Boundaries, Beatitudes and Besties

I was chatting with a friend today and confessed that the first time my newfound therapist (back in 2013) suggested I put “healthy boundaries” in place in regards to my then BFF, I truly had no clue what she was asking me to do.

Really.

No clue.

As an empath and lightworker, I have always found myself drawn toward the broken heartbeats in the world. As an adult child of an alcoholic, still trying to figure out the meaning of codependency as it applies to my life, I have also found myself desperate to save those I thought were drowning in a sea of despair. I would throw on my super-hero cape, the one with the Good Daughter emblem on it, and swoop in to save the day.

Photo by Steven Libralon on Unsplash

Having grown up more Catholic than the pope himself  (Dad was a Jesuit brother for eight years, Mom spent her recess time in grade school sneaking into the chapel to pray, and my parents spent their honeymoon saying the rosary together instead of attempting some procreation stuff), I was indoctrinated into the faith. My main goal in life, according to my mother, was to “find a good Catholic boy, marry him, and make little Catholic babies.” In that order. Obviously.

I was instructed, on a nearly daily basis, how to be a good Christian and follow such teachings as those dictated by Christ during his Sermon on the Mount, as shared in the Gospel of Matthew, The Beatitudes:

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
     for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
     for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
     for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean in heart,
     for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
     for they will be called children of God. 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the peacemakers. My self-imposed role. Straight A student, conformist, good girl, avoider-of-conflict-at-all-costs. One of those eye-opening realizations when I read “Codependent No More” by Melanie Beatty, was my unhealthy role as peacekeeper in my family. A peacekeeper mentality can actually be a good thing when we have healthy boundaries in place and are cognizant of the driving force behind our desire for tranquility. Where I was up until 2016 was donning the unhealthy peacekeeper role.

A recipe for chaos: 

No clue about boundaries.

Unhealthy peacekeeper mentality.

Drawn to hurting souls.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Then, boom, March of 2016, it all became painfully obvious. I was brought to my knees when my bestie disappeared from my life without warning at the exact moment my alcoholic mother was fighting for her life in a state of detox, seeing little boy ghosts and hearing songs not being sung, in her month-long hospital and rehab stay.

After crying for, oh, I don’t know, a year, I did what I always do when confronted with chaos . . . I researched the shit out of it. I read books and articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, joined online groups, tormented my friends with hours of contemplation, self-reflected through journaling, and prayed. A lot.

Somewhere along the way I learned how to forgive. And I learned about loving from a soul perspective in lieu of ego-based. Most importantly, I learned how to let go. In the process, I put some healthy boundaries in place (it’s still a work in progress and some of the lines are squiggly, but that’s alright). I also maintained my role as peacekeeper, as I am a huge fan of tranquil living, but with the realization that I can say “no” and stand up for myself at the same time. Respect for myself and my own needs has been a key component.

Utilizing ho’oponopono Hawaiian healing practice has been crucial, as well. For instance, I might silently say to someone who has been curt, “I’m sorry I don’t understand your anger. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” Then I move on.

Now when my eyes meet the knowing eyes of another soul who has dwelled in the darkest of spaces, I offer a hand to hold, as always, but with this knowledge in place:

  • Healthy boundaries are crucial to a healthy relationship.
  • A peaceful existence is possible, even with a volatile past.
  • As a lightworker and empath, my role is one of empowering others through  “I get it” connections on an emotional and spiritual level, while honoring my own space.

I’ve been thinking about the girl I used to call my “best friend”. There are days I miss her. Tremendously. When she comes to mind, I send off a little prayer. And in it, I wish her peace.

Photo by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

 

Where Can I Find Some Skin-Thickening Cream?

