The Missing Key – A Story About Misdirected Anger

People often wonder what life coaching is or how it could help them in their daily lives. Well, let me tell you a little story about how it helped me uncover a juicy awareness just this past weekend.

My family was heading up to our ranch on Friday and my husband and I were driving up separately, him from work in his pickup truck, me from home in the car he usually drives, an SUV.

Can I just take a moment and brag about how perfectly I had mapped out my day? I used all of my coaching tools to really get clear on what my intention was, what sort of attention I needed to give that intention all so that I could have no tension. It was going to be SO awesome and flawless and I was going to be all zen and relaxed as I pulled out of the driveway with my son and puppy for our drive up to the ranch.

And then reality interfered and despite my wonderful plan for my day, I couldn’t find the key to his car. It wasn’t where it usually was so I proceeded to look in my drawer, which always ends up as a catch-all drawer (yes, there is a metaphor here!). Lots of random crap but no key. I looked in the bags I had taken the last time we went up to the ranch, which was the last time I had driven it. Again, random stuff and no key.

All of a sudden I thought about how he puts his key in his white coat. I thought, “S#!t! He’s got both keys with him!” There goes my perfect day. I texted him and he swore he only had his key and that I was welcome to come to the hospital to pick it up. “S#!t! I don’t have time to do that! That is NOT in my plan for the day.” I said some other colorful words as I stormed around the house looking in every one of my cluttered drawers and bags again still not finding the key.

After about an hour of looking for that damn key, I decided to go and get the key, all while I still really believed that he had both keys with him. I was mad! At one point after looking in cluttered space after cluttered space, I even kicked the wall. I then hobbled to my car, hoping that my toe wasn’t broken, so I could get the key from him.

I got to his hospital office and told all of the office staff my “poor me” story of having to come there on my busy day because of course he had both keys. I could not wait to find it sitting in his truck so my anger would be justified and he’d have to apologize for ruining my perfectly mapped out day.

I got his key from him with no time to go to his truck to find the other key. I calmed down so I could work with a client and then did the grocery shopping I had planned on doing first thing that morning. I got home five minutes before my son was done with school and decided to look one more time. I went and checked a purse I rarely use and then my coats caught my eye. I had looked in some of them earlier but for some odd reason, not all of them. I checked them all this time and in my brown wool coat I felt a rectangular object and knew exactly what it was…the key! I had it all along. S#!t!

So you might be thinking where does life coaching come in? She totally sucked at keeping her s#!t together. Well, the juicy learning in this situation wasn’t about him being right and me being wrong, although one thought I could work was “He ruined my day.” Of course we all know NOW that he didn’t, I did. I made amends by calling him to apologize and the entire OR roared with laughter. I also emailed the office manager to let her know he was right. I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong.

What actually caused the anger was this juicy awareness…

In trying to find the key, I had to face some things about myself that weren’t very pretty or rather some things about myself that were cluttered with stuff. I asked myself what the anger was all about? Where was it coming from? Well, it turns out that the anger just got bigger and bigger with each drawer that I opened because I had to dig and shove stuff around in order to hopefully find the key. If I had found the key in one of them, it would have been fine but it still would have brought up shame because it would have meant that I had just stashed it somewhere rather than taking the time to put it where it belonged. Having to face my clutter drawer after drawer really pissed me off.

I’ve learned that anger is an emotion to indicate when a boundary has been crossed and the humble lesson I learned last Friday was that I was the one who was crossing a boundary with myself. How so? The thing is that I LOVE routine, order, structure. I LOVE decluttering and not having a lot of stuff. It makes me feel so clean and calm. It fills me with joy to open a drawer and know exactly where everything is. Yet, I allow myself to have thoughts like – “I’ll deal with it later” or “I can’t deal with this now because I’ve got to take care of other things, people, pet, Facebook, email, etc.” These are all MY stories, they are not true and they keep me from having what I want in my life. I had allowed myself to not take the time to give my things, drawers and bags the attention necessary in order to fulfill my intention of having spaces that make me feel peace and joy. As a coach I can take this further knowing that my physical space is a reflection of my inner life SO asking the question, “Where else am I not allowing myself to really be present and take time for myself to give attention to the things that are important to me that fill me with peace and joy?” Similar thoughts and stories for that as well, no surprise!

Good to know! I realized that as unpleasant as that morning was, it helped to shine a light on something that is important to me that I have not been honoring. From there, it is up to me to figure out what I can do to align myself and my physical space with what my essential self craves.

I woke up yesterday morning and set about to give attention to the spaces that had been neglected. I took everything out, sorted through it all, filled a garbage bag with unnecessary papers and other things that weren’t needed.

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I now have a completely empty drawer that had been jammed with bills and papers to file.

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I also have a drawer with only things that belong there – including the key!!

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I have a few more drawers and bags to do the same to but I feel better already. In moving forward, I’m going to play with noticing when those blocking thoughts come in and keep me from doing what my essential self craves for both my inner life and my physical space.

