Doesn’t the Work Let My Partner Off the Hook?

Above: Me before the Work.

A potential Inquirer in the Intimacy Intensive – Partners Class writes:

“It sounds like doing the Work lets my partner off the hook. Why should I be the one to change when he’s the one who is wrong? I’m tired of always being the better person.”

This is a common question of people who are in pain and intrigued by the promise of the Work – freedom – but skeptical that it really could deliver.

The short answer is, yes, doing the Work does let your partner off the hook.

The longer answer begins: It lets him off the hook, but aren’t you tired of holding him up there?

It is exhausting to feel resentful and ill-used all the time! Even when you manage to push your discontent aside, it still sits there – switching metaphors now – like a big rock in your living room. It doesn’t belong there, but still you arrange the furniture around it and contort yourself to accommodate it every time you make a move.

For me, the implacable object was my husband’s anger. Or so I thought. The truth was that I was afraid of anger, full stop. (It could have been anything. What’s the thing you keep finding in relationship after relationship?) Because I lived with him, his was the anger I encountered most often. I suppressed my own. But I thought he was the problem.

At the School for the Work, Katie told us to look up at a light fixture. We did. She said, “Keep looking. Just wait.” As I waited – I didn’t know for what – I started noticing how dusty the fixture was, how dated. She said, “The judgments come, don’t they? Look at anything long enough, and the judgments will come.”

I laughed, but this is what we do to the people we love, because we look at them the most. What else could explain why your hateful mother-in-law is the most beloved member of her gardening group? Or why your son, who must be reminded every single day, twice a day, to brush his teeth, is his teacher’s responsible, dependable right hand man?

Or why, in our 22 years together, I have been pulled aside so often by my husband’s coworkers and told how much they appreciate his sense of humor, good cheer, and positive leadership?

I scooted around what I believed to be my husband’s problem by lying to him. With the best of intentions, I lied. I hid things from him, told half-truths and slant truths. The truth always came out anyway, and then I would freeze in fear, cringing and cowering. He was baffled. Why did I feel so threatened? I also made it my job to keep him happy and took it personally whenever he was not. He became afraid to express himself – upsetting me was too exhausting.

Then one day, after a weekend of reading Loving What Is, I simply responded differently to an angry outburst of his. (I tell the story in “The Four Words That Cracked My Marriage Open”).

Rather than scooting around the implacable object and maintaining it there, I looked at it. Friend, it had my fingerprints all over it. I put my weight against it to see how it might budge and found some cracks. I investigated those cracks and found that, with just a little pressure, the whole thing fell apart. It wasn’t what I had thought at all! I was happy to sweep up the rubble. We could both move more freely now.

The process of looking, feeling, finding cracks, and investigating them is, of course, the Work. In the Work, you take your critical eye off your partner and look at your thinking instead.

Guy shouldn’t be angry. Really? Ever? Even when I lie to him?

Guy should always be happy. In what universe?

Guy should always appreciate everything I do for him. Do I always appreciate everything he does for me?

I have no idea what truths you are going to discover when you investigate your judgments of your beloved in the Intimacy Intensive – Partners Class. But I do know this: with the merest pressure – an open, curious mind – your judgments will fall apart and you will feel more clear, empowered, grounded, loving, and free, as well as less stuck, frightened, powerless, resentful, bruised, aggrieved, and victimized.

That’s a great place from which to deal with any problem, if any remains.

Love,

Allison

A Path Out of Pain and Into Love

I have a new coaching offering that I think will really help people who are hurt by someone they love.

It’s called the Intimacy Intensive. It’s a series of three interconnected, but independent, classes that use the Work of Byron Katie to heal and create more love in your most intimate relationships – namely, your relationships with your spouse or partner, your parents, and your children.

I’m offering it because I’ve noticed friends, family members, and clients suffering in these areas of life. I’ve also experienced revolutions in these areas of my own life as a result of doing the Work – as my teacher Martha Beck says, “If you spot it, you got it!” I see it because I suffered, too, and I know that the Work can help. Dramatically.

The format of the classes is influenced by my recent experience at the School for the Work.

The School was an immersion: nine days out of everyday life in which participants could go deep into their pain, shift it at the foundation, and create positive momentum to take back home. Katie would introduce an area of Inquiry, out of which came Work we did as a group, with partners, and alone. The Work brought me – brought all of us – so much relief, peace, and love. We lifted one another up and our joy grew collectively.

For the Intimacy Intensive, we will create as immersive an experience as possible while still allowing participants to remain at home. Each class – partners, parents, and children – is a broad area of Inquiry, which I’ll break down into sub-topics, with a new sub-topic each week. We’ll do the Work together on our weekly group calls, and then you’ll go deep into the week’s topic with your facilitation partner, alone, and also with me. Six weeks of daily Work and the depth of the topics are what make this class “intensive.” But deep work for a sustained period is what will create the shift you are looking for, the end of your suffering.

