How to Become Your Own Best Friend

I like lists. They are neat and ordered and have the magic of being able to encapsulate something. So when Dr. Gerald Stein published this list of 30 ways to become your own best friend, I was captivated. His long and distinguished career as a psychologist and keen enthusiast of life shines through in this wonderful post.

Dr. Stein’s comments on my blogs always make me think and laugh – as does this list with items like #3 Mistakes are inevitable. Master them. Please take steps to skip over their repetition. And #13 Allow love and kindness to emanate from your being. Live with both intelligence and an open heart. Those different from you also find existence challenging.

Without further ado, here is Dr. Stein’s post How to Become Your Best friend

Dr. Gerald Stein

Who is the person closest to you?

You see him every day, talk to him and about him, sleep with him, clean him up, applaud his successes and analyze his defeats.This individual knows more about you than you will ever know.

Maybe it’s time to make yourself into your own best friend, given all that intimacy.

I’ve listed 30 suggestions to get you started.

  1. Be entertaining company on your own.Inspect your personality and how you view the world compared to others.Seek new ideas, and pass the unaccompanied time with enjoyment.Go places and do things beyond your usual comfort zone, including solo explorations.Perhaps concerts, movies, parks, museums, and tours.  Don’t sit alone in quiet desperation.
  2. Be kind to who you are.Your life emerged without a display case from which to choose the attributes you wanted.You began with raw and imperfect materials of external…

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Dear Mom, Part 2

Motherhood is the great mesh in which all human relations are entangled, in which lurk our most elemental assumptions about love and power.” – Adrienne Rich

Today is my grandmother’s birthday and even though she’s been gone for 22 years, I still mark this day in celebration of a confident woman who led a purposeful life even with a limited education.  So it seems like a perfect opportunity to post the results of the contributions you all made about what we learned from mothers.

I have broken the contributions into sections but left them as they were written – because they are all written by talented writers who say it best in their own words. I’ve linked to each person’s blog to provide ready access to more of that amazing writing by each of these authors.

Skills/Practical Advice

There were many interesting skills and practical advice taught by mothers:

  • TamaraKulish: Even though I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother, I’m still grateful for her example of a strong woman who taught her son and daughter how to take care of themselves. We both learned not only how to cook, clean, and do laundry, but we both learned how to use hand and power tools to make minor repairs around the house. We learned a strong work ethic and the value of completing tasks properly!
  • MSW Blog: My mom has taught me so many things, but the one that got me through my years of academia was,” Always keep an emergency $20 bill in your, wallet it will get you through more jams than you can imagine.” She was of course correct as I was able to replace stockings, late night snacks, cover taxi fare, study supplies etc.
  • Rebecca Cuningham: My mom taught me women can do anything and everything; play sports, wield a hammer for Habitat, teach math…
  • Swinged Cat: My mom taught me that Sauvignon blanc wines from the Marlborough region of New Zealand are far superior.

The last being from the always funny Mark Petruska might be tongue in cheek but I don’t know.

By Example

And there were a lot of suggestions of things taught by example:

  • Ashley Peterson: I’m grateful that my mom instilled a love a reading in me.
  • Jane Fritz: All that having been said, my mother (1917-1974) was a remarkable, strong woman. Although in a very strong and mutually supportive marriage in a different time, when many considered the man to be the provider, by example the importance for a woman to have a career of her own. She taught me by example the importance of lifelong learning, of being informed, and of having the confidence to use her voice. And, along with many other things, she gave me a lifelong love of music and books. I have missed her every day for nearly 50 years now.
  • Finding Grace: When I think about what my mom taught me, some of it was overt and purposeful, but some of it was through example… it was just part of who she was. My mom taught me to give compliments freely (she would always compliment people, even random strangers), she taught me that learning to love began with learning to love myself, she taught me to set boundaries with others, she taught me that family and connection is everything, she modeled for me how to be strong in the face of adversity, and she taught me a love of growing things (people, pets, flowers, etc.). My mom was good at meeting a person where they were. She was supportive and encouraging, without being overbearing. Oh, and she also taught us to own up to our mistakes head on. She was all about integrity.
  • Julia Preston: I was raised in the “Children are to be seen and not heard” era. While she did not easily fit into the warm and fuzzy category, my mother was an outstanding role model. Her love was expressed by example rather than hugs. We never knew until we were adults that she detested vegetables, which she faithfully ate every night of our youth to set a good example. She passed away at 101, by which time, hugs became a part of our daily lives. I miss her every day.