  • When you notice anger, ask yourself what it is about?
  • If another person is involved, is it really about the other person or is it that they are reflecting back to you something you aren’t crazy about? Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.
  • Ask yourself what boundary has been crossed?
  • What is it that you are wanting?
  • How can you give that to yourself?

xoxo

Margaret

How Autism Brought Me Back To Life – This Mama’s Hell and Back Journey

This is my most vulnerable piece of writing EVER as I actually put words to describe the “hell and back” journey that autism has taken me on. This story begins back in 2005 when my now 11 year old son was 15 months old. 

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I was feeling overwhelmed and desperately needed time to myself. I walked into Barnes and Noble and there it was again! “AUTISM” in bold print, on the cover of Time magazine. I wanted to rip it from the rack, throw it on the floor, jump on it, scream and smash it’s existence out of my life.

Enough was enough! I was being viciously attacked by this word everywhere I went. Daycare providers bringing me books. Doctors asking annoying questions like, “Does he ever respond to his name?” A family member inquiring, “He doesn’t respond to his name. Have you considered he might be autistic?” My thoughts consisted of, “No.” “Shut up.” “I hate you!”

Nobody seemed to understand that he was a smart, late-talking boy like Einstein. Sure, he did not respond to his name or wave “bye-bye” but he was just smart and did not see the purpose. I wanted everyone to leave me and my sweet boy alone so I could be happy again.

With every comment or question made about him, I pushed down my worry, fear and anger. I ignored it all, wanting to believe that everyone was wrong. I pretended everything was fine.

I’m fine.

He’s fine.

We’re fine.

I pretended even though there was a quiet voice that said, “They might be right.” I hated that voice.

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It got to a point where I couldn’t deny the lack of fineness anymore and while I was not ready, I put my big girl pants on and got ready.

I swallowed my fear and took him for tests which confirmed that everyone was right. My child was autistic. I could not breathe…or think. The moment the word autism was spoken, life as I knew it ended. My son went from being just a child to someone I thought I had to fix.

I didn’t have time to process. He needed help so I dove into warrior mom mode. Research revealed more questions than answers. Any “answers” devastated me. As warrior mom, I handled all the un-fun, challenging stuff so that my husband could be the fun dad he had always been. I did this all without letting anyone know how excruciatingly painful it was.

I would look at my son and feel anger and frustration for all he was unable to do. I had not chosen this. I felt like a horrible mom for feeling these things and the vicious guilt cycle began. All I wanted to do was to crawl back in bed. Instead, I took him to therapies while emotionally I hit rock bottom. I had nothing left to give and the excitement and expectations I had for parenting were gone.

Ultimately, I became an empty shell of a person, defined almost completely by my son’s diagnosis. I had no idea who I was and just went through the motions in my tightly controlled life. I had become everything that I was trying to help my son overcome – controlling, anxious, obsessive and isolated.

I walked into the grocery store and once again, a magazine caught my eye. This time instead of being a dagger in my heart, it was a lifeline.

This magazine issue was dedicated to reconnecting people with their true, essential selves. I needed it more than anything else in my cart. I got home and devoured it like cheesecake. The journey back to my true, essential self began that very day.

The word “autism” comes from the Greek word “autos,” and means “into one’s self.” I had disconnected from myself as a form of self protection from all that I made autism mean. However, reconnecting with and healing my essential self was the key to becoming the person I wanted to be and the mother my son deserved.

I was especially drawn to an article about reconnecting with joy. Despite having been a happy and fun person, I hadn’t felt joy in years. My thinking mind told me this was selfish, but my gut told me this was exactly what I needed. It was time to trust my gut.

The first thing I learned to do was nothing. It might seem to be an odd first step, but stillness allowed me to hear the quiet voice of my essential self once again. As I did nothing, feelings and thoughts began to surface.

Rather than repress my emotions. I set aside time to feel them in a way that felt safe – alone, writing letters that would be burned. I gave my essential self permission to express whatever came up, without judgment.

As I wrote, I cried the ugly cry. My inner bitch expressed anger. I comforted that part of myself that needed a hug. I grieved for the child I had expected. I wrote until I felt complete. Instead of feeling stuck, which I feared, I felt relief, clarity and acceptance.

What was I making autism mean? For myself? For my son?

Was any of it true?

No!

My life was not over.

My son was happy. I was not.

The miserable person I had become was not the person I wanted to be. My response to having a child with autism was to create a life of martyrdom. I did this, not autism.

This awareness was humbling yet empowering because if I could create this, I could also undo it and create something different.

I could choose my thoughts, my reactions, and what I allowed into my life.

I could ask, is this bettering my life or keeping me stuck? I began to add more of what felt good – people, experiences, surroundings – and subtracted what did not.

The power of choice expanded to all areas of my life. My son was still autistic but I was no longer controlled by my thoughts or expectations about it. I no longer attributed his behavior to my parenting skills and this made judgmental comments and looks from others far more tolerable.

The more clear and intentional I became, the more my relationship with myself and my son blossomed. I gave myself permission, time and space to care for myself. I’ve learned that one has to care for themselves first in order to best care for others. Not quite what society teaches AND it was only when I did this that I was truly able to see the world from his perspective and we were able to connect – without fear or resentment.

