Wendy\'s Blog

Is there more happiness or more sorrow in your life right now?

Four friends have buried a parent in the last few months, one has buried his grown child.

Eleven people I care about are going through divorces, all in various stages and emotions.

Quite a few people I know are battling depression.  Two are dealing with dementia. A girlfriend who has early Alzheimer’s just found out that her husband has a fast-growing brain tumor.

A colleague’s husband got diagnosed a few days ago with pancreatic cancer.  That tends to take people fast. They’ve been married 21 years.

What is happening in your life that caused you to read this?

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your own life?
Lots of people are. You’re not alone. At times like these, everyone looks for help, for hope, for something to cling to.

How are we supposed to handle it when bad things happen?

What do we do when we are engulfed by that great internal distress, the relentless waves of disappointment, called “sorrow”? Is there any way to cope, to survive, to keep breathing despite the pain?

My general opinion is to look for and cling to whatever good you can find, but that seems so thin a response to those who are so deeply discouraged. Surely there has to be a better way to help ourselves and others?

I asked this question of my dear friend Marc Allen, author of “The Magical Path” and a deep thinker. This is what he said. If you’re hurting, let these words spread like a warm oil over you. Let them sink into your skin and nourish your wounded soul. Marc wrote:

“Your email is sad, sweet, and touching… I had some more thoughts…

Yes, life is a bitch, and then you die.

Yet there are children laughing in the rain, splashing in the mud. Some of them die too, and that is wrenching and painful. But some of them live for a hundred years, and find love in their lives and have children and grandchildren. And life goes on and on.

Some of us struggle all our lives, but some of us can find peace, most of the time, in spite of it all.

It is there within us, waiting to be found. It is love, pure love.

Love your pain, love your grief, love yourself, fall in love as much as possible with as many people and things as possible, including sunsets and flowers and kittens and family and friends and books and TV shows… the list is endless….

As Ramana Maharshi said, so sweetly, ‘The end of all wisdom is love, love, love.’ “

I loved this so much, it is so eloquently stated, that I wanted to share it with you to help you at this precise moment in your life. I believe that if you stumbled across these words today, they were meant for you to find.

So the questions for you are these:

What good can you see in your life right now? What small, tiny smile can you find outside the window of your house, your car or even your hospital room? Life is all around you. What you focus on is what you see.

I hope you feel better soon.

Chances are, if you were drawn to the title of this blog, you know the definition of the word “anguish” all too well. You know it isn’t like “sadness” or “depression”; Anguish is nothing like “disappointment” or “sorrow” nor even, on its own, “grief.”

Anguish is when you are ripped open, body and soul, and metaphorically bleeding on the floor without the strength to even lift up your head.

Anguish is when it hurts so bad you are freefalling at light speed through pitch black tunnel, no idea if you will ever hit bottom – and unsure if there even is one.

It hurts so bad that there are no words for it in English. “Anguish” – our most extreme word for sadness – will not even cover the extent of your hurt.

  • For me, I fell into anguish when both of my children died in a car accident in 1991.
  • I met a soul-beautiful woman today who shared that her newborn son died years ago. She also knows anguish.
  • A man told me that he is grieving the recent death of his beloved wife – a woman who had spent her life grieving the death of her mother, who died in a car accident when she was only 12. They know anguish.

If you are in anguish right now, you may be asking, “When will this end?”

Here’s the truth: it’s unsustainable. The human body cannot endure much anguish. It will pass of its own accord. It may be days, months or even years of recurring anguish, but someday, you’ll get through 12 waking hours without feeling like you’re being crunched to death in the back of a garbage truck.

Which is not to say, “Time Heals.” It doesn’t. It just gives you the coping skills to do the basic things that must be done. What happens in addition to that – whether you find a way to be happy again, to thrive, to engage with the world and yourself – even while you wrestle with the pain — that’s up to you.

If you want to really heal, you’ll need to talk to someone – a counselor, a coach, a therapist; or read some inspirational books on your particular source of anguish; or spend time meditating, praying, reading spiritual books, or talking to people in your faith tradition who won’t judge you or set a time limit on your healing process. (Drugs, alcohol and other addictions slow the process of healing down, by the way. Not my opinion – actual fact.)

Yes, you’ll go backwards – back into the depths of anguish – and forward where you’ll catch yourself feeling strong at 3:19 PM on a Tuesday and think, “Hey! It’s been an hour since I was writhing in agony!” Savor the victories. Maybe even write them down, if you can.  Chart your progress – it’s worth noting. 

But your anguish will pass.