I was sitting here in my writing space, contemplating ideas for today’s blog post, when a friend commented on an article I shared in my Unicorn Shadows Book Launch Group on Facebook. The article I shared was You Can’t Be Trauma-Informed If You Can’t See the Trauma – a fantastic reminder to keep in mind that we have not traveled another person’s journey, therefore, wearing a trauma-informed lens will help us to see beyond the after-math of trauma and, at the same time, avoid our own triggering. This beautiful friend shared:

“It’s so hard!! From my trauma I tend to take everything personally!! Yikes!! I need some skin thickening cream!! If you have anything helpful for that, let me know!! Thanks!!”

That was my blog post inspiration: a how-to on “thickening one’s skin” to being triggered in our own trauma history. I used to find myself responding to other’s without understanding the underlying currents flowing beneath my gut reactions. One of the first memories that comes to mind relates to my interactions with the director of a preschool where I taught many years ago.

I had been doing the stay-at-home-mom thing for years, but was asked if I would be willing to teach part-time at the preschool where my then two-year-old daughter was attending. I adore kids and their amazing logic, sponge-brains always absorbing, and their knack for teaching us grown-ups about unconditional love. So I climbed on board the preschool wagon. A year in, this new director was brought on board . . . the one I allowed to push my buttons.

The day I walked into my classroom to find it completely rearranged, with new labels in place on some of my stations (i.e. sensory table, science area, reading corner), my head went kaboom! I stomped into her office and stated my case, accusing her of disrespecting my role as a teacher and violating my space and all I had accomplished in setting it up exactly as I had envisioned. There was an apology (of sorts) and we ended up coming to an agreement of terms on how we would handle any future changes she deemed necessary in the classroom. Fair enough.

In hindsight, I look back and realize how my response had little to do with the changes she made – they actually made sense and were beneficial for the children – and everything to do with the remnants of the trauma history of my youth. Walking into that classroom left me feeling as if I had no control, no voice, a loss of power within the confines of my space, and fearing retaliation if I would speak up.

What can we do if we find ourselves easily triggered by the actions or words of others?

  1.  Pause. Stop. Take a breath. Step back. 

All of those little tidbits of advice we hear often when we find ourselves stressing out. They work. If we stop for just a moment to notice the reaction we are experiencing, we can allow ourselves the opportunity to “be gentle” with ourselves and “just notice”. When I stand in front of audiences and share my Story of Hope,  I emphasize these two points.

Learning to be gentle with myself was a huge catalyst for healing. I learned to simply allow the feelings to be, without judging them, without trying to correct or guide them. I just let whatever was surfacing to flow through me. Then I would allow it to dissipate. Again, without judgment. The concept of “just noticing” is a part of this process. I allow myself the opportunity to experience whatever is rising to the surface within me by merely noticing it, observing it.

2. Remind ourselves we have not traveled another’s journey.

When I learned the concept of forgiveness on a soul level, it allowed me the opportunity to look at my transgressor’s lives from outside my own wounds. I reminded myself that I had not traveled their road. While I was not justifying their actions in any way, I was gifting myself freedom by releasing their negative impact on my current life. I allowed them their journey and, in so doing, continued along my own without them tagging along.

Perhaps my transgressors had been abused, neglected, hurt in profound ways, or traumatized. Their actions toward me or my indirect involvement in their actions really had little to do with me.

3. Send positivity toward others.

Once we have paused, then reminded ourselves we do not know another’s driving force for their negative behaviors, we can turn around our normally automated defensive reaction and instead send some positive energy toward that person/situation. That can be a quick prayer, a wish for the individual to find a moment of peace,  a sincere smile followed by silence, a purposeful sending of love from our heart toward the offender’s, whatever way feels as if you are sending positive energy.

By allowing this affirmative energy to flow from us, from a heart and soul place in lieu of an ego perspective, we empower ourselves in the process while providing much-needed goodness toward others.

4. Journal about the moment. 

When all is said and done, record it in some way. Journal, make a video blog, voice record it, again, document it in whatever way you find helpful. The point is to allow yourself to release your encounter without judgment. Set it free, perhaps noticing what triggers arose in you initially.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and merely notice what is surfacing as you record it. I also recommend writing without editing. A free-flow release can sometimes bring to light a long-sought-after answer.