The Work is, itself, intense. There’s no hiding in it. You actively question what you thought you knew. You look for your errors in judgment and at how your critics were right about you! It’s walking into the mouth of the beast!

But, oh! Picture it. What would it be like – to not run anymore, but turn and face what (painful thinking) hounds you, to drop your defenses and really look at what it’s trying to tell you? I’ll tell you. Wisdom. Freedom. Love.

When it comes to your intimates, isn’t that what you want? You can stop prosecuting old grievances, trying to control or change them and needing their approval. You can experience love without conditions.

That doesn’t mean you’ll never been in pain again. But in the Intimacy Intensive, you’ll get so much practice doing the Work alone, and you’ll make a dozen new best friends to reach out to for facilitation when you need it, that you’ll always have a way out of pain.

Enrollment for the first class, Partners, opens today. I had said that participants must have read Katie’s book Loving What Is and have done Work before, but never mind that. The only prerequisites are that you have some areas of chronic pain with him or her and you want to be happier.

You don’t even have to be with the partner in question anymore. The Work can set you free from your ex.

Maybe he leaves the toilet seat up and chews with his mouth open. Maybe she’s frigid and prioritizes the kids over you. Maybe he has a temper. Maybe she had an affair, and you can’t get past it. There is no problem too small or too large for the Work.

For those who want to enroll but have no experience with the Work, do please check out thework.com. Watch Katie do the Work in the videos and try it for yourself, using the instructions and resources provided there. The Work is an experience, not an intellectual exercise. I also share many of my experiences with Inquiry on my blog.

If the Intimacy Intensive sounds like what you need, you are very welcome. Enroll here today. If you have questions before committing, I’m incredibly approachable at allison@AllisonMechamEvans.com.

Love,

Allison

If you’ve done the Work and experienced its sweet relief, please share a story in the comments!

Rescuing Marriage from the Money Monster

Above: Thanksgiving amidst the construction

We are renovating our home. Our construction team has discovered problems with the house – poor wiring, water leaks, lack of insulation – that have added to our overall bill and pushed us beyond our already sizable budget.

I’ve been dreaming of creating a home of our own for years. I’ve read articles about how to plan a new build or a renovation, and they all say to leave plenty of room in the budget for the unexpected. But we didn’t. We scaled our plans down but still allotted every penny of our budget for the stuff we wanted. How will we pay for the boring stuff it turns out we need?

I don’t like to admit this – because I’ve done a lot of work on it, and as a coach I feel I ought to have it sorted by now – but I feel weak around money. It isn’t something I feel equal to. Rather, money is an entity to which I submit and which awards me (or doesn’t) capriciously and scarcely.

So, when money becomes a problem, as has happened with this renovation, I go immediately into a spiral of painful thinking: You fool. You baby. You always do this. You always want more than you can afford. You never plan realistically. What’s wrong with you that you don’t earn more money?

Oh, but wait. First, before I even register my painful thinking, I fight with my husband: Another box from Amazon, honey? Really?

Do you do this, too, Reader? Lash out at those around you when you’re in pain? Project all your stuff onto them, finding the speck in their eye while overlooking the plank in your own? When you have the Work, though, this is actually not a bad thing. It’s something you can use to discover the truth about yourself and them.

That’s why our loved ones are our greatest teachers, and why, in the Intimacy Intensive series, we’re going to judge the heck out of them in three interconnected-but-a la carte classes: partners first (Jan. 10 – Feb. 21), then parents (Feb. 28 – Apr. 11), then kids (Apr. 18 – May 30). It may sound counter-intuitive, but judging them is the first step in loving them – and yourself – better and ending your suffering.

Discovering the truth begins with noticing that you’re in pain, and then noticing that you’re trying to pin your pain on someone (i.e. judging your neighbor).

I was mid-way through a dizzying argument with my husband last Saturday – after I’d paid a massive bill from our construction company – before his words woke me up to what I was doing: “You’re not listening,” he said.

That statement was like a bell, recalling for me what I’d recently shared about learning to listen to him and how I suffered in our marriage until I did. So I stopped and listened until he had said his piece.

But, oh! I was raw! Often I am able to listen and, right then, go inside myself and ask where Guy is right. But, as I confessed above, money is a highly charged topic for me, and I was too emotional to process the truth or fiction of what he said to me in that moment. I took refuge in the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet.

Through the JYN, I discovered that the root of my pain was an unconscious bargain I’d roped us into: I believed that, as long as Guy was the main provider for our family, it was my job to make him happy. You can imagine what a tangle this causes. If he’s unhappy, I’m unhappy; he hides his unhappiness to prevent mine; each of us in the other’s business, rather than looking after our own. (It’s an easy trap to fall into with our intimates).

