Nollaig shona dhuit!

Nollaig shona dhuit!

Merry Christmas to you! From Ireland. For the first time since my second Christmas…1966…50 years ago…I am spending Christmas in Ireland! This trip was hatched back in July, although it’s probably been in the making all my life. Since finding my biological family over 20 years ago, I had considered the idea as “some year we should…” but other things – and people – kept me in North America and at home in New Jersey most years.

The first year without her father, my daughter and I fled to Cancun for Christmas week with  his mom. There were some redeeming attributes to that trip, for me at least, but my girl said she’d never travel with Grandma again. I honestly should have learned from the 11-day Caribbean Cruise we had taken together for Christmas 10 years earlier. The Mexico trip two years ago, while providing some escape from a holiday table with an empty chair, reminded me too much of the cruise which at times made me sadder. If anything Chris and I were always united against his mother. So a few times when she said something odd, I found myself turning to roll my eyes at someone who was no longer there.

So we were in agreement, no more trips with Grandma. And my daughter said she liked Christmas at home better anyway. Last year we made dinner reservations at The Rock Center Cafe. Essentially home. A quintessential New York City Christmas! Except that it was 70 degrees. And a city packed with people still felt a little empty.

The pros and cons of escaping for Christmas came up in a conversation in July. She admitted that “Christmas at home” didn’t necessarily mean our home, but someone’s home. Christmas was a family holiday. And that’s when she said it, “why can’t we spend Christmas in Ireland.” I couldn’t think of a good reason not to, and a great deal on airfare solidified the plans.

So here we are.

I have had some guilt about not including Grandma in our holidays. Then someone posted this article on FaceBook Surviving the Holidays: 12 Tips for the Grieving. Author Michelle Steinke-Baumgard advises, “be honest with those in your life. Tell them if family time hurts, if you feel lonely in a room full of people who love you. You are allowed those emotions. They are powerful, and they are real.”

So I have accepted the idea that I need to deal with the holidays in a way that is most appropriate for me and my daughter. That’s my biggest responsibility. My former mother-in-law probably feels the same about spending the holidays with me. She declined my dinner invitation Thanksgiving weekend. Change is hard. Especially when it’s about people that are gone. So, so many people that have been part of my Christmases are no longer here. Even the nun that cared for me in Ireland in 1966 has been gone for years now.

It’s better though to live in the present. To feel the bagpipes outside the Church of the Sacred Heart last night when we arrived for Christmas Eve mass. To open presents with my sister’s family. I don’t feel lonely in a room full of people who love me (or a barn full of 43 cows and 5 little calves). This is 2016. We have a big family here in Ireland. And it’s nice to be home.

Shehill Holstein, Couraguneen, County Tipperary, Ireland. Christmas Day, 2016.

 

Ladies, we need to stick together!

Ladies, we need to stick together!

Life coaches practice self-management, meaning I don’t let my own opinions, feelings and experiences come into focus when I’m in a coaching session with a client. That’s what I learned makes life coaching very different than athletic coaching. Life coaching is about helping a client explore where they are at that very moment and helping them discover their own path to navigate the journey – a transformation – toward living the best life they can (the focus on the here and now, rather than the past that has led to that place also makes it very different than therapy). As a running coach, I am called on much more for my experience as a runner and my expertise as a knowledgable “expert” on the sport and training techniques. When I consult with non-profits or provide career coaching to non-profit executives, they also have a certain expectation that I will be sharing my experience because they perceive me as more knowledgeable and that’s why they have hired me. Life coaching is different. A life coach evokes transformation in the client by creating the circumstances and conditions for that growth – not by imparting any kind of expertise or wisdom.

Self management aside, I will admit, that while coaching I learn a lot from my clients. And so often my clients work through their issues and come to conclusions that really resonate with me. This week’s lesson was about the importance of female friendships for women. My client, someone who has worked in non-profits serving elderly clients, talked about older women who don’t do well after their husbands die; they are the ones that don’t have strong bonds with other women. Her conclusion as she transitions into her own retirement was “I now know I won’t isolate myself and get depressed.” That was a big ah ha moment for me.

