what i’m grateful for today

It’s 6:30am on a Sunday morning, and I can’t fall back asleep.  Normally I post an article about complex concepts, pre-written and edited with precision and great care.   Today I simply want to express gratitude.

I’m grateful to everyone who has ever helped me, hugged me, comforted me, talked to me, made me laugh, or just sat with me.  I’m grateful for human connection.

I’m grateful for a roof over my head, food in my kitchen. running water, and a car.

I’m grateful to my parents, Jim and Betsy, for everything they did to ensure that I had a good life and an education.  I’m grateful that they love me and have always told me so.  For all the ways, big and small, that they have supported me throughout the years.  Without them I wouldn’t even be here.

I’m grateful for the meetup groups I have attended here in Austin.  From divorce support, to acapella singing, to women’s groups, to entrepreneur groups, to Toastmasters.  Everyone has taught me something, and I have met some amazing people.

I’m grateful that I can use my body and my voice to help other people.  How cool is that?

I’m grateful that you heard my words today.  Thank you for reading.



“Inside Out” and the value of sadness

For those who haven’t seen Inside Out, this article contains spoilers.

The movie is about an 11-year-old girl, Riley, whose family moves across the country.  We can see inside her mind as she reacts to her changing world: a new city, a new school, the loss of her hockey team and old friendships, and her relationship with her parents.  Each of Riley’s emotions is personified – there’s Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust – and they all take turns pushing buttons at the control center of Riley’s brain.

Throughout the movie, Sadness has a tendency to mope around.  When she touches old memories, they turn blue and forever changed.  The always cheerful Joy, in an attempt to keep Riley happy, tries to prevent Sadness from touching or controlling anything.

There is one scene in particular that strikes me: a three-character scene with Joy, Sadness, and Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong.  They’re stuck on the outskirts of Riley’s mind, trying to catch a train back to the center, and Bing Bong is suddenly overwhelmed with melancholy and can’t go on.  Joy tries to help by acting silly, but it doesn’t work.  It’s Sadness who comes over to comfort him.  Sadness is able to relate to how he feels, and she validates his feelings.  It’s an interesting scene because up to that point, Sadness is seemingly slowing down progress or messing things up.  But in this case, Sadness’s actions help move things along.  After Sadness is done comforting Bing Bong, and they’re back on their way, Joy asks, “How did you do that?”

Moral of the story?  Sadness can be used as a fuel for both connection and progress, if we allow ourselves to fully experience it instead of just pushing it away in an attempt to feel happy in every moment.  Sadness and empathy can serve us in ways that joy can’t.

The movie scene reminds me of this thoughtful video – which also happens to be an animation – in which Brené Brown talks about the difference between sympathy and empathy.  “Empathy is feeling with people,” she says.  “Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice.  Because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”  She goes on, “One of the things we do sometimes, in the face of very difficult conversations, is we try to make things better.  If I share something with you that’s very difficult, I’d rather you say, ‘I don’t even know what to say right now – I’m just so glad you told me.  Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better.   What makes something better is connection.”

Recently on her Facebook page, writer Elizabeth Gilbert posted some more insights about sadness and depression.  It was so good, that I’m going to include it in full:

Dear Ones -I wonder if any of you have heard of the work of Karla McLaren? She’s the author of many wonderful books on emotional health and wellbeing, including THE ART OF EMPATHY.I was recently listening to an interview with her, in which she spoke about depression in a way that felt so fresh and compelling to me. She spoke of the “gift of sadness”, explaining that Situational Depression can be a wonderful tool of expression in our lives — a way that our psyche alerts us to the fact that something in our life is not working, and must be stopped.Situational Depression (which is different from the ongoing mental illness of chronic depression, hormonal depression, or bipolarity — all of which are serious medical conditions) is a deep sadness that comes upon all of us at some point in our lives. Situational depression is natural. It’s universal. It’s human. We all have face it at some point in our lives. We hate it. We reject it. We fight against it. We don’t want it. It’s deeply uncomfortable.

But Situational Depression has an offering for us — it’s desperately trying to tell us something.

Karla McLaren argues that what your Situational Depression is trying to tell you is: STOP.

Depression is characterized, after all, by a complete depletion of energy, by a sense that you simply cannot cope anymore, that you simply cannot go on. And in many cases, McLaren argues, this because you SHOULDN’T go on. This because something in your life is working against you. Something needs to be changed. Somebody needs to go. Something needs to be grieved. Something needs to be admitted. Something needs to be given up. Something needs to be brought in. Something needs to be discussed. Something needs to be healed.