Through the Work, tension loosed and thoughts untangled. The Money Monster shrunk. I grew, found my footing, and stepped out of his business and into mine.

When I met with Guy again, I felt like a grown up again and more than equal to the task of raising money for our project. My thinking cleared up, our plan came easily. We’re on the same team again.

Money is hard! Relationships are hard! Thankfully the Work is not! It is a step-by-step process that helps you go into the mouth of the beast that haunts you – no matter how large or small it is, or how long it’s been nipping at your heels, or why – and come out the other side stronger and wiser.

My tenacious beast is money. What’s yours? In the Intimacy Intensive Course, Partners Class, we’ll be finding the path to freedom from six bugaboos that come between you and your beloved: money, sex, chores, parenting, communication, and friendship. I’d love for you to join us. Find out more about it here. Registration opens Friday, December 2.

How to Tranquilize Stampeding Thoughts: Rx for the Election Blues

Above: So, this happened. What now?

Are you upset by the outcome of the presidential election?

Before the election, my plan for this blog was blithely to continue my series of stories of how the Work has given my husband and me a more open, honest, and loving relationship. But then Donald Trump was elected, and cataclysms make plans made in innocence seem trivial. The cataclysm must be dealt with.

The night of the election, as states began to report their outcomes, I was puzzled to see so much red. Puzzlement turned to dread, and like the child who falls asleep when she realizes she’s lost, I went to bed. The grown ups would wake me when they found me, when the news was good. Instead, a nightmare woke me. In the nightmare I was driving in Hawaii – paradise. My road took me through an industrial area, and I soon noticed that it wasn’t ending. I stopped the car to get my bearings and discovered that I was on a trash barge. It stretched to the horizon in every direction.

When I woke, Guy was also awake.

“Well?” I said.

“Trump won,” he said. “Hillary just conceded.”

I tried to go back to sleep, but I could not. Like a herd of wild horses, my thoughts had been spooked and were stampeding. As they raced on, I stood in the middle of them with my hands up, shouting, “Is it true? Is it true?”– the first question of the Work. But the herd was in chaos. On they ran, and my heart pounded along with them.

Has that ever happened to you? Your thoughts run riot, your body follows, and you can’t get a handle on anything?

In my panic, I discovered a lasso – a lasso and a way of grounding myself so those ponies wouldn’t trample me.

First, the grounding. I’m half afraid you’re going to roll your eyes at me because it’s so basic and I already talk about it so much, but here it is: deep breathing. Ever since I experienced the power of deep breathing to get me through childbirth comfortably, I’ve trusted deep breathing to get me through pretty much anything arduous.

The outcome of the election put me in fight-or-flight mode. Trying to do thought work while in fight-or-flight – shouting, “Is it true?” as the herd stampedes – is ineffective, because stress hormones make clear, rational thinking impossible. Breathing deeply is the opposite of the rapid, shallow breathing of fight-or-flight, and it sends a message to the brain that everything is okay. This shuts off the production of stress hormones and initiates the release of the body’s own (horse) tranquilizers, beta endorphins.

Now that the herd is beginning to calm, you can use the lasso to capture the individual thoughts: ask, “And that means. . ?” and write down all the answers. As in, “Donald Trump was elected, and that means. . . half our country is racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic. It means that our way of life is over. It means that evil triumphs over good. . . .” I wrote until I was empty.

The act of writing down painful thoughts slows them down even further. The next step, doing the Work on each one, puts the belief in a clear glass box, so that you can examine it from every angle and get to the truth of it. If more painful beliefs come up when you do the Work, just add them to your original list to do the Work on later. Keep yourself focused on one thought at a time – don’t let it out of the box.

What have I found through this process?

  • I’ve found my own bigotry and complacency. Thank you. I’ll work on that before expecting it of others.
  • I’ve found hysteria. Katie says, “If you want to be terrified, get a future.” In other words, I really don’t know what the future holds; it serves no purpose – none – to imagine the worst, no matter how much the past seems to point to it. Thank you.
  • I’ve found my blind spots. Because I believed Trump and his supporters were awful, I never listened to any of them. How does that ever help? Blinders removed, understanding and compassion rush in, which is the only effective place from which to engage anyone.
  • I’ve found courage – to help, protect, connect – because I found love. Love is much more powerful than hate, fear, or hysteria, period.

Reader, if this process works so well on people you hate, imagine how well it’ll work with people you love. Details on the Intimacy Intensive, my Work-based course for dissolving resentment and creating more love in your closest relationships, are coming soon.

How did you take the election outcome? If you voted for Trump, what do you want Hillary supporters to know? If you voted for Hillary, what helped you come to terms? Please comment below.