I’ve been feeling a little down lately. It kind of comes with the time of year. As any of us dealing with the absence of loved ones knows, this time of year magnifies the loss. As much as I want to hibernate from Halloween night to New Year’s morning, that’s impossible and my client made me realize that isolation makes it worse. But it’s not just isolation.  Most of us who haven’t reached retirement age yet would agree that we are out and about and keeping pretty involved and busy, right? What we might be missing though is quality time with women friends – those low pressure gatherings with a genuine, like-minded friend or two with whom we can totally be ourselves.  Too often life becomes all about our kids and our jobs, that we neglect not only ourselves, but our relationships with our girlsfriends…who ultimately are going to be there when no one else is.

I remember all to well the shock and fear I felt after my breast cancer diagnosis. The smarted thing I did almost immediately was reach out to some of the women in my running club that I knew had been there. They not only shared their experiences and offered hope, but they knew what would help me the most.  They got me out for a long run – a support group on the move! They understood me on so many levels and I will be forever grateful for having them in my life. As important as the men in our lives are and all the wonderful things they give us, there is no substitute for the support of a female friend. And together women have accomplished some amazing things (think: Pink Ribbon Campaign or Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Ladies, we need to stick together!

Retirement communities and nursing homes are filled with women! And the happier ones, my client tells me, have cultivated and nurtured relationships with other females. So what can you do today to nurture a female friendship? What will that bring to your life?  What about that is important to you? Think about it – especially now during the holiday season and the long winter ahead.

img_5413Vernon Hills, Illinois. December 2016

 

My FaceBook, My Friends!

My FaceBook, My Friends!

I have this on and off love-hate relationship with social media. I think a lot of people do. I haven’t quite harnessed it’s power professionally, and personally I often find it to be a major distraction and at times – especially over the last few weeks – a source of frustration that can fuel my anger or anxiety. I’m on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler and SnapChat (haven’t quite mastered SnapChat, but my daughter insisted I join – I was just happy she wanted to include me in something!). What I’m really talking about here is FaceBook.

This is what I posted on my wall a couple days after the election:

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, long before the election or even the campaigning. I have over 800 friends on here. How did that happen? Are there really 800 people in my life that I can honesty call “friend?” Of course not.

I use the term “virtual cocktail party” to describe how I position FaceBook in my life. I want it to be fun, and stimulating, and positively provocative…and add “life” to my life. I don’t want it to be stressful, or something that I have to shut down to regain my composure. And MY page is MY cocktail party, so I get to make the guest list. No, not all guests have to share my political views, what fun would that be? But I do want to surround myself with people that I feel have similar values and morals.

To be able to “listen” to my friends, the party also can’t have 800 guests. There are times when I have missed out on big news from people I really truly care about because someone I haven’t seen since the 80s was monopolizing my news feed. And my god, all those birthdays! I can’t take the pressure!

So, I’m going to start gradually editing my friends’ list. Please don’t take it personally if you don’t make the cut…I share groups with some of you and it will be much more appropriate for us to connect there; some of you I’ve seen in toand we don’t even say hello; some of you I haven’t seen since high school; some of you I honestly don’t know where you came from (friends of friends perhaps?); a couple of you I currently work with (and it was always my policy before this job not to “friend” current co-workers).

There are other social media vehicles through which we can still keep in touch. Please make sure I am following you on Instagram and Twitter. Linked In is a much better place for business connections to network with me. If you want to keep up with me, I’m also on Instagram and Twitter. And of course you can keep up on my blog The Cause Coach (on FaceBook, Twitter & Instagram). A lot of what I post on FaceBook is cross-posted on other social media. And finally, please feel free to message me here. If you are totally offended by this, please go ahead and make the decision to un-friend *me* – I won’t be offended. As I stress to my coaching clients, we always have choices…

Yes, we have choices. And just like you wouldn’t invite some people into your home, you don’t need to accept every friend request. If people are a source of negative emotions for you un-freind them! It’s okay. If they don’t like it, that’s their issue. If you’d rather not make waves, then just unfollow them, make them an “acquaintance” – FaceBook has built in a way to help us make choices. We have to make choices that create the life we want for ourselves.

