If they are so lovely, why do I want to chase them with a hatchet? Part One.

from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Riso & Hudson (c) 1999

I recently spent 7 full days out of my home. I missed out on sending two kids back to school, was gone for an out of town family visit, and missed being home to support a child making a big decision in his life. And it was all worth it. 

I’ve known for a long time that I need to be writing about my experiences with my own personal development; if my professional life is centered around supporting others to find what matters in their life, it feels like sharing my own path in finding my own higher calling could be helpful. Those 7 days away may have been the most impactful 7 days on my lifetime journey of self-development. It was not necessarily the course that had the impact; the immersion with a group of people who are also searching for something was what was powerful ~ I was with my people and that felt really good. And I didn’t even know I was looking for anything. Again, what to share….

Let me start with a little historical perspective. About 21 years ago, I was introduced to the Enneagram, which at the time, I took to equate with a personality test. I’ve flirted with it over the years, but about 4 years ago, was reintroduced to it as part of a coaching workshop. I then did some studying, attended a weekend workshop, and some answers started to evolve for me. So I dug in and have been studying weekly, in a group with a master teacher, for a year. This past week, was an intensive course at the Enneagram Institute with the man who “wrote the book on it.” Literally, co-authored the book I’ve been studying. It was powerful.

So what the heck is the Enneagram? I could say a lot about this, but the quick and dirty (which isn’t so quick) is that the basis for the types came from the first Christian monastics around 250 BC ~ people who wanted to understand what it takes to create community and who wanted a direct experience of divinity. Over time, what they came up with were the 8 things that distract people from God – they referred to these as the 8 ways one can “miss the mark” in their focus on divine-like living. Over time, literally hundreds of years, these teachings have merged with other traditions, spiritual beliefs, and modern psychological frameworks, to become what we now call the Enneagram. 

Russ Hudson, who, with Don Riso, co-authored The Wisdom of the Enneagram, refers to it as the “nine ways we forget ourselves.” It sounds beautiful, to me. The Enneagram describes the nine ways we leave our own truth, by leaving presence/consciousness and engaging in our “habits of usual” that help us to cope with the perceived loss of our natural gifts; our truth; our essence, if you will.  We all do this in varying degrees, but what I have learned, is that through a practice of mindfulness, or presence, I can quickly return to what is real for me. When I am engaging in my personality, I think it is who I am, but really, it is a coping mechanism for addressing all sorts of psychological processes that exist to protect me. But what if I don’t actually need to be protected? What if living in my truth is safe for me? 

It is. Paying attention to your essence and noticing when your personality has taken over or is fighting you to take over, is all we need to start this journey; the Enneagram is a framework for helping you to find your essence and your type will help you to see what typically distracts you from it. And while it actually takes a fair amount of vulnerability to live without constantly (unconsciously) defending yourself, paradoxically, I believe it is the safest way to go about living. Having your insides match your outsides is a pretty powerful place from which to operate in the world. 

If none of this makes sense to you, maybe you can related to this: do you often feel angst? Anxiety? Worry? Are you longing for something and not sure what it is? Do you wonder why your partner is so amazing but you sometimes want to chase them with a hatchet? Or wonder why everyone else’s kids seem more loving, responsible, and socially competent? Your answers might lie with the Enneagram. I use it to support leaders in the workplace, moms who are longing for something different, and teenagers who can’t understand why their parents won’t get off their backs. In its plainest terms, it makes clear what motivates us and gives us some direction about how to access that. Because really, what we think motivates us isn’t what motivates us at all. Ha! How’s that for mystical? 

I realize I haven’t even gotten to what I might want to communicate, so I’m going to do this in parts. Let’s consider this part one. Your teaser is here: My type is 7 (with a 6 wing) and it explains SO MUCH. This explains why I keep making shifts in my career, why I couldn’t sit still for the first 45 years of my life, and why I felt frustrated for much of my day, despite the fact that things were objectively pretty good. It also explains how I manipulate those around me and more importantly how to stop. The flip side is that it also helps me to understand why having a good, genuine belly laugh is my favorite thing in the world. It helps me understand why clients want to share their lives with me, and why I naturally see the bright side of a situation. It’s not just about our pain points, it is also about those things that make us come alive. Waking up to myself has been a powerful experience for which I am better. I’d also argue that my family is the direct beneficiary of this work. We are all better because of it. 