And your Depression is just a friend who just stands there in the middle of the path and says, “I will not let you take another step until you cope with this problem.”

Many times, this complete shut-down of energy is necessary, to alert you to a problem that you haven’t even consciously admitted that you HAVE.

Case in point: Twelve years ago, in my own life, Depression knew that my marriage was over — and knew it before I did. Depression was just trying to tell me. Depression also knew that I needed God in my life before I knew it. Depression knew that I needed some rigorous honesty about my own self-destructive patterns. Depression knew that I needed to find a professional to talk to about my deepest sorrows and fears. Depression knew that I couldn’t live in that big house anymore, and Depression knew that I was not destined to be a mother — and that therefore I needed to create another path for myself.

I didn’t know any of that stuff.

All I knew was that suddenly I couldn’t function anymore.

Because Depression had just violently drained all my energy out of me, and forbidden me to continue. Depression had basically jumped in front of me with a stop sign, saying: “That’s ENOUGH, young lady. That’s enough of all this. You need to change everything, and I will stand here protectively blocking your path until you do change.”

It wasn’t until I worked everything out (which took time and tears and effort) and completely changed my life that Depression stepped out of the way and let me go on with my journey.

I should be grateful to it, then, for the information.

All of which is to say — Depression just wanted me to stop, to listen, to pay attention…and to respond.

Karla McClaren has created a wonderful template for how to listen to Depression’s helpful messages right here:


Her entire website is filled with a lot of wisdom and help. If you are struggling with depression in your life right now, and cannot figure out why, I think you may find a great deal of solace and information there.

Blessings, and please do take care of your lovely selves…

ONWARD (or, if necessary: JUST STOP)


I’m grateful to Liz,  Karla, and Brené for shedding some light on this topic.



how to dissolve negative thought patterns effortlessly

A few weeks ago I talked about thought patterns and locations – how I noticed certain thoughts reoccurring in the same places and times, and that the kitchen was where most of my negative thoughts tended to gather.

I display different words, phrases, or questions on my fridge (because it’s in the kitchen) to give my mind some direction.  This week, I wrote one that has been making a big difference:

unnamedwhat if it didn't matter

“What if it didn’t matter?” is a powerful question when you’re dwelling on a past upset.  The simple act of reading this question is enough to interrupt the pattern and make you consider – is this really a big deal?  What would it be like if this thing I’m hung up on ultimately did not affect how I feel about life?

And here’s the thing – you don’t even have to put any effort into this, other than displaying the question somewhere.  Just hang it somewhere that you’ll see it often.  If you’ve noticed a particular place where your negative thoughts gather the most frequently, hang it there.  When you see the question, you don’t have to deliberately think of an answer.  Your subconscious will already be doing that for you, and you might find yourself relaxing a bit, effortlessly.  Open-ended questions like this spark the imagination.

Some variants you could write and display: “What if this doesn’t matter very much?”  “What if this didn’t matter to me?”  “What if I let this go?”  “What if this thought let go of me?”  “What if I were relaxed right now?”  “What if I felt differently?”  “What if this was a good thing?”  “What if I knew exactly how to handle this?”  Play around with some ‘what if’ questions and discover what works for you.  Stick ’em on your fridge, in your car, in a notebook, as your cell phone lock screen image, anywhere you want.  The formula is to lead your mind to how you want to feel.  So if you want to feel happier – “What if I felt happy right now?”  Of course, you don’t have to stick to ‘what if’ questions.  Another good direction is “How can I feel happy right now?”  “What makes me happy?”  Asking ‘how’ questions will get your brain moving toward practical solutions.  Other good ones: “What am I grateful for?” or “What am I grateful for in this situation?”  The latter question helps you reframe whatever you’re already thinking about.

Can you come up with any of your own questions that open the mind to possibilities?  Write them in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!  Coming up next week: I’m going to talk about the movie “Inside Out” and the value of sadness.  Stay tuned.



a few books that have changed my thinking and my life

Short post to recommend some non-fiction titles that I’m really glad I stumbled upon:

Creating Time by Marney K. Makridakis
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte (currently reading/mapping)
Creating Money, Creating Meaning by Orna Ross
Wishcraft by Barbara Sher
A Thousand Names For Joy by Byron Katie
Tao Te Ching by Laozi, edited by Stephen Mitchell
You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney
Lighten Up by Peter Walsh
I Need Your Love – Is That True? by Byron Katie