eo Insights

Life starts with what you believe


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In A World Of Uncertainty: Keep Calm and Carry On

2016

As I reflect on 2015, amidst the moments of inspiration, fun and beauty, there has been a certain sense of uncertainty.  I feel it, I hear about it, I read of it in the news.  Increasing unemployment, the ever present threat of terrorism, sweeping political change…. it can feel as if we are living on the edge…..like a baby bird being pushed from it’s comfortable nest!

Uncertainty for most people, is a difficult, sometimes depressing or anxious place to be.  I’m not sure I will ever be completely comfortable with uncertainty, but I have discovered a few truths about uncertainty that have helped me to keep calm and carry on.

Uncertainty is often a door to opportunity.  I recently heard a speech given by the former Principal of McGill University, Heather Monroe-Blum.  The introduction she was given was more than ten minutes long, recounting her long list of credentials, contributions and accomplishments over the course of her career.  Wow….what a woman!  As she then addressed my daughters graduating class of Western University, I found myself enamored by her humility as she recanted her path of seeming failures and seasons of uncertainties that ultimately lead to incredible opportunities.  Through it all she kept calm and carried on.  Her final words to the adoring crowd came from the lyrics of a popular song ‘you can’t always get what you want, you can’t always get what you want, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, try, try, you’ll get what you need.’

Stay True To Your Core Convictions.  Life is dynamic not static.  Just when you think you might have things figured out the target moves, the rules change, the culture embraces a new paradigm.  In those times of uncertainty, let your convictions be your guide.  Mark Batterson writes in his new book, If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for What If Possibilities, ‘your convictions are the truest thing about you.  You are your convictions.  Or more accurately, you become your convictions.’  In other words, no matter what life brings your way, if you stay true to your core convictions, you will become the person you were created to be. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.

One day, this past summer, as my husband and I sat on our patio, we were privileged to watch four baby Robbins as they found the courage and resolve to leap from the nest.  It started with one baby standing on the edge of the nest, watching it’s mother fly from the nest to a tree nearby, chirping for it to follow.  Over and over she would fly back up to the nest and out to the tree to show how it was done.  Finally, the baby followed.  From there she led the way to a tree a little further out in the yard.  As it followed, she flew to another tree further in the nearby forest.  One by one her babies overcame their uncertainties to experience worlds they had never known and become who they were created to be.

I pray the best for you and your family for 2016.  And in those times when uncertainty is certain, keep calm and carry on.

 

 

 


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It Never Starts With a Kiss – After An Affair – Part 1

Thought This Was Worthy of a Re-Post

eo Insights

Marital affairs are one of life’s most painful experiences.  Once discovered, the betrayal and broken trust cause excruciating pain, intense suffering and acute sadness for everyone involved. 

So why do so many people have an affair?

Authors Harley and Chalmers of ‘Surviving An Affair’ suggest that ‘infidelity doesn’t necessarily develop out of a bankrupt system of moral values.  Instead, personal values change to accommodate the affair.’1  I couldn’t agree more.  Affairs never start with a kiss. They start the minute you allow your heart to cross ‘the line’.

Affairs exist in a dangerous but breathtaking landscape combined with secrecy (which has the power to heighten any experience), emotions (which can’t be trusted on the best of days) and delusional thinking (it could never happen to me), so walking close to ‘the line’ is like playing Frisbee on a cliff.  It’s not long before a wrong decision and a…

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Sharing My Daughters Thoughts After Her First Year of Marriage #episodeone

Depth over Distance – The Story of My Marriage.

brittany and jordan-106

My husband and I just celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary last weekend (and it was awesome)! But it took a lot of effort and work for us to finally get to where we are today. We did long distance for our entire dating relationship, from London Ontario, all the way to Los Angeles. 3,864km, 6 hour flight, and a 3 hour time change. I can count on my fingers the amount of times we saw each other when he moved out to LA.

One thing that really made our relationship work was that we were best friends first. I met Jordan in Australia where we both went to college. We were neighbours, and had a lot of the same friends. We became quickly became friends, and even quicker he became my go-to for virtually everything, from homework help (he’s so smart!) to boy trouble. He was my confidant, fun-creator (he can create a game out of anything!) and even protector at times.  Looking back, it’s crazy how long it took us both to actually get together, but I’m so thankful for those years that I got to know him without the “first impression” pressure. I also got to see him in situations that showed his character, like how he treated women, how he behaved around his friends, what he did when he was upset or angry etc. When we were dating long distance, I already knew those things, and I knew I didn’t have to wonder or worry.