How I Got My Husband to Like Me (Without Manipulation)

Above: Us after the School for the Work. He likes me.

“Ugh. It’s like he doesn’t even like me.”

Guy had just walked out the door for work. We’d been arguing, about what exactly I don’t know, though I can guess. What I remember clearly is the hollowness in my gut as he said something mean and walked away from me. It was a familiar feeling.

Sixteen years previously, Guy and I had fallen in love almost at first sight and married soon after. What’s funny is that I had felt that I’d recognized, more than met, him. But of course once we were actually married and living together, I discovered how little I knew him!

Hardest to me were the moments when I upset him, and he seemed to believe that my intentions were malign, not simply a mistake. I thought when you love someone you believe the best of them, not assume the worst.

Because we were in love, and because the good times far outnumbered the bad, we made it work. We learned one another’s likes, dislikes, and triggers, and worked out how to make up after disagreements. Even so, I found confrontation so painful that I – unconsciously but nevertheless assiduously – developed a strategy of avoidance.

That means I: hid things from him; didn’t tell the whole truth or spun it beyond recognition; said yes when I meant no; forgot a lot.

I suspect one of those actions caused our argument that day.

But, Reader, like last week’s story, this happened during Life Coach Training, so now I had the Work. Painful situations like these, I had learned, are made for the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. The JYN captures all your judgments on paper, so you can do the Work (Inquiry) on them and know the truth.

The JYN is comprehensive. You write out who offended you and how; what you need and want from them; what you think they should do; who you think they are (don’t hold back); and, what you never want to experience with them again. It gives you a 360-degree view of one moment in time, but it’s not overkill; you almost always find the universal in the particular – a pattern, a habit of mind that, once identified, can be reshaped.

Well, that’s the life coach story of the Work. Byron Katie simply calls the result of doing the Work the end of suffering.

With the urgency of one who knew she at last possessed the key to a maddening mystery – how two people who loved each other so much could hurt one another so often – I wrote a JYN on Guy, and did the Work on each statement. The one I remember is, “He doesn’t like me.”

Is it true? Really look. You want to know the truth.

If the answer to question one is yes, ask, Can you be absolutely certain it’s true? This question always softens me. I begin to open to new possibilities.

How do you react, what happens, when you believe it’s true? Now I can see how this thought creates my emotions, which drive my actions, which contribute to the result I don’t like. I can see my role in this painful dynamic.

Who would you be without the thought? Who would I be if I did not have the thought, “Guy doesn’t like me”? This takes a minute – I’ve been thinking it for so long! Well, I would be curious. Why is this man who loves me yelling? He seems upset. He’s in pain. I know what that’s like. I’d feel compassion. I’d listen instead of putting my energy into self-defense. I could learn something. He could feel heard. We could be connected instead of estranged. At last, I see a new way.

Turn the thought around now and find specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround could be just as true, or truer, than the original thought.

To the opposite: Guy does like me. Joy! A dozen images rush in as evidence of this thought. The mind is always looking for evidence that what it believes is true. Put that to work for you, not against you.

To the other: I don’t like Guy. Yes, it must feel that way to him when I lie to him. In fact, when I lie to protect myself and just expect him to roll with it, I’m favoring myself over him.

To the self: I don’t like myself. It’s true! I want to be brave! I want to say no when I mean it and be upfront and frank with him and everyone. When he yells at me, I take it so hard because I believe he’s right to do so, but it’s too hard to admit, so I make him the bad guy.

The Work complete, I notice I feel relaxed, open, full of love for him and for myself, too. I was mistaken. Now I know the truth.

The phone rings. It’s Guy, who had no idea that I’d just done the Work on my judgments about him. It’s the first time we’ve spoken since our argument. He’s inviting me to lunch, not something he typically does.

“Oh, that’s so sweet!” I say. “Thank you!”

He replies, “You know I like you, right?

I can’t explain it, Reader, except to say that when you change, your life and everyone in it changes, too. This kind of magic – of psychic connection and spontaneous remission of pain – is, in my experience, not a fluke. It happens when you do the Work. If you’d like to experience this kind of change in your marriage, I’ll show you how this January in a six-week tele-course called “The Intimacy Intensive.” Stay tuned for details.

Try it for yourself. The next time you argue with your spouse, instead of fuming or repeating his crimes to sympathetic friends, write down your judgments instead. Then simply ask of each judgment, “Is it true? Can I be absolutely certain it’s true?” What do you notice? Please post a story in the comments!

The Four Words That Cracked My Marriage Open

 

Above: This marriage is more than just luck.

It was the Fall of 2010. We were packing up after a very relaxing family weekend at a cabin in the woods. Guy, my husband, had done a lot of bike riding, putt-putt golfing, and game playing with our two young kids to give me time to read. I was in Life Coach Training and Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is had been assigned. And thank god. I was inhaling it.

