Learning to Embrace the Rain

If I was graded on empathy, I would probably fail.
Maybe that surprises you, maybe not. It probably doesn’t if you know me pretty well in real life (not internet life). But I care about having empathy, so I’ve been in self-prescribed empathy training for a while now.

I wasn’t taught to be empathetic and I definitely wasn’t born with it. I can intellectualize my way around this with the story that my below average empathy is also an asset. That would be true for a surgeon perhaps. But I’m not a surgeon; I’m a life coach. I can even soothe myself with the story that my lacking empathy is the very thing that enables me to help others in pain because I don’t get bogged down with my own emotional reaction.

But soothing myself has only kept me in the following cycle. Hear the word “empathy,” remember that I don’t have much, feel ashamed for it, use my brain to talk myself out of feeling that way, and everything is better. But only until the next time I hear the word. And guess what? I hear that word a lot.

I now think that the same habit of intellectualizing to soothe myself has been part of my empathy handicap. But more on that later. First, I have to confess this.

I feel shame when I think of empathy. I judge myself as broken. I feel unworthy of the work I do. I am jealous that other people have it. Just hearing the word makes me feel not good enough.

Those sentences are the things I need to say, write, and share. I need to acknowledge them as part of the process of learning how to be empathetic. I don’t want the soothing cycle anymore. I want to feel my shame and know that I’m okay. I want to accept and love myself with all of my shame-y bullshit. And yeah, I want to get better at empathy. I want to do that for me, not because I’m not good enough if I don’t have it but because I think it’s a healthy endeavor for any human in relationship with others.

Empathy, as I see it, requires me to do two things I have struggled so much with:

  1. Feel all of the emotions and know how every emotion feels
  2. Dive into the well of emotional experiences when confronted with someone else’s feelings in order to really see the other person

Empathy Training Part I
I used to think I just didn’t have all the emotions other people have. But really, I had an excellent defense mechanism. Whenever I got even the slightest whiff of a vulnerable emotion, I immediately mobilized my battlion. These are the emotions that would either protect me like armor or protect me by attacking first: anger, judgment, disapproval, disgust, etc.

My battle emotions were there to hide the tender ones. Showing tender emotions felt like exposing my most precious treasure to a bunch of barbarians who were going to smash it to bits, so I taught myself to never show things like sadness, loneliness, humiliation, or shame. And I got so good at it that it seemed to me like I didn’t actually feel those things. Until empathy training.

They are actually there. I just had to disengage my defense mechanism and start out as an emotional toddler. I had to actively investigate what I was feeling behind the armor. Here’s another reason I wanted to do this, in addition to increasing my empathy. By rejecting those feelings, I was really rejecting myself for all those years. That is completely misaligned with my mission to love myself. So, my work for the first part of empathy training has been to identify, feel, and share my emotions.

Empathy Training Part 2
When confronted with another person’s vulnerable emotions, I would employ another intellectualize-to-soothe trick. Instead of diving into my supply of emotional experiences to tap into what the other person was feeling, I would find one of my survivor narratives. Maybe I didn’t have a similar emotional experience but I could find similar circumstances and in 100% of the scenarios, I conquered and rose victorious. Instead of feeling all the pain and telling people about those times and getting stuck in those emotions (ugh, who would want to do that?!), I persevered!

Let’s add a fear-driven desire to the mix. I wanted to know everything and be the expert because I thought worthiness must be earned. Not only did I need to bury the bodies of my emotions and fast before there were witnesses, I also needed to spin every unpleasant experience into something I could teach others. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with that except that it was the well I was drawing from when someone was feeling pain near me. In someone’s moment of vulnerability, my habitual response was to figure out how expert-me could help you solve your “problem.” It never even dawned on me that the damsel in distress may not be looking for a hero. She might just want to be acknowledged and connect with someone.

The second part of my empathy training has largely been to do my best to shut up, listen, and maybe ask questions. Respect the pauses. Resist the urge to share for the purpose of making myself feel valuable. And most importantly, tap into this emotion that is present.