The Enneagram is dynamic ~ we move around in it depending on what parts of ourselves we need to call on in different situations. And we have levels that we shift throughout depending on what triggers us or how present we are in a particular situation. I’ve seen peoples’ “center of gravity” change ~ friends who seem to have gotten so much happier and more stable over time (moving up the levels) and others, who have developed personality disorders and really struggled (moving down the levels). There is more…but I’ll leave it here. It has been a game changer for me. The Enneagram explains it all. And more importantly, provides a path towards clarity and fulfillment. 

I had no idea I was even looking for something when I started this work; it was an academic exercise for me. And it seems I’ve stumbled across something that has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with wholehearted, authentic, living. Want more? Stay tuned. Want it quicker than that? Give me a call. 

Good Intentions Aren’t Enough: Authentic Connection Starts With You.

When I was a freshman in college, I noticed that one of my floormates was eating alone. She often ate alone. My new-best-friend-because-we-were-both-from-Massachusetts (which was basically the only qualification I had for anyone to be my friend) and I looked at her with awe and amazement. I now see that we looked at her like she was a character from the Land of Misfit Toys or from the movie, The Greatest Showman. We said something that was probably patronizing (man, if I could go back, there is so much I’d do over), but I’ll never, ever, forget what she said to us.

“Its people like you that make this weird. Its people who look at those of us who eat alone like there is something wrong with us or like we SHOULD want something different for ourselves. I love eating alone.” 

Silence.

More silence. 

Let it sink in. 

How often do you take notice of something someone else is doing or saying and pity them or even empathize with them, without really knowing how they feel about it? How often do you make an assumption about what they are experiencing based on what you experience or are experiencing as you listen to them? At best, this is an assumption or misunderstanding, but often, this assumption comes from our own experience of pain or fear; it is a version of projection (unconsciously shifting our own intolerable feelings about a situation and externalizing those feelings on to someone else). The way we respond to others is a reflection of who we are. Acknowledging that, getting curious about our internal reaction, and then either clearing it before responding or acknowledging it as part of our response, is essential to being of service to others. It is the only way to communicate empathy, connection, and acknowledgement of another’s experience. 

Being with.

So get curious. Get curious about yourself and get curious about those with whom you interact. People want to be understood and the only way to honor that, is to listen without attachment to your version of their experience. It is a paradox of being connected to oneself while also being selfless in the interaction. The willingness to look inside and examine our inner life is the only path that will lead us there.

My 6 Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement (this summer!)

Start by taking out your coaching workbook or binder; everything you need is in there.

  1. Perspective: Take a moment to revisit the Trademarked Perspectives you came up with. Is there one that you can use for the college search process? Maybe there is one that we already chose? Create a structure to remind yourself of this and maybe even share it with your friends or family. Anything spoken out loud to another person automatically builds accountability.
  2. Accountability!: Ask for accountability partners wherever you think you may need them.
  3. Values: We’ve likely done some important work examining what we call your life themes or values. These are those 3-5 topics that are unique to you and that you need to honor on a regular basis in order to really feel fulfillment. We’ve either strung some words together (ie: freedom/independence/choice) or described something you understand with a catchy name (ie: family adventure). Take a few minutes to re-examine those and see where you are currently honoring them or not;
  4. Process Values: Use the list you have created as examples as you write about the things you want to highlight to the admissions committee. If a core value is “family,” a process value might be “family adventure.” And maybe the structure you chose was a map. If you pull these together, you have great examples and/or metaphors to use in your essay that communicate how essential having family adventure is to who you are and how you show up in your life.
  5. Inner Critic: Be aware of your “buddy” identified in coaching who always keeps you safe, but sometimes too safe. Make sure you are keeping that little one in check. You might want to ask them to stay outside the door while you write. Saboteurs can really get in the way when we are trying to stand out; often times, our saboteurs want us to stay very small.
  6. The “Crappy First Draft” (thank you, Brene Brown): Remember that this is your first draft; it is simply a place to start. This draft will help you synthesize all that you’ve chosen to pull into the essay that makes you who you are. Once you have those bones, there are many options for the other 25%: How have these served you to overcome an obstacle? How will they serve you in your chosen major? How have they allowed you to persevere in the face of adversity? How will you use them to choose your next steps? Remember that the essay is about YOU; not about the obstacle, the major, the career, the sport, the adventure, or the club.

