Book of Boundaries (a book response)

I recently had a Net Galley reading of the Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban.

Like “It starts with Food” Melissa has written an easy-to-read practical guide.

I really appreciate the sample scripts that make it easy to visualize how to use boundaries in different contexts.

Even better I love that Melissa has included qualifiers for when setting a boundary might not be appropriate. ie. in the case of a friend bailing frequently – when they may – in fact be experiencing some difficulties like depression or some physical health challenges. I personally live with chronic pain and do find myself either cancelling or not making firm commitments to plans because of the uncertainty of how I’d be feeling. I really appreciate that when I use my clear and kind boundaries about staying home that my friends understand and still extend invitations again the next time.

Or how someone not respecting your boundaries could be red flags (i.e. in intimate relationships).

This book is a great tool for people who have difficulty establishing

healthy boundaries in a variety of settings.

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Connecting with grief after loss

When mom died, I spent the first several months helping dad take care of things, taking care of my girls, and otherwise going through the motions. I did not spend time or energy connecting with my grief. As we approached a year after her death, I found myself with an opportunity to spend some time alone. I knew that I hadn’t really allowed myself to process my loss. I also knew that I needed to experience and live through my grief if I wanted to live a life being present in the moment, feeling all the feelings.

Live through the grief

Since losing mom, I’ve had more than one occasion to offer solace to a friend. The most important thing I could offer, next to acknowledging their hurt, is to allow yourself to live through the grief. It cannot be avoided, but by allowing yourself to connect with your grief and experience the pain you can move through it.

One thing I know is that we cannot numb feelings selectively. If we numb the tough feelings, we also numb the joyful ones. So, if we want to have the full experience of life, and of joy specifically, then we must allow ourselves to experience the full extent of the heartache too.

Be intentional

So, on this date back in 2012, I sat myself down on the floor of my living room, with family photo albums from my childhood, and my girls’. And I intentionally relived the memories captured in those photos.

As I allowed the memories of family gatherings like movie nights at the corporal’s mess at Canadian Forces Station – Inuvik; Christmases with my Grampy (mom’s dad); family reunions at our home in Arcadia – like when all of the immediate McCourt Family came together for a couple of weeks one summer; and watching from the sidelines as my little brother performed in his Christmas concerts… I found myself sobbing. I sobbed until my head physically pained me. I cried for the loss of future memories with mom. I cried with gratitude for the life we had together. I cried for my children who would never know the joy of sharing their next milestones with their Nanny.

It was a purge of sorts. Not that it took the memories away, but it took away a cloud that had obscured them from me as I had been blindly walking through the days, weeks and months following mom’s death.

The pain of loss doesn’t ever go away entirely, and sometimes revisits us suddenly. But as time passes the pain becomes less intense. The human experience means that everyone one of us will experience loss of a loved one, if we are fortunate to live long enough.

Preserve their stories

Anderson Cooper has a new podcast, “All There Is”, about grief and loss. Interestingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about many of the same things he talks about. In his first episode he speaks of the importance of sharing the stories of his family with his children, so that the stories will live on. By sharing stories of our departed loved ones, we keep them alive within us. These stories shared with lost loves are also a part of us, and the only way to preserve them is to share them with those we care about and who care for us.

That’s a project I’ve been working on since before my children were even born. I have been gathering family tree research, photographs and other mementos. But the part that I’m still missing is recording a lot of the stories. Many of those stories have now been lost with my mother and grandparents’ passing. I’m trying to document some of them now.

There is no winning against grief

In the second episode of “All There Is”, Anderson Cooper speaks with late night talk show host Stephen Colbert. One of the most profound things Colbert says is that “…grief is a doorway … to another you.” He is so right. It is impossible to experience grief and not be changed by it.

One thing that those of us who have lost loved ones all eventually learn is that there is no holding grief off. There is only pausing it, until it rears its head again. And it will continue to do so, until we live through the experience of it. Colbert said “…we think we can win against grief. We think we can fix it. But you can’t. You can only experience it. And to fully experience it you have to accept that it’s real. The loss is real.” … “Grief is not a bad thing. Grief is a reaction to a bad thing. Grief itself is a natural process that has to be experienced.”

Accept support

If you have experienced a loss and not allowed yourself the grace of connecting with grief, be gentle with yourself. But don’t let yourself off the hook, it will only sneak up on you when you least expect it. Rather, allow yourself the space and accept support when it is offered, by talking about your loss with people who care. Talking is a form of acceptance and will help you to come out on the other side of grief. As Colbert says, you will arrive at a place where you can enjoy the beauty of life and the world, in spite of its grief.