I want more out of this life and my relationships.
I want to have the courage to feel. I want to see the people in my life. I want to be seen for more than my triumphs and advice. I want real connection and intimacy. And so, empathy training continues.


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In gratitude for ugly emotions

Jealousy and disgust are two emotions I like to keep a close eye on.
They feel pretty ugly, so that’s one reason. But I have a couple of other reasons, as well.

Strong feelings of any kind usually motivate us to act in some way. When we feel unpleasant emotions, we’re going to do anything we can to make it stop. For me, the “action” takes place all in my head.

When disgust shows up (and frankly, I am disgusted by how often it does), I tell myself a story of how different I am, how I am nothing like the behavior I’m judging.

If it’s jealousy, the narrative might be that I’m not good enough because I haven’t found the success I desire (that may seem like the opposite of making unpleasant feelings stop but in its own misguided way, the ego is trying to motivate me to be successful) or it might be that the other person doesn’t deserve what they have.

That’s some messed up shit, right? Obviously, I want to shift myself away from those emotions because they just plain don’t feel good, but also I am committed to connection and love. Those things cannot co-exist with the separation I’m creating by seeing the differences between myself and other people.

When I first started working with jealousy, my strategy was to interrupt the narrative and take a different action.
I'd often compliment the person for whatever I was jealous of. Celebrating the success of others has been a surefire way for me to not only get rid of the unpleasant emotion, but also to pull myself back into alignment with who I want to be.

When it came to disgust, I tried to replace the “we’re nothing alike” track in my head with the “just like me” track.
Just like me, that person struggles. Just like me, that person acts out. Just like me, that person wants so badly to be seen.

But I also started to see another opportunity. Disgust and jealousy are pointing me at something very important. While jealousy often shows me something I want to be, do, have, or achieve, disgust does the opposite. Both are important because our desires are made up of what we want to experience AND what we don’t want to experience.

I also noticed that the stronger the feeling, the stronger the desire or fear. Big envy means I am looking directly at something I want badly. Big disgust usually stems from fear of being that very thing I am judging. When someone acts like a know-it-all, when someone can’t receive feedback, when someone is being judgmental or selfish or out-of-control… these are all things I fear in myself.

When it comes to my growth game, I’m always trying to do two things.
First, I try to accept and love myself where I am. That requires that I acknowledge I have the potential to be everything that exists, both the qualities I want to have and the qualities I don’t want to have. Second, I try to keep nudging myself in the direction of those desired qualities. Seeing the ones I don’t want actually helps me do that. In fact, I need them or else how would I know?

I have to be grateful for these emotions because they are the highlighters. Plus, gratitude is one of the fastest ways to raise your energetic vibration, so it has a way of naturally making you feel better.

Thank you, jealousy, for showing me what I want.
Thank you, disgust, for reminding me of what I don’t want.

Now when I see them coming, I have an appreciation for what they bring with them.

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I've Been a Bad Friend

In this lifetime, I haven’t been very good at emotions.
Not feeling them, not identifying them, and definitely not sharing them. Much of my personal work has focused on this area and that last one about sharing my emotions is a huge stretch for me. It’s just so freaking hard to make myself vulnerable. But I’m trying.

When you’re afraid of strong emotions, you come up with all kinds of ways to avoid them. Not just your own emotions either. You also have tactics for steering away from other people’s feelings if for some reason you weren’t able to avoid them in the first place.

As I force myself to share how I feel so I can have intimate connections with the people in my life, I’ve learned some things. One is that I’ve been a bad friend. Like being handed a mirror, I recognize myself in some of the responses I get that don’t feel good. I’m also learning how lonely it feels when the other person doesn’t connect with you during your moment of vulnerability.

Here are some of the maneuvers I would use (and let’s be honest, still do sometimes).

Reassurance. Hoping it will help you feel good instantly, I launch into a pep talk about how great you are or how you handled it fine or how you can do this(!).

Solution. I start throwing out pieces of advice about what you should do so we can focus on a plan that will make you feel better instead of how you feel right now.