Choose what you want to use from our coaching or other important self-discovery you have done, tell your saboteur to get lost, and get writing. You have absolutely everything you need to write a personal statement that will communicate exactly who you are to the admissions committee!

Get Writing!

Peace is just a few breaths away.

Lots has been said lately about mindfulness, meditation, presence, being “in the moment”…and if you are anything like I have been for most of my life, you are confused. I had a roommate who set her alarm so she could wake up early and meditate. WTF. Not a chance. I’ll sleep, thank you. Twelve step recovery programs tell us to take “quiet time” daily. I basically fell asleep or used the time to think about things. It was good, it was something, but it still made no sense. I never saw the impact that so many were fawning over. Over the last 30 years, I’ve amassed a distinguished record of failed attempts at meditating by way of studying meditation, buying apps, doing 30 day challenges, taking action on it, reading as much as I could, listening to podcasts, and whatever else. I finally chalked it up to a biological incapability to quiet my mind. Yes, that’s all I wanted. A quiet mind where the list of things to do wasn’t flowing freely and often causing panic.

I remember coming home from an early morning meeting one Saturday and finding my husband asleep. It was 8:30 am. I immediately reacted to the fact that he didn’t have time to sleep because there were curtains to be hung and a lawn to mow. I’m so grateful that he didn’t divorce me right then and there. 

So fast forward to 2018, four kids later, when I was introduced to a spiritual mentor who simply said this: get comfortable, breathe, and focus on your breath without judgement. That’s it. What I loved about this is that she added, “don’t change the way you breathe, just breathe.” You mean I don’t have to count to 8 at every inhale and count to 9 at every exhale? And if a thought comes into my mind, let alone whole conversations with people against whom I hold resentments or need to speak with about any number of things, just notice it without judgement and refocus on the breath? Really? Over time, I learned that when I’m focusing on the breath, I have no thoughts, other than the up and down of my belly or chest. As I did it more, I noticed other sensations in my body; I noticed what was painful or where I felt the bottoms of my feet in my socks and my socks on the ground. I felt my butt in the chair, usually sinking into the chair in my office, and the tightness of my forehead or my neck or my shoulders. This time gave me the opportunity to shift and to stretch and to crack the bones and shift the muscles around. Sometimes, I even imagine myself connected to the earth or the sky and whatever else is outside of the sky. Generally, I keep it simple and just breathe. 

When I started thinking about this 30 years ago, I had no idea what I was longing for other than a chance to give my brain a break. It needed to rest. Having practiced this way consistently for almost a year now, I notice the impact outside of those moments of quiet. Over time I have seen that when someone pisses me off, I feel a nudge in my body – usually in my back – and it is like an early warning signal to the rest of me. It reminds me to check in and and ask myself a question. Sometimes, it’s “What is true for me now?” The question allows me pause. It allows me to notice that I’m about to lose my shit and so I put space between my feelings, thoughts and reactions. Other times, it is more immediate – but checking in always tells me that my reaction is not about the other person despite how hard I’m trying to make it about them. Almost always, I feel an emotion: sadness or fear. And my sadness is usually about fear. Or loss. Which is also about fear. It’s all about fear. That moment of checking in allows me to pull away from that reaction I was about to have and notice that the fear or sadness have nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with me. Tara Brach says something like “an emotion felt all the way through lasts about 90 seconds.” I have also heard that anger not reacted upon lasts about 8 minutes. It is when we resist the feelings by acting on them and not acknowledging them and letting them just pass through the energy of our body that they last for hours, or days, or years. Really, it’s our resistance that lasts for hours, or days, or years. When practicing this breathing, or presence as I refer to it, for a few minutes a day, I yell less, I listen more, and I relax into my skin in a different way because it brings presence into my day in those moments when I most need to be an outside observer of myself. More often than I’d like to admit, my outside observer says, “What the hell are you doing? Stop making everyone cray cray and just feel what you feel!”