Now, as a married couple, people often ask us how we made it work over the distance, or how our marriage is. Our common reply is always that relationships are actually pretty easy; you just have to be nice to each other. I know that sounds too easy, but it really is true, and this is what it looks like.

Be nice to each other in the way you speak to, and about each other.

Be nice in how you behave, around each other, and not. This comes down to respecting the other person. What you think they would want or not want to you do when they’re not around.

Be nice in how to treat each other. Doing things to be accommodating, or just being thoughtful and kind, putting that person first in how you think, what will make them happy.

Basically just being nice to the other person can translate to every part of your relationship, however Jordan and I also have a few “rules” that we live by in our relationship.

Trust. When dating you really have to trust the other person. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but I actually really believe that when it comes to trust it’s all or nothing. Two of my husband’s best friends here in LA are girls, and he would hang out with them together or one on one all the time. I hadn’t met these girls, but I 100% trusted him, because I know he is totally trustworthy in any and all situations. It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t know the girls, because I know I had to trust Jordan, not them, to do the right thing. My relationship is not anyone else’s responsibility.

Communication. Communication is huge in making a relationship work. Being honest and upfront about how you feel will make your relationship 1000x easier. You don’t need to sugar coat what your thinking or feeling, he needs to hear it. Communicating about your boundaries, what is important to you, and how you feel, will make your relationship so much calmer, smoother, and drama-free. My husband and I have kind of an unspoken rule that we never raise our voices to each other. We always try to work everything out rationally with really honest conversations, even if we’re feeling upset or emotional.

Depth over distance. Everytime.


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Marriage Insights From The Seat of My Bike

Biking

The Grand River Tour near Cambridge, ON.

I recently gave my husband Greg, a new bicycle. We’ve always loved riding, but the bike he had gave him too many excuses to not join me on the road. So I fixed that! As a result, we’ve enjoyed some pretty spectacular sights around Southwestern Ontario and I’ve developed a few new insights to marriage that I’d like to share.

Insight #1 – He’s Not Like Me (and that’s ok)

Greg would have made a great addition to the cast on ‘Cheers’. His irrepressible humour, unique personality and enjoyment of kickin’ back at the local, noisy hangout would have been a perfect fit for the hit TV show. He likes busy, loud and engaging activity.

My personality is more like the scene from Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth twirls alone…..on a quiet swing……thinking. Her only interruption is to enter a meaningful conversation with a long-time friend. I like peaceful, quiet, meaningful activity.

You might think that our differences would make it impossible to enjoy leisure time together, but we have found a way. It’s a matter of developing an interest in what the other is interested in. So, when we bike……along a spectacular escarpment, through a tranquil pollination meadow or beside a winding river we always include a stop in an urban center to find the joint-du-jour where the tapas is creative and the music is loud. And that’s ok……for both of us.

Insight #2 – When The Road Is Steep, Create Small Wins

We were traveling in the Niagara region along part of the 1600kms of waterfront trails when the road became quite steep. By that time, I was tired and the temperature was nearing 30C. As I looked at the long incline ahead, the little energy I had left me. I wanted to abandon the journey.

Suddenly, about eight feet in front of me, a leaf caught my eye. I remember thinking ‘just get to that leaf, Elaine’. And I did. Quickly scanning the crushed stone road ahead, I noted another leaf and encouraged myself to reach it. Then I saw a tiny dandelion which became my next small milestone achieved. I heard my mind celebrating ‘yay……you’re making it.’ And I did!

I shared this story with a client the next week. We drew comparisons to the challenges inherent to every marriage. The uphill battles, the heat and fatigue and the loss of motivation when in a low spot. We identified the benefits of setting small wins and celebrating the achievement of them. (We also decided I should spend more time on my bike, as it helped to strengthen my counselling analogies! Ha ha!)

Insight #3 – Selfie The Journey Together

Marriage is not a destination to some place of bliss. It’s is a moment by moment experience. Like biking, marriage includes unforeseen twists, unforgettable turns, draining uphill climbs and breathtaking encounters.

In our selfie-obsessed culture, I’ve often wondered if it might be therapeutic to take a marriage-selfie of the day. Not just capturing the picture-perfect-smiles-you-post-on-social-media but also the raw, painful and unscripted moments, making it something to personally reflect upon later.