There was freedom in knowing I could help him but that he didn’t need to be fixed. Anger and frustration were replaced with deep breaths and practical strategies that work in our daily lives, like timers and schedules, and this feels so much better.

Autism led me on this journey to go into my self, to heal, care for and notice what I need to be the best person and mother I can be. I began the journey feeling like a victim and emerged as a leader.

A few days ago, for no particular reason, I was laughing and my son came up, with a big smile on his face, and said, “Mama’s happy!”

Yes she is!

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My intention for sharing this is to let others who might be feeling this way, regardless of their hell, to know that they are not alone. If any part of this journey resonates with you and if you want help reconnecting with your true, essential self, I’d love to help you.  xoxo Margaret

How You Do Anything…

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

These words were first spoken to me three years ago at a STAR program (Self Transformation Adventure Retreat) that was led by Martha Beck and Michael Trotta. There were several occasions where I was actively engaged in an activity – building fire, doing a ropes course blindfolded, sneaking around the woods trying to steal a spoon, you know, typical things on a typical day – not! At least, not back then. 🙂 It didn’t matter because those words brought an awareness to me that I approached each of those activities in the same way that I did everything else in my life. I just couldn’t see it…until that weekend.

I went home and those words and specific questions that are part of Nature Based Coaching stayed with me. At first I thought that it meant that I would be stuck doing things the same because that’s just how I operated in the world. Wrong!! The Nature Based Coaching aspect of that weekend brought those patterns to the forefront of my awareness and I began noticing when I’d be approaching anything in a way that was keeping me stuck. This awareness allowed me to stop and choose something different. I’ve been choosing something different for 3 years now and while I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing this until my last breath, I feel like a completely different person. I feel like I am now a leader in my life rather than a reactor. I feel like ME.

Margaret Webb

I am now part of Sagefire Institute’s Nature Based Coaching program and people are always curious, asking me about what it is and how it can help them as a coach. From my perspective, there is just something so powerful about using nature as a tool to help people get out of their thinking minds, actively engaged in something so they too can see patterns or beliefs that are or are not serving them. No amount of sitting and talking can do what nature does. Nature does not judge so when someone is building a fire and it doesn’t work, it’s not because the fire doesn’t like them or thinks they aren’t good enough. The fire is just giving feedback. Nature just gives feedback. Knowing this and knowing that we are part of nature, we can learn that everything is just feedback and from there, we can stop and choose something different. This is not only powerful for us in our own journey but is powerful for our clients. That was my experience three years ago as I received so many gifts – gifts of awareness, choice, feedback and gratitude. All gifts from nature.

If you are a coach and are interested in learning more about Nature Based Coach Training, there is going to be an informational call on February 28th at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Call-in #  – (209) 647-1600
Code – 259566
xoxo
Margaret

Change Happens!

Seven months ago I would have laughed if you told me I’d be able to run a mile.

I could run to the store or to the bathroom but certainly not a mile. I mean, seriously, running 400 meters left me out of breath and I frequently had to stop and walk.

Seven months ago I also turned 40 and hated seeing myself in pictures because I had let myself go with regards to fitness and health. My clothes stopped fitting, even the ones I specifically kept for when I felt big. At first I felt discouraged and a bit hopeless. Had I let myself go too far to get back to where I had once been? Thank goodness I remembered what I know, which is that…

If I want something to change, I have to do something different.

Some friends had been begging me to go with them to a new Crossfit place that was just starting out. I had been putting them off and then decided to sign up and just try it. I LOVED it! Sure I hated it at times while I was doing it because I was out of shape but I was starting to get sore muscles, which meant I was working my muscles again!!!!!! I learned that I need to have appointments for self-care things like exercise because there will always be things like dishes and laundry that will get my attention if I don’t. I also realized that I like exercising with friends. I like the social and community aspect of it. These are good for me to know!

In doing something different, I was willing to…

  • suck
  • jiggle while I ran
  • not be the best in the class
  • be vulnerable with myself and the people in the class

This past Monday I went to class and looked at the board to see listed: 20 back squats, 400 meter run, 15 front squats, 400 meter run, 10 overhead squats, 400 meter run, 50 lunges, 400 meter run. My first thought was, “S*%! That’s going to be hard! I don’t know if I can do that!” And then the clock started. I squatted. I grabbed my phone so I could listen to music and ran. I squatted. I ran. I squatted. I ran. I lunged. I ran. I finished in 14 minutes 25 seconds.photo-47

BAM! Yes, I was out of breath and it was hard but I did it. I’m so grateful that seven months ago I had reached a point where I decided to do something different.

What is something that your future self will thank you for in seven months? What do you know about yourself to help make that happen?

Change CAN happen! You just have to do something different.

xoxo Margaret

PS – if you are inspired and want to create change but don’t know where to start, join me and fellow coaches Eryn McEwan Seavey and Lynn Trotta, as we share tools and ways to embrace the energy that gives you the permission and power to make changes that will lead you to show up in the role you were meant to play in this lifetime – YOU!! Head here for all of the details – Leading Lady tele-class. Early bird pricing ends Sunday so don’t delay!