My fears about whether or not things will ever get done if I spend 5 minutes a day practicing this presence are assuaged by the fact that I am happier, calmer, and have pause. I’m more curious and less convicted. I’m more empathic and less a victim. My kids haven’t told me that I have no chill in at least a couple of months. 

So what is this? Meditation? Mindfulness? Presence? Who cares? I refer to it as my presence practice because it takes me out of the future, away from the past, and gives me the moment I’m in and then the next moment and the next one and the next one. It’s all a form of mindfulness which is a form of meditation, but my presence practice has no chanting or mantra. I will add that at some point, I assume, but for now, I’m happy with what I have. 

I am grateful to have a work life that allows me to practice this with my clients which is good for me, too. It allows me to just release all that I have with me and show up fully, 100% with them and what they have brought to the session. I am a better coach because of it. Teenagers love it. Executives love it. My college aged clients really love it. I never would have understood it at that age. I really didn’t and I tried so hard. Resisting the fact that I had a quiet mind is actually what perpetuated the busy mind. The occupied mind. The frenetic mind. Coming out of the present and into the future is what causes my distress. I wonder what you’ll notice when you try it. I’d love to hear. 

I can share some resources from others who practice. I’ll add a recording to my facebook page so you, too, can experience it. I am not great at it outside of doing it with another person, but that’s ok for now. I don’t suck. I am not a failure. I am just a girl on a journey to increase the positivity in the energetic field that I take with me wherever I go, one breath at a time. 

There are only two things you need to know before deciding to open a home office.

As I walked into my office this morning, I spied something out of the corner of my eye that looked out of place. The only way to get into my home office, where I see coaching clients 4-6 days a week, is to walk through my dining room. I also have some comfortable chairs set up for those occasions when I hold groups in my home. So here I am, about 45 minutes before my first client of the day arrives, and I see that my dog has brought a pair of my husband’s underwear downstairs and left it in the chair directly outside of my office. I quickly grab it and throw it down the basement stairs, and head into my office. 

  1. Can you manage the necessary upkeep that supports whatever image it is that you are trying to convey to those who come to meet you professionally? 

After throwing the underwear down the basement stairs, I sat down to put together some paperwork that I wanted ready for the client who was coming to my home for our discovery session. I was deep in thought, typing away, and heard all sorts of noise from the other room. I looked at my watch and decided I had time before they arrived to investigate. Not only had the dogs moved the chairs barricading the pull out trash can in my kitchen, but they had successfully pulled open the drawer, extricated the entire hefty bag from the barrel, dragged it to a more comfortable carpeted space, and dug right in. Apparently one likes his meat and the other likes sugar so they hadn’t been fighting over the contents of the previously well tied and secured bag. I threw the bag on the porch (where I’m sure the squirrels are chowing on it now) and left them with their meat containers and banana muffin cups.

2. Do you have a space that is free of distraction that allows you to separate professional duties from personal duties?

I have had many, many clients come to my home whom I have never met before and do think about the safety and security of my family and my home. Have I ever felt unsafe with a client? No. Have I ever wondered if I should? Not really. Do I have what I need in place to allow me to do the work every day without asking myself those questions on a regular basis? Absolutely. 

3. Are you putting yourself or your home at risk of harm by having clients enter your personal space?

The answers to the above questions are something like: 

(1) Sort of?; 

(2) On good days, with a lot of discipline and sound machines on, yes; and

3) I suppose one never really knows. 

Are the answers to those three questions really important at all?

Probably not. They keep me on my toes, but they are not deal-breakers. As I continue to shape this blob of metaphorical clay that sits in front of me (that is, continue to create what I want with this life I have), I realize that only two things matter:

  1. My personal values; and
  2. My professional “why”.

Working with someone to get clear on those two things is the best predictor of success for any life decision. What is important to you? My answer to that question includes the following: flexibility and efficiency with regard to time and scheduling, being available to my children in ways that meet our needs for accountability to each other and our emotional connection as a family community, and finally, creating joy throughout my day, every single day. If I can fulfill my mission, my professional “why”, while making sure these values are being honored, I can successfully manage a home office. Frankly, I can do anything. 