As we loaded up the car, Guy was happily sharing his plans for a smooth Sunday evening transition back into the workweek. My gut clenched. Now was the time to tell him what I had neglected this whole, lovely weekend to tell him: I had made dinner plans with a couple he didn’t like.

I didn’t like them, either, really. But they liked us, and they were kind of the cool couple in town, and, well, I just couldn’t think of a “good” reason to say no to them again.

Guy is easy-going. Even so, I had such a dread of confrontation that I’d made a habit of keeping unpleasant things from him until the last possible minute.

“I told Janice and Ian we’d have dinner with them,” I blurted out and braced myself for defense.

Guy froze. “Why do you do that?”

I remained silent, eyes downcast.

“You always say yes when you mean no,” he went on. “What’s worse is you knew that saying yes to them meant saying no to me.”

I drew in my breath to defend myself, but an idea from Loving What Is came to me that changed everything: when someone criticizes you, particularly someone who knows you well, Katie says, “Listen, then go inside yourself to see what’s true.”

Parroting Katie and hardly recognizing the words coming out of my mouth, I said to Guy, “You may be right.

Guy, who had drawn himself up to his full height and was clearly preparing to unleash a torrent of words, waited a beat, then simply exhaled and returned to his normal size with a puzzled look on his face.

“Wow,” he said. “Thank you.”

It was the first time in our 16 years together that I had just listened, rather than prepared my defense or attack as he spoke.

We stood together in stunned silence. What now?

What now, indeed? We did cancel those plans that night (and made no more with that couple). But more importantly, those four little words, “You may be right,” changed our relationship.

It was the first domino to fall: He knew I would listen, so he started listening to me, too. Because I knew he would listen, I became less afraid of confrontation. As I spoke up with more confidence, he became less reactive.

That moment at the cabin also taught me to trust Byron Katie. Agreeing with her philosophically is one thing. But if the application of one little cast off phrase had such a profound impact on our marriage, what would her process of Inquiry do?

Reader, would you like to find out for yourself?

In the New Year I’ll be offering three group tele-courses using the Work of Byron Katie to heal your most intimate relationships: spouse, child, and family of origin. We’ll start in January with your relationship with your current or former partner.

The beauty of the Work is that it changes you. And when you change, your relationships evolve. Your partner does not need to take the course, too.

I’m offering this because I see you suffer, and I know you don’t have to. I know you don’t have to because I used to suffer, too, until I found the Work.

I’ll be sharing more details in the following weeks – more stories of seemingly magical change that flowed from doing the Work, as well as course specifics. But for now I invite you to adopt the four little words that cracked my marriage open in a way I didn’t even know it needed: “You may be right.”

Say them with sincerity, and they are an offering to your partner that tells him, “I’m listening.” Say them as a placeholder for yourself, while you go inside to find out where he’s right – and where he isn’t. Plant them in the ground between you and be astonished at the intimacy that grows there, in the space where self-defense used to be.

I shared, now you go: what results did you get from this phrase? Please share in the comments!

Begin Before You’re Ready

Above: The terror that just precedes greatness.

When I was six years old, my mom took my brother and me to a late show screening of A Star Is Born at the drive-in movie theater. Well, it was take us or miss it altogether, so she made a plan: put the kids in pajamas, tuck them up with pillows and blankets into the wide backseat of her Cadillac, and they’ll sleep through it.

But do you know the story? Barbra Streisand plays Esther Hoffman, a struggling singer, and Kris Kristofferson plays John Norman Howard, a rock star. He is burned out but freshly inspired by her. They fall in love. He promotes her, there’s amazing singing, and her star rises! But alas, his falls. (This was my first education in the rule of Barbra Streisand films: she gets the guy but doesn’t get to keep him).

Who could sleep through that? Not me, not even at the tender age of 6. I was mesmerized.

My favorite scene is the moment that John Norman introduces Esther, impromptu, to the world. He’s shows up late to a sold out stadium and starts to play, but his heart is not in it, and he just stops, mid-song! Now the crowd is really mad, and John Norman goes to the wings and drags a terrified Esther onto the stage. “Here’s a friend of mine,” he says, and leaves her alone, center stage.

Here’s what happened:

Begin Before You’re Ready.

Last weekend I was sat down with my production partner, Jon, to develop the content for a new video on postpartum. Jon is a photographer and videographer but also a dad and has great ideas. I told him the story of why I wanted to do the video, what I wanted to cover, and how I wanted it to be fun and free on YouTube, rather than for purchase on Udemy.

“Great. Let’s do it,” he said. “Right now.”

I protested. “I’m not ready!”

“Yes, you are,” he said. “You just told me a great story and you nailed the content, so let’s do it now.”

