Paving the Way For Others

These women are me. Oprah

Oprah owns a collection of original property ledgers from former plantations. The ledgers contain the names, ages, and prices of people along with cattle, wagons, and other possessions. The framed ledgers hang in her library as a reminder of where she came from. 

Oprah is the great-great-granddaugter of enslaved people. In a different era, her name would have been in someone’s ledger. Oprah says she wants this constant reminder so she remembers, “These women are me.” 

Who would you be, where would you be, what would your life be like if someone hadn’t fought for your freedom? Although not a slave, I would have no voice, no vote, and no property.

Affirmations: I honor those who paved the way for me. I will be a “paver” too. 

Coaching questions: What do you believe needs to be done today so more will have a life of freedom? What are you doing to pave the way for future generations?

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

How Do You Respond to Criticism?

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots. Frank Clark, author

Criticism is frequently presented as something unpleasant, but, in my experience, there can be friendly criticisms, amicably discussed. Some people even find pleasure in criticism. As an author, criticism is part of the equation of excellence. As the saying goes, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” 

Authors are exposed to an inner critic at first, followed by critiques by an editor, critical comments from other authors if they are in a critique group (I highly recommend this), BETA readers (those who read and comment on your book before it’s published), an agent (if you can get one), a publisher (if you get an agent), reviewers, then the world of readers. 

What does all of this have to do with you, a non-writer? Even if writers need to be hard-wired for criticism if they are to succeed, all of us who want to grow must also be open to, and even seeking, critics who nourish our growth without destroying our creativity or self-esteem in the process. 

Affirmation: I accept and welcome gentle criticism.

Coaching questions: How do you respond to criticism? When has criticism helped you grow? How do you approach others with critical comments? 

Be a Source of Encouragement

Encourage, lift and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spread to one will be felt by us all. For we are connected, one and all. Deborah Day, author

I just had an email from Virginia Read, the 94-year-old woman who planted the seed for my book, Mom’s Gone, Now What?. She wrote, “Don’t rest now!” and asked me about my next project and suggested possible themes.  

If Virginia had been in my life sixty years ago, heaven only knows what I might have accomplished. “Thanks, Virginia, for your faith in me and your relentless push forward.” 

We all need someone in our life who sees our potential, pushes us to accomplish more than we thought we could do, and is relentless in their vision for us. Without receiving the usual outside stimulation during this pandemic, this is a time when we especially need to support others and be supported.

Affirmation: I support myself and others. 

Coaching questions: Are you a person who needs challenging or are you the challenger? Or both? If no one is in your corner right now, be your own best friend and heartily support yourself. 

Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

Find the Courage to Say I’m Sorry

I’m sorry are the two most healing words one person can say to another. Harriet Lerner, PhD, psychologist and relationship expert.

A sincere, heart-felt apology is not only a gift to the person we offended, it is a gift to ourselves. I’m wondering, however, If it’s such a great thing for all concerned, why is it so difficult to convey? It’s not easy. An apology is an acknowledgement of harm and an admission of responsibility. In order to apologize, we have to come to terms with our errors and misjudgments. 

“It’s challenging to see ourselves capable of hurting other people’s feelings,” says Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety: 4 Simple Steps to Overcome Worry and Create the Life You Want. “And yet, we all make mistakes.” Dr. Chansky goes on to explain that even when we’ve wronged a person, our stubborn refusal rewards us by boosting our sense of control and self-worth. Those feel-good benefits often prevent us from making a gesture of remorse.” 

In my experience, deciding whether or not to apologize depends on how much I value the relationship. Do the benefits of an apology outweigh the humility required? My answer is usually, “Yes.”

Affirmation: I can say, “I’m sorry.”

Coaching questions: Is there anyone to whom you need to apologize? Is it worth it? If not, why not? Who needs to apologize to you? How is this lack of acknowledgement of wrong-doing making you feel?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

No Matter Your Circumstances, You Have Choices

Meaning and purpose can come from deep in the heart of what hurts us the most. Dr. Edith Eva Eger, Auschwitz survivor and author of The Choice

Dr. Eger’s book, The Choice, is one of the most powerful books I’ve read this year. It is her Auschwitz story and much, much more. It’s how she learned to move forward and find meaning and purpose in her life by choosing to heal as she embraced her feelings, then acknowledged and forgave her past. 

Her message of CHOICE is addressed to all of us who have experienced loss—loss of freedom, loss of a loved one, and even, the loss of our humanity. As a psychotherapist and author, Eger’s passion is to help people who have experienced loss move forward with their lives in a positive way as they find meaning and purpose in their pain. Eger writes, “How easily the life we didn’t live becomes the only life we prize.” 