One of the most profound ways that we can live an authentically connected life, is to have the courage to suffer. And with suffering, eventually comes healing and growth.

Have you been trying to win against grief? Has some offered help that you can accept and talk through your grief with? Making the space to connect with your grief will help to connect with joy as well.

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Introverts need social connection too

When I think back to grade school I realize that I always thought of myself as an extravert. The truth is that even with my experiences of being bullied I really was just self-confident enough to step outside of my introvert natural state and speak up, reaching out for social connection and as a result, I appeared to be outgoing. I loved trying new things and meeting new people. But I also loved doing solo activities like reading.

Self Portrait, Reading, Book, Difference

Strike a balance

During my happiest times – I realize now – I had found a way to strike a balance between time connecting with other humans, and time alone to restore my batteries. I found connection with people exhilarating and – at the same time – energy draining. Yet too much time alone left me feeling disconnected and restless. It was not unusual to find me at school dances, or on-stage during theatre productions, or even fluttering from one group of friends to another. I was indeed a bit of a social butterfly. But I also could be found curled up with a good novel, writing poetry, or walking my dog.

Introverts need social connection too

There have been times in my adult life when I felt lonely. When I withdrew and turned inward and found I was beginning to feed an unhealthy mindset that sounded a lot like “friends? Who needs them?” Fortunately, something always happened to force me to look outside of my cocoon and acknowledge what I was missing out on, introverts need social connection too. In nearly every case, what I needed most was to reach out to at least one person.

Social connection for introverts

As my marriage began to fall apart for the final time, I found myself reaching out to a friend who I could connect with and focus my time and attention on something that had once brought me a lot of joy and helped me to ground myself – literally – in nature. Christina and I started running together. And when it came time to move on from my marriage, and physically move away from our home, and my friend – I could fall back on running to ground myself and at the same time continue to feel connected to Christina and my other running friends, even across the miles.

Introverts need social connection too

It wasn’t easy to walk away from my marriage, but during some of the toughest days I could lace up a pair of running shoes, get out on the trail and breath in the fresh air. And I would feel whole again. I came to appreciate those runs as a kind of therapy. In fact it also served as a mindfulness practise of sorts. And my friend and I could cheer one another from afar and still feel the support that we’d given each other while side by side in our early days of running together.

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Connect and re-connect

Join me on a 5 day journey to re-connect with what matters most.

More and more of us are reporting overwhelm, burnout, feeling lonely, and disconnect from friends, family and ourselves. As it turns out disconnect and mental health challenges like anxiety and depression are linked. There has been found to be a causal effect too.

Connections take effort

If we don’t make the time and effort to connect with others we are more likely to feel this disconnect. We will become overwhelmed, anxious, depressed and burnt-out.

Loneliness it turns out is a contributing factor, not only to our emotional well-being, but also to our physical health. I have been learning about humanity’s need for social connection and how it has an impact on our well-being both as individuals and the greater community.

Join us in taking a small step toward more Authentic connections in your life over five days. Each day will involve one simple activity to be done by you… and a little inspiration too!

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram @authenticconnections.community, or Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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Connections and Belonging: authentic connections (post 5 of 5)

We live in a world today where people are more disconnected than ever. With a zillion options for social connections online, we make less authentic connections, more superficial ones, and are constantly distracted by things of little substance.

While I’ve lived a life of disconnect, moving from place to place – I’ve also managed to stay connected to a few key people, and develop new connections. I see so many people around me as disconnected as if they too had been uprooted and started anew every 3-5 years.

For those of us who thrive in a transient life we’ve learned the art of making new connections. While sustaining a few key connections from afar.

Building a strong sense of belonging

It is my intention to build a community where we can come together both online and in-person. A community where we can become more authentically connected with others, as well as ourselves. This community and our activities will help us to live more fulfilling, connected lives. A place in which we feel a true sense of belonging.

Authentic Connections

Brené Brown says there are four elements of belonging:

Quote:

People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.

Hold hands. With strangers.

Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

Brené Brown

We’ll talk more about what this means, but for now, you can learn more about Brené Brown’s elements of belonging here.

Is there an old friend you can call? A journal entry you can write? Or maybe a place you can visit (in real time or in your memories) where important connections can be revisited? One of my favourite things to do is pull out some old photos and allow myself a little walk down memory lane.

What will you commit to doing to start the journey of rebuilding, creating and maintaining authentic connections?