Our daughters gave my husband a selfie stick for his birthday that we now include in our regular biking equipment. We’ve determined to never reach the end of our biking day together, no matter our differences or how grueling the journey might have been, without posing for a marriage-selfie to reflect on the fact that ‘somehow, we found a way to do this day together.’


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Finding Connection

‘We were literally born to connect. The drive is etched deeply into our DNA. From the first moments of life, we crave the company of others. You might suppose that such abject dependence is something we all eventually outgrow. But we never do – at least not completely. Even as adults, we still reply on the presence of others. When we’re deprived of it just for a few days, our stress hormones escalate, mood and energy plummet, and key biological processes quickly fall out of balance.’[1]

hanging out with friends

So thankful for meaningful, nurturing relationships!

With our instant and global methods of connecting we have the wonderful ability to be aware of our friends and families activities on a day to day basis. However, this type of connection is inadequate in meeting our deep desire for attachment. Nurturing friendships and meaningful conversation encourages a sense of belonging and purpose, reduces stress as you work through life’s problems together and builds confidence and a strong sense of worth. Close friends are good for your health.

But finding connection is not easy. It takes effort, time and prioritizing to develop meaningful relationships.

Effort – Since I have been married, we have lived on three continents and in 10 different cities. With each move, I exerted an incredible amount of energy to develop new friendships. One thing I realized is that people are busy; their lives are full of friends, work and family. They may not naturally think (or need) to open up to someone new. For me to connect with others, I had to make all the effort -initially. Making coffee dates, planning family times with other families and sending all sorts of notes, in every way imaginable – eventually – rewarding me with needed connection. Eventually.

Time – When we get busy, our friendships tend to move to the back burner. Work, kids, other responsibilities usually take precedence over time spent with friends. It’s really a mistake because friends help us to live better. A famed Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends’ people had, ‘the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.’ [2] Carving out time for people is a necessary part of healthy living!

Prioritizing – I once read a book called ‘Buyers, Renters and Freeloaders’[3] which helped me to build a framework around viewing the health of my relationships. Freeloaders are unwilling to put much energy into the relationship, taking more than they ever give. These relationships can be initially satisfying (we all have a need to be needed), but over time, without healthy boundaries, they can be emotionally draining! Renters view the relationship as temporary. They often pop up around projects or activities of mutual interest. These relationships are rewarding, but use wisdom ….once the rental season is over, so are they. Buyers will invest. They invest with their three most treasured resources, time, money and love.  The nurture and care received from the mutual sharing in buyer relationships provides the strength and confidence to engage in the others. From my perspective, prioritizing your relationships in a 70% (buyers), 20% (renters), 10% (freeloaders) split is a healthy way to stay open to others and deeply nurtured at the same time.

On Canada Day (yesterday) my husband and I were out for a bike ride and ended up watching an aboriginal dance in a local park.  This particular dance was called the Social Dance.  Apparently, in ancient custom, when the warriors left the village for extended periods of time to hunt, the ones left behind often experienced symptoms of depression.  When that happened they would call for the Social Dance where everyone came out of their teepee’s and danced together to lift their spirits.

I noted in my heart that friends can do just that for one another.

[1] The Depression Cure, Stephen S. Ilardi, Ph.D.

[2] UCLA Study on Friendship, 2002 Gale Berkowitz

[3] By Williard F. Harley, Jr.


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Pain Is Unpredictable

Pain is Unpredictable

As the young woman walked to the altar, her hopes and dreams stood before her.     She is marrying her best friend, lover and soul mate. Four short years later, she finds herself curled in deep emotional pain at the discovery that her prince charming has left her for another woman. If she had any idea that her commitment would have ended in divorce, she never would have uttered her vows in the first place.

But she didn’t know.

The diagnosis was doubly painful. Not only was it critical health wise, but it came at an inconceivable time; during the celebration of a long anticipated joyful family event. Why? Why did he suddenly become ill?  Why did this news have to come today, forever overshadowing the memory of something that should have been immensely special?

There are no words to explain.

We cannot predict the success or failure of a marriage. We cannot anticipate, no matter the care we take to maintain our health, when or how illness will present itself. We cannot pre-prepare for a car accident or foresee potential financial setbacks, damaging relational misunderstandings or any other tragic life events. We cannot know when pain will interrupt life.

Pain is unpredictable.