This terrible time will subside and your life will be worth living again, somehow, someday. Anguish will change you forever. It will make you more compassionate with yourself and maybe others; it will teach you to enjoy your life while you’re still breathing; it will give you keen insight into human nature; it may even lead you to a more beautiful, peaceful place than you have ever known. 

Wishing you peace…  — Wendy

When you’re ready, please help yourself to this comforting, helpful eBook

Stop Hurting and Start Healing

Normally, I stay out of politics.  But listening to and/or reading various news feeds from around the world (USA, Italy, UK and others) seem to imply that a lot of people worldwide are concerned that this man Donald Trump is going to cause serious global problems.

This concern brings to mind the life’s work of a man I respect.  This “average guy” was a successful professional psychiatrist in the early days of that profession.  He happened to be Jewish, so he got stuffed into a concentration camp. Everything around him was endlessly dreadful, scary, and difficult.  He saw things that few humans alive today can even really imagine.

Naturally, he had the same human response to catastrophe and suffering as any normal person would.  But rather than stay feeling afraid or angry, it slowly dawned on him: the only power he had left was the ability to control his mind. 

He decided – made a conscious choice – to start thinking about what he would do when he got out.  It was probably pretty hard to think about what good things were going to happen while so many around him were sick or dying.  Would he even survive? What did he have to go home to?

Eventually, he started wondering about finding meaning in the suffering.  Not “global meaning”, which so many of us waste our lives thinking about under the the label of “Why did this happen to me?”.  But personal meaning.  He thought about, “What can I do to give this horrific experience meaning?”

He decided that when he got out, he would dedicate his life to making sure – to the best of his ability – that such genocide would never happen again.

He did survive. He wrote a powerful book called, “Man’s Search for Meaning“, in which he talks about how taking responsibility for his own thoughts, choosing to control them, and seeking meaning in the hardship are what helped him survive.  His name is Dr. Viktor Frankl.

All you’ve got is your own brain.  You can’t even control the flow of traffic. You can’t control how many people are in line in front of you.  You can’t even control your own children!  All we can control is our thoughts, and the choices we make.

The decisions we make in our minds determine the actions we take in the outer world, how we feel about ourselves and our level of peace or joy with what’s going on around us.

If you’re afraid of what might happen in the world, seek personal meaning in that fear and choose to apply your mind constructively to solutions.

If you are going through a negative, difficult or even horrible time in your life, whittle away at the negative emotions by catching them, rearranging them and using them to push you to think about what your options are, what you can do, how you can choose to feel, what you’d like to have happen after you survive this.

Sadly, the Holocaust was not the end of genocide.  There will always be people who think their way is the only way, and that they have the right to bully, belittle, hurt or even kill others. “Might makes right”.  Your choice as a concerned citizen of the world is to focus on what good, what meaning can come out of your experience and then make the best choice in this and every moment of your life.

 

It’s easy to think things will never change, or that we are powerless to change them. No matter how bad things are, or how depressed you’re feeling, there are three things you can do today to make your life better, starting in this very moment.

Look for anything good, even if you have to look hard. It might be as simple as seeing a butterfly or a colleague bringing you a cup of coffee. You can’t see what you’re not looking for, and when things are bad, we all tend to focus more on the negative and ignore the good. It’s there somewhere. Find it.

Choose one tiny thing you can control and make it one tiny bit better.  Choose not to eat something that isn’t healthy for you and do a mini-celebration inside your brain.  Choose to say something kind to someone who irritates you, even if it is through gritted teeth.  Choose to organize your desk or one shelf in one cabinet in your kitchen.  Choose to spend an extra five minutes on your hair or your clothing today so you look your best.  Choose to park further from the entrance so you get the blood flowing with a walk. There are many tiny things you can choose that will make your life 1% better today.  The trick is to focus on how pleased you are that you’ve chosen to do this one little thing.

Move in the right direction.  Imagine for a moment that you have the ability to make the situation you are facing better.  What would “better” look like?  Write it down.  What would it take to make that happen? Work it backwards.  As unlikely as it seems, what steps would you have to take to get that reality to come true?  Work it all the way back to the tiniest thing you’d have to do this month.  This week. Today. Now.  And then, take that action!  Just that one. Do it today.

These three steps will help you make your life better starting today.  Baby steps add up, so don’t dismiss these ideas as “too easy”.

Which of these ideas are you going to apply? Can you think of any I missed that you’d like to share with everyone?  Please, comment on this post so everyone can benefit from your wisdom.

When you’re ready, please help yourself to this comforting, helpful eBook

Stop Hurting and Start Healing

Depression is an epidemic in our modern world. Millions of people struggle with feelings of real sadness that don’t seem to go away.  If you are experiencing depression, the following tips will help you to loosen the logjam in your brain so you can start enjoying life again.

