not sure where you are. That’s often the case in the midst of a crisis, whether it’s a relationship that’s in jeopardy, a life-threatening illness, loss of a job, an accident or other unexpected event.

The problem you often face in a crisis is in trying to figure out what is actually wrong. If a situation feels chaotic, your senses are overwhelmed and your logical brain not very effective in sorting through the data. Fear and hurt do some funny things to your mind.  You may be reaching for a solution, but what you find is instinct you can’t even really define that compels you to either strike out or hide. When you hear advice, it’s easy to dismiss it as meaningless, impossible or critical. When seemingly nothing is offered, you may feel abandoned or hopeless.

What does help, as I’ve seen time and again, is to allow yourself to feel scared, hurt and lost, to accept that your life as you have seen it may have changed irreparably, and to do whatever is within your capacity right now. This means starting small with taking stock of what is immediately surrounding you – people, resources, and circumstances. Probably nothing you can do will seem like an answer to the crisis, and generally it’s not. What it is, is regrouping, starting to find a base of safety, however fragile it may be for now.

Some things to consider when you find yourself in crisis: Who is with me in this? If no-one is sharing the crisis, who is a stable source of support? In either case, literally or metaphorically, take their hand and sit with them. Let yourself simply be connected to another human being. They may or may not have answers…………that doesn’t matter as much as knowing you’re not alone. What is available to me right now, in this moment, that I can be sure of? If it’s as simple as ground to stand on, a chair or floor to sit on, so be it. If you can take one breath after another, you have a place to start. From this place, there are small steps you can take.

I’m not suggesting a solution to your crisis here. There are too many factors that will be unique to your situation to consider. The steps you take will be yours to master and when it all seems too much and you reach beyond your current capacity, pause, regroup and settle yourself again in what you know just for right now. Then begin again………………..one step at a time.

I Can’t………Can I?

Some interesting conversations this week about what it means to say "I can’t…….".The one that started me thinking about this was a friend whose recently ex partner has shown a remarkable aptitude for not just cooking, but the planning and preparation of meals, but only since they parted. Some version of this observation has always made me laugh because relationships are one of the typical locales where we separate activities into who can’t do what.
Not really such a bad thing when we partner up to sort out who might be better at or like better some aspects of managing a home, but as a couples counsellor I also see lots of conflict around the division of homemaking tasks. More often than not the conflict arises out of some version of "Can’t you chip in and figure it out when I need some help?". What often seems to be developing is a pattern of overfunctioning/underfunctioning and resentment, with roles switching out depending on the task at hand. Objectively, most adults can do most things with some suppportive encouragement, information and practice.  Sometimes, though, the willingness to try gets squelched, either by fear of recriminations if it’s not done according to the other party’s standards, or by a reluctance to make the effort when the other person is already taking responsibility and it’s easier to coast.
This isn’t the right forum to get into all of the convoluted dynamics of relationships that allow these patterns to flourish and build resentments. Before anyone starts to assume this is a male problem or a female problem, let me be clear that both genders play the "I can’t…….." card. Think about it – "I can’t cook" or "I can’t mow the lawn" or "I don’t know how to vacuum" or "I’m no good at taking care of household repairs". We often see some tasks as belonging to either men or women, but what about singles who just get on with it and manage their lives. Truly, most of the stuff we "can’t" do, can be learned. The question is really do you want to. Honestly, if you don’t want to, maybe it’s better to just say so, and work out an alternative arrangement, whether you have a partner who does want to or you hire someone to do it or you simply go without.
Separate from the relationship dance of who can do what and who can’t, I think we all sometimes use the words "I can’t……" to avoid things that maybe we’re scared of, don’t want to do, have incorrect assumptions about, or worry about looking like a fool while doing. Can’t gives you an out, but perhaps it’s too easy an out. How interesting it would be if all of us tried one thing a week that we think we can’t do. This has been important to me for a while now and I’ve had some fun, learned some things (including that there are some things that I really don’t want to do again!), and gained experiences that changed me, for the better. Having tried some things I previously "couldn’t" do, doesn’t mean I became brilliant at all of them or made them a passion. In fact there are lots of things about which I’m content to say "Been there………..done that……….don’t need to do that again". But there are a few that continue to make me smile.
So, my challenge to you is that when you hear yourself say "I can’t…….", ask "Really? What would happen if I tried?". If it really is a no-go, the consequences are too costly, then be honest with yourself and others that you don’t choose to. But if you choose to try, let me know what happens!