And of course, love…

And there was a strong theme of love to the contributions including:

  • DutchIl: my Mom taught me to follow my heart and my dreams and be me… 
  • Hart Inspiratons: My mom taught me many things, and did me many things for me (for which I am grateful), but her primary lesson was to love myself. I’ve been processing that one my whole life. 

For our children

And finally in the category of motherly advice to give to children, there was this wonderful contribution from MSW Blog:

  • MSW Blog: The advice I would pass on to my children is listen. truly listen to what a person is saying, as it will allow you to not only communicate more clearly but obtain a clearer picture of the whole person.

And for interesting and thought-provoking reading, which is what Jane Fritz always provides along with some humor, Jane wrote a wonderful post on her Robby Robin’s blog entitled Mother’s Day: appreciation but no glorification please!

The Hot Goddess published a great post about lessons both good and bad that she learned from her mom and as befitting her gifted and entertaining blog, it is well-worth reading.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Three Things

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” – Buddha

I’m a sucker for things are written in wood, anything that advises to be kind and advice that comes in three. So I couldn’t help but notice this sign when we’re stayed at a beach footage this weekend.

It made me think about what my three instructions would be. Be curious. Be vulnerable. Be kind.

But I keep wanting to add on with things like never stop trying and it’s going to be great, kid! Which is why I never write in wood.

Waiting

Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.” – Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Monday is my son’s favorite day because it’s garbage day. In our neighborhood, that means three different trucks: garbage, yard waste and recycling. And even better, they go up the street to service the cans on the north side and then they come back to get the cans on the south side which makes for six possible garbage truck sightings so Monday’s come with a great sense of expectation.  They make me think about waiting.

My paternal grandfather, Doug, died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1973 so I didn’t know him. But my grandmother lived for almost 30 years after he died. When she told the story of his passing she said that when he was diagnosed three years before his death the doctor took her aside and told her every milestone of disease progression that would occur. My grandmother was a very positive and loving person so it was always a surprise that she called this doctor the cruelest man ever because she had the knowledge for what would happen next and was always watching and waiting for it.

It reminds me of when I pregnant with my second child and my obstetrician told me, “Your first child will become a nightmare for six weeks. It happens to all kids but they will come out of it.” I really liked my obstetrician and trusted her. But I wished she hadn’t told me that because I couldn’t imagine it happening to my sweet little girl and the anticipation of it possibly happening was a little too suspenseful. But my obstetrician was right – those first weeks were hard and then I was glad to know that it would only last for six weeks and she was right about that too.

But those are two examples of difficulty and sadness to come. But they make me wonder, do we ever want to know the future? Let’s say I knew that in six months that the right man was going to come into my life would it change my behavior? Would I spend more intentional time with my kids and my friends now because I’ll have less time once the mystery man appears? Would I be looking at every guy and wondering if he was going to turn out to be the one?

My thinking often strays into the future. I think that’s probably a necessary part of planning, to imagine what life is going to be like when school is out in two weeks and then arrange for the summer schedule accordingly. But when I spend too much time in the future, I find it impacting my sense of “now” because it overlays a sense of anticipation or dread onto today. I am slowly learning to differentiate between intention and waiting. I can intend to stretch my muscles every day so that I can become a more flexible person and that is quite different than waiting until I’m flexible before I sign up for a class.

When I was going through my divorce, my meditation teacher once quoted the line from the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.” It turned out to be the best mantra for getting me through. It had a sense of the future without promising anything specific. And that turned out to be all that I needed to know. Then I could set my intention to do the best and trust that somehow, it’ll be alright.  Anything more than that and I start waiting on pins and needles.

Yesterday, I l happened to look out my office window to see my mom and my son sitting perfectly still and poised waiting for the garbage truck. Watching them, I realized how much faith is involved in waiting patiently. We only sit still when we trust that what we are looking for is going to come our way. For me that is how it should be – let God know the future and all I have to do is simply trust that it’ll be alright in the end.  