The worst thing that FaceBook has done perhaps is change the definition of friend. We need real friends! People that we meet for coffee, have over for dinner, or who are a phone call away when we need support. That’s not to say those people don’t exist on FaceBook, but I’m sure there are a lot of lonely people out there that have 1000 friends.  Let’s all think about being a real friend. Send a message to 5 friends and make plans. Schedule an hour of your time to be with them…really with them. See their smile widen as they know you are really listening; hear their laughter at a joke you tell; feel the warmth of their embrace. Go ahead and find the true meaning of friendship.

img_2786Welcome. December 2015.

 

Mental Health and Supporting the President-Elect

Mental Health and Supporting the President-Elect

NOTE: This is addressing Hillary Clinton supporters who are feeling really stressed out right now – maybe even depressed. If you voted for someone else or simply don’t care about the results of the election or think we can just “move on”, please stop reading right here. And if you don’t, please refrain from making some insensitive comment about us being sore losers, or the protests against the president-elect being “the result of giving every child a trophy.” If you choose not to follow this blog any longer, so be it. I’ve completely lost respect for you anyway.

I’ve addressed mental health in this blog numerous times. We need to again. According to data released by the American Psychological Association in October, 52 percent of Americans say the election was a significant source of stress in their lives.  Actor Robert De Niro compared his post-election mood to feeling like he did after 9-11.  The number of articles published about the subject of stress, anxiety and depression surrounding this election – dating as far back as March – are astounding (see additional links for a sampling of those at the bottom of this post).

“But 2016 is something else. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, aspires to implement policies far more extreme than the ordinary candidate’s. He talks of launching a trade war with China, deporting millions of immigrants, and enacting a total ban on Muslim immigration. Either through sky-high prices or constrained religious rights, his plans would dramatically alter the lives of far more Americans—in a far more sweeping way—than the proposals of Clinton, Obama, Romney, or McCain.”

How to Preserve Your Mental Health Despite the 2016 Election  – Robinson Meyer, THE ATLANTIC, May 24, 2016. Read the full article here.

 

I let my daughter stay home from school the day after the election. She said she didn’t want to face the kids who supported (that other candidate). Yes, I allowed her to stay home. I made the most appropriate decision for my child. At the extreme, I didn’t want her to have a fight at school. But mostly, I didn’t want to force a kid already dealing with normal teenage anxiety, and some of the other stressors associated with everything we’ve been through, to take on anymore.

“Even before the votes were counted on Tuesday night, phone calls were pouring into suicide hotlines across the US in record numbers. Americans, including those in the LGBTQ community, were looking for help coping with feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and a sense of betrayal.”

Suicide hotlines receive record number of calls after the election – Rachel Becker, THE VERGE, Nov 11, 2016. Read the full article here.

I left work early that day. Even my boss admitted it was hard to focus. My daughter told me about a protest in New York City and asked if we could go. At first I said it was pointless. But as I typed out my reply to her text…you protest policies that need to change or in support of something that will make for the kind of world you want live in…I realized that’s exactly why we needed to go. We needed to voice our concern and show the president-elect that we would not tolerate what we heard and saw from his campaign. This wasn’t about being a sore-loser. I learned how to handle losing in elections and in sporting events 40 years ago.

“This isn’t about party or losing an election. I had respect for George W Bush even though I disagreed with him, and he never scared me as a person. His actions scared me for our planet at times, but never was I vomiting out of personal fear of him. I can’t think of another politician who has evoked such an immediate, visceral reaction so consistently.

“It’s about kicking women in the guts, electing a man we know is a dangerous, unstable predator. This is a man who has nothing but contempt for human life.”

American Women Are Suffering from Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder – Sarah Jones, POLITICUS, Nov 10, 2016. Read the full article here.

We met up with a group at Columbus Circle at the south-west corner of Central Park. There were signs and chants and music. It felt good to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We then began to march down Broadway. We chanted. Donald Trump has got to go; Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay. We were a parade and the spectators cheered. What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like! The police support was amazing. They stopped traffic, closed streets and saw to it that we were safe. Black Lives Matter. A guy next to me expressed hope that the police would be this supportive when the new administration encouraged the increased use of “stop and frisk.” My Body! My Choice! I walked in solidarity with my daughter. For the first time in all her teenage years she wasn’t embarrassed by me. She chanted louder. Not my president! Restaurant workers came out onto the streets to cheer. We got high fives from cab drivers. Our fellow New Yorkers. And I realized that is why we were there. We needed them to know we had their back. There were plenty of Americans that cared about the rights of others.

