Welcome 2015!

AWESOME

Happy New Year from World Tree Coaching! As I find myself today coming out from the isolation of having been home with my kids for almost three weeks, I realize I’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

Actually, I was realizing that all along. Only now that I sit down in front of my computer and take the steps to get organized do I realize what all that entails.

While I’ve been pretty quiet on the blogging front these past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the New Year and what this time of year means to most of us. Even if you’re not a resolution-maker, there’s something about the New Year that forces us to examine the past and look ahead to the future.

Right now all over the internet you’re going to see post after post telling you exactly how to create your resolutions, keep your resolutions, fine-tune your resolutions, pick the best resolutions….and even some that will tell you to ditch resolutions all together. So much telling!

In light of so much telling, I’m going to try not to get too tell-y or preach-y here. But, I would love the opportunity to remind you that genuinely reflecting on who and where you are is a good thing. In fact, whether you’re really a resolution-maker or not, probably one of the best things you can do for yourself in 2015 is take a nice long look in the mirror and get up close and personal with the person looking back at you.

So in the spirit of curiosity and inquiry (not telling), I’m just gonna’ pose a few questions…

Is it possible that all you really need to get started on 2015 is to love yourself a bit more?

What would happen if you were to stop putting yourself down, comparing yourself to others and wishing things were different than the way they really are?

What if, even though there are things you’d like to do differently, you told yourself that you’re really enough just as you are?

Imagine confronting life’s challenges (spoiler alert: there’s no escaping the hard times) knowing that yes, you are really doing all you can.

And, what if, after taking more time to know and be yourself, all that other stuff you’re adding to the resolution list seemed so much clearer?

And what if all this wasn’t just silly, cheesy, random fluff?

It’d be pretty amazing, wouldn’t it?

Throughout 2015, my goal will be to continue helping people rediscover that they’re enough…more than enough really. I want my clients, my friends and my family members to know that their challenges and their strengths work in tandem to create a fully capable and loving person. Confession: I even want to keep reminding myself of that.

So, Happy New Year from World Tree Coaching. May your year be filled with plenty of time to be you. And, in being you, may you find the clarity, hope, love and fun you’ve been searching for.

I’m currently scheduling clients for February and March. If you’d like to work with me in 2015 – click here to learn more.

Out with the Old – Rewriting the Expat Stereotype

I recently finished the novel You Are One of Them by Elliot Holt. There’s a lot in the plot that will sound familiar to expats – travel, intercultural relationships, cross-cultural adjustment.

It also talks a lot about diplomats and expats. The book takes place between Washington DC and a largely expat community in Moscow. Here’s the sentiment that runs strong throughout the book – diplomats hide behind walls, diplomats and expats drink too much, diplomats and expats aren’t able to form relationships because, in anticipation of a departure, they never fully commit themselves to those around them. We’ve heard this all before. I’m not going to be the one to say this is never true, but for me, these aren’t the norm of the definition of what it’s like to be a member of a diplomatic or expatriate family – these are the exceptions.

When I look around my community here’s what I see…

Expats are people who connect to and bond with individuals from a very wide array of political and religious beliefs. We do this because we realize that these things have very little to do with friendship.

We’re individuals who can strike up conversations with anyone, anywhere and at anytime. We seem to inherently recognize the transience of the world around us so we take advantage of the little bits of time we have. We’re not all extroverted, but we do know how to start and maintain a conversation. In my experience, we’re also pretty good at seeing the value in even small moments.

When we experience something that takes us back to another time and place it connects us with friends across the globe. We send a quick message via Facebook or text or email that says, “I saw this and thought of you friend. I miss you.” Our brains are wired with a fascinating map of experience and those experiences don’t exist in a vacuum – they’re connected to our friends and family and they’re enriched by the experience of having shared them with someone who matters.

Expats give new meaning to the terms adaptability, flexibility, curiosity and acceptance. We live these values and they become the scaffolding that supports our constant movement.

And above all else, I see tremendous amounts of love and commitment and community.

So, why do the stereotypes persist? I don’t know. I’m not sure it matters why as much as it matters that, as a community, we know that we’re not glitzy people, sitting behind gold-plated walls, drinking champagne and backstabbing our neighbors. And perhaps in the end that reality is self-perpetuating – the more we live authentically, the more we represent the new diplomat or the new expat community, the more power we have to alter the stereotype. It will be from that place, I feel, that the depth of our experiences and complexity of our choices will reveal not the old image, but the new one. If I look around at my friends I think they’re doing a pretty good job of breaking the stereotypes and I can’t imagine a more wonderful group of people to love.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Baseball…and Other Things That Never Leave Us

Earlier this week my son’s baseball team had the first game of their end of season tournament. This event, and well everything that has happened in the last five months, is so outside the purview of things I ever imagined happening. I assumed we would be wrapping up our family’s final months in Antananarivo. Who knew it would all end up this way.