It was the last thing I wanted to do. I had wanted to script it, time it out, make it perfect – and then, only then, could I carefully dishevel it to make it “fun.”

Ugh! “Perfect”? “Careful dishevelment”? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just go for it? I wanted to, but I was full of fear.

I thought of a brilliant client of mine, who has tons of experience in her field and is now expanding her practice in a complementary direction. But she is paralyzed by the idea that, in this new direction, she is not an expert. She is focused on how much she does not know, on what she does not have, and wants to have everything figured out perfectly before she begins.

“You are so much more ready than you realize,” I tell her.

Ah! My own words indict me! I am more ready than I realize.

So I do it. I begin filming the new video right then and there. Fifteen minutes start to finish. Here it is:

You can see that at the beginning I’m nervous. The pitch of my voice is all over the place. My story is not as coherent as I wanted it to be, and I repeat myself. But at about minute 5:13, I relax. You can see it. I find my groove and the rest of the video I’m just doing my thing.

And, just because I love to make grandiose comparisons, you see a similar arc in Esther’s performance. She begins unconfidently (to be fair, people are booing her). Then she’s a little mad, kind of demanding that the audience listen to her. That seems to give her confidence. And around minute 1:45 you can see, she remembers who she is: a singer, and she belts it out. By the end of the song, she’s triumphant, and the audience is on its feet cheering!

Be Bold and Mighty Forces Will Come to Your Aid.

That’s what happens when you begin before you’re ready.

Okay, sometimes you fall on your face! Or not even that. Maybe you just embarrass yourself a little. But let’s talk odds:

Chance that you’ll get a standing ovation for staying where you are and waiting for perfect?

Zilch.

Chance that in the course of taking a risk you will:

  • Learn something?
  • Build your confidence?
  • Diminish your fear?
  • Even possibly, as Goethe said, find that mighty forces come to your aid?

Sky high, all!

What do you want, friend? Goose your intention by taking a risk. Just take a step, one step, towards center stage – or allow yourself to be pushed! Begin singing, or walking and talking, or make that phone call, pitch that idea, and who knows? Maybe a star will be born.

“Don’t Forget the Dads!”

Q: Why’s this man so happy?

A: He just took the “First Time Dad’s Guide to Birth and Postpartum.”

One of my favorite things about being a birth educator is helping the dads — dads like Kevin, the source of the quote above.  He said it after I created a prenatal program called “Becoming a Mother.”  Kevin, this is for you!

I love helping the mothers, too, of course. But mothers tend to be really well-informed by the time I work with them. More importantly they have a confidence that comes of being intimately connected to the baby. They are at the source, their bodies are the ground, of the experience.

A dad is more likely to feel like a bolt-on to the whole thing. He doesn’t know what she’s going through, but he knows it’s Big. He’d do it for her if he could, but he cannot, so he worries about her. He wants to help but feels unqualified. His discomfort cycles between disconnection and over-protectiveness.

It is a joy to watch these betwixt-and-between fathers uncoil during our first session. The skeptics open their mind. The over-protective soften. The disconnected engage. The couple begins to have a shared experience, rather than a his-and-hers.

What enables this transformation? That is the subject of my new video-based digital course, “Birth and Postpartum: The New Dad’s Guide.” Like my other video-based digital course, “Birth and Postpartum: Overcoming Your Five Biggest Fears,” it is available at Udemy.com, so it’s self-paced, online learning, ready for you whenever you are.

The two big ideas in the New Dad’s Guide, which are so helpful to new dads, are actually old ideas – revived and adapted for modern couples.

  1. Birth is like sex. The hormones that drive conception are the same hormones that birth the baby and assist with its nurturance.

The medical model has, unsurprisingly and with the best of intentions, scrubbed sex from its paradigm of birth. Otherwise it would be weird for hospital staff – who are really strangers to the mother – to be in charge of it. But in our quest for improved outcomes through medicine, we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Putting sex back into birth – that is, supporting a woman’s birthing hormones – makes birth easier and more comfortable.

It also makes birth more understandable and less scary to dads who want to help their partners through labor. We get really specific in the course on how to be a good birth companion in any setting. But with sex, not medicine, for our working model, the tools are fun and easy to remember. Nobody feels unqualified anymore.

2. Postpartum is a huge transition. Plan for it.

That may sound obvious, but it isn’t how most new families live. Modern Western women are educated and groomed for careers, with less than scant attention paid to the work of raising children. (Notice the emphasis we place on birth preparation – the medical appointments, the classes, the books – compared to postpartum.) Infant care is usually unpaid and considered “unskilled,” so we assume it’s going to be easy and thus end up woefully unprepared for the realities of new parenthood.

