Pantheon of Paradox: Jennifer Louden on Self-Care

I am delighted to announce a new feature that I will be hosting on my blog which I am calling “The Pantheon of Paradox”. In this series I am inviting authors, thinkers and innovators to share the paradox they have brought to the world. The paradox we are starting with is the idea that you can be more productive, more creative and even efficient by engaging in self-care. I know, I know…this is so counterintuitive to our “more is ALWAYS better” idea of what it takes to succeed. Many of us still hold to the bad, sad and self-destructive idea that you have to drain yourself and live on four-hours of sleep, a vat of coffee and deny yourself sunlight in order to achieve what you are after. Yes, it is shocking but true, the better we care for ourselves the more we can accomplish. Continue reading

Self-Care/Comfort Contest

In times of transition, grief, and loss (of any kind) we need some things that are pretty universal: support, people who care, places to tell our story (perhaps some therapy or a support group) and, of course, time. However, there are other things that are unique to us, special objects that have helped comfort us through a loss. I have made a package of those thing that helped me with self-care, self-kindness and self-nurturing during hard times. I would like to share mine with you. Do you know someone who just needs a little extra TLC to get through their grieving? Are you in a time of transition in which you are letting go?

Here are the contents of the self-care/comfort kit that I am giving away:

  • A signed copy of my book,  The Next Happy (once it is released, February 24, 2015)
  • A box of soothing Sleepytime tea.
  • A journal to write your heart out into.
  • A recipe for a comforting tuna casserole
  • A Voluspa 2 Wick Metallo-Laguna candle to remind us that there is light in darkness
  • Jewel’s “Lullaby” CD. For me, for some reason, Jewel singing “Simple Gifts”  can almost always soothe me.
  • Equally soothing, for me, is Thích Nhất Hạnh’s reminding me that all there is the breath. So, I am including his Plum Village Meditation in the package. “I am breathing in, I know I am breathing in.”
  • Jennifer Louden’s wonderful book, “The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life”. It’s a warm, comfy and wonderful reminder about what is really comforting and to find more novel ways to soothe ourselves than the standard comforts we most often turn to.
  • The DVD “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”  which is one of my favorite movies on the promise of transforming grief into a “Next Happy”.

Please enter, and please be sure to share what things have helped you during hard times. Good luck!

What I learned on my summer vacation: The purpose of summer

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.” 
― Yoko Ono summer-collage I have never been a summer person, Fall and all its autumnal pleasures of snuggly sweaters, crisp air, bright orange leaves, and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes has, in the past, trumped mightily the allure of hot, heat, humidity, stickiness and the endless confusion of how to dress when it is 105 degrees (how exactly do you dress professionally when it is 105 degrees, this still alludes me?). Having grown up in Southern California I didn’t really get seasons. Summer meant for me that it’s hot. Fall is less hot. Winter is a little less hot, maybe cold enough for a coat. Spring is, well, Spring is a lot like summer only without the June gloom. Living in Chicago I learned the lessons of seasons that we Southern Californian’s may miss out on (Californians take note): things change, it isn’t supposed to be sunny all the time; cold weather is awesome because you get to sit in the house with a book and read all day; winter always ends; Spring always comes. I knew some, most, of this stuff intellectually, but I knew it-knew it-knew it after surviving my first four Midwestern seasons—and Midwestern seasons are not for sissies, they are, I suppose, where you go for a PhD in seasons. Continue reading

White rabbits, Roman gods and finding my feet…oh my.

White rabbit.

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White rabbit.

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White rabbit.

Unknown-1Yes, I know, it is a strange way to start a blog. However, as the first post of my new blog, I thought I would take advantage of the superstition. It’s an English thing, I think. On the first day of the month the first thing you are supposed to say upon waking is: “White rabbit. White rabbit. White rabbit”.  Supposedly, by saying this nonsensical ode to Buggs  the first thing in the morning you will guaranteed a good month. I don’t really believe in such superstitions, but as it is the first of the month and the first blog post I thought I would throw in three rabbits for good measure.

janus_smallAlso, in honor of new beginnings, I thought  welcoming Janus to my blog might be a good thing.  “Who’s Janus?” you ask, “isn’t that Tony Soprano’s sister?”, and “why are you welcoming her, and not me to your blog?”. Fair question.  Janus is not a she but rather a double-headed Roman mythological deity…and as they say ( who are “they” anyway?) always say, two heads are better than one except when it comes to inviting him to a wedding and you have to order two dinners for one person and the price of catering “per heads” gets all cattywompus and complicated; I digress.