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram @authenticconnections.community, or Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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Connections and belonging: social connections (post 4 of 5)

When our youngest was three years old, I left my marriage. I wanted, and needed for my children to have, and witness only strong social connections within our home. We’d been through more climbs and dips of the roller coaster that was our relationship – with another posting, a deployment and more. By the time I decided to leave I felt like I had a room-mate – who happened to be the father of my children.

It was during/after my second pregnancy I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The thinking at the time was that physical trauma (like a car accident or possibly childbirth) could trigger fibromyalgia. But I always believed the trauma and chronic acute stress in my life had been the cause.

There continued to be high stress events in my life with divorce proceedings, my return to school to get another degree, a job that I left due to a toxic work environment, and then… my mom, who had always been my biggest supporter, died several years after the dissolution of my marriage. Eventually, I moved nearer to my closest friends and biggest supporters, who I’d been living far away from for many years. I needed a fresh start where I could be true to myself.

Reliable and consistent social connections

I wanted my girls to know that: no matter what, they could always count on me; and that our connection to each other would sustain us, whatever we faced.

I made lots of mistakes, but eventually came to the place in life where I am now… capable of taking care of myself and my girls, and eventually in a drama-free partnership with a man that I(we) can count on and trust, who would never do anything to hurt any one of us. It’s only since the girls and I have really been settled into this new life together – with a handful of great friends and family nearby that we can rely on – that my health has finally begun to improve.

We belong to our community, family, and each other. And we can face just about anything when we have strong connections… to ourselves, others and our physical space.

What social connections have brought you a sense of belonging and peace in your life? Is there anyone you can re-activate that connection to today?

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram @authenticconnections.community, or Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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Connections and belonging: sense of self (post 3 of 5)

While it’s important to connect with others – like we do when helping people, truly belonging means being true to yourself first. Having a strong sense of self means knowing what you value and what you can/will be flexible on and what requires sticking to your guns.

Brené Brown uses the acronym BRAVING when describing trusting ourselves, or others, and how to be both vulnerable and courageous:

Braving

Reliability

Accountability

Vault

Integrity

Nonjudgement

Generosity

You can learn more about Brené Brown’s teachings on vulnerability and bravery here.

When we have a sense of belonging within ourselves (being true to ourselves authentically) it is easier to have confidence in our connections (and have a sense of belonging) to others/in community.

Connection with self

When I was married to my children’s father I lost my sense of self. We went through some very difficult things that I never imagined would be repeated. And yet, it happened at least once more and was even harder the next time around. Partially because of my rocky connection to my own self.

The first time I was young and naïve and thought my marriage had to last forever. I honestly felt like I couldn’t live without him. I couldn’t imagine the thought of failing at my marriage. I went through a lot of reading and therapy around practising forgiveness. But I no longer felt like I deserved to be with someone who would never take action(s) that would cause me pain.

Taking inventory

It was only after our marriage ended that I started looking hard at myself and who I had become. I took the time to think about what had brought me joy in the past, and whether I was including it in my present. It turned out that I wasn’t. I started running and cycling again. I pulled out my camera and re-learned how to make great photographs. And I started writing again. I felt more like myself and was better able to deal with the death of my marriage.

I can’t recall how much of our relationship problems I had shared with my closest family and friends during the second half of our ten year marriage. I do remember feeling judged for making the decision to end things when I did. My family made an extra effort a relationship with my ex for the sake of our two children. I always had a difficult time with asking for help. But I remember one day going to my parents and asking them to consider what I needed, not just their relationship with the girls’ dad. I pointed out that my ex had the support of his own family and didn’t need to be supported by mine, especially at the expense of my own well-being. I just needed to know they were in my corner and accepted my decisions were what was best for me and my girls.

Social supports

The dissolution of our marriage was never easy. But it became much more bearable when I knew I was giving myself the time and grace that I needed. And that I could count on the social support of the people who were most important to me.

Who are the biggest supporters in your life? Can you be brave enough to share with them how you really feel and what makes you, you? Can you be vulnerable with them? Is it a reciprocal support going beyond a statement that they care? Who do you provide that social support to?

I challenge you to take a look at Brené Brown’s BRAVING inventory and consider what you can do to be both vulnerable and courageous with yourself.

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Join us for a FREE five day challenge to make more authentic social connections! https://authentic-connections.mn.co/

For more information on how to develop more authentic connections: https://authentic-connections.mn.co/

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram @authenticconnections.community, or Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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Connection and belonging: helping connection (post 2 of 5)

It is only natural that when someone experiences trauma and survives they may wish to help others. Interestingly, by helping others who have been through similar experiences we create more opportunities to make meaningful connections. Social connections help ourselves get better. The connections we create when helping others also serve to develop stronger sense of self and healing within.