Affirmation: I choose to embrace the life I have. 

Coaching questions: What helped you find meaning and purpose “in the heart of what hurt you”? If you’re stuck in thinking that the life you were denied is the only one you prize, what will help you move forward? 

How Being a Motherless Daughter Helped Me Adapt to a COVID World

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Charles Darwin, English naturalist, geologist and biologist

As an eight-year-old who suddenly found herself without a mother, I adapted. I got to know and love my dad, learned to accept my motherless status, became independent and resourceful. 

Like my early days as a motherless child, I was miserable during the first few weeks after my life was hijacked by COVID-19. I told myself, however, that because I had learned resilience and adaptability at an early age and beyond, I had the tools to adapt. I had faith that I would rebound and I did. 

Do I love staying at home, not seeing my kids and grands, not going to church, lunching with friends or eating food cooked by others? No! Have I adapted to my new-normal and found interesting and creative ways to “do” life? Yes! My early days of learning adaptability are serving me.

Affirmation: I know how to adapt to change.

Coaching questions: How are you adapting to the new-normal? How are your past life experiences serving you during this time? What have you learned? 

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

I Did It Badly, Slowly, Fearfully

Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it. Steve Chandler, Author of Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You’ve Always Wanted to Be

In the beginning, I did it badly. Just ask my editor, Elena Hartwell. But then I rewrote and rewrote again. I did it slowly—it took me three years. I did it fearfully. Believe me, revealing dark corners of my life then sending them into the world is my definition of fear. But I did it! I published Mom’s Gone, Now What? on my 75th birthday. 

I was called to write this book in order to make a difference in the lives of daughters who have lost their mothers. I had to do it any way I could!

Affirmation: I did it!

Coaching questions: What do you want to do? What are you afraid of doing? What do you think you do badly but want to do anyway? Follow Chandler’s advice, “Do it any way you have to, but do it!” 

Being Thankful for Helpers

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ Mister Rogers

Mister Rogers’s mother knew that if her son acknowledged the helpers he would feel calmer about the tragedy, knowing that someone was there to take control and put order to the chaos. It’s no wonder it is comforting for people to acknowledge health care workers and other helpers in this time of crisis. 

As I talk with daughters who lost their mother to death, abandonment or Alzheimer’s, the trajectory of their grief is often changed by the helpers who show up. The support and love of an older brother or sister, a grandmother, neighbor, friends in support groups, hospice worker, or a loving dad, can calm the chaos of the moment and become helpers in their lives.

Affirmation: I’m thankful for the helpers in my life.

Coaching questions: Who are the helpers in your life? How do they a difference? How do you show up as a helper for others? What difference do you make?

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

The Gift of Silence

The fruit of silence is prayer, The fruit of prayer is faith, The fruit of faith is love, The fruit of love is service, The fruit of service is peace. Saint Mother Theresa, nun and missionary

Is there more silence in your life than usual? There sure is in mine! I used to be one of those people who left the house everyday attending meetings, gathering with friends, being a part of various groups. My life was anything but silent. But now, with silence permeating my life, I have a better chance to hear the birds sing in the morning and the frogs at night, the ticking of the clock, and “the still small voice” within. 

As Mother Teresa suggests, faith, love, service and, finally, peace all begin with silence. Let’s embrace this time of expanded silence and perhaps we too will hear “the still small voice” of God more clearly. 

Affirmation: I embrace the silence.

Coaching questions: How are you coping with fewer activities and more silence? Is the idea of “the still small voice” within meaningful to you (see 1 Kings 19:12 for more information)? What can you do to embrace the silence? 

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Education is the key that unlocks the golden door to freedom. George Washington Carver, American scientist

I have a great deal of empathy right now for educators and others who are responsible for making decisions regarding school this fall. They are truly between a rock and a hard place. No matter which way they turn there are sizable physical, emotional, and educational risks. The loss of classroom eduction so far this year has already been catastrophic especially for children who have no internet connection, no one supervising them, live in an abusive environment, have no quiet space to learn and little motivation when the teaching medium is virtual. This doesn’t even take into account the loss of food programs children receive at school.

According to Unesco, the education of nearly 1.6 billion pupils in 190 countries has so far been affected—that’s 90 percent of the world’s school-age children! The result of children not receiving a proper education takes away their key to future freedom. And yet—lives are at stake. I’m praying for our leaders. 

Affirmation: Education is freedom.

Coaching question: How are decisions about education affecting you and the children you care about?

Photo by Yannis H on Unsplash