But, back to baseball. I’m finding myself preparing to miss this weekly ritual that has taken up so much (and by that I mean A LOT) of our time in the last couple of months. The dust of the baseball fields, the now familiar layout of the dugouts and batting cages and concession stand on several acres of land that, up until recently, I’d never been to.

I’m also really struck by the now so well known faces of the parents in the stands. Shockingly, in most cases we don’t even really know each other’s names (mostly we’re so-and-so’s mom or dad). But we’ve developed this sort of easy camaraderie around the ups and downs of the 8U Rangers Georgetown Youth Baseball Association team. With the incredible background of the last 5 months for us, I appreciate seeing these people I barely know a few times a week. And I like them, even in the limited capacity in which I know them.

I can’t help but wonder if this is part of the constant cross-cultural adjustment of our lives as expats. Because everything is always so unpredictable, we tend to see even limited contact with people as significant to the broader need for interpersonal connection. The longer we’re in this life the more I realize that even these seemingly small relationships with people we very well may never see again matter.

This idea serves as a daily reminder of the importance of connecting with others – from a smile genuinely offered to the young woman who serves your coffee to a heartfelt thank you to the loved ones that always seem to be there when we need them the most. And that, in turn, reminds me (as oh so many things do) what a blessing it is to live this life of wandering. For it is in the constant presence of everything new that we surely learn to appreciate the many truths that through time and distance never change.

 

In Memoriam

My paternal grandmother passed away this past week. I made the trip up to Indiana to her funeral alone. I can’t say I was exactly looking forward to the trip, but I also knew I had to go. There was of course the knowledge that it was the right thing to do, I could easily get away and it would be nice to be with my family during this time. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I never in a million years imagined I would be here in the US right now. It felt like a door in the universe was opening up and there was no question I would need to walk through it.

Death is sad. Of course. But, it’s inevitable and my grandmother had lived a long, full life. She was blessed with 4 children, 16 grandchildren and over 20 great-grandchildren. How incredibly awesome is that!? She was married to my grandfather for 64 years. They started dating when she was 13. Really, they were one – in the beautiful sense in which soul mates with time just fall into a natural rhythm of being together.

I spent much of the time over the weekend reflecting on the awesome power of values, tradition and the give-and-take of family interactions. Each member of the family makes up one piece in the long, long mish-mash of individual characters. But even in that seeming haphazard existence of each person (born into a family, but influenced by so many different experiences and stories that bump and guide each trajectory), bits of what most makes us family come through.

As family and friends spoke at my grandmother’s memorial service, the same themes kept floating to the surface – unconditional love and acceptance, hard work, adventure. It was an experience of looking around and realizing, “Hey, I come from somewhere.” My own experiences have shaped my beliefs, but the base work – We’re here for you. We love you. Work hard! Get out there and have some adventures! – were laid and then reinforced a long time ago.

All of that was so clear and beautiful this weekend in the process of remembering my grandmother. And, it makes me realize, maybe in remembering her, we’re reminded of what makes up our Selves…on our own or a part of one really, really big family.

Bon Voyage Mary Esther. Thank you Grandma. xo

 photo

It Takes One to Know One

So here’s an interesting quote I was reminded of today: “It takes one to know one.” That old playground taunt we’ve all heard, but in a completely different context. It came up as a topic of discussion in a class I’m taking.

We were talking about how best to deal with “challenging” people in our lives, the people we spend time tolerating, but not truly loving or accepting. I mentioned that, for me, when I find myself irked by someone, one thing I try to do is recognize what fear, worry, anxiety or judgment about my own self might be triggered by seeing a particular trait in someone else. In short, I imagine that on the other side of ego, we have much more in common than I’d care to admit. Sometimes this process is excruciatingly difficult.

And of course sometimes I fail, but I find the practice, even when it’s unsuccessful, to be a wonderful opportunity for growth. In its simplest form it’s a great stress-reducer. But, more often than not it leads to profound levels of insight. At its best, it deepens your emotional and spiritual core.

There are lots of different strategies for taking on this process.

From my perspective, the end goal of this type of work is beginning to recognize that our suffering is ours and ours alone. Sometimes people make poor choices in how they treat us, but our choice lies in how we respond to that treatment, what we choose to believe about the relationship or interaction, what we choose to recognize about the “difficult” person and what level of personal growth we agree to accept in order to be more at peace in our lives. And, it’s important to remember, the behaviors of others are not about us, but our feelings and responses absolutely are. It’s worth it to take yourself out on a limb to get better at dealing with stressful people.