So today, while I was throwing the underwear down the basement stairs, I laughed out loud at the story I could have shared with a client had they encountered tighty whities  during our first appointment. When I discovered the dogs with their sweet and savory treats in front of them, I snapped a picture, threw the bag on the porch, and returned to my office, allowing the mess to stay there until my work hours are over. And finally, I have scheduled blocks in this week to prepare meals, do some household chores, and spend time with my kids, both being and doing with them. What is good for my clients, is good for me.

Knowing and honoring my values and staying in touch with my “why” are the only touchstones I need as I continue to mold my clay with this one, fabulous life I have. 

Your Stake in the World: Write a College Essay that Communicates What Matters to You.

When I was in school learning about the coaching paradigm and how different it was from my worldview as a clinical social worker, it changed my life in so many ways. By and large, I shifted from “you are broken and I am here to fix you,” to “you are perfect exactly where you are, and there is always room for growth; what do you want?” My agenda does not run the relationship; rather, the client’s curiosity does. My job is to ask questions that open neural pathways of possibility for clients and to support them to move into action between our sessions. I do this with employees, managers, parents, millennials, and teenagers. 

During my training, I found I had a longing to bring coaching to young people. How different could this world be if students had an opportunity to explore who they are and then learned to leverage those innate talents and strengths 

to shift how they show up in the world? How significant could it be, if, one student at a time, we went from “I have no idea what I want,” to “I know who I am and what will support me to create what I want (even if I don’t know what that looks like right now).” By using students’ real world experience in school, at home, on teams, with affiliations, or at work as the playground for learning, with coaching as the catalyst, we throw a pebble in a pond and watch the whole pond change.

I was working with a 9th grade student who, after some coaching, noticed that the classes where he had the highest grades, were also the classes where he could identify an ally.  He learned that he needed some level of comfort before he could be uncomfortable enough to be seen by the teacher. Learning requires some level of vulnerability. It requires risk. Not only did our work uncover that, once he discovered how it played out, he was motivated to get in the sandbox and play with it.  He came up with a system that started with how he unpacked his bag in class and made eye contact with the teacher. It involved lots of experimenting with putting up his hand in class, whether he wanted to, or not. He would return to our zoom calls every other week, engaging with me in a different way, as well. I could tell things were shifting, but more importantly, he could, too. His mother called me to ask what we were doing together because she had noticed a difference in their home. He started to feel success and he understood that he could actually have an impact, not just in school, but in other areas of his life, as well. What started with “my teacher hates me,” ended with, “I need an ally to feel comfortable, but I can influence who I see as my allies.”

In thinking about this young man in 9th grade, I know that he already has a moment to reflect on to write his college essay. What?? You don’t have to have a ginormous leadership project? You don’t have to be an Eagle Scout? You don’t have to form a non-profit or even be a candy striper at the hospital? The short answer is, “No.” I have spent the last several years picking the brains of high school counselors, college admissions counselors, and folks who are certified to guide students through the college process in the private sector. Guess what? Everyone gives the same advice: to highlight something that communicates who you are. Most would agree, too, that the focus is on the student, not the thing. When a student writes a great (not fancy, which is another blog post!) essay about who they are, they are far more likely to differentiate themselves from the crowd of other applicants.

My 9th grade student could write about how he took his notebook out of his backpack and made eye contact, and what those moments in time taught him about intentionally engaging with other people. He could even marvel at a world where people did this on a regular basis. The admissions committees would learn that he is curious about himself, is willing to take risks in service of his own growth, and that he cares about what connects people with one another. 

Essays are about communicating what a student’s stake is in this world. It is exciting work and when we let students guide the process and we support their agenda, they do a fantastic job at doing just that.

Thank You Note Challenge January 2019

Friends,

I had the opportunity to coach the most amazing women at the Massachusetts Conference for Women earlier this month. Wow. Its one of my favorite events in which to participate. I heard phenomenal keynote speakers and went to workshops full of rich teaching and learning.