“Republicans contribute significantly to the breaking of the system, and then they thunder to the country that the system is broken. They refuse to govern, and then they denounce government. They seem to confuse governing with having their way. And more to the point, how does this vast alienation from Washington excuse this vast contempt for whole groups and races and genders?”

Stay angry. That’s the only way to uphold principles in Trump’s America. – Leon Wieseltier THE WASHINGTON POST, Nov 11, 2017. Read the full article here.

It felt good. I was glad we went. Even when I got home and saw the FaceBook posts – a friend who was inconvenienced by the gridlock in the city; others who simply thought of protesters as sore losers. My daughter said she felt better – and that she realized it was so much healthier to shout for the sake of shouting than shouting at someone! – an important lesson in anger management.

We did something. Doing something – being something – helps. It helps change perspectives. It helps keep you focused on what’s important to you.

“Continue to take actions that are in line with your values,” says Keenan-Miller. She advises those who are feeling helpless to focus on a couple of issues they’re passionate about. “Ask yourself, can you be a better advocate to that community in your daily actions?” Think about how much you’re doing in your everyday life to promote things you care about. “Can you turn up the volume on that?” she says. Clark agrees: “Turn your anger and fear into productive action.”

5 Ways to Recover From the Post-Election Blues – Elizabeth Varnell, VOGUE, Nov 9, 2016. Read the full article here.

As a coach I talk to my clients about their values and how they can live the most fulfilling life possible by honoring those values. Young people voted overwhelming against what they heard from the Republican candidate, and now they’re angry; not because we gave them trophies, but because we taught them that bigotry and hate are wrong. We taught them about inclusiveness, and to not tolerate bullies. And in this election, we let them down. They feel their values have been trampled.

I see it in my coaching clients, they feel stress when their values and ideology are crushed. This is what we are feeling. At first we needed to mourn the loss, but with the transition and cabinet nominations, we continue to feel our values being torn to shreds…even if we don’t personally fear losing our rights.

We need to continue to honor our values. We can no longer sit on the sidelines. We have to make donations, protest, sign petitions, call our representatives, and stand up when we see discrimination. And while we’re doing all that, we also need to practice self-care. We need to run and meditate and see our therapist or work with a coach; get a massage and enjoy a walk in the woods or along the beach.

What we can’t do is stop caring. So, no, I’m not going to accept the new administration. I am not going to “join together” in support of him. Doing so wouldn’t honor my values and would be way more stressful. I am going to stand and fight. And I’m going to continue to be an advocate for mental health and Stigma Free. We have come a long way in so many areas – including mental heath – and we can’t go backwards.

More Articles on the Election and Mental Health:

Stressed Out By This Crazy Election? Here’s What To Do About It – Lindsay Holmes, THE HUFFINGTON POST, March 4, 2016

Fear, Anxiety, and Depression in the Age of Trump – Michelle Goldberg, SLATE, September 23, 2016

Here’s How To Manage Your Overwhelming Election Stress – Lindsay Holmes, THE HUFFINGTON POST, Oct. 13, 2016

Talking to Your Therapist About Election Anxiety – Lesley Aldermanoct, NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 20, 2016

What Women Are Telling their Therapists About Election Stress – Alexandra Sifferlin TIME, Nov. 1, 2016

Election anxiety is real. Many Americans report “significant stress” due to 2016 – Brian Resnick, VOX Nov 7, 2016

Post-Election Depression: How to Cope – Charlotte Libov, NEWSMAX, Nov 9, 2016

Election got you feeling down? Good news: It isn’t just you – Maimuna Majumder, WIRED, Nov 11, 2016.

img_5362Collection created by pinning on a race bib at close to 250 road races in the last 20+ years.