Reframe. I tell you how if we just look at the situation a little differently, then you don’t even have to feel the unpleasant emotions at all.

Share. I find some similar situation in my own data bank of personal stories and tell you all the details so we can just stay on the surface and avoid the emotions underneath our experiences.

I think I’m helping. I think I’m connecting. But I’m not. I know that now. As I force myself to be vulnerable and share when I’m in pain, I have felt how those responses make me feel like my emotions are wrong and I shouldn’t be feeling the way I do.

I get why I do it. I’m trying to move us both away from painful emotions and into “safer” territory. I feel so uncomfortable that I assume the other person is too, and don’t we all just want to get the heck out of there?!

Those maneuvers don’t just invalidate the other person’s emotions though. They also don’t acknowledge that this is the other person’s experience and they are the ones to decide what we should do. Moving us out of that vulnerable place isn’t my job when the other person is in pain.

Being on the other side of it now, I realize that I usually just want the other person to listen. I’m scared enough to share. The last thing I want is for the other person to be scared, too. I want them to hold some space for me and not fill it up. I want them to see me without grabbing my hand and trying to haul us both out. These are the things that make me feel connected and loved. That’s the friend I wish I’d been and want to be now.

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How to Stop Focusing on What You Don’t Have

We get sad because we see a hole where we think something should be. A partner. A lifestyle. A feeling. You might notice the hole because of a loss. Something you want was there before. It’s also possible that the hole has never been filled; you know it’s there because what you want isn’t.

One of the challenges of sadness is that it vibrates at low energy. That’s why you don’t want to get out of bed. It’s why you can’t accomplish much of anything. It’s why you are tired, sluggish, or lethargic. Getting out of the dumps so you can get back to feeling good is going to require raising your energetic vibration. Shifting your focus can help jump start your energy level.

Focus Shift 1: I look forward to (insert desire).

Sadness actually has a beautiful flip side. It points at something we desire, something we want to be, do, have, or experience. Most of us want what we want because we think it will make us happy. So logically, it should make you happy to think about it, right? What really matters, though, is how you think about it. You have more control over your emotions than you think. They are the direct result of a thought. If you think about what you want as missing or impossible to get, you feel sad. But if you think about it as on it’s way, like a package you ordered from Amazon, it’s exciting. It’s coming! Excitement will naturally raise your energy level.

Focus Shift 2: I am grateful for (insert desires fulfilled).

You might be entirely focused on the hole. All you can think about is the void in your life. Take a minute to step back and look around. Pick your head up. All around that one thing missing are the things that are present in your life. Don’t ignore those. In fact, celebrate them. Have some gratitude for all the desires that have already appeared. Those used to be things you wanted and now they are things you have. How wonderful! That grateful energy vibrates very similarly to that excited energy.

Focus Shift 3: I now have space for (insert desire).

Another way of thinking about a lack of fulfillment is to contemplate the hole itself. Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing after all. A hole might represent where you wish something was, but it also means there is space for anything you can dream up. Maybe something better than you had before or more magnificent than what you have imagined so far. You need that room to get your creative juices flowing. If space is being made in your life for absolutely anything you can conceive of, what would you design? This time, you are using creative energy to elevate your vibration.

Feeling sad is a perfectly normal human state and sitting with your feelings is a healthy thing to do. If we don’t allow our emotions, they have a way of coming out sideways, creating problems, and keeping us stuck. But after the initial and natural emotional response subsides, we have the ability to affect our feelings by shifting our focus. You can feel sad but you don’t have to stay sad. That’s up to you.

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Five Ways to Keep your Cool in an Argument

You can walk into a conversation with the most loving intentions but when the other person pushes your buttons, it’s all too easy to fall into an unhealthy trap.

Having an auto-response (even just to repeat in your head) can be incredibly helpful for staying on the high-energy road, even when the other person’s response threatens to drag you down. Here are some common tricky situations and what to do to keep yourself centered.

They try to engage you in a fight.
People prefer what they know, especially when they are triggered. If communication between the two of you has historically ended in a fight, the other person may want to pull you both back into that familiar scenario. Also, energy likes company. If they feel miserable, they will want you to drop down into that misery energy with them.