At the Workplace Summit on day one, some really interesting data was shared that stopped me in my tracks.

Taking 2 minutes (and we mean maximum of 2 minutes) to write a positive email or letter thanking or praising someone in your life is connected to all sorts of positive outcomes.

But wait, there is more….

We “co-process” the world. Because we share traits with those around us (optimism, happiness, pessimism…its all contagious), we cannot pursue meaningful self-help alone; we must pursue it in community.

(because I want to give credit where credit is due, Shawn Achor, an amazing happiness researcher,  shared this. Google him. He’s amazeballs.)

So welcome to 2019, the year of the Granahan Coaching and Consulting Thank You Note Challenge. From January 1 – January 31, I’ll be posting something daily about gratitude (teaser: I’ll share more about the data above). If you want to take part, you’ll commit to writing a short email or note to someone daily, thanking them for whatever it is you want to thank them for. This is about you. And us. It’s about partnering with each other in a quest for increased dopamine and connecting as a community.

My preference is to do this on my Granahan Coaching and Consulting Facebook page rather than creating a separate Facebook page. I’d also love for you to interact with each other on this page, sharing your own thoughts or beliefs about what’s happening for you, notice any shifts in how you show up in the world, or just share the folks to whom you are writing. You’ll be sharing ideas for those who may be having a hard time coming up with words or people to thank!

If you are not comfortable doing so on my public page, just reach out to me. If it keeps even one person from participating, we’ll do a separate FB page/event? Clearly I have more to learn about social media.

If you don’t already follow my FB page, please head on over and follow it now. Its Granahan Coaching and Consulting. Many of you access my posts when I share them to my personal page, but please join your fellow warriors over on my business page. You won’t regret the community of others who are longing for something and willing to work for whatever that is. Our co-processing starts now.

Much love to you all as we journey through 2019 together. Let’s remember what the data shows and what we already know ourselves: we are wired for connection and our light shines brighter and more authentically when we are “in it” together.

With gratitude,

Christina 

(image by Brian Andreas at Storypeople)

Remembering Who I Am: The College Dropoff

I’m home from dropping the kids and thinking about the myriad ways we all address this time as parents. I’m a big observer of behavior and I listen for a living. I’ve learned a lot and have have noticed four distinct Mama-types that reveal themselves at this time of year. Here is what I’ve learned – feel free to add something else if you don’t find yourself here!

  1. The “It’s their time, they’ll be fine” type, or its variation, the “You know its what they have to do, don’t you?” Mom. These moms have an ability to put all the emotions of their child’s departure into a tight, little box, neatly tied with a bow. It just is what it is. While not unkind, they really have no patience or understanding for those who talk about what it feels like to have said goodbye to their college kids.
  1. The “I’ve just lost my best friend” Mom. She isn’t quite sure what she’ll do with herself (other than count down those days!) now that her BFF isn’t front and center anymore. This mom looks forward to face timing with their kid at the end of the day, tries to visit often, and  has definitely had a huge role in decorating their child’s dorm or apartment. Care package group just may be a highlight for this mom when she can hear what all her kiddo’s hometown friends are up to. She loves them all.
  1. The “I’m worried that they don’t know how to take care of themselves” Mom. She stays afloat by keeping in touch with other faceless parents on the university chat rooms dedicated to parents like herself, looking for advice on where their children should grocery shop, asking what time the shuttles run, or wondering how to lodge a complaint about their child’s roommate or professor. She is not going to let her child be swallowed up by bureaucrats who might not be looking out for the best interests of her vulnerable child.
  1. The “One Day at a Time” Mom. Her emotions shift and adjust daily; sometimes she’s happy, others days she is sad, and many are nameless and shapeless and difficult to describe. Feelings weave their way through her days as she gets used to a smaller household, a quieter household, and maybe even a cleaner household.

No matter what you are feeling or which of the above types resonate for you, who you are in times of major change in other areas of your life is likely how you will show up when your child leaves the roost. If you tend to need to cry it out, then you will probably need to cry this one out, too. If you prefer to drown yourself in work, well then you will be busy this fall. If having all of the details or none of the details of a particular situation is comforting to you, then you’ll want the same here. And if you generally don’t acknowledge an impact, well, status quo, here you come! Remembering who you are will help you to predict your needs and gage your activities to avoid a salty exchange with your spouse, a tearful moment with the Starbucks barista, or your total confusion when your friend is trying to tell you how often their child’s dining hall has served corn on the cob.