A Letter To My Son

Yesterday, New Years Day, I was not feeling so well but my attention was drawn to dealing with paper clutter that had been accumulating. I tackled recipe clippings I’ve been keeping, pages torn from catalogs for gift ideas, and notes in binders from old classes. As I was going through my binder I came across a letter I had written and was stopped in my tracks. I saw something that I didn’t think I had, something I thought I had burned or at least shredded and tossed away. I had to take a minute because seeing it shot me back in time three years. It is something that I talk about with my clients and with the people who take my parenting tele-classes because it was THAT HUGE for me. It was a letter I wrote to my son, not to be given to him or for him to ever see, but for me to be honest with myself, to hear and release what I was truly feeling so I could move on and find some sense of peace and joy in the chaos that was parenting a child with special needs. It is something quite sacred that made a huge difference for me in my journey as my son’s mother.

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Note: I added the actual content of the letter after posting because my husband read it and thought it was too powerful not to share.

Dear ******

I need to write this to you to let you know how sorry I am that you are not developing on the normal scale. You are the most wonderful and happy little guy and have no idea how much I worry and think about how you are going to be when you get older. The great thing about you is that you have your things that you worry about but for the most part you just love doing your thing. I feel that there is never a time for me to be sad about the fact that you are doing things on your own schedule. It kills me when I hear other people talking about what kids are supposed to be doing when you can’t do it. I have never let myself feel sad about this yet know that I can’t get past this sadness to help you without just feeling the badness, the anger, the jealousy, the frustration, the uncertainty, the fear, the tiresome repetition to every new person about the fact that you are different. It is sad but I can never talk about that sadness or my anger without wanting to cry or say that it’s not fair when I see people with lots of kids not experiencing this pain. This is so selfish but I need to do this so I can be a better mom for you. I just need to feel these intense, real feelings so I can move on to feel different things. They’ve been living inside of me for so long and with every new thing that I hear people say about you, I have to push it down so I don’t cry in public. Like Martha Beck says you have to deal with the pain and sadness just as a guest and when they leave they make way for new and different feelings while learning something from them. I am sorry that I am not a very good mom sometimes. I don’t use my time wisely and leave you to entertain yourself while I busy myself. I busy myself because at times it’s too hard but I will try harder to be present with you and to be with you so you know how much I love you. 

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I share this with you because if you relate to this, I want you to know that I’ve been there.

I share this because if we met today you may not believe that I have felt this.

I share this because this is one thing that was standing in my way of getting to where I am today.

I share this because it is  one thing that I was afraid to let myself do.

Why?

I was afraid to admit what I was feeling.

I was afraid that I’d get stuck in the grief and anger.

I was afraid it would mean that I wasn’t strong and that if anyone found out they’d think I was weak.

I was afraid of what it meant for me to feel these things as a mother.

Fear, plain and simple. Fear that was trying to keep me safe, protecting me from the pain I felt at parenting not being what I expected. There was something in me that knew I had to do it because honestly it was just too exhausting to keep stuffing those feelings down…and I’m so glad I did. I survived and it was like the gateway to the other side, the side of possibility, hope, acceptance, relief.

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If you read this and relate, I can help you. This is not a plea or scheme to drum up business. If you knew me at all you would know this is the truth. It is me, Margaret, reaching out to you, saying that I can help. Who better than someone who has been there, who won’t be surprised, who won’t shame you or tell you that it could be worse? Who better than someone YOU can relate to, laugh with, cry with and be honest with?

My mission is to help parents who are feeling or have felt the way I felt in this letter. I can provide tools and strategies to help these parents experience more peace and allow for more joy in their lives just as I have learned to do in my own life. I “live it to give it” (a phrase I learned from my mentor Martha Beck) each and every day which is why I have so much to share. This is where I’ve gotten to, a place I could only dream of just three years ago, a place I thought was only for people with typical children. Allow yourself to drop the fear for just a second and imagine what is out there waiting for you!!!!! I’m excited for you!

If you want help, here are some ways to get started…

1. If you have even an inkling, a hint at the desire to take a step forward to connect with me, please do so!! I love hearing from people. Just email me at margaretwebblifecoach@yahoo.com. I’m really nice (I’m from Wisconsin after all!) and won’t push you to do anything you aren’t ready for.

2. If you know you are ready to work with me in 1:1 sessions head here to get on my calendar –> Set up appointment.

3. Would you rather start with a small group tele-course experience? The next “Parenting the Child You Didn’t Expect While You Were Expecting” tele-course begins in February and is a wonderful (and inexpensive) opportunity to learn and share with other like minded parents or caregivers in order to make your lives better. Get details and sign up here–> Parenting Tele-Course Level 1. If you’ve already been part of Parenting Level 1 and want more, this one’s for you –> Parenting Tele-Course Level 2.  Never participated in a tele-course? It’s super easy and fun. You can join the call wherever you are, wearing whatever you want. If you want to chat before you sign up to get to know me a bit, email me and we can set up a time!