1 Examine Your Negative Thoughts and Overwrite Them Forever

When you feel sad inside, everything can seem bleak. With depression, your thoughts become flat, dull and lifeless, like a gray cloud that has settled and allows zero visibility.  To beat depression, try listening to your inner voice for just two hours.  Every time you hear yourself tell yourself a negative thought, jot it down (or record it into your phone.)  See if there are recurring things you say to yourself, such as:

  • Things will never get better.
  • Why am I such an idiot?
  • How did I get myself into this?
  • I’m such a screw-up.

Note how many times in two hours you repeat the same thing, then – as dumb and simplistic as it sounds – start with the most common one and literally force yourself to write out the exact opposite…100 times!  Back in the days of one room schoolhouses, teachers made naughty students write something out 100 times on the board. They were actually doing something brilliant!  The physical movement of holding chalk or a pen combined with the mental focus of re-writing the same phrase so many times actually anchors it in the brain.  (Who knew?!)

For example, to counteract the four depression-induced statements above, you might write out:

  • My life is getting better today.
  • I’m a good, smart person who deserves to be happy
  • I got myself into this and I’m getting myself out of it quickly.
  • I make good choices.
2 Screw Up Your Brain to Heal from Depression

Have you ever seen a path in a field or forest?  Whether made by animals or people, all beings take the path of least resistance.  The path may not even be the most direct or efficient route, but “everyone goes this way.”  Whether you know it or not, there are paths in your brain – ruts, roads, rituals that you take over and over. Some of them (called “heuristics”) make your life easier.  One path is called, “How to Brush Your Teeth” and another is called, “The Route to Work.”  Others may be called, “How to Make Myself Feel Bad About My Body” or “How to Stay in a Bad Mood About Anything”, etc.  Get the idea?

To get clarity and freedom on these paths, the trick is to plot out the directions.  Pick your least favorite but most common feeling and study it. That will show you that you actually do (quickly) follow a path to get to that feeling.  For example:

Directions for How to Make Myself Feel Bad About My Body

  • See someone (in real life or in a photo) who looks better/more handsome/prettier/healthier/younger/fitter than I do.
  • Compare what I saw in the mirror to that image.
  • Recite my body flaws to myself (so fast you may not notice that you do this!)
  • Find myself feeling guilty/ashamed/worthless/unattractive/depressed/hopeless about my outward appearance
  • Carry myself like someone who feels bad about how I look

That’s a path.  If I wanted to teach a stranger how to feel bad about their body, I could give them these “instructions” and, if they followed them, they’d feel miserable too.  You are following a recipe/path/instructions and you may not even know it, because it happens so quickly.

So here’s the solution: Write down your own directions to help someone else feel as bad as you do – about whatever you feel bad about.  This trick will help you see what you do, which will help you realize you’re just really, really good at following your own rut.  To get out of it, make a new choice.  Do one thing differently.  At any point on that path, do something childish, funny or insane.

Ideas:  Take a wash-off marker to your mirror and paint a faux mustache at exactly your height; spin in a circle six times while you recite your body flaws; when you see someone you think is better looking, make your hands flutter like a butterfly; every time you pass a reflective surface, suck in your gut and draw back your shoulders; walk around with a book on your head; get a smooth stone and carry it in your pocket at all times – move it to the other pocket whenever you find yourself being negative about how you look; buy a paper cone birthday hat and force yourself to wear it (at home!) for 5 minutes every time you’re feeling negative about how you look; create a secret dance move you rush to the bathroom and execute whenever you start down this path.

WHY does this work?  Because when you even just once go off the trail, you make the first dent in new grass.  Do it enough times, you’ll create a new path entirely.  You don’t HAVE to keep doing the same things and getting the same results…(You know what that’s the definition of, right?)

3 Get Mindful to Overcome Depression

Of course meditation will help anyone. That’s when you reflect on the present moment very consciously.  There are a lot of people who strongly believe in meditation and do it daily – I’m one of them.  But for those of you who just will not sit down and “contemplate your navel” (although really, it’s contemplating one’s breath!) here’s something utterly crazy that can have the same effect:  build something.

The concentration to build something can reset your mind and make you forget the sadness.  Weird, but true.

Try these ideas:

  • A multi-story house of cards
  • A perfect, tiny log cabin from toothpicks
  • The tallest Lego tower
  • A model airplane, car or tank
  • A complicated (healthy) recipe
  • A 4-high stack of plain old stones
  • Origami (Japanese paper folding)
  • A paper snowflake

These kinds of actions require focus, and when you focus so much on that task, it activates parts of your brain that have the power to push aside the sad feelings.  Some of these take seconds, some hours.  You don’t have to complete the whole project all at once – it is the focus of doing it that gives the most benefit.