It is incalculable, unexpected, unanticipated, intruding like a thief threatening to steal our most valuable possessions, leaving us intensely wounded, confused and vulnerable. While we cannot predict the what, when, where or why of pain, we can find comfort that will help us manage and overcome life’s painful circumstances.

Security comforts pain.

Often accompanying unexpected life events is a sense of incredible insecurity. The anxieties centred on loss of control and confusion as to what to do next can be overwhelming. Identifying and focussing on what is secure, rather than what is not, can be a real anchor point to processing the pain.

Love comforts pain.

When we find ourselves in pain, we often withdraw or isolate ourselves as a protective instinct. However, spending time with trusted friends and family can bring healing. Loving and nurturing physical contact has the ability to decrease stress and improve mood. Studies have also found group support to be very therapeutic when personal issues can be shared in an environment of respect and trust.

Value comforts pain.

It’s not uncommon to derive our personal sense of value or worth from our physical or intellectual abilities, or financial successes or relational strength. Experiencing a setback in any of these areas can challenge our sense of value. In these times, reflecting on the intrinsic value (value for it’s own sake) of life, regardless of circumstances, is helpful to turn negative thinking into thoughts filled with hope and comfort.

Purpose comforts pain.

When life suddenly takes us on a path we did not anticipate our sense of purpose can get distorted. Purpose is what motivates us to recover. When re-defining your purpose take into consideration your current responsibilities and the fact that you were born to contribute. A little ‘peek from the balcony’ will also help to lift your perspective beyond the limitations of the pain you are currently experiencing.

growth in desertPain is unpredictable ….. but when you search for a new sense of security, open yourself to love, determine that your worth is not found externally and take time to redefine your purpose…….recovery and healing is completely possible.


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Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot

The last few days have been hot hot hot, here in Southwestern Ontario!  Each year we seem to skip the spring season, jumping directly from winter to summer (makes spring gardening a little challenging).  True to form, on April 23rd I was driving to my Mississauga office through snow and two weeks later summertimethe same drive was through 29C temperatures.  But feelin’ hot hot hot is a good thing.  It’s good for the body, it’s good for the soul and very good for relationships!  Sweet…..I love the warm weather!

When the mercury rises, we tend to get outside more allowing our body to absorb more natural light.  Natural light affects our circadian rhythm (the physical, mental and behaviour changes that occur in a 24hour cycle) which creates all sorts of positive outcomes like a stronger immune system, better regulated hunger which combats obesity, and lower blood pressure. Interestingly, when our body has more light, the bacteria in saliva that causes bad breath also weakens.  With natural light, we become more alert and attentive which promotes performance during any type of activity.  Even our skin is more attractive with the appropriate exposure to natural light and our muscles relax.

Our soul also loves summer.  The warm weather has a huge impact on our hormones.  With the longer days, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin (the happy chemicals) increase in the brain.  Serotonin helps us to feel motivated, aroused, alive and outgoing.  It causes us to move beyond ourselves and reach out to others.  Dopamine increases testosterone and pheromones, creates the desire to pursue our goals and gives us a rush or pleasure in doing so.  That sense of pleasure reinforces the desire to continue the behaviour causing us to repeat it.  In other words, it’s addictive.  (Side Note: ↑ dopamine = ↑ desire = ↑ dopamine = ↑ desire = ↑  ….just sayin’)  Oxytocin builds trust and is essential in promoting social interactions and strong relational bonds.  Oxytocin is also the neurochemical behind fearlessness and passion.

With all the physical, emotional and social stimulation the warmth of summer brings, it’s not hard to see that relationships have the potential to improve in every way.  Afterall….all the right buttons are being pushed!  (I certainly have noticed over the last 12 years in private practice, my relationship-related-counselling load decreases over the summer.  I’m not complaining because fewer clients in the summer = ↑ sunshine time = ↑ neurochemicals = ↑ my right buttons being pushed 🙂

This summer, I hope you take the time to cuddle up in a sunny little corner of your patio with a good book or a few friends, take many strolls on the beach (always using sun screen), play tennis, ride a bike and let the benefits of the natural light and warmth be expressed to those you love.

1.  Huffington Post – Healthy Living

2.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/194038-blue-light-therapy-benefits/

3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10912105/Sunshine-can-be-addictive-like-heroin.html

4. http://www.completewellbeing.com

5. Photo http://www.fatmazaida.com

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