Breaking patterns is one of the toughest things to do in a relationship, especially one that has a long history. If the other person isn’t on board, you carry the bigger burden. But even if they never join you in your intention, you can break your own pattern by not engaging.

RESPONSE: I love us too much to fight.

They shut down and disconnect.
Everyone handles situations differently depending on their fear response. Some people fight. Some people flee. When the other person withdraws, it’s likely they are wrapped up in their own emotional reaction. Unfortunately at that point, they may not be able to hear what you are trying to communicate. Also, feedback can be really threatening for people who are easily triggered when they think they’ve done something “wrong.” System shut down is a common response to feelings of unworthiness.

The purpose of communication needs to be for connection and not to point out wrongness. As long as that remains the focus, there is less likelihood of triggering the other person.

RESPONSE: I am expressing myself, because I want to stay connected.

They keep dragging up the past.
Some people feel like the best defense is a good offense. If there isn’t anything to grab onto in the moment to use as an attack, they might bring up something old that they think you did wrong. It’s just a deflection technique.

It could also mean there are unresolved events still causing pain in the present. That’s worth a mindful look at some point. Clearing it up by forgiving and learning from it may put it to rest. However, this moment is for this conversation and it’s important to maintain focus on that rather than get confused and distracted.

RESPONSE: I’m focused on only this right now.

The calmer you are, the more out of control they become.
Sometimes people mistake a calm demeanor as a dismissive one or as quiet judgement, and people do interesting things when they feel ignored. They may double their efforts to be heard by screaming, swearing, and spinning out of control. The more non-reactive you are, the more judged they feel and the more self-judgement they engage in. It’s all just what’s going on in their own mind though.

In order to remain connected, you have to stay and allow. Abandoned is the last thing somebody who has lost it wants to feel in their “crazy” moment. That feels like the ultimate judgement.

RESPONSE: I am loving and will not turn away.

They reject your apology.
The other person may either outright refuse to accept it or energetically reject it by remaining disconnected. People reject apologies for a number of reasons…they don’t believe them, they don’t trust that things will change, they want to punish the other person, etc… As long as the apology is sincere and done properly (without justifications/rationalizations/qualifiers/blame) with an honest intention to change behavior, the other person’s response is their business.

When we’ve hurt someone else, we’ve hurt ourselves in the process because it’s painful to cause someone else’s suffering. By apologizing, we are owning our responsibility and attempting to reconnect. It’s very important that we forgive ourselves in the process, also. That way, we can still release ourselves from an experience even when the other person wants to tether us to it.

RESPONSE: I can forgive myself and move on.

We aren’t always on the same page as our partner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring our best selves to the tough conversations. Having helpful little tools like auto-responses are a way for us to keep growing, keep loving, and stay connected to ourselves and our loved ones.

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Five Signs Your Past is Affecting Your Happiness Today

We all want to feel like survivors of the bad stuff that’s happened to us. Since we're here, I guess we are survivors. However, surviving and thriving are pretty different. Even though you might want to put your head in the air, straight arm the past, and never look back, the past has sneaky ways of keeping you from all the goodness life is waiting to deliver. Here are some of the ways it might be showing up in your daily life.

You are repeating patterns.
Even though it feels like you’ve moved on, you somehow end up in the same kinds of relationships or find yourself experiencing the same types of circumstances and situations. That’s a sure sign that you have some unresolved business to deal with. It’s why people find themselves in codependent relationships over and over or in jobs they hate again and again or in the same kinds of conflicts with people time after time. Something in your past set you up for this pattern and the only surefire way to break it is to find out more about where it came from.

You are holding onto hurt.
Maybe it’s in the form of grudges or perhaps people you can’t stand, even ones you hate. It can be simply waiting for an apology or any acknowledgment that what that person did to you was wrong. The problem is that energy like that is poison to your loving heart. Not only does it give all your power away to someone else or what they did, but it pulls in more of the same experiences because energy attracts like energy. The way to release yourself from that is to visit the source of the hurt, see it clearly, forgive, and let go.