Summary

You are not powerless. Sadness or even depression don’t have to consume your life and rob you of happiness.  If you try one idea here a few times and it doesn’t work for you, try a different one. Search online. Talk to a counselor.  Go for a brisk walk.  Do yoga.

You are not a victim unless you choose to be.  You have the power to improve your life and your moods. Start today by taking an action – any action in the right direction!

Your comments, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and input on this blog post are always welcome!
 

Would you like a free copy of my ebook? See below.

When you’re ready, please help yourself to this comforting, helpful eBook

Stop Hurting and Start Healing

Save Yourself from Liars, Fakes and Bullshitters

by Wendy Keller

Today I had a call with a potential business colleague.  He works with someone I know, and I had an idea that could make us both some money.  But when we got on the call, he launched into a diatribe about how “other people” had done him wrong; how much money he’d made on previous things he’d done; and how successful he expected his next venture to be, based on his “extensive experience” which I know wasn’t all that successful.

It felt like I was being sucked into quicksand.

By the end of the call, which happened as rapidly as I could do it, I felt like I wanted to take a shower and use an SOS pad for soap!  Eeeew!

There’s nothing overtly sleazy about this guy. I’m aware that he likely did all that posturing, lying and exaggerating because he wanted to impress me.  But we human beings are funny in that way…

We all have a built-in “bullshit detector”… but we don’t always use it.

Setting aside the reasons why we don’t, here are some “What To Do About It” steps that can help us when we feel ourselves attracted to the spider’s web…

1.

When reading or listening to anything – from news to a friend’s glorious vacation story to a marketer’s easy steps to making millions in 30 days – do a “gut check.” Even if you’re wrong and the person is totally legit, your gut will tell you whether or not this is right for you. Your senses are always on high alert – that’s how our distant ancestors made it long enough to procreate. Listen to that “small voice” inside of you.

2.

When you suspect someone is being less than honest in a real interaction (for example, on the phone or on purpose), politely ask qualifying questions.

I remember the first time my dad caught me in a lie. I’d pretended I couldn’t hear my mother calling me to dinner because I wanted to stay with my friends in the sand pile in Tommy’s yard next door. I told my dad it was because I’d had my head buried in the sand for a long time, “like an ostrich.”
I was about eight. 
Not only do I now know that ostriches don’t actually do that, but on that day, I learned the price of being caught in a blatant lie.

When you ask an adult for more details and they are lying, or bullshitting, chances are they will flare up, talk louder, faster, change the subject or attack you in some way. That’s a sure fire sign something’s amiss.

longhorn bull

3.

In the case of bullshit when you’re not interacting with the person in real time, such as in print or on TV or the internet, pause for a moment and ask, “Does this sound too good to be true?” or “Does this sound too perfect to be true?”

I’ve heard it said that Facebook is a depression prompt for some people. “Why does everyone have a better life than I do?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Asking yourself critical questions gives you the perspective you need to discern what’s real and what isn’t, and maintain a healthy sense of yourself.

If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

4.

Un-slime yourself immediately. For me, that’s a matter of taking a few deep breaths, reflecting on how I want to be sure I communicate more honestly in the future, and releasing judgement of the person/company that I suspect is bullshitting me. They probably have their reasons – everyone has reasons for everything they do. Some people shake it off, literally. You might want to get up and walk around for a few minutes. Take a mini-break or read something completely distracting.

5.

Make a new plan, Stan. We can dislike the bullshit, we can reject the offer, we can avoid future interactions, we can walk away, we can think of something else if we’re forced to listen, take it with “a grain of salt”, on and on. You have a choice. You don’t have to whip out your credit card to get that Special Report that will help you make all that money in 30 days. You don’t have to agree with anyone else’s point of view.  You don’t have to even reply or respond, in many cases.

You are at choice. Take back your choice and make the best decision for yourself.

We don’t have to be victims. We don’t have to absorb the crazy-making of other people’s bullshit, lies or confusing conversations. There’s no reason to engage with frauds, charlatans and questionable people.

If your gut tells you it isn’t true, listen to yourself and take immediate, appropriate action.

Have you got some goals?
 
Some dream or adventure you long to enjoy?
 
Career aspirations you just never seem to get around to? Maybe writing the novel or starting your own company or opening a dive shop in the Bahamas?
 

Here’s the stark, unhappy, unpleasant truth:
You are highly unlikely to achieve any of that stuff.