Keep me posted on your progress! I love hearing stories of positivity, inspiration, and motivation. You are worthy of peace and joy. This is one way to empower yourself with those gifts.

 

Honoring My Mother’s Journey: Next Time

As I sit here listening to my twelve-year-old daughter and her tweenage friends splash about in our pool, after a night filled with water balloon battles in the front yard of our quiet little cul-de-sac home and off-key singing of “Happy Birthday” while tiny purple candles dripped wax onto the cookie cake decorated with a giant basketball and birthday wishes, I smile in the knowledge that this kiddo’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has been little to none. A far cry from my own childhood.

I will be visiting with my mom in a few hours, a trip to the grocery store and vacuuming her apartment are on my daughterly duty list today. I thank God I still have her here with me. Even through the torment of growing up the child of an alcoholic – a mostly distant and sometimes violent consumer of booze and pills – I loved my mom. I longed for her to teach me how to play those card games she’d laugh over for hours on end with friends, or help me with advice about the bullying I was experiencing at the hands of a fellow Catholic school girl, or even just listen when I’d excitedly approach her about my science fair project. Instead, I was told how disappointed she was in me for the 93% grade (still an A, mind you!). “A ninety-three?” she slurred. “God gave you the gift of a brilliant mind. You’re wasting it. Why didn’t you get a hundred?” As I turned to make my way back to my sanctuary of a bedroom, shoulders slumped a little more than usual, my soul held onto hope . . . next time she’ll be happy with you, Teri. 

I kept trying. Continuing to hold on to hope. Continuing to remind myself . . . next time.

And here we are, ages 82 and 52, my mother and me. We’ve reached a place of acceptance, both in our own ways. I accept my mother’s addiction, having learned to put healthy boundaries in place in order to protect my heart and soul. Her new hearing aids allow her to listen a little more than she did in my childhood years.

Last week, I excitedly told her about my new website, www.teriwellbrock.com, and all of my grandiose plans for helping others traverse their healing journeys. I grabbed her by the hand, dragging her in a toddler-esque fashion toward her front door, convincing her with each shuffled step, “Mom, come on! Let me show you!”

We stepped into the game room of the retirement village where she lives, two antiquated computers sat at desks along the far left wall and three antiquated little ladies sat at the round card table in the middle of the bright room, each a puzzle piece gripped between arthritic fingers and thumbs. They smiled in our direction as my mom announced, “My daughter, Teri, is showing me her new web-thing.” I laughed. They nodded in understanding so I left it uncorrected.

I sat her in the stationary chair next to my swivel seat, while my fingers typed away the web address in anticipatory glee.

Ta-da!

“Here it is, Mom. My new website. It has my book summary, podcasts, videos about my speaking engagements, meditations, Sammie Doodle therapy dog info, all kinds of cool stuff!”

“That’s nice. Hey, Margaret, I made vegetable soup. If you stop down I’ll give you a container of it.”

Ah.

Next time, Teri.

As I tucked her into her faded forest green chair, held together on the right arm rest by neon green duct tape, I kissed her on her forehead and reminded her, “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, TT. Don’t forget my doctor’s appointment is at noon on Wednesday.”

“I got it, Mom. I’ll be here.”

Maybe on Wednesday at noon, Teri. You know . . . next time.

However, as I drove off, I reminded myself of insights I read recently in the book, “Change Your Thoughts-Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao” by Dr. Wayne Dyer. In his translation of the 41st verse of the Tao Te Ching he stated, “Apply this same insight to the times you feel unloved: When you see what appears to be indifference, know in your heart that love is present. Allow it to work its magic in your life.” Then in the 49th verse, “I see myself in this person, and I choose to be in a space of goodness rather than judgment. I honor the place in you where we are all one.” And I took pause.

My mother’s spirit cheers for me even when her ego-based actions cannot allow her praise to surface.