You’ve allowed your experiences to define who you are.
This is particularly sticky if it stems from something you’ve done to harm someone else. When you’ve done a selfish, mean, or lazy thing, you might fold that into your identity. Instead of it being just an incident, now YOU are selfish, mean, or lazy. If you’ve got judge-y words about yourself bouncing around that little head of yours, they didn’t materialize out of nothing. They were born from an experience and a glance back can be the thing that liberates you from those negative definitions. Even being told you are strong can be a heavy weight to bear when you don’t feel like being strong.

You’ve picked up limiting beliefs.
If you hear yourself say “I can’t” or “I’ll never,” it’s very likely you’ve got a limiting belief in operation. I can’t quit my job. I’ll never find my soulmate. I can’t tell anyone that. I’ll never lose the weight. Totally normal. Humans have limiting beliefs because our brains are trying to make sense of the world. But they came into existence as a result of our experiences. Once we are able to see the mental process that started in our past and runs our decisions today, we can begin to bust through those limitations.

You are isolating yourself based on a story.
It’s in our nature to revise the past. We do it to protect ourselves. Sometimes we edit something that happened to make it so much worse so that we’ll never put ourselves in that kind of danger again. That isolates us from other people as we avoid anything even remotely similar or it isolates us from ourselves as we reject a piece of who we are as too terrible. Other times we change the story so that the real facts don’t hurt quite so bad and we don’t have to feel that pain when we land on a memory. Most of the time, we are just trying to feel worthy and good enough but lies and falsehoods take an enormous amount of energy to protect and keep us from living an authentic life. Freedom comes from standing nakedly in front of the real story in our past and accepting ourselves entirely.

The past might feel like a scary place but so many people are living a life that is falling short of what they want in their hearts and in relationships that don’t come even close to what they deserve. As scary as that look backward may seem, the real bleakness is what won’t be realized if you don’t take the plunge.
No fooling, a new 21-Day Heart Cleanse starts April 1! You can find more course details and registration information here.

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Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Anger

Anger is unpleasant in all shapes and forms.
Whether it’s a bubbling pool of lava beneath the surface or a full-blown eruption, it doesn’t feel good. Not for the person feeling it and not for anybody around them.

What’s interesting about anger is how often it indicates something deeper is going on. If we get curious about it, we might learn something about ourselves. Here are five questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel anger (rage, irritation, frustration, bitterness, hostility, and any of the other forms it takes).

What is your anger hiding?
Anger can be a cover for something a little more tender. Maybe your feelings are hurt. Maybe you feel embarrassed or inferior. It doesn’t feel safe to expose those vulnerable emotions so we elect to be angry instead, and that feels protective. Unfortunately, this can become a habitual response to more delicate emotions to the point where the angry person can’t recognize what the anger is masking.

What is your anger protecting you from?
Fight is one of the fear responses. Even when the fear isn’t a physical threat, fight might be your go-to response. When you feel fear of abandonment, rejection, or helplessness for example, you might get mad instead. Attack first can be a very effective defense strategy. It keeps people from poking around and exposing your fears. What it doesn’t do is get rid of fear. As long as you leave it unexamined, fear will stick around.

What are you resisting?
We all want the world to be a certain way. Even though it would be such a peaceful and happy existence if we all just willingly accepted the reality of our lives, we don’t. We resist it. We get mad about it. It’s not supposed to be like this! If you ever hear the words “supposed to” or “should” bouncing around your head, you are probably also experiencing some negative emotions (like anger). Resistance really is futile because it doesn’t change anything. Acceptance is the remedy for resistance.

What are you viewing as wrong?
Justice and righteousness are the fast paths to anger. When we think of something as “wrong,” that can cause instant frustration, irritation, or rage. In fact, if you are hanging out with someone who seems awfully angry a lot of the time, odds are they have very strong opinions on what is right and what is wrong in the world. That right/wrong thinking doesn’t influence circumstances. It just makes people miserable. Letting go of our righteousness is the peaceful path.