If you’re interested in gaining some clarity around this in your own life, below are some strategies, exercises and reflections that you might find helpful. Go ahead and give one (or all) of them a go! I guarantee you’ll thank yourself for it.

The Mirror of Relationship – from the Chopra Center
Byron Katie’s The Work
Tara Brach’s The RAIN Model

The Take-Aways

As the mother of three children, I often find myself in awe of the incredible insight that can come from conversations with them. There are times when I realize that it’s quite possible that the few minutes we’re chatting over getting dinner in the oven or buckling seatbelts might just be one of those moments they’ll remember forever.

One particular conversation I had the other day with my 8-year-old, really caused me to reflect on the messages we receive as children (or, frankly, throughout our lives). The messages, positive or negative, that get stuck in our brains and keep coming up over and over again. The voices that tell us what to do and not do…what’s okay and what isn’t.

Our conversation went like this:

Him: Mom, I don’t know if I want to be an actor or an architect and engineer when I grow up.

Me: Well, you can be both. You don’t really have to choose between the two.

Him: Ya’ that’s right! You can change your mind about what you want to be as much as you like.

Me: That’s right.

Him: So maybe I’ll be an actor and when I get tired of that I’ll become and architect and engineer.

Me: Sounds good. What if someone tells you, “Hey, you can’t do that!”

Him: Then I’ll say, “Yes I can!”

Me: What if they tell you, “Acting isn’t a good career!”

Him: Then I’ll just say, “I like it!”

Me: And if they say, “But you won’t make any money!”

Him: I don’t care. It’s what I like.

So, there will come a point in his life when he realizes that maybe all this isn’t 100% as simple as he thinks. Life can be a series of trade-offs and sometimes we really do find ourselves having to make difficult decisions about what will work best for our families and ourselves. And, of course, he’s only eight so he might decide next week he wants to be a something else entirely.

But, my hope for him is that he looks back on this and remembers a few key words – choice (I’m free to choose and the choice is mine and mine alone…to make and to own), like (I should do what I like, what I enjoy and what makes me happy) and, I hope, love (because, of course, his Mama will always, always love him to matter what road he ends up on).

I can’t predict his future, but I can maximize that from these handful of random conversations he gets only the very best take-aways.

 

 

 

Resolve to be Curious

It’s that time again. You know what I’m talking about – New Year’s Resolution season! We’re drawn, quite naturally (and historically, if Wikipedia is to be trusted), to the idea that the New Year is a perfect time to make a change, to shake things up – to be better! I couldn’t agree more.

But, most research reveals that very few people – something around 20% – actually achieve the goals they set at the New Year. There are thousands of articles and blog posts that claim to know why this is. I’m not really going to venture to guess. It seems quite simple to me – what works for one person would drive another individual to give up after Day One. We’re all different and your guess is as good as mine as to why some people find the New Year’s Resolution system to be inspirational and others find it to be a giant, looming, impossible invitation to failure.

I wouldn’t be one to say, “Don’t waste your time.” There’s certainly something to be said for setting goals. And, creating a framework for achieving those goals really works for some, maybe even most, people. If you know it works for you – then go for it.

But, if you’ve tried to set New Year’s Resolutions in the past and failed (repeatedly) – you’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to try something different. Here’s a list of questions that might point you in the right direction. They’re in no particular order and I don’t claim to know what you’ll find on the other side. Nor will I make recommendations for what you do with the answers you find. But what I can say is this – regardless of what you resolve to do – no one fails at reflection, exploration or contemplation. So if you must resolve – maybe just resolve to be…curious.

20 Questions to Ask Yourself in Lieu of New Year’s Resolutions

1. What do I really, really, really, really want?

2. Of all the things I do, what do I enjoy doing most?

3. What am I afraid of?

4. What part of my self am I working hardest to hide from others?

5. What am I both good at and enjoy doing?

6. What am I good at, but don’t enjoy doing?

7. Who are the 5 people in my life that most inspire me? Why?

8. What are 3 times in my life when I was faced with a decision and I made the right choice for me at that time?

9. Who am I judging? What does it say about me that I’m holding that judgment?

10. What aspect of my life gives me the greatest sense of purpose?

11. Who are the people in my life with whom I feel the most me?

12. What are 3 things in my life that I am tolerating?

13. Where do I want to go that I’ve never been before?

14. What do I want to say that I’ve never said?

15. Who in my life loves me most of all?

16. What emotions or feelings freak me out?

17. What would I prefer to do less of?

18. What would I prefer to do more of?

19. When do I feel closest to God? (God, as you define it – whatever draws you closer to your spiritual center)

20. If tomorrow were my last day, what would I let go of?

 