The first reason I invited Janus to this first post is that in Roman mythology he was the guy you wanted to invite to grand openings to bring you luck. Supposedly if you gave him a little honey, incense, and a gold coin or two he would help your new venture succeed. So, I thought, since this is a new beginning that it wise to welcome him to be a sort of guest blogger—if you will in lieu of the aforementioned honey, incense and cash outlay—in hopes that he helps me in this venture. Okay, for good measure here is some honey, incense and currency. You happy, Janus?

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More importantly,   Janus is the Roman god of new beginnings and endings ( hence his month is January, the first month of the year when we tend to reflect on what the previous year was and look ahead with anticipation at the next year) and this is a new beginning for me and it is only right that he be here. This double-headed diety has the unusual talent of being able to look forward and backward at the same time which can be helpful when you are starting a new venture, especially one that is also marking the ending of another( it is also a useful skill set to have as a therapist—we are always looking at least the present and the past as a means of making sense of the now).

Whenever I start something new, even if it is just reading a book or watching a new film or undertaking a new venture, I tend to take note of how things start. I tell myself, “notice this, this is the beginning. The beginning has clues and this is a new beginning. The beginning has information about how this is going to end. Pay attention lady, this is Chapter One.” Each ending deserves to be acknowledged, no beginning is possible without it and hence should be given at least enough respect to check in and ask: What did I learn from that experience and from its ending? When I look back at LBR I see how much it taught me and I dare not use this post to take an inventory of all that it gave me and taught me…but it is an inventory worth taking.

And as I begin this blog, I find that new challenges and angsts and anxieties are peaking their heads up like … white rabbits or Roman gods, if you will.  I am noticing that as I write this first blog post, at this url, that it feels odd and a little uncomfortable and that I have yet to find my feet.  But that is normal, new things don’t feel natural or easy or effortless—they are new and that is why anxiety is to be expected. Let me say that again, anxiety is an expected companion of new beginnings.  As James Hollis says, “ Anxiety will be our companion if we risk”—and new beginnings are a risk. It took time for me to learn that…that anxiety would always show up when I was beginning something new. Now that I know it, I now welcome anxiety and expect it to be part of the deal. So, hey, anxiety, welcome to my new blog.

I’m noticing that blogging here, for today, kind of feels like that feeling when your beloved grabs your hand and has it the wrong way round, and you have to let go of his/her hand and switch your digits around until you are holding hands in a way that you don’t have to think about holding hands anymore.  For me, my thumb has to be on top in the handholding dynamic. otherwise my entire consciousness is possessed by a “THIS IS TERRIBLY WRONG” feeling that will not be ignored. When we are first doing something new it often feels this way. This is not unusual or some sign that you are doing the wrong thing and that you should turn back…it means you are used to things the way they are and that now you are doing something differently—and that can be a very good thing. And while  it feels awkward  for me to blog on another url, I know this feeling will pass and I will get over the hand holding feeling and stop switching my thumbs around in an attempt to get back to the known/comfortable and in time this new space will have its own, yet different, new normal.

Now that I have introduced you to my mythological co-blogger for the day and  you understand my rationale for having him here, I  want to warmly and sincerely welcome you here and thank you for following me over from LBR. And if you are new here and don’t LBR from a  hole in your head then that is swell too—welcome to you no matter what.  No need to know what or who an LBR is in order to be here now ( not sure if my  two-headed Roman deity friend would agree with me on this but this is my blog and he just needs to mind his own beeswax).

On that note, this new beginning is almost over…Janus it is almost time for you to go. Chapter One is in full swing and the new beginning has begun. Dear reader, but please don’t you go so fast. Tell me what is  new for you?  How do you feel about your endings and beginnings? What chapter are you on? If you were to name this chapter what would you call it? Please, I would love it if you would say hello in the comment section and share a little about your chapter.  Seeing your comments will make me feel at home, so please make yourself at home.

Note: This post was set to publish on August 1st, there was a little snafu with the RSS feed and that is why you aren’t getting it until today. I apologize that the white rabbits arrived late.