CAKE (a poem)

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There was a movie called Flashdance
(stick with me).
The main character said,
“I’m not a dancer like that.”
She wasn’t trained, didn’t have degrees
on the wall (hung mostly to impress).
She could just…dance. No one knew how.
No one saw her sweating it out in her living room,
practicing behind closed doors,
away from human eyes.
She was also one of “those” dancers—
the ones that don’t call themselves strippers
since they’re still wearing a string of cloth;
she had bills to pay, and besides, it was the one place
she could shake without judgment.

Like her,
I am not a writer “like that.”
I just…write.
I don’t have a scroll of accolades
trailing behind me like a wedding gown.
I’m not hip to who is currently the “best” in the country,
nor do I have a clue about the New York Times Book Review,
perhaps because so much of what moves me
isn’t making it to the bestseller lists
(you’d need to buy your own copies for that)…
obscure mystics like Evelyn Underhill,
and whisperings from the past by Blake and Rilke,
Dickens and George MacDonald—
people who wrote in blood and parchment, ink and blotter.

So I took “stripper” jobs (there were bills to pay).
Or what felt like their equivalent to someone
who writes for the love of writing, the written word,
and the power it has to bring light—
like music, like film, when it’s done well.

And I wonder: if artists were paid for
sheer love of what they do—
for the doing of it with heart’s blood—
not for applause,
not for kudos and thumbs-up,
not for being deemed part of the new trend,
how many would be rich, and how many poor?

There are the rare ones who hit the jackpot
without selling their souls—
those who stay true to their core
regardless of others’ jealousies, despisings, and misunderstandings,
unmoved by the questioning expectations left and right,
(nevermind words like “marketable”),
the C. S. Lewises, the Woody Allens.
But many are pushed aside by the loudmouths,
the narcissists, those pretending to shine,
and threatened by those touched with fire.

Little do they realize
that the glow of the True cannot be snuffed out.
Darkness has a go, but cannot overcome them.
Theirs is the final conquest,
the limping triumph of those who have made mosaics
from the broken pieces of themselves and their lives.
It is not registered in anything but
the peace and tranquility
of authenticity.
If money comes in a rushing wind,
it is the frosting, not the cake.
The cake is a soul
at peace with itself.

 

© Monique Amado
written November, 2012

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My Story of Healing from Eating Disorders (Podcast)

This will be part 1 of my story because there has been healing in so many areas of my life that each would require a separate talk. So I’m sure there will be more parts that I share on this topic in the future. But for now, I wanted to post the story I shared at church here in Berlin recently and my hope, as always, is that something I said might give hope and encouragement to someone listening.

There were moments of technical difficulty during my sharing…and a bit of nervousness…and a bit of crying. Our stories can be messy, so it’s no surprise that the telling of them can be too.

Click here to hear it.

It tells a bit about how I went from this:

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To this:

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, struggles with an eating disorder, or any kind of self-destructive behavior, that hearing my story will help you to not give up and to keep praying, keep hoping and keep knowing that God loves you no matter what’s going on and that healing and good things are possible.

Your life matters and you are needed here on this planet.

Blessings & peace,

Monique

p.s. If you need coaching and/or spiritual guidance, please click here to schedule an appointment for an introductory call with me.

 

 

WHAT IS THE SABOTEUR? (HINT: WE ALL HAVE ONE)

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Hi friend…

Do you ever have the experience where you’re about to do something you know you’re supposed to be doing and then you stop yourself? I don’t just mean doing the dishes or the laundry. I mean important stuff. Things your heart burns for. And yet, despite all the burning, there’s this voice inside you that takes a bucket of cold water and pours it all over you. And the next thing you know…

You’re doing something completely unrelated to whatever “it” is that you were meant to be doing.

I don’t know what it is for you. It could be a book you’ve been meaning to write. It could be that space you’ve been wanting to organize for yourself so that you’ll have a place to focus on your creative or spiritual life. It could be eating healthier so that you’re not sick and tired all the time. It could be a relationship you’ve been wanting to work on. It’s different for everyone.

But then some voice inside you says things like this:

“What’s the use? There’s no guarantee it’ll lead anywhere.”

“When I have more time.”