I called her this afternoon, this 2018 Mother’s Day, asking what time she wanted me to head to her place for our grocery shopping endeavor. “Oh, you don’t need to come today, TT. Just enjoy your Mother’s Day. You deserve a day off. We can celebrate tomorrow instead.”

“Mom, it’s not a problem. Plus, I’d like to see you.”

“No. I’m tired. I think I’ll just go to bed.”

“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

As I was about to say good-bye, she interrupted my thought . . . “Teri? Thank you. For everything you do for me. I’m so proud of you. I told all of my friends about your book and handed out all of your business cards. Will you bring me more?”

“Yes! Next time I see you. Thank you. I love you, Mom.”

The Power of Self-Care

As I continue on this journey of healing, I am amazed on a daily basis by the number of resources coming across my path. Articles on ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) will show up in a Facebook news feed or I’ll receive an email discussing trauma recovery. I love when the universe aligns the stars just so and the answer I was seeking magically appears.

I worked in school settings for years, as a teacher and in a mental health professional role. Helping children learn to cope with anxiety, bullying, overwhelming emotions, unstable home environments, the after-math of abuse, and so much more, had my own inner-child longing for more solutions.

The kids and I would work on filling their “tool box” with coping skills, such as using manipulatives like stress balls to ground themselves or release energy, simple breathing exercises for centering, free art to express something they might not have words to convey, and so on. Allowing kids the opportunity to express themselves in whatever way they were comfortable, while I listened respectfully and without judgment, created a space filled with compassion and tranquility. I once had a fifth grade child, whose home life was in the midst of chaos, tell me, “I like your energy. You have white light around you. I feel safe here.” To say I was blown away by that message would be an understatement. Knowing this child was picking up on the energy I was sending to her as she learned to cope, heal, and empower herself, made my sappy heart dance with joy.

This morning as I scrolled through the amazing articles on ACEs Connection, I came across an article titled, Why Adults Need Social and Emotional Support, Too by Mathew Portell. In it, he discusses the needs of his school, not just in regards to the students, but in relation to the staff and parents’ care, as well.

Pointing out norms they have implemented in their school structure, this blogging principal sets a shining example of trauma-informed care in action. Self-care is critical in all aspects of our lives. I think about those funny memes that state, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” #truth

The point being . . . when we learn to take care of ourselves, we fill our own coping tool box with beneficial energy we can share with others: compassion, understanding, patience, kindness, and love.

As you move toward healing in your own life or reach out a helping hand to others who may be struggling to find their footing along their path, make sure to heed the advice offered in 25 Self-Care Tips for the Body & Soul.  Learning to live in the “now” and allowing myself to experience joy on a soul level has been life-altering. A great read, and a catalyst for change in my own life, is the book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle. In it, the author advises us, “All the things that truly matter-beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace-arise from beyond the mind.

Empower yourself with self-care and watch your life transition. Then share your tranquility with others as we move toward a world filled with compassion and joy.

Peace to you,

Teri

Growing Pains . . . Hurt So Good

I have been reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World, absorbing every word and adding to my to-do list in droves. Making sure I blog on a weekly basis is one of my new promises to myself. Yes, I have a book to finish. Two actually! But, I’m a writer. So what’s a little more writing?

Today, I added a blog link to my new website: www.teriwellbrock.com and am excited to see it in action now that I’ll be adding weekly content. Exciting stuff! I added quite a bit to the new website. Some positive affirmation hearts, including these . . .

I love the idea of sharing my story of hope through so many avenues: books, videos, blogging, pics, courses, social media, speaking gigs, podcasts, and therapy dog work with Sammie Doodle (check out her therapy dog role on the Sammie website).

Speaking of courses . . . I am researching my options for creating an online course as another Hope for Healing source for those looking for a hand to hold along their healing journey. Everything is piecing together in an incredibly beautiful way. For that I am so very thankful. Here you go, universe: #thanksGod

Until next week, may your days be filled with a million little reasons to smile.

Peace,

Teri