If you are the “I’ve lost my best friend” Mom, do not assume something is wrong when you are hanging with your “It’s their time, they’ll be fine” pals. They are different. They are not you. It does not mean you can’t invite them along to your care package group, but do not compare yourself to them. Identify with them, instead. You have a shared experience and are both wherever you are in that. And when you need to find your people, find your people. You’ll know them immediately. And chances are, they will need you, too.

It never serves me to pretend to be the Mom I am not. I’ve tried. It is only when I remember who I am that I find what I need in these times of transition. Likely, we are each a hybrid of these four types. I know I am. Maybe others, too. When I remember who I am ~ what I need and what I value ~ I care less about being judged and I judge less. In letting go of who I am not, I can authentically be who I am. It then becomes abundantly clear that we are all doing the best we can, showing up as we know how to in this moment. From this place, I settle in to a sense that the universe will give me what I need and it is all gonna be ok. It is always peaceful there.

Now that I’m clear about that, I’ve gotta go face time the kids to see how their day was.

Turning Away from the Sun so that I Can Grow

Its that time of year again. Sunflower season. In the next few weeks, fields will be blanketed with these amazing flowers – myriad breeds, shades of yellows and oranges and browns, different heights – all pointing to the sun. I often think of August and September as a time when we start again. I imagine this is from so many years of going to school on a traditional academic calendar (in the northeast, at least!), with a new classroom, a new set of teachers, classmates, subject materials. I loved this time of year ~ unlike others, I found excitement in the newness and very little conscious fear. I remember that first fall out of graduate school. I felt lost; like something was missing. I remember the awareness that there was nothing new in my life, no new school, new college apartment, new books to buy, new subjects to eagerly jump into. I was depressed and at the same time, grateful to know where it came from.

I know my “sun”. I know that my life patterns are about the next new thing. I know that I feel a “hit” when I shift my attention towards something that is not what I’m doing right now. This has allowed for myriad experiences and exposure 

to so many concepts, topics, and types of people to come into my life. But what has it cost me? It has probably cost me some depth. Some awareness. Some awakening. If something gets boring or painful or difficult, I am easily swayed to something new {read: avoid pain at all costs}. In that newness, I cheat myself of the ability to really feel; to really experience; to really know myself outside of my defenses and my ego. My truth ~ who I am in my soul ~ never reveals itself if I don’t sit still and listen.

So this month, my attention is pointed to the sunflower. Sure, its the logo for my business, for all the reasons I cite on my website {shameless plug: www.christinagranahan.com}. Sunflowers need the sun for survival. But they also need their seed

and the dirt. Sunflowers, like me, shift and change when they hit the sun. I want to know who I am before I ever hit the sun; who I am at my core, my seed, my dirt, my soul: I want to find my own light, completely separate from the sun. I want more choice over how I view the world and how I react when I’m in it. I know that only by sitting still, turning inward, and just being in the moment without the noise of my thoughts and beliefs, can I do this work and have that choice.

Anyone want to come along and “grow” yourself with me?

Why the sunflower? While unique in color and size, all sunflowers share the desire to find the sun. Sunflowers will point their bold centers towards light – in fact, their vitality depends on it. Their potential for vibrance, growth, stature, and sustainability in a field of many, is completely dependent on their ability to poke through the dirt and move towards the sun. Like the sunflower, we all have the ability to find our own light. Our ability to stand confidently and with purpose among many, moving towards our unique genius, happens only when we find our light. Let me help you find your light.

The Red Sweatshirt Strings

There was recently a Facebook post in our community about purchasing sweatshirts for a school trip for elementary students. This trip is a tradition in town, and families are invited to purchase red sweatshirts that both provide much needed warmth for all the outdoor fun and memorialize the event for years to come. Because I had kids in elementary school for what seems like forever and was a chaperone on the trip and a parent helper leading up to the trip, I am well aware of the concern over getting just the right sweatshirt. Here’s the thing: all the sweatshirts look exactly the same. Exactly. You can buy one with a hood or one without a hood. And you can buy youth or adult sizes. But wait. The youth sizes do. not. have. strings. in. the. hood. OMG (picture a car screeching to a halt).

