Earth Day is every day…

Littering has always been one of my pet-peeves. On a walk back from the beach one day, where we had cleaned up trash, my then 6yr old son raced back home as my 2 yr. old daughter and I lagged behind. My daughter spotted a beer bottle in our path, exclaimed “garbage” and darted to grab it. My mind instantly flooded with worry…what if she cuts herself? the germs? What would people think if they saw her holding a beer bottle!?

Yet, my heart wondered how I could tell her “no”? How confusing the message would be if it was OK to pick up trash at the beach but not here. Was it worth scolding to thwart a genuine gesture? She joyfully picked it before I could finish this internal debate. I thanked her and asked if I could hold it for her. She refused as she was determined to throw it in the bin herself.

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions,then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

I took a deep breath and chose to let it be, yet struggled to stop worrying. I kept thinking about what if someone took a snapshot of this little girl holding a beer bottle. Would they call human services on me? How sad it would be that people could judge me without any context and awareness of the level of introspection that has gone into this moment.  I felt angry at myself that instead of celebrating my daughter’s level of consciousness and sense of accomplishment, I was stuck in fear.

I was reminded of this story when on another outing my kids spent 20 minutes cleaning up cigarette butts from our downtown area. My son was going off on how people could treat the earth like this. I started to worry again but couldn’t get them to stop cleaning so I finally joined in.  We made a game out it and it felt good.

There have been times where I did make some excuse about why we shouldn’t pick up litter and my son expresses, “It hurts my body to see the trash on the ground and have to leave it there.” I get teary-eyed just repeating that statement. Both my children truly understand that the world is not a garbage can and take responsibility to make it beautiful.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Jane Goodall

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself, especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it transcends time and space.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be careful. Take care.
Strive to be happy.

By Max Erhman

This writing has shone great light for me during many difficult times. It comforts me every time I read it. I hung the original copy I got on the outside of my child’s door. It would remind me of the energy I wanted to emit as I entered and left his room.

My grandest positive reframe…

*Trigger warning for pregnancy loss*

On September 19th, 2007, I gave birth to a beautiful girl named Anais. She had ten fingers, ten toes, and a delicate face. When she was born, the doctor exclaimed, “She’s perfect,” yet she was dead…

I used to have a visceral reaction when I heard the word ‘perfect.’ I would cringe, feeling angry and focused on what I had lost trying to live to those expectations. When I heard the doctor describe Anais as ‘perfect,’ I felt offended and thought “she’d be perfect if she was alive.” My reaction was normal under the circumstances (20+ hours of labor and three pregnancy losses) but now I can see that she is perfect.

In order to achieve this positive perspective, I had to give myself permission and space to:

  1. Express and process through all my negative feelings and thoughts,
  2. Be validated for my loss, and
  3. Redefine life, perfection, and all its components.

Merriam-Webster defines perfect as a: being entirely without fault or defect, b: satisfying all requirements, c: corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept.

How could one be human and perfect at the same time?885711_10200369643260248_1620706323_o

What we perceive as faults, requirements, or the ideal depends greatly on context. Some faults are strengths in different situations. When you do not meet all the requirements for one position, you may very well open the door to a better one. There are many different paths to reach the same endpoint…

Thus perfection has evolved to mean when my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are harmonious and encourage me on the path that most honors my authentic self as well as evokes deep connections with others. My baby angels and all children are guides for me on this perfect path. Embracing loss, chaos, negativity, discovering my true self and seeing all the miracles we take for granted is perfection and a grand leap to peace.

As my partner eloquently describes “I am forever grateful for this loss. It was the beginning of my great realignment with my true compassionate self. A life not measured by accomplishment but treasured through connection. She is always with me, tempering my anger, flattening my ego and helping me keep my hand outstretched with kindness and generosity.”

Upon deeper reflection, I discovered another gift that Anais’s and my other babies’ deaths gave me, they were wake-up calls for me to prioritize and nurture myself. Anais especially as I’ll never forget her last movement…I was at work late faxing documents to a lawyer. I was an in-home intensive family therapist for the department of human services dealing with gut-wrenching scenarios. I chose to minimize my discomfort and fears to keep working. Even though I went through a period of self-blame, I know that everything that happens to us has value and meant to teach us. I could not have done anything differently at that point yet I now cherish every day a gift as you never know when it will be your last.

Below is what I sent all my extended family to inform of my daughter’s death…

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Here are some resources on your journey:

“First off — we need a new word for it. ‘Mis-carriage,’ in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother — as if she dropped something, or failed to ‘carry.’ From what I’ve learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn’t do. So let’s wipe all blame off the table before we even start.” ~James Van Der Beek, via  https://www.today.com/parents/james-van-der-beek-opens-about-miscarriages-emotional-moving-post-t137092

https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/miscarriage-child-loss

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/13-things-you-should-know-about-grief-after-miscarriage-or-baby-loss

https://www.famifi.com/21409/how-to-help-when-your-wife-has-a-miscarriage

http://time.com/3982471/men-are-the-forgotten-grievers-in-miscarriage/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm

https://www.mendinginvisiblewings.com/

https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.com/

Take wonderful care of yourself and family ❤

Debra

Who’s the Boss?

Many systems operate from the assumption that there needs to be a hierarchy, someone at the top, a boss to lead, to have power over. When my son was younger, he would sometimes say that it felt like I was the boss of him and he has to do what I say. I reflect back that yes, it does feel like I am telling him what to do a lot. I tell him that I don’t want to boss him around and that I want him to be his own boss.  I do know it is my job to protect and teach him healthy behaviors so when he does things that jeopardize safety or health, I tend to interject. But upon great reflection and listening to my son, I stopped my re-directions, lectures, scowling, and controlling reactions etc. I began to reflect what I was seeing, identifying feelings and trusting him to figure it out. It might take longer, things break and get messy, and he will get hurt, yet he learns what he was meant to learn every time I “let go.” I am amazed and feel great relief every time I do it. Of course, when the threat is of imminent loss of life or limb, I will still jump in but really how often does this happen. I choose to live my life in trust, not fear.