Again, I want you to know you are not alone. Sending you a great big mama bear hug for whatever you are going through in your own journey.

Love and gratitude,

Margaret

Tips for Friends and Family Members

One of the things that I get over and over again is questions from friends and family members of people who have children with special needs – diagnosed and undiagnosed. They are curious, well intentioned, want to know what’s going on as well as what to do and say. I answer them honestly from the perspective of a teacher, parent of a child with special needs and as a parenting coach and educator for other parents who have children with special needs. They tend to be surprised and excited to have some direction for how to build relationship with the child while not offending the parents. They appreciate knowing what not to say. They appreciate the truth and I’m here to share some of what I have found to be true and helpful in my own experience.

If you are a friend or family member, chances are that you are with the child and parents and see some behavior that is different. You may notice things about the child that remind you of other children you know…or not. You may think that something is weird or makes you uncomfortable. You may wonder about all sorts of things and may even have questions like…

  • Why isn’t the child…?
  • Why don’t they just…?
  • The parents should….
  • Maybe I should say…

You may notice these things and want to say something to the parents, offering up some helpful advice or share what worked for you or other people you’ve known who had children like theirs. If the child is not diagnosed, you may feel like you have to say something in order to make sure that the parent knows, that they get help asap for their child or that you can share any information or services that you know of. This is all wonderful and while your intentions are to be helpful, having been on the receiving end of “helpful advice” as well as hearing this from my clients and tele-class participants, no matter how well-intentioned you are in sharing your advice and perspective, it can cause a huge judgement storm which can damage your relationship.

What is a judgement storm?

  • The parent might feel like you are judging their parenting skills and abilities.
  • The parent might begin to judge themselves, something they are usually already doing, feeling like they aren’t doing enough or being enough for their children because if they were then the child wouldn’t have these issues.
  • The parent might judge the child for not being different from who they are.
  • The parent might judge you for judging them. (See? It causes a great big judgment storm that isn’t helpful to anyone involved!)

You might feel like the parent is unaware. My experience has been that parents are usually aware when something is not quite right with their child. That said, they might not be ready to accept this because if they do, then it’s real, and that is scary because having a child with special needs is a BIG deal to their lives and to what they make it mean about what their future will be.

My personal experience with this took place when my son was 15 months old and wasn’t babbling or behaving like any of the other children in his daycare. I had this sense but I also hoped deep down that he was just like Einstein and was going to be a late talker. One of the caregivers gave me a book one day about a mother’s journey with her autistic child and it was like a punch in the gut. I wasn’t expecting it, was caught off guard and was really angry that she would imply that he had autism. I wasn’t ready for that and for what I was making autism mean for our lives. A few months later, his pediatrician got the ball rolling to do some testing and get services. I was a little bit more equipped for it then because she was a professional and going through the developmental checklist, it was pretty hard not to want to find out what was going on. I share this because at that point in time, I hated that person and it changed our relationship. If you make a comment or gesture that is seemingly helpful like this, it could damage your relationship with your friend or family member. Trust that they will get there and that the professionals will do this unpleasant work. Or don’t. It’s up to you!

You might feel like the parent is doing too much, is not doing enough or is making a bigger deal about things than is necessary. This is their business, their life and they have to decide what works for their family. They are doing the best they can with the information and resources that they have or are ready for. They already feel like they are in a fish bowl when other people are around them with their child. Making comments or giving disapproving looks will only add to their feeling of being overwhelmed when what they need is to feel supported.

Having a child with special needs is very much like playing a game of “Whack A Mole” where one issue or concern is addressed and another one (or five) pops up. What works one day for that family might not work the next day. Taking their child out of their comfort zone into situations like large gatherings or public places puts them in a vulnerable situation because it increases they never know what it’s going to be like – Will it be too loud? Too smelly? Too bright? Too dim? Too many people? Too many children? Too long? etc.

You might be thinking, this is great Margaret! Essentially I need to just sit there and shut up, right? WRONG!! There are so many ways to support them and their child without helpful advice or comments.

How can you support the parents?

  • You can support them by following their lead. If and when they feel comfortable sharing with you, let them share. Don’t push or pry. If you are curious and are dying to talk to someone about what you notice or why things aren’t handled differently, find someone like me who you can share what you are noticing without the fear of damaging your relationship. Trust that when they have gotten to a point where they can accept and say things without bursting into sobs, that they’ll share.
  • Support the parents by asking simple questions like “How are you doing?” or “Is there anything that you need that I can help you with?”
  • Support the parents by not questioning or minimizing their choices…even if you don’t agree with them. It’s hard enough to sift through all of the resources and information out there that if they feel strongly about trying something, again, trust that they are doing the best with the information and resources that they have. They want what you want, for their child to be happy and healthy.
  • Support the parents by engaging with the child at THEIR level, where THEIR interests are without the expectation that they need to be any different from who they are. You will create frustration and annoyance if you expect the child to meet you where you are or to be like other children/grandchildren that you might have. Try viewing the world through the perspective of the child. This will help you to connect with them and will also teach you a great deal about yourself. Doing this will also help you to have a better understanding and greater compassion for what they parents experience as they are raising this child because trust me, it is not easy and is a big deal in their lives.
  • Supporting the parents like this is what they need, at least it’s what I needed. No helpful comments or suggestions necessary AND the opportunities for connection and building deeper relationships with everyone is much greater.