Helping experiences straddle multiple types of connections that are beneficial to both the recipient and the helper: the joy of helping others; connecting with our own values and self; and staying in the moment grounded in the present, including a sense of place. Empathizing with others within appropriate contexts can have a big impact on how we experience our own emotional response to trauma.

Helping connections

Shared experiences – even around separate incidents with similar stories – can bring people together and foster a sense of belonging.

When we share our truth – about the experiences that have shaped us – we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and show our authentic selves to others. We can form stronger connections both with those we share experiences with and the places in which we experience them. From this can form a sense of belonging (reducing instances of loneliness).

One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel completely alone and believe that it will never get better. Yet the greatest hope and healing can come from knowing these moments of loneliness are finite – that the feeling will have an end; and that we belong to a community in which we do not have to face our hardships alone.

Can you think of a hard thing that you have experienced that others may have similar experiences with? How can you connect with others and help around this common hardship?

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Join us for a FREE five day challenge to make more authentic social connections! https://authentic-connections.mn.co/

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram @authenticconnections.community, or Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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Connection and Belonging, How we heal (post 1 of 5)

When I consider my chronic pain and where it all began… I find myself thinking of: connection and belonging and my own healing journey…

…  all that I’ve learned about trauma and how it affects our health – both emotional(mental) and physical…

… how my own story unfolded and the impact various stresses had on my own connections to people and place…

… how my physical health has slowly improved significantly over the last few years…

Loneliness: the impact of connection and belonging on healing
Photo by Paul Wesson Photography

It has become clear to me that connection and belonging have had the most significant impact on my life and healing. I suspect that to be true for most, whether struggling with chronic health concerns or otherwise…

Lost social connection and belonging

  • Moving across the country, leaving loved ones behind…
  • Breakdown of marital relationships…
  • Lost friendships…
  • Death of loved ones…
  • Abusive relationships…
  • Lost family connections…
  • Workplace stress and breakdown…

Any ONE, any number, or ALL of these stressors can elicit a trauma response. At the very least they can be the reason that we are less resilient when trauma occurs. Without important connection, and belonging we can be at risk of turning inward more and more, with no real incentive to draw us back out. What inspires you to do hard things? More importantly, who do you share your journey from inspiration to hard work to reward with?

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Join us for a FREE five day challenge to make more authentic social connections! https://authentic-connections.mn.co/

For more information on how to develop more authentic connections: https://authentic-connections.mn.co/

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram @authenticconnections.community, or Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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What sparks joy for you?

So many organizing, de cluttering, self-help gurus tell you to think about what sparks joy for you.

Declutter by getting rid of things that don’t bring you joy…

When overwhelmed by the chaos or demanding schedule – such as it is- of your life, focus only on the things that meet your basic needs or spark joy in your life.

It’s true that by eliminating things that don’t bring you joy, you will make room for more joy… But it is also true that experiencing joy can be a mindset shift.

We can become blind to, or stop noticing the joyful things in our lives. There is a reason the figure of speech “stop and smell the roses” is so poignant. So how do we experience more joy without purging things that once brought us joy but doesn’t right now? Or when we can’t eliminate everything from our busy lives that is not joyful?

Mindful experiences can help. Practising gratitude… Acknowledging joyful things in our lives…

Help to feel the joy we’ve become blind to.

So, what would happen if we left our headphones at home while out walking the dog? What if we made a point of noticing the colours of the newly blossoming cherry trees along the way… rather than the latest news podcast or music blasting in our ear buds?

Gratitude sparks joy

What if we took a few moments everyday to note (in a journal like I am writing this in right now) just 2 small things – one that I am grateful for and one that sparks joy in me?

Here are just a few of the things I’ve made note of recently…

  • my dog’s excitement to see me after 5 hours… 5 days… 5 minutes…
  • my competent & reliable staff team
  • memories of childhood captured in my dad’s photographs
  • tasty ice cream treats
  • sunshine and sand or dirt beneath my toes
  • three day weekends

Practise Gratitude / Finding Joy

Not only does this practise make me more likely to look for the joy and/or things I’m thankful for… but it also creates a stronger authentic connection to myself and the things around me each day.

If you wanted to be more connected to your joy, what joy would you make note of right now?

#sparksjoy #findthejoy #practisegratitude #gratitude #journal #gratitudehournal #joyfulconnections #authenticconnections

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at trishblogs dot com, or use my contact form.

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