Slap in the face? Yeah, for me too. I’ve got lists of goals I’ve dragged around since the 90s – and I see myself only slightly closer to a few of them.

Most of us are the same:

We hope for all these glorious achievements…but never achieve them.

 
Our individual lists of Whys is brilliant! Any logical person can see it is completely reasonable and rational that you haven’t achieved your most precious goals and I haven’t achieved mine.

Pick your favorite excuse:

  • “I can’t until the kids get older…”
  • “I don’t have the money right now…”
  • “I’m in the middle of a big project at work…”
  • “I don’t know where to start…”
  • “I’m too old” (or) “I’m too young”
  • “My health isn’t the best…”
  • “My marriage is on shaky ground…”
  • “I’m single, but once I find a partner…”
  • “I’m so busy with this other thing. But as soon as this is done…”
  •  
    Yeah. OK.

    Bull-poopies.

    Somewhere burrowed deep down in your heart is the horrifying, hidden, hideous secret that…you are scared to death of going for it.
    fear Franklin Roosevelt
    What if you fail? What if you succeed? What if your dream just isn’t possible for you? What if you’re not good enough? What if it is too hard? What if you don’t have the talent after all? What if you really do run out of food, clothing and shelter before you achieve it? What if getting what you want means hurting – or compromising – someone else? What if your parent/the bully at your middle school/the pastor/your mean teacher/your first boss was actually right about you and you will never amount to anything? And you look weird and you dress funny.

    What if getting what you say you really, truly want means that you have to risk absolutely everything else in your life to get it?

    I’m a literary agent. That means I sell books to publishers on behalf of (nonfiction) authors. Want to know the worst case I’ve ever seen of someone terrified of their own dream? Sixteen years ago, I met a man who pitched me on representing his book. I liked the idea and asked him to send it to me. I could have sold it quickly. I never got a word. But every year or two since, he calls or emails me to tell me he’s “still working on it.”

    People like him used to really irk me…until I realized I am one of them. (Not when it comes to writing, mind you! My next book “The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building” just released.) But I am just like that guy in so many other ways! We look at someone who has achieved what we’re afraid of and think, “Wow! I want that!” But that person is afraid of something different, maybe something that’s easy for you.

    So year after year, we wait for the Magic Moment to arrive when we won’t be afraid and the stars will align and Poof! A miracle!

    It’s easier to wait for miracles, chanting while looking at a vision board, than to face our fears. It’s pretty harsh to accept that not much changes, although time is passing. Not only am I confessing publicly…

    I’m challenging you to actually look inside yourself and check where you are procrastinating out of fear.

    • A close friend finally left a miserable marriage after 27 years together. He was already miserable by their first anniversary!

    • A beloved colleague has told me for years how much she wants to sell or delegate her thriving business to go do something completely artistic. The first time she ever told me that was in 2004.

    • A family member has changed careers more times than I can count. Each time, she gets excited, enrolls in a course, and then halfway through, starts to worry that she won’t like the work, or won’t pass the final exam, or won’t get hired even if she does…and she starts to back away from her dream.

    • When our daughters were in elementary school, another single mother said to me, “Oh Wendy! I wish I could be like you! I’d love to buy a house and run my own business!” When I asked her why she couldn’t, she explained, “The house might be too far for my husband to drive to work.” But at that time, she wasn’t even dating anyone!

    I can’t sit here on my throne and say, “Listen, little children! I have the solution! Just do X and you will break through all your obstacles! They’re just in your head, not in reality!” Even though I can see that for both of us, it really, truly is just in our heads.
     
    The logical part of me knows that I’m the biggest impediment to my own success. Just like you are to yours.

    Instead, I’m inviting us to examine the deep truth about what’s stopping us. Whose voice told us we’re not good enough? Why do we keep reciting that message? What fears are preventing us? We know it’s not lack of knowledge. Between books and Google, you can find out how to do anything. There’s something bigger, something deeper, something scarier inside that prevents us from taking the kind of action that actually moves us toward our stated-but-not-acted-on dreams.
    dandelion girl
    Like dandelions, I believe we need to find those weeds and yank them out by the roots. Everybody’s scared, just of different things that you are. Pull a Franklin Roosevelt on yourself. He’s the guy who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    Our ability to root out our fears and take even one step in the right direction – much less take massive action – happens when we lay aside the fears and worries for split second and quickly take action before we have time to stop ourselves. Your heart may be beating fast, but can rest up for a bit after that, while you summon up your courage for the next step. See? You’re still breathing.. Nothing so bad happened. Ready? Go!

    If not now, when?