If you are needing support in this area, please let me know. Like I said before, I get questions from people all of the time and will answer you honestly and openly without taking anything personally.

If you have a child with special needs and have family members who could benefit from reading this, please share.

Questions? Message me at margaret@sagefireinstitute.com.

 

Energy Conservation and Channeling My Inner Lioness: Powerful Lessons in Parenting

My husband and I just took our son to Disney World for a family vacation. My husband had to leave a day early and so it was just AW and I taking on the Magic Kingdom. We were in the “Carousel of Progress” ride when my son made one of his sounds, which is annoying yet I cannot control the noises he makes or know when he’s going to make them as he does them almost as a tic. I calmly remind him that he needs to be quiet, turn the volume down because there are other people. He does it again. I catch a lady sitting two rows back looking our way, sighing, rolling her eyes, mumbling. I turn my head, make eye contact with her to let her know that I heard and saw her disapproval. This made her extremely uncomfortable and she wiggled in her seat a bit. I held my glance for a second longer and then calmly returned to watching the show and reminding my son to keep his volume quiet.

The next day we were at the airport in the security line and it was our turn. My son was standing behind me and I was using the scan code on my phone as our boarding pass. I did mine first and the security guy told me I could go. I told him that I still needed to get my son’s and the lady next to me in the next line gave another big sigh and smacked her boarding pass on the railing between us. I turned and looked at her to see if she had actually just done that and she indeed had. I locked eyes with her, she became extremely uncomfortable because there was nowhere for her to go and then I calmly went about getting my son to say his name for the security guy so we could pass through.

I was relaying this to someone when we got back and got into a friendly debate because that person felt I handled it in a passive aggressive manner and had missed an opportunity to educate these people. This may be true. I could have walked over, apologized, explained, apologized again, etc. I could make sure that I always have clever cards in my pocket that thanks people for their patience with my autistic son – not a bad idea but I’d have to make sure I had them all of the time.

However, what I have learned over the years and what I teach to the parents in my parenting tele-classes, is that it is MY choice when I feel like educating someone. I spent years explaining, rationalizing, essentially blurting out all of my son’s differences to anyone who glanced our way. This is exhausting AND it doesn’t guarantee that they will be kind, patient or loving. I will add that it is also very different when someone is genuinely curious and asks questions. This I appreciate because it is a completely different exchange of energy – apologetic victim vs. empowering leader. At least that is how it has felt for me as I’ve changed over the years.

What I also realized when reflecting, is that this points out a bigger lesson that I have learned about energy – choosing when to spend it and when to conserve it. I have experienced this lesson while participating in nature based coaching workshops. I have experienced this lesson watching horses in pastures and being in a round pen with a horse during equus workshops. I got to see this lesson over and over again while on safari in Africa.

In nature, animals conserve their energy until they need to expend it.

I watched three lions walk…

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right past a couple of buffalo…IMG_1260-1

because they were on their way to the drinking hole before snoozing in the shade. The buffalo ran a very short distance but then stopped, turned and watched the lions (which is when I shot this picture). Sure the lions could have taken down one of the buffalo but they didn’t need to, what they needed was water and rest.

They don’t spend energy when they don’t need to.

Spending energy when they don’t have to puts them at a HUGE disadvantage that for them can lead to death.

Conserving energy does not mean that they are not aware, in fact, their soft focus during the conservation times allows them to be more aware, seeing and hearing everything so they know when to place their attention on a possible threat.

The lead mare in a herd of horses is not the one who is loudest or most aggressive. In fact, that horse might be the weakest at the time because they are spending so much energy and their focus is not on keeping the herd safe, it’s in being heard and seen. The lead mare in fact is calm, aware, making sure the herd stays safe and fed and she does this by taking care of herself in order to keep the herd safe because if she’s distracted or gets caught up in whether the other horses “like” her, she’s not leading. Apply this to your own life and it becomes humorous! Realizing this rocked my world as a person and as a parent and I haven’t been the same since!

Humans spend a lot of their energy on things that they perceive to be dangerous –

  • thoughts about things they cannot control
  • judgement from other people
  • other people’s perceptions of them

Fortunately we don’t get eaten by lions but what does happens is that we typically create experiences that potentially feed into what we feel to be dangerous. We get angry and express that anger in ways that don’t represent the people we want to be and then we perseverate on what we cannot control (other people and then our emotions). We worry that we’ll be judged as not being a good parent. We compare ourselves to other parents and try band-aid fixes to create what we imagine that the have. This is not helpful and it happens when we need that conserved energy, say in order to stay calm and patient with an over-tired, over-stimulated child, we don’t have it and end up feeling and expressing anger because we are exhausted and our energy reserves are depleted.