 

 

Learning from the Everyday

This weekend my family and I took a nice trip out of town. It wasn’t anything overly spectacular – just an enjoyable and relaxing time outside the city. There were opportunities for hiking, exploring and seeing local wildlife. We did a bit of that – there’s really no missing the wildlife, as this spot happens to be one of the most popular tourist destinations for getting up close and personal with lemurs. But, most of the time we watched the kids run up and down a hill, throw rocks in a stream and sword fight with sticks of bamboo.

While my husband and I were really interested in taking in some nice long walks, the kids just weren’t enthusiastic about it. What they were enthusiastic about was that hill, those rocks, that stream and the endless possibilities drawn from a stick of bamboo. In the end, it was more enjoyable to sit and watch them explore the world around them on their own terms, than to try to force them into our prepared plan. The value of just being together outweighed the need to do something “special” together. And, anyway, what we did end up doing was absolutely special enough.

We’re not the first or only family to have had a similar experience. That is, after all, what families do all the time – they adjust, they re-evaluate, they listen to each other’s needs and wants, they change and they grow.

What I wonder is, how often do we let these everyday experiences (these moments of potential growth and change) go by without really taking the time to notice them? Do we give them the weight that they deserve? If we took more time to ask ourselves what we learn from a given adventure, would we be poised to learn even more? And I’m not just talking about the big stuff – the times when you think “Whoa! We’ll never do that again!” I’m talking about the small stuff too. The little adjustments, the tiny shifts in plan. If we paid better attention, could we save ourselves from undue hassle, heartache, frustration or anger?

My thought is – probably. It can’t hurt. It’s at least worth a try.

So, next time you find yourself reflecting on a particularly awesome day or an especially crummy one, consider taking time to slow down and be curious about what’s working or not working.  What made this day different from any other? Are any aspects of this day worth repeating? Did your actions or the actions of someone else add joy to the day? Are small adjustments in attitude, outlook, or point-of-view all it takes to make a bad day better? Or, is there something bigger at work? The possible questions are endless. You decide which ones work for you. Whatever you do, give yourself the gift of noticing the everyday. You never know what you’ll find by looking more closely at the things that typically pass you by.

 

 

Your Life Story

This is a nice article on the power of personal narrative. It gets me thinking about how life coaches help clients access their stories.

Life coaching is very forward focused, but that doesn’t mean that life coaches don’t acknowledge or think about the past – or that they encourage their clients to forget the past. In fact, the past (and what we tell ourselves about our history) is essential to looking forward. From birth through old age, we’re constantly assimilating past experiences to help us better understand what’s next.

I ask my clients to complete a “My Life Story” exercise. While this helps me get to know the people I’m working with better, I also believe it’s important for creating the next steps in a path towards reaching one’s dreams. It can help you develop closure, recognize that it’s time to move on, remind you of the dreams you left behind or enable you to take the first steps towards change.

Are you finding your visions for the future a bit nebulous? If so, try writing down your life story. You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare. It’s not even essential that anyone else ever see it. And I’m not talking autobiography, just a page or two of the highlights. But, it should be your voice, your take on the way things have been.

Then read what you’ve written. What feelings come up about the past? What language do you use to describe your life? Do the changes you might want to make get clearer? Do things look completely different on paper? Do you see patterns that you want to repeat in order to reach your dreams? Or, do you see habits you might want to get rid of?

It could be you see your needs, your wants or your values where before you simply saw a series of events. Maybe you see your blessings. Perhaps your strengths become more apparent. Or, it could be simply a nice reminder of where you’ve come from. And it might be there’s no better place to start when you’re thinking about where you want to go.

When In Doubt…There’s Always Flash Mobs

When you move a lot you find surprising ways to perk yourself up. Your typical habits for brightening a rainy day may not exist…no Starbuck’s, no lunch with your very best childhood friend, no quick cup of coffee with your mom, no browsing the crafts aisle at Target. Did I mention no Starbuck’s?

So, you find other ways to celebrate life. One of my favorites? Watching flash mobs on YouTube…especially ones that involve marriage proposals…although anything that combines both smiles and tears can be a winner. All it really takes is 3-4 minutes and the decision to let yourself smile (or cry) and you’ll be all lemonade and absolutely no lemons!

This one’s been making the rounds quite a bit. I love it! Happy Friday Everyone!