“So many other people are doing this. What makes me think I’ll ever get anywhere with it?”

“The last time I tried something like this, nothing came of it.”

“I’ll do it later.”

“I’m not good enough. / Nothing I do is good enough.”

“It needs to be perfect.”

Friend, that merry-go-round won’t stop on its own. You have to deal with it and stop it by force, even if it means bringing it to a screeching halt. Even if you have to dig your heels into the ground and feel like you’re being dragged a while before it stops. But stop it you must.

How do I know this? Because I have a tendency to ruminate, so if I’m not careful, I could spend hours ruminating and speculating and over-thinking. Granted, a big part of being a writer involves staring into space. But there’s a limit. I’ve had to learn to snap out of it. I do a lot of things to help with that—prayer, meditation, yoga, EFT, writing, watching and reading things that motivate and inspire me.

But in the end, the only way to cut it out is to…well, stop it. Get up and shake yourself out like a blanket that has crumbs on it. Because even crumbs can bury a person if there’s enough of them.

Remind yourself of the opportunities you have—very likely opportunities that a few years ago you only dreamed of. Or if not that, just reflect on what you’ve already done and how far you’ve already come. And if you’re having trouble remembering, call up someone who knows you well and ASK them. Ask them to remind you!

There are some friends who fit this quote so perfectly, they should have a t-shirt with it inscribed: “A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it back to me when my memory fails.” Or, in some cases, a coach.

Make sure you have at least one person in your life who can jolt your memory and remind you who you truly are and of all the good you have done. Because this will help you to courageously keep going on days when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

If you can’t reach a friend, consider sitting for 20 or 30 minutes and writing down all the good you have done and reminding yourself. I guarantee you, 20-30 minutes won’t be long enough.

I hope this encourages you and helps you feel less alone and more okay being human, knowing that there isn’t anyone on the planet who doesn’t struggle with self-doubt or The Saboteur.

Together, we can silence that debilitating voice and keep replacing it with the voice of grace and encouragement. The latter is the voice of truth.

If you need help battling the saboteur, you can click this link to go to my calendar and set up a free 30-minute introductory coaching call with me. 

https://www.timetrade.com/book/581CL

Stay courageous,

Monique

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THE MYTH THAT LIFE COACHES HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER

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I’ve been trying to think for a while now how to write this article. I’ve had the title in mind for several weeks.

I’ve noticed something, a sort of unspoken myth, if you will, about life coaches: that a life coach is someone who is somehow above the rest of the population and has things all figured out. The reason I know this is because I myself have sometimes felt that way about mentor coaches and coaches who have been at this a lot longer than me. I somehow allowed an image to grow of people who don’t struggle, don’t know what it is to suffer, who somehow magically knew how to get their coaching practice off the ground and had no problems with putting themselves out there. Deep down, I know these ideas aren’t true, yet they surface on days when I’m feeling particularly challenged and feel like giving up.

Thanks to people like Kim Avery (one of the amazing people I had the privilege of being trained and coached by) and her willingness to be vulnerable, I am reminded how true it is that God’s strength is best shown in our weakness. Her willingness to not only share bits of her journey, but also to share how scared she was to share, is something that emboldens me and surely anyone who hears her.

Lest you think that I’ve come to coaching because I think I have it all together, let me relieve you of that idea right now: that’s not why I started coaching. I started simply because it was time. Because for years, a whisper in my heart grew so loud that it started shouting to me to get started. And getting started has changed me in many ways as I’ve gone through a deep, heart and life-exploring process that is just like the process I help clients go through.

What I came to the table with is a deep level of faith, a high level of empathy (which, I admit, has sometimes been my downfall in the past) and a whole lot of experiences that have allowed me to see into other people’s issues, pain, relationships, dreams, confusion, lives and hearts.

But I also came to the table without a clue what to do in terms of business, websites, and that word I still wrestle with—marketing. To say it has been a learning curve would be an extreme understatement. Add to this the extreme circumstances going on in the life of a close family member that affect me daily and well, let’s just say it’s a challenge. However, it’s never boring.

It’s interesting that the same things that are hard for me as an artist, are hard for me as a coach. But just because we aren’t naturally good at something, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it or that we can’t become good at it with practice (Kim Avery is, again, a great example of this).