How have I applied these lessons to my life?

I have learned not to give a shit about what other people think of me or my child. I cannot control the thoughts and judgements of anyone else and any illusion that I can just wastes my time and energy. What other people think of me or my child is their business. I stay in my own business.

I choose to conserve my energy when I come across people who are expending lots of their own energy over perceived threats – like the fact that they can’t put a finger on what’s going on with my son. To them, since he cannot be controlled, he is a threat. Again, I stay in my own business. I remind myself that I cannot control anything or anyone. I take lots of deep breaths which is what I need to do to take care of me. Other than a look, if that’s what I feel like doing, I try not to engage with these people. If I do, I try to keep myself calm and not get caught up in their fear, which usually comes out in the form of yelling, arguing, telling me what I “should” or “shouldn’t” do. I remember that it’s not fun to argue or be negative with oneself so if I don’t join them, it becomes fun to watch them try to figure out how to get me engaged.

I have learned not to put the comfort of other people above my needs, which are usually to stay calm and care for my son. But just like a lioness, I can lock eyes with that person, let them know that I see them, hear them and quite honestly could take them down, but that they are not worth my energy right now. I channel my inner lion!

That, my friends, is a powerful way to lead. At least that has been my experience. 🙂

xoxo

Margaret

Who “Triggers” You?

“Triggered” – activated, agitated, annoyed, envious, perseverate on, stew about, etc. 

  • You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed. You see a post a “friend” has written telling you about something they’ve done or are going to do and BAM! You’re triggered.
  • You’re picking up your child from school and you see that mom who drives you crazy and BAM! You’re triggered.
  • You’re hear a story about a family member who has unhealthy habits, still, and BAM! You’re triggered, wondering why it is that they just can’t pull it together.

I’ve been having this come up a great deal with my 1:1 clients, I see it in threads on Facebook – people triggering other people, and have experienced it myself with a few people that I don’t even know very well yet their posts send me spinning into negative thought land. Well, I’m one to jump right in and track what’s going on so I’ve become quite fascinated with who triggers me in these situations and even more so WHY I get triggered and what I’ve boiled it down to is that…

a. they have something that I desire to have in my own life or I want the feeling state of what I make it mean about their life because of it.

OR

b. they represent something in myself or in my past that I don’t like (habit, trait, tendency etc.).

Here’s what I do when I get triggered:

I have certain feelings, thoughts, tendencies when I get triggered and I’ve gotten to know what they are and how I behave when this happens. I tend to have really negative self talk and then I start gathering evidence to support that negative self talk. I tend to eat food that is bad for me. I snap at the people around me who try to engage with me while I’m triggered – how annoying of them! Ha!! PS -This is what NOT to do, yet this is something that I’ve heard is common with other people as well so I’ll put it out there.

I notice when I’m doing this and ask myself some questions to get my monkey mind working to stop the trigger cycle and start researching what’s really going on.

1. What is it about that person that triggers me? Why? What does what they do or say have to do with me?

2. Is there something that this person has or appears to have that I want in my own life? (Honestly, for me single people or people without children trigger me at times because I envy the freedom that they appear to have to just go wherever, whenever without having to make sure everyone is taken care of – my own shit! I own it and continue working on this!)

3. Is there something in that person that reminds me of myself or something that I’ve dealt with in my past?

Asking myself these questions allows me to find compassion, for myself and for the other person. It puts me back into a space that I can influence which is my own life. It gives me some perspective and space to get curious. It is only when I give this to myself that I can move forward instead of spinning around in circles in my mind. The hard, humble part of this all is that they aren’t doing anything to you or to me. They are just being who they are. It is our response that matters and it is our choice of what to do about it. For me, being triggered never feels very good so I try to figure out what it’s teaching me as soon as I can so I can get back to doing what I do best…being ME!

So…who triggers you?

 

“Bettering” the Parenting Things We Do

As parents and caregivers, there are always going to be things that we choose to do for our children that may not be the most fun for us (carpool, sports practices, waiting rooms, etc.) but that doesn’t mean that these things have to be completely unpleasant.

They can be “bettered!”

I learned that by adding some things that I really enjoyed or wanted to do, I began to look at things like time in the waiting room, driving carpool, etc. as a gift of time where I had to do something for me instead of being trapped in an annoying situation. I still take Andrew to therapies and drive him to school but I go with such a different attitude because I’m getting something out of it too!

Things I’ve added:

  • audio books
  • MP3 recordings of classes that interest me (TED Talks are also a favorite!)
  • Headphones – noise canceling or ear buds
  • My new favorite app called Brain Wave which has soothing sounds (ocean, rain, white noise) along with sound waves to encourage different brain states – relaxation, focus, energy, deep sleep (great for bedtime, not so great in the waiting room :) ) or Calm.com which combines nature sounds and images.
  • iPhone/iPad with my favorite music, movies or apps.
  • DVD player with a favorite DVD or even one rented from the library that you’ve been dying to see
  • Favorite pen/pencil and journal to write thoughts, ideas, lists, etc.
  • An adult coloring book – I’ve recently printed out some free pages and am going to purchase a book because it’s been fun, relaxing and I also got some great ideas while coloring  (one source: http://mandalacoloringmeditation.com/mandala-coloring/)
  • A beverage – flavored sparkling water or iced lattes are my favorites these days!
  • Favorite catalogs or magazines (I even bring a file folder and tear out things that make me feel good to use to create a vision board. A vision board is a collage of pictures and phrases that make one happy to look at. It’s not necessarily about “things” you’d like to have but more about the feeling you get when looking at something. As you can see from my personal board, for me, the colors of autumn and the contrast of cold snow and cozy interiors really speaks to my soul.)