The Dads course works backwards, from the realities of new parenthood to the preparation that can make it the joyful transition you dream of. It is inspired by postpartum care still found in traditional societies but largely absent in the developed world. We show you how to organize your life so that learning to be new parents is all you do for a while. We also give you simple and fun communication tools that ease the tension that is a part of big life transitions like this, so that you can grow closer as a couple.

As the name suggests, this course is tailor-made for first-time expectant dads. My production partner, Jon, a husband and father of three, served as my “guy-translator” throughout the whole process, making sure that my content was super clear and actionable. All the video lessons include notes you can download, if you like to read as well as listen, and each section ends with a funny quiz, to make sure you got the key points.

Every time an expectant father comes into my classroom, I see a confident, engaged birth companion, father and partner just waiting to be revealed. Now Udemy brings my classroom to you. If that sounds great to you, check out the promo for more information.  If you’re ready to enroll, here’s the link, and here’s to your easier, more comfortable birth and joyful postpartum!

 

Talking Myself Out of Delight

Above: The temptress

I recently read Martha Beck’s latest book, Diana, Herself. I was pulled into it in a way that reminded me of my girlhood – before I had adult responsibilities, when it didn’t occur to me that I needed to justify a whole afternoon lost in a book or make my reading pay by edifying me. My mom would yank open my bedroom door and say with exasperation, “I’ve been calling you for ten minutes! Didn’t you hear?” I would look up blinking and confused. No, I hadn’t.

When my copy of Diana, Herself arrived, I opened it. Three pages in, the first crisis befalls our heroine: she’s fired from her job.

Watching her, you’d have no idea she’s scrabbling desperately through her mind for any trace of hope, optimism, or courage. She comes up empty. It’s time for the Furies to rise up and fill Diana’s mind with their chorus of horror.

You know how the Furies work, beloved – you have you own. Every human does.

At this my heart began to race. I closed the cover firmly, pressed the book between the palms of my hands, and slowed my breathing. I knew this was a book I’d need to clear my schedule for.

Martha’s books touch me deeply. She has a way of sidling up to an insight, so I don’t see it coming. My breath catches and tears spring to my eyes. She embodies a unique mix of compassion, radical vulnerability, and silly, gentle humor that simultaneously awes me and draws me to her unafraid.

It was Martha who validated the compulsive reading habit of my youth. She says that anything we delighted in as children, before we were fully socialized, helps us to understand our essential self, the part of us that knows our right path. Avid readers understand story – plot, character, imagery, metaphor – and thus are well suited to help people understand their own story and become the heroes of their own lives; i.e., life coaches.

So it was fitting that Martha wrote a compulsively readable book. The second the kids were out the door for school, when I was supposed to sit down at my desk and work, I sat down in my big red chair instead and surrendered to the story of Diana. It is Martha’s first work of fiction, and it may be her best self-help book yet. We remember information better when it is embedded in story than when it stands bare in transactional prose. Also, Martha is a prolific generator of coaching tools and exercises, but this book pares her tools down to seven essential “tasks.”

Two days later I looked up, blinking, surrounded by used hankies, simultaneously devastated that it was over and thoroughly satisfied with the whole experience. My first thought was, “I want to do a book club on this.” Not only did I want an excuse to read it again, I wanted to experience it with others. I find that a group consciousness is greater than the sum of its parts.

But here’s the funny part. I didn’t do a book club on it. Or anyway I haven’t. Instead I have spent the past month trying to talk myself out of it. Why?

Can you guess, beloved? Do you know right away because you do it, too?

I tried to talk myself out of delight.

I finally noticed that I was doing it and – of course – did the Work on my thinking. I’ll share my process here so you can do it along with me. What are you drawn to that you resist because you believe it distracts you from More Important Things or because, like me, you were socialized to believe that adults must justify anything that feels like play?

Write your thought down and do the Work with me. My thought is, “A book club will be a distraction.”

Is it true? Yes. Obviously.

Can I be absolutely certain that’s true? No, I cannot be certain.

How do I react, what happens, when I believe that a book club will be a distraction? I see an image of my hand being slapped away from a cookie, shamed for my desire for a delicious thing. I feel tension in my forehead, heaviness in my body, and my stomach hurts. I see myself chained to my desk, surrounded by piles – too much to do.

Who would I be without that story? (I say “story” instead of “thought” here because we understand that stories are things we make up, whereas we tend to identify with our thoughts). Without that story I just do the thing that feels delightful. Immediately I feel movement of energy in my face and body, and my stomach unclenches. I recognize this as the feeling of truth.

Turn the thought around to the opposite: a Diana, Herself book club is not a distraction. What’s the evidence that this thought is as true or truer than the original? Well, I have absolutely none that it would be a distraction! I’m just going on faith that Important Things cannot also be fun. What a dour and obviously untrue belief! In fact, I love book clubs and have never once experienced one as a distraction.