Is your anger related to this circumstance or something from your past?
So often the current event triggering our anger is actually exposing a wound from the past. We think we are mad at the person standing before us when we are actually reliving a rejection, humiliation, or violation from another time in our lives. That’s the reason things get blown so far out of proportion sometimes. The present moment is being weighed down with the painful experiences of similar events from the past. The only way to lighten the current reaction is to resolve those past experiences.

By asking ourselves these five questions when we are gripped by anger, we can release the hold of that negative emotions. All of our emotions are windows into our inner worlds. They tell us about who we are, what makes us tick, what motivates us to do things. Taking the time to investigate what is behind our emotions when they arise, can be an enlightening experience. They are opportunities for us to learn about ourselves and grow into something even more magical than we already are.


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"Tiny" Trauma

I didn’t truly know love until I had kids.
Up until then, I thought emotions were for the mentally weak (I know that sounds terrible). I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to walk around “feeling” all the time when you could just suck it up and move on. I just figured I was stronger than most.

My emotions could pretty much be categorized as some form of either excitement or anger. Sad was never an option. I didn’t even know when I had hurt feelings; I just got mad.

But then I had my son and other feelings began to surface.
Scary, vulnerable love. Fear. Sadness. And eventually the worst one, loneliness.

I didn’t like the way any of it made me feel so I kept most of it inside, including the scary, vulnerable love. When I allowed myself to peek into my heart, it just made me feel broken, unloved, and alone.

Parenting is like having a mirror held up to you every minute.
It’s confronting your own childhood all over again. But I couldn’t make sense of how I’d become so guarded and also so trapped inside. When I searched my past for answers, I had none. No abuse. No major loss. No significant trauma. My parents weren’t even divorced.

It took me a long time to figure it out because I refused to acknowledge that I had suffered. Watching other people with so many valid reasons for their pain, I felt like my life story had nothing of consequence to explain my feelings.

Here’s what I have learned about trauma though. One person’s painful life experience is no better or worse than someone else’s. What matters is how it affects you, changes you, and keeps you from feeling loved and lovable. I have met people just like me who can’t check a traditional trauma box, but who still feel alone and unloved.

It could be a painful sentence someone said. A mistake made once and carried a thousand times forward. A disappointment about what a relationship could have been or should have been.

First, you have to acknowledge that those things we’ve labeled insignificant left a lasting impression. They were our traumas. They made us feel unloved and unworthy. That’s why they matter.

We have to pull up those events and process them so we can move forward without the wall we built in reaction.

Honestly, a lot of the reason I was willing to face my past was for my kids. I could see the way fear of big feelings was making them feel rejected, abandoned, and even unworthy. They deserved more than that. And so did I.


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Feel Forward

I used to always know what action to take.
I thought my brain was the most reliable and efficient resource I had. I was a logical, linear, one-obvious-right-path-forward thinker. Planning? Easy! I was comfortable choosing goals, creating steps, and taking action.

Times have changed though.
The more in tune I’ve become with my intuition and creative side, the more unsure I’ve become. I don’t see it as a bad thing, but I don’t always know what action to take next. Sometimes I draw a blank. Or there are way too many possibilities. Which to choose?

Not knowing what to do next would have been stressful or unacceptable to my old way of thinking, but now I view it as a fun opportunity. I can allow myself to feel my way through situations instead of immediately jumping into problem solving mode. As soon as I feel I’m clutching and grasping at an answer or when I’m overwhelmed by all of the solutions, I know it’s time to stop and tune in. Here are the steps I take to do that.

1. Ask a question.
It doesn’t matter if I’m focused on one thing or I’ve got a bunch of different stuff bouncing around. What’s the next step? What should I focus on? What direction should I take?

2. Do nothing.
Doing nothing IS doing something. You have to leave space for the answer(s) to come. For me, that means idle movement. My body has to be active for my intuition to be louder than my brain. Shower, hike, laundry, etc… But that’s just me. Maybe you can sit quietly in meditation or listen to music. Just do whatever works for hearing ideas.