I’ve had to get over the idea that telling people about what I do is annoying to them and remind myself (daily!) that I have something valuable to offer and if I don’t tell people, they’ll never know. That goes not just for coaching, but for my writing, music, acting and other creative abilities as well.

I didn’t come to the ability to hone in on what someone is saying and not saying by having it all together, believe me. I don’t think I came to it through training either, although the fine tuning of training has been invaluable. I think I came to it through my own self-awareness and some crazy gift of hearing what a person isn’t saying and being able to tune in to people on a spiritual level. When I was a child in elementary school, I was a confidante to other kids who needed someone not just to listen, but to understand their struggles.

I think what makes life coaches have something so incredibly valuable to offer is: we know how it feels.

How what feels?

How it feels to wonder if you’re even fit for the task of whatever you feel called to. How it feels to struggle with implementing healthy boundaries so your life will have more balance. How it feels to know where you want to go, but not know how to get there. How it feels to walk by faith and not by sight every single day. How it feels to have to push perfectionism aside if you want to get anything done. How it feels to feel down sometimes. How it feels to stop procrastinating and do the next right thing. How it feels to plant seeds and then wonder when they’ll ever bear fruit. How it feels to need support and encouragement. In short, we know how it feels to be human.

We can understand because we’ve been there and, on a lot of things, have come through to the other side. But mainly, because we listen at a deep level and are trained to ask powerful questions, we can help you work through your challenges in ways that work for you. Not because we have all the answers, but because we’ve seen how powerful coaching is in our own lives and the lives of our clients. We know how empowering it is when someone trusts that you actually have the answers within yourself and asks you questions to help you navigate your way to finding them.

Inspiring you to connect to how valuable you are, and to what you have to offer this world, is what I’m here to do both as a coach and as an artist. What I’m also called to do as a coach and as an artist (and a human!) is to keep it real.

If you want to learn more about what I do, you can visit my coaching website by clicking this link: Art of Life Coaching.

Till next time, wishing you peace and courage…

Monique

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“FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT”–NOT THE BEST LIFE STRATEGY

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I’ve read, seen and heard this term “fake it till you make it” quite a bit the past few years. It’s supposed to mean that if you’re struggling with something, finding something hard, or just plain having a hard time and not doing well, you can pretend you’re doing better than you are and eventually you’ll really be doing better than you are. I think there is a tiny bit of truth to this if it’s meant in the same sense that C.S. Lewis wrote about when he said:

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”

Perhaps he’s right that “pretending” your way into a virtue will eventually cause this virtue to become your true character over time, the way that a child putting on an adult’s shoes eventually “fits” into them. You can eventually “fit” into a virtue by practicing it. I prefer the term practicing over pretending as it sounds more like forward movement than putting on masks in order to hide ourselves.

Also, Tony Robbins often talks about how our physiology affects our psychology. In other words, if you’re feeling depressed and are sitting or standing slumped over, the first thing to do is pull your shoulders back and breathe. In other words your body informs your mind how to feel. There is also a lot of truth to this.

But overall, as a lifelong strategy, “Fake it till you make it” isn’t going to fly. At least not if what you are actually wanting is to be real and to be loved for who you are and not who you pretend to be.

It seems that what we all want is not only to be real, to be authentic, but to be real and authentic…and be loved. The part where it gets scary is when being authentic might cause rejection, disapproval or outright alienation. If you were raised with people who did a lot of hiding from themselves and their emotions, or if expressing your true feelings was met with abuse, rejection or invalidation, it’s easy to see why people find it easier to fake it.

Personally, it seems like more work to not be real than to be real. But I can see why people fall into this trap because maybe for the time being, it seems the better alternative. But as anyone wrestling through this can tell you, it’s not the better alternative. It ends up becoming a bigger and bigger hole to dig yourself out of.

My own frustration with being real is more related to the kind of responses I sometimes come up against which make me see why so many people find it easier to not bother with authenticity. Things like telling someone how I’m feeling when it’s not a happy-smiley day for me and then being either preached at, lectured or invalidated in some other way.