The Power of Curiosity

“If you see the soul in every living being, you see truly.” – The Bhagavad Gita

My five-year-old daughter kills snails. Let me pause here and say that it’s not a serial-killer-in-training kind of thing where she tortures and then decapitates them or something like that. It’s very well-intentioned interference in their life where she builds these very elaborate snail houses with pools and vegetation and then stocks them with snails. But then she’ll put them directly in the sun or forget to refill the water and oops, another snail is dead. One of my friends gave her a Bug Hotel terrarium and she put so many unfortunate snails in there that I started to call it the Bates Motel.

I have a friend who does a similar thing with humans (the help thing, not the killing thing). She doles out well-intentioned help to people that she believes need an upgrade in their circumstances. Unfortunately it sometimes backfires when people feel like they are projects and don’t absorb the help they are given.

I recently listened to this Dare to Lead podcast with Brene Brown and Michael Bungay Stanier that talked about the pitfalls of giving advice – the person with a problem may not accurately know what the problem is, any solution that you offer might not solve the root issue and even if you have the perfect solution, it can undercut their ownership of solving the problem themselves. Michael Stanier’s advice was to stay curious a little bit longer.

This seems to be a common theme in the content I’m listening to and reading these days – the power of curiosity. Asking open-ended questions like “how can I help?” and “what makes you think that?” and “say more” changes the nature of the conversation. Curiosity brings the power of mindfulness to an interaction and is a gateway for openness, an antidote to judgment. If we believe that we don’t have enough time to have these conversations, think about how much time it takes to solve problems again and again because we didn’t get it right the first time.

I’m finding curiosity a great tool for parenting because kids have so much of it. I could continue to slip out at night and free the snails or I can flat out tell her not to capture them but both of those solutions undermine her ability to see the soul in everything. Because of course this is not just about my daughter and snails, it’s about our agency in this world and learning not to destroy it. I’m hopeful as we research about whether snails grow out of their shells, what leaves they like best and how long they usually live that we can connect more deeply with compassion for others and retire the Bates Motel.

The Advice We Give

“A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should.” – unknown

About five years ago when I was about 6 months into the parenting journey, a friend whose kids were high school aged casually threw out this line of advice, “Logic doesn’t work with kids between 2 ½ years old and 4 years old.” I had been around my nieces and my friends’ kids but hadn’t worked with kids well enough to know what that meant so I somehow internalized that line as if there would be a loss of logic when my daughter was 2 ½ years old. Like at age 2 I would be able to say to her “You can’t have that piece of candy because it has too much sugar and that’s not good for your body” but at age 2 ½, I’d no longer have that tool. I know all of you that have kids are laughing and now that I have lived through those years and have a 5 year old and a 1 ½ year old, I giggle too.  Who knows why my friend tacked on that lower age limit instead of saying “kids under 4” but it left me a small sense of loss at the time.

Isn’t that the interesting thing about the advice we give each other? We say something to convey our experience and wisdom and also to help and sometimes it causes panic. I loved this advice column post that Real Life of an MSW blogged about the other day. The person writing in was asking whether they should correct the grammar of a person that they wanted to help who was seeking a job advancement. The answer was brilliant because timing is everything.

It makes me wonder whether we offer advice more for ourselves or for the other person. I remember my very wise dad, who as a retired pastor who counselled and mentored many people, saying “Mostly, I listened” about times he’d get together for coffee with people seeking his advice. That resonates with the trail ethic I’ve learned from hiking — to greet other hikers when I see them but I don’t offer any advice about the path ahead unless I’m asked because I learned early on that my need to provide unsolicited commentary came directly from my ego wanting to prove experience or status.  

Yet we can offer such great comfort and direction to others when we do advice well. Sometime about a year ago when the pandemic was just shutting everything down, a woman who is now a grandmother many times over said to me, “It gets less busy.” I think about that piece of advice a lot in these days of shepherding my little ones back into in-person activities and it gives me the stamina to push through when I’m tired because I know I won’t always have to.

This morning when my 1 ½ year old didn’t want to get dressed, I didn’t even try logic. But I held him and told him that I understood that sometimes we don’t feel like going to work or preschool. Then I buckled him into the car seat with his pj’s on, we changed when we got there and he was fine with it. It felt as if I worked for him like it does me when I get good advice – a softening that comes from a compassionate ear and then an opening into a shift of perspective.