3. Choose a direction.
I’m not expecting a single answer to come to me like a glowing spotlight from heaven illuminating the ultimate perfect solution. The universe knows I want a little more free will than that. I think we get infinite answers but our little human brains can only hold so many. You know how when you’re in the shower it feels like dozens of random thoughts cross your mind? I think those are ALL answers. They aren’t random. But I also know that every thought won’t lead me to the right place. I like to land onto a thought, no matter how completely unrelated it feels. Then I follow it along and see if it has relevance to my question. Are you the one for right now? Are you the good fit? If it feels like a dead-end, I ditch it and capture the next thought to test.

The answer always comes.
If not then, it will come later. Although I have to say that when you set an intention, intuition is pretty reliable. If I state my question before I take a walk and expect the answer by the end, I will get it. The only thing that will block it is me trying too hard to figure it out. The whole process comes to a halt when I try to think forward rather than feeling my way through a situation.

It’s a stretch sometimes. I like answers now. I rely heavily on my brain. I used to think logic was always right. Now I do my best to settle into uncertainty until the answers come. I try to follow my emotions and intuition as they nudge me toward the right path. And honestly, they never steer me wrong.

So the next time you are stuck, lost, overwhelmed, or baffled, give it a try. See what happens when you try to feel forward. Good luck, my friends.

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The Love List, scroll to the bottom of the page. 
Also, we have a 21-Day Heart Cleanse starting tomorrow! It's not too late to join--you can find more information here.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I’ve lived with a liar.
It changes you. It robs you of your natural instinct to trust in others. If you’re exposed to it early in life or for too long, your natural instinct will change. You will begin to expect lies and deceit rather than the truth and honesty. It’s a birthplace of lifelong trust issues.

If I suspect a loved one has lied to me, I struggle to hold my tongue. And when I don’t, it goes like this: I challenge, they defend, the lie grows bigger, they feel there’s no turning back, and we’re in a big fight with our heels dug in on opposite sides. They can’t come clean now. I can’t let it go. It definitely is not the healthiest pattern, and certainly not a loving one.

When it comes to friendships, lying is usually a deal-breaker for me. If I’ve heard you lie to someone else, you will probably lie to me eventually. Same goes for talking trash about people, icing others out of a group, ghosting a friend, etc… I used to think I was the exception, the one person they would never do these things to. I have since learned that there are no exceptions, only a pattern of behavior.

Loving someone who lies and deceives you is heartbreaking.
You want to believe them so badly but you get burned when you do. You love them so much it hurts to not trust them. And they’re usually pretty good at convincing you that you are the problem. You are the one who doesn’t love enough to believe them. It’s hard to have the choices of either challenging them or ignoring the lies. One starts a fight and the other feels a little too much like they pulled it off.

The worst part is knowing this person you love so much hates themselves. And believe me, people who lie carry around a lot of self-loathing. They hate that they do it. They hate that they can’t seem to stop, even lying about completely insignificant things. They hate themselves for trying to convince you it’s your fault you don’t trust them. They hate themselves for creating a false world where they are trapped by their own actions.

It’s painful to love them unconditionally. You are angry and hurt. You lose respect for them. You withhold love from them to protect yourself. But here is what I’ve learned and not always been good at putting into practice. They need more love than ever and you have to figure out how to love while being lied to. I don’t mean saying screw boundaries. Boundaries are crucial when dealing with someone who lies.

But you still need to love.
Not just deep in your own heart where they can’t actually feel it. They need to feel it openly and generously. It’s their only way out. They need honesty and truth from you but also love, because they’ve built a false life and they’re being poisoned by it. Loving them is the only gift to give when you’re not willing to play their game. Truly loving them unconditionally is the light that can keep the darkness from swallowing them up.

Here’s my advice (and I tell you this as I remind myself). You don’t have to call them out, tell them you believe them, or hold your tongue. Just say I love you. I love you too much to engage in this. Here is my boundary. It’s a behavior boundary. It’s not a love boundary. I love you no matter what.

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