For example, once when he was playing a video game on our computer. I realized that I could not listen to my music on the computer while he was doing this. I felt irritated and entitled to be able to listen to my music on my computer. I snapped at him that he now had a shorter time to play. I felt the negativity tighten my body and heard the shrill in my voice. I stopped myself, apologized to my son for being grumpy at him, shared my feelings in a neutral tone about how I was feeling frustrated that I couldn’t listen to my music because he was using the computer. I let it go and started another conversation with my partner. Within moments, my son turned the sound off his game then opened up our music files and asked what music I would like to hear. All of this happened in less than five minutes and he was five years old.

I could cite 1000 interchanges like this where my children teach me about the power of love and trust, but honestly, this is something one must brother gently leading the wayexperiment with and experience the connection for themselves. Personally, my children get me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy life to its fullest when I am open to accepting their influence. I welcome my son’s so-called “back talk.” He makes valid points and gets me to change fear-based habits. I believe we were all created equal, this includes children. I even think children have greater insight and personal power because their body/mind/souls have absorbed less negativity or interference and are more connected. I work every day to embrace fear, let go, and love and trust more. To lead by example and use power-with instead of power-over. It is hard to let go and can be scary due to life’s unpredictable nature and the fact that many of us are completely unfamiliar with it.

This may help, imagine having a controlling boss, the ones who would like to dictate everything and seem to never be satisfied, focuses on what you do wrong all the time… Now how happy and well adjusted would you be if you lived with that boss 24/7?

If you’d like support on how to lead and guide your children with respect and confidence, you can learn more about my services by calling me at 847 603 4677 or check out Debra Wallace MS LMFT profile at WeCounsel.com

Take Wonderful Care,blog signature

P.S. Here’s an article on how Kids who talk back become more successful adults

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

The Love We All Need and Deserve

 “The essential message of unconditional love is one of liberation: You can be whoever you are, express all your thoughts and feelings with absolute confidence. You do not have to be fearful that love will be taken away. You will not be punished for your openness and honesty…There may be days when disagreements and disturbing emotions may become between us. There may be times when psychological or physical miles may lie between us. But I have given my word of my commitment…So feel free to be yourself, to tell me of your negative and positive reactions. I cannot always predict my reactions or guarantee my strength, but one thing I do know: I will not reject you! I am committed to your growth and happiness… There is nothing else that can expand the human soul, actualize the human potential for growth, or bring a person into the full possession of life than a love which is unconditional. We have labored for so long under the delusion that corrections, criticism, and punishments stimulate a person to grow. We have rationalized the taking out our own unhappiness and incompleteness in many destructive ways…Unconditional love is the only soil in which the seed of a human person can grow…Of course, free will is a factor in every human life. Everyone must say his or her ‘yes’ to growth and integrity. But there are prerequisites. And one of these is someone must empower me to believe in myself and to be myself. ”

 Excerpt from Unconditional Love  by John Powell

Family Hug

This description of love is the epiphany of what I aspire to cultivate. I am blessed to reap the benefits of this intense connection. My marriage has liberated (and challenged) me in ways I have never dreamed of. The problem often comes that although we all deserve unconditional love, when we are not getting it, our fears, negative core beliefs, and most insecure parts of ourselves get triggered.

Our defense mechanisms ensue, resulting in a host of negative reactions and cognitive distortions. We become hyper-focused on the threats and negativity. It very quickly becomes a volcano of negative thoughts, feelings, triggers, unmet needs and hurt. As the unprocessed pain keeps building, our minds, bodies and hearts become overwhelmed with stress, and resentment takes over. This negative chain of reactions unconsciously distorts our efforts to give our love unconditionally as well as thwarting those who wish to give it to us.

I see this pattern push children and adults over the edge and make amok of marriages. We wonder how a couple can be so in love on their wedding day then filing for restraining orders or divorce years later. When I listen to people talk to or about their children and/or partner, I am not surprised by our state of affairs.  So when your child says they hate you, or your partner says they no longer love you (although we usually “act out” way before ever saying this, and kids are more honest and direct), do you retaliate with the things they did wrong or truly listen and empathize with their fears, feelings, pain, and needs?…

We are biologically wired to be in relationship. We need one another to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. We will naturally still get triggered and activate defense mechanisms to protect ourselves but what matters most is how we choose to respond and get needs met in proactive, nurturing ways once we are aware of out negative reactions. We heal best and regain trust through connection, when we feel safe and supported in a relationship with another. Every moment is a gift to transform fear to love, suffering to resilience, reaction to response. We are all born with the innate resources we need to choose wisely. Slow down, notice what you are sensing… breathe…this will connect you to your innate intelligence so you may choose to respond and align your intentions with your actions and thoughts.

Easter and our opportunities to rise again…

One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty and shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative core beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through trans-generational trauma and sadly often triggers me into a negative reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stressors.

After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way. How I will keep working on improving myself. I shared how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise.  I was reminded of how blessed we are that God* gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are symbols of the gifts God gives us every day. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.

My son immediately said “Thank You!” He gave ave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He hugged and expressed gratitude to the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc.  I then read him some stories, the last one was I Believe In Me.

The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note.  I wish everyone to see the beauty and miracles given every day and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.

Deep breaths and baby steps,

Debra

*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.

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