My vision board made from phrases and pictures that make me happy.

Think of something that would make you feel a little bit spoiled and it may turn an ordinary, boring experience into a little treat time for you!

Something For Siblings

Since Andrew is an only child, I don’t have anyone else to bring with me but if you do, you could also apply these same strategies for them – perhaps a special backpack with things they are only allowed to do when taking brother or sister to therapies or practices. Kind of like when I’m planning for a trip, I gather favorite catalogs, games and snacks to make this time more pleasant.

I encourage you to do something to take a little of the burden off of yourself and add some joy. This is about adding or making small changes to make a difference in your life and if you do it enough, your life will start to be filled with things that bring you so much joy and peace even while sitting in a therapy waiting room.

Note: This idea is something I learned from the book, The Joy Diet by Dr. Martha Beck and is part of a strategy she calls “The 3 B’s – Better It, Barter It or Bag It.” This tip is how I have implemented the “better it” strategy in an area of my life that was boring and blah. The vision board is an idea I learned from her book, Finding Your Own North Star.

Back To School = New Years

Back to school time is a lot like New Years, don’t you think?

A time filled with new possibilities. A time to make positive changes. A time to show up as the person you want to be – the real YOU. A time filled with the desire that this will be the year where things are better, calmer, more laughter, more memories created.

If you are anything like me, you feel this way each year and yet each year things happen, life starts moving fast and before you know it you’re back into the same rhythm, just reacting to whatever is thrown your way and not feeling too great about it. Well, my friends, let’s do something about that! Let’s make this the year where we really have what we want. Who’s with me?

Back To School=New Years!!

Let’s start! Think back to last year.

What worked for you and your family?

  • Did you have any routines, systems, strategies or schedules that helped you stay on top of things?
  • Did you ask for the help that you needed?
  • How did you set yourself up for success?

What did not work?

  • What were the times you dreaded?
  • Did you say “yes” too often and “no” not enough?
  • Did you over schedule yourself and your children?
  • Did you not take time to plan?
  • Did you try to do everything yourself without asking for what you wanted and needed from your family?
  • Were there any patterns that you notice when you think back?

*For me, it was always times when I got sucked into the computer before tending to the necessary things and then had to run around in order to get out of the door on time.

What can you do differently this year to move towards what it is that you want for you and your family?

  • What are some routines or strategies that you can implement to help you create the feeling state that you want for your home and family life?
  • What can you do to be proactive about the times that tend to be challenging?
  • How can you better experiences that you have to do as a parent?

Involve your children and partners in this and be honest, telling them you want this year to run smoothly and brainstorm together how they can help make this happen, divide responsibilities up front so that every one knows and is clear on expectations. Also make it clear that if they need help or are stuck, to ask for help!!

So what does this really look like for a real person?

This may look like:

  • lunches and snacks prepped or made
  • backpacks with completed homework in them before bedtime
  • clothes and uniforms set out
  • shoes and keys in a place where they can be found
  • notes from school read and any response or action needed done at night

These are common parental frustrations because we just want things to run as smoothly as possible so we can all get out of the house without yelling or sweating, drop the kids off and not spend the next hour feeling bad about the morning. It doesn’t have to be stressful and we can take the lead, we just have to be able to notice what’s working, what’s not working so that we can do different to create a different outcome.

This Back To School New Years isn’t just about the kids!

This may also be the hope for all that YOU would love to do now that you have less people in your house or my personal favorite, having the house to myself!

Take some time now to make a running list of all of the things that you’ve wanted to do around the house, for yourself or for your business over the summer but put off because there were other things to do and people to care for.

This list will come in handy on those days where you’ve got a wide open schedule and your brain freezes as to what to do. (I’m totally doing this and will post a picture because I get brain freeze ALL of the time!!)

No matter how big or how small, put it down.

  • Organizing
  • Cleaning
  • Dreaming
  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Sewing
  • Running
  • Playing tennis
  • Volunteering
  • Napping
  • Gardening
  • Yoga
  • Catching up with friends

Whatever makes your heart sing or would make you feel good to have completed, write it down.

This is an exciting time of year for everyone. My favorite back to school movie is Dead Poets Society because it just makes me feel like I can do anything and be my true self. Carpe Diem people!! Let’s seize this time of year and create lives filled with more joy, more laughter, more memories!

If you need help or get stuck once school starts, get on my schedule and I’ll help you out!!

xoxo

Margaret

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