Turn the thought around to the other: The Diana, Herself book club is an opportunity. Golly, that feels good. And why wouldn’t it be an opportunity – to hang out with like-minded friends and meet new ones; to connect more of my tribe to one another; to practice the tasks. I see that my entire history with Martha has been one of unfolding opportunities and life enhancements.

Turn the thought around to the self: My thinking is a distraction. Ha! Now that is the truth! How long have I been waffling on this? How much energy have I wasted arguing with myself? Only my thinking needs proof ahead of time that a thing will be “worth it.” And how is thinking’s track record? It gets me through the obstacle course of life, but I can’t think of any win of significance. Whereas my best decisions – from marrying Guy to having children to becoming a life coach – have all come from that feeling of knowing and delight that precedes thinking.

So guess what? Sing it with me, friends! I’m gonna do a book club! I am figuring out the details now and will share them soon. All I know for sure is it’s going to be fun.

And what about you? What did your Work teach you about the delight you have been trying to talk yourself out of? Share you story in the comments!

Apprivoise moi. (Tame me).

Above: You never know what, or who, will show up when you do the Work.

I’m writing a book.

I had prayed for an idea – something that combined birth education and life coaching – for years.

Then one day it came. I had felt its presence for a month, maybe more.

Just before it came, it felt so frustratingly close – like words on the tip of my tongue – that I paced my room, waving my arms in circles (moving my body helps me think) and saying aloud, “What is it? What is it? What is it?”

And then, “Hello.” There it was, fully formed: The Idea. I took dictation.

That was two years ago.

I was so daunted, you see, by the prospect of actually writing a book, that I made it into a life coaching course, instead – a book on training wheels, you might say.

But then I read Tara Mohr’s wonderful Playing Big, which my friend and business coach Nona Jordan had given me. Mohr said, “Leap,” and I knew what that meant for me. Write the book.

After that, when I thought about what I was doing, I thought, “I’m writing a book.” But one day I finally noticed that I hadn’t actually written a word. For nine months. I was resisting, clearly, out of fear. But what exactly was I afraid of?

Luckily I have the Work, which helps me dig into things I don’t understand and make them. . . well, more than simply comprehensible. The Work is my path to wisdom and inspiration.

So I began as I always begin: “What are you afraid of?”

The answer: “I’m afraid I’ll break it [the course I created with this idea] and not be able to put it back together.”

Is it true? Yes! Can I be certain it’s true? No! (I love this question. It always relaxes me).

How do I react, what happens, when I believe it? I treat it like it’s fragile. Forget that I wrote it, and pretty easily, too, probably because it was “just a course.” A book is a higher bar than a course. (Aha! Another thought to Work!)

Who would I be without the thought that I’ll break it and not be able to put it back together? I see an image of tinker toys and Legos. I feel playful, not frightened. I see it’s all there – only fear would make me go blind to the parts. And if I do lose something, there’s always a game of peek-a-boo to find it again.

Turn the thought around to the opposite: I will not break it; I can put it back together. Well, obviously! I made the parts. I can play with the design. For Pete’s sake, if I want to make sure the course as it is stays intact, I’ll just leave it alone, copying from it and pasting into the book anything I want. No Humpty-Dumpty here.

Turn it around to the other: It builds me and puts me together. Oh, yes! This idea was given to me, and it is making me. We’re making one other.

And then I hear, “Apprivoise-moi.” Tame me. It’s what the fox says to the Little Prince in the children’s book. He tells the Little Prince that when one tames another, the two become “unique in the world” to one another.

Like my idea and me.

These are the fox’s instructions for taming:

  1. Show up at the same time. Focus on that, instead of on what I’m able to write when I show up. Show up regularly and my idea will know I can be trusted. Show up often enough and the words will accumulate.
  1. Don’t sit too close at first. Don’t force intimacy, but let it grow organically. One day, I promise, you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off. (Until then, ice-breakers may be needed).
  1. Rituals must be observed. It’s how we know our time together is special. I’ve decided to dress up, light a candle, and do an invocation on my book writing dates.

And just like that, fear and resistance were gone, replaced by playfulness and a plan. Since the fox appeared to tell me what to do, I have spent about 12 hours with the book, which has resulted in an outline and design for each chapter and The Most Exciting Idea, which will keep me moving forward joyfully for months.  I’ve also hired the radiant writer and Master Coach Rebecca Mullen to midwife this book, because labor really has begun.

What about you, my dear? Is there something you want to do that you haven’t done? Ask yourself what you are afraid of, then do the Work. See what ideas – and who – shows up. Or, skip straight to the fox’s advice and tame your idea by showing up consistently for it, not rushing the process, and observing rituals that tell you (and it) that it’s special.