Tag Archives: mindfulness

How are you doing…really?

I want my coat back!
I want my coat back!

It’s a question a friend of mine taught me. Of course the trick in asking the question is waiting after you’ve said “really,” waiting to give the silence time to do it’s work and get to an answer deeper than “fine.”

One of the things I like about the Bible is that it often tells the story of how real people were really doing and what’s really going on in their lives. In one of his letters, Paul basically says to a guy, “Hey, Tim. When you come to see me, bring my coat, would ya? I left it at Carpus’ house.” That’s ordinary life stuff. I left my coat somewhere recently right before the temperature plunged below freezing for a week. I wanted my coat back, too.

In the wake of my husband’s brother suddenly dying of a heart attack at the age of 50, two months almost to the day after my father-in-law died, people often ask me how I’m doing. Unlike most days, no one expects me to say, “Fine,” but it can be hard to put into words how I am doing…really.

Paul puts expression to my experience again in his words, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” OK, I’m not being persecuted, or hard pressed on “every” side, but the other words fit.

The Psalms are another place where people put words to their experience. Some days the writers are basking in God’s love. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Other days…not so much.

One of what we in our family call the “whiny Psalms” begins with the words, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” I feel that way sometimes. “How many deaths can a family take in such a short time? Please don’t let anyone else die.”

But even this whiny Psalm ends with hope:

“But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salivation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
For he has been good to me.”

I may not feel like singing right now, but I believe that one day I will again.

And that’s how I’m doing…really.

Turn self-doubt into affirmation of your unique contribution

I sat silently in a meeting recently, this mental chatter in my head:

  • What am I doing here?
  • I’m not good at big picture conceptualization like these people.
  • It’s better if I don’t say anything.
  • My best contribution is as scribe, writing down other people’s ideas on the whiteboard.

If I had let this internal commentary continue unchallenged, I would have withdrawn further into a discouraged silence and, dare I say it, a shamed sense of “not as good as them.”

The good news is that, after a bit of time, I was self-aware enough to notice what I was saying to myself, to notice it and question it.

  • Is it true that I have nothing to offer here?

That stopping, noticing, and questioning allowed the direction of my thoughts to change.  I remembered some things:

  • The framework for this part of the discussion came from a podcast series I listened to 6 months ago.  I contributed something long before today’s meeting began.
  • As the only therapist in the room, I have a unique “in” to the issues for which couples seek help.
  • There will be specific, detailed tasks that come out of the meeting that need to be done.  I’m good at those.

Remembering these things freed me from the shaming mental chatter, I valued my contribution, and I felt freer to engage in the conversation.

So let withdrawal catch your attention.  Challenge your internal commentary.  Remind yourself of what’s true and valuable in what you bring to the table.  Or am I the only one who does this?

A Great Date


Senior African American couple holding handsA long-awaited date-night at times creates anxiety.  “I want it to be special.” “I don’t want to get into a fight on the way to the restaurant and ruin the evening.”  “I don’t want to only talk about…”

A friend recently asked me and my husband for suggestions of questions she and her husband could ask each other so they didn’t spend the whole evening out talking about their new baby.  Your issue may be different: caring for an aging parent, your child’s school placement, a stressful issue at work.  Here’s a list of questions and conversation starters to make the most of your precious date.

How are you doing…really?  Then be quiet and wait for the answer.

What are you learning these days?

Ask specific questions about work or life: how did that meeting go? What are you looking forward to/concerned about regarding work?  How’s your mom doing?

Dig into your own life and identify things to offer to move the conversation: I was reading X and it made me think about…What do you think?  Did you hear about Y in the news…? I heard a new song this week. I want to play it for you in the car.  Talk/dream about your next trip together.

Speak out appreciations about each other regarding any topic.

If there is something you need from each other, make your request as clear and concrete as possible.

Decide ahead of time if you’ll do any business meeting-type stuff: finances, calendar, etc.

Make an agreement ahead of time about how much it’s ok to talk about your big issue. If you go over, be gentle with yourselves and change the topic.  And as you do talk about it, focus on what you’re learning about yourself as you are dealing with it.  You can talk about how the issue might be impinging on your friendship with each other, and how to get “us” time back.

Your date is also a great time to be “present.”  Find a place or activity where you can lose yourself in the moment.  Something you both love would be cool.  Whether it is to the food you’re eating, the movie you’re watching, the view you’re seeing, turn all of your attention to the present moment – the smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound of the place.  Notice it out loud – talk about what you’re experiencing.  When your big issue pops into your head, gently see it coming, and gently let it go.

And if all else fails, hold hands and take a walk.