I’ve been silent too long

I’ve been silent too long

I’m going to do something I said I wasn’t going to do and discuss politics on this blog. Well, not politics per se, but the presidential election, simple because I feel there is more here than just traditional politics as usual – that is, the usual differences of opinions about what is the right way to govern that are at the heart of our democracy. It’s November 1st. The election is just a week away and I can’t remain silent on this blog any longer.

I grew up in a politically-active family. My father considered himself a patriot. He was an elected official and a staunch Republican. He had a picture of Richard Nixon hanging on his wall until the day he died. His father-in-law never understood why he didn’t support Kennedy. Didn’t all the Irish-Catholics support Kennedy? Was there anything more you needed to know about Kennedy? But my dad had his convictions of what was right and I always respected him for that. He had me agreeing with him until my 20s, when I began to find my own way. When my dad and I began to disagreed on issues we still respected one another for the fact that we cared. To him apathy was a far greater flaw. We were able to engage in healthy debates.

If my father was still alive today, I’d like to think he would finally feel the need to break with the Republican Party. If he didn’t, he would be on the receiving end of MY “I’m so disappointed in you lecture.” Disappointing my dad was, for me, the greatest sin of all. My father could be mad at me – screaming and yelling even – for a whole host of wrong doings, but nothing hit me harder than the simple statement, “I’m so disappointed in you.” That would break my heart. My dad meant the world to me and did so much for me that I just didn’t feel he ever deserved to be disappointed. Now as a parent myself, I have come to understand that parents don’t want to disappoint their children either. This year, if he chose to support the Republican nominee for President, I would be immensely disappointed in him – as I am in all of my friends that express support for that man.

If this was simply about being on different sides of an issue, I could understand why Hillary Clinton may not get your vote. I can appreciate and respect that we have different viewpoints and come at the issues from varying perspectives. This election however is not about the issues – it’s about honoring the values we share as Americans. We are a nation of immigrants that have been fighting for equality for religions, ethnicities, races, and genders throughout our 240-year history. The GOP’s nominee began his campaign saying, “[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems [to] us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

That was just the beginning. The New York Times has a list: 279 People, Places and Things [the Republican Nominee] has insulted on Twitter. I ask you, is this what we want from a President? I got reprimanded in a FaceBook mom’s group for calling those supporting him “crazies.” My response was that we should be teaching our children that the hate, racism, sexism and xenophobia exhibited by the Republican nominee and many of his supporters is “crazy” and that we, as Americans – frankly just as decent human beings – are better than that.

Share Everything.

Don’t hit people.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt people.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

– Robert Fulgham, All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten

I was told that not all of his supports are racist (although I never called them anything more than “crazy”), like all Muslims weren’t terrorists, Mexicans weren’t all rapists, and the Irish (I guess this was supposed to resonate with me?) weren’t all drunks. Of course they aren’t, but when you support a candidate for President that spews so much hatred, you have to ask yourself, “Were there good Nazis?” Is it not our duty to stand up for what is fundamentally wrong? By speaking up, I am honoring my values around respect and fundamental human decency. And maybe more importantly, being a person that my daughter can look at with pride.

As I said, I was initially going to keep politics out of this blog. The tipping point was the Access Hollywood tape. If any good comes from his candidacy it’s that it opened up a dialogue; gave us – women – the opportunity to have a conversation with our daughters, our partners, and even our fathers about our experience as women. This is where I know I would have finally been persuasive. My father treated women with respect. My mother was an equal partner in their business and their life since the 1940s. My father encouraged me in sports, in school, and in business to be the best that I could be and never allowed me to even think for a moment I was inferior to a boy. Maybe that’s why I did so well deflecting the snide remarks, criticism, and harassment from males at school, on the street, in the workplace, and in my own marriage.

Maybe I can even dream and think that maybe, just maybe, my father would share my excitement for a Woman President. No, Hillary Clinton is not perfect. No President has ever been. I think it’s interesting how someone with her resume could be considered by anyone as less than an ideal candidate. She is not “the lesser of two evils.” She is smart, strong, and immensely qualified.

img_5277Philadelphia, PA. October, 2016. Student Union at La Salle University, where as a college student I sat behind a table with a banner for “Students for Reagan-Bush ’84.” Change is good.