With 100% good intentions – really and truly – when the sweatshirt sales start, parents are warned that they must. buy. the. right. sweatshirt. There must have been a year when a child had a meltdown over their sweatshirt not looking like someone else’s, because for years, parents have been warned that if they don’t buy the right sweatshirt, it would ruin their child’s trip or they’d end up having to buy a second sweatshirt when their child noticed theirs was different. The right sweatshirt was clearly not a youth size. and clearly not a crew neck.

Remember 4th grade? Remember how different kids are, physically? Some are babies and some are grown people? All different shapes and sizes. Some call for youth sizes and some call for adult sizes. But “Oh-holy-hell-I-don’t-want-to-risk-a-crappy time-for-my-kid-the-first-time-they-are-away-from-me-overnight-so-I-have-to-buy-the-right-sweatshirt-oh-crap-what-if-its-too-big-and-looks-like-a-dress-on-them-but-I-have-to-buy-the-one-with-strings-because-what-if-the-other-kids-make-fun-of-my-kid-and-I’m-not-there-to-help-and-oh-shit-what-do-I-do-I-need-to-have-strings-in-the-red-sweatshirt!!!” It is so clear to me that this manic worry about the right sweatshirt comes from an abundance of love and care; from the schools to the parents – no one has anything other than generous intentions. I’m actually so grateful for this dilemma, because it has allowed me to see something in myself that I did not necessarily want to see.

The implied message in the red sweatshirt string proposal is, “You Must Fit In.” What may be true for you, doesn’t really matter. Happiness is in doing it right. Show up with the right clothes. Avoid being an outlier at all costs. Whatever you do, don’t embarrass me.

But when we talk “about” raising kids, parenting kids, teaching kids, don’t we do just the opposite? Don’t we preach “you be you”? Don’t we talk about creativity and following your dream and “it doesn’t matter what they say!”? In our generosity of love and care, adults can confuse the crap out of things.

The red sweatshirt strings have become a metaphor for me. I use it. Not in judgment, but as a point of reflection and a way of asking myself, “What are my red sweatshirt strings?”. Even more profound in the metaphor, is the fact that all six (+) sweatshirts purchased for my family lost the sweatshirt strings as soon as they were put through the wash (yes, I bought the “right”sweatshirts for all of them!).

First, with my kids: Where do I send them mixed messages? I can tell you that I teach them about being kind and loving, but then I may try to connect with them by gossiping about someone. Or I might encourage them to do whatever makes them happy, but then hover over them to make sure that their “happy” fits into my expectations for them. I may even offer “you be you” but “you” better also be “me”.

And then, with myself: Where am I so afraid that if it doesn’t happen perfectly, I feel like my life might fall apart? Where am I holding the reigns so tightly that I don’t allow for an opening of experience or a surrender of results? What fears keep me trying to control every detail instead of relaxing and simply noticing what actually is as the process unfolds? And even more so, where do I engage in frenetic activity, instead of just sitting and noticing what I feel?

The red sweatshirt strings have offered me a checkpoint to pull me back and put space between the thought and what actually leaves my mouth. When I feel my body tighten, or my heart race, or my brain race, I know that the red sweatshirt strings are being activated. I know that I need to put them through the wash. Get rid of them by doing any number of things. I know I need to check in with myself. I know I need to return to the present and notice what is and choose how I want to respond. My wake-up call to the red sweatshirt strings is my awareness that I am trying to control the outcome of something that I have absolutely no control over. It’s that frantic speech pattern of worry and decision and control and “what if?”. And then I need to put the damn sweatshirt through the wash.

When I blog, I blog for me. Not for the reader. I guess that somewhere inside, I am worried about the outcome of something. Instead of yelling at my family, tuning out on social media, manically engaging in activity around my house, I’m going to sit. Notice. Breathe. And see what shows up. And I guess at that point, I’d better be ready to do some laundry.