Henri Nouwen said it so marvelously:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

So what are some solutions to the dilemma of wanting to be real, but also wanting to avoid being hurt, and more importantly, to be heard and be loved for who we are? Perhaps there isn’t any big solution, but two things that come to mind are risk and discernment.

Risk is part of being human and is part of any human interaction. We need to risk being hurt in order to have authentic relationship, friendship and community.  The important thing though is to make sure to bring discernment along with us when taking risks in sharing with others. Discernment about when to tell, who to tell and how much to tell.

Discernment is much like gut instinct, but even finer tuned. It helps you locate the line between your own fear and the need to take a risk and step out, whether that’s stepping out in connecting with people or stepping out in a new direction in life. It’s a divine gift and like all gifts, it can be cultivated and strengthened so that it becomes easier to tune into. The more you do, the better choices you will make in who you share your concerns, burdens and heaviness with. As you probably know, sharing with the wrong people can be worse than not sharing at all.

So tune your ear and heart to God’s guidance and choose wisely. Then take the risk and share your heart honestly and openly. The right people will be okay with hearing your junk. And who knows, it may even free them up to share theirs. That doesn’t mean we need to wallow forever in a “junk sharing” pity party, but it does mean that there should be at least one or two people in your life with whom you feel like the Emily Dickinson quote below. God knows how thankful I am for those people in my life.

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As always, let me know if I can be of help. Wishing you all the grace and strength you need.

If you need further help living more authentically, you can schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me by clicking here and booking yourself an appointment. I would love to talk with you!

Monique

“NO” IS NOT A FOUR-LETTER WORD

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I originally wanted to post a piece on this topic at the beginning of the year because I thought that after the holidays, the effects of not saying “no” might still be ringing in people’s heads. We’re now almost a quarter of the way through the year and I’ve had plenty of conversations with people who are wrestling with saying “no” and I realized again that it’s always a good time to talk about it.

Too many people are exhausted, overwhelmed and burned out because of the fear of saying this little two-letter word. Or perhaps because of not knowing how to say it. Fact is, the word “no” can often be a positive thing, yet we tend to think of it as a negative one.

Consider some possible situations when “no” might be a great thing to hear:

“Do I have cancer?” No.

“Are you cheating on me?” No.

“Did I make a mess of dinner?” No.

“Did I break anything?” No.

See? There are times that “no” is a beautiful word.

But now, let’s consider some times that “no” is still a beautiful word, even when it’s uncomfortable.

“Will you take responsibility for my problems?” No.

“Will you take the blame for my mistakes?” No.

“Can you pretend you don’t notice how rude I continually am to you?” No.

“Can you take on this project [even though you have a pile of other things to do]?” No.

“Can I disregard your schedule, and your life, and expect you to see me or talk to me whenever I want you to?” No.

Now, those questions are most likely unspoken, yet they are still there simmering below the surface whenever another person insinuates, directly or indirectly, that behaviors, problems, or actions of theirs are somehow your responsibility. Or that you should drop everything because they expect you to. Your “no” to these unspoken questions or implications can also be unspoken. For example, by not taking the blame for someone else’s mistakes or behaviors by removing yourself (permanently or temporarily) from their presence, especially if this is an ongoing pattern. And by politely declining their requests, which are sometimes really just sugar-coated demands. Overbearing people have a knack for assuming others will comply with their requests, so you need to be able to stand strong in order to resist them.

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It’s possible that if you have trouble saying “no” that there are some limiting beliefs you have about yourself that may be causing this. Even more likely is the possibility that you lack healthy boundaries both with yourself and with those around you. Sometimes knowing what you need to do does not immediately lead to doing it. This is where coaching can be very beneficial to keep you on track.

Sometimes people have trouble saying no because they are afraid of conflict. This is often at a high cost to yourself because then the conflict that goes on is within as you wrestle with self-doubt and self-deprecating talk. But beating yourself up doesn’t empower you or bring you inner peace.

Here are some suggestions on healthy ways to say “no.”

“I won’t be able to do that for you at this time. I have too much else on my plate at the moment.”

A healthy person will honor such a request without trying to make you feel guilty. If they try to manipulate you or coerce you into meeting their request anyway, you can simply say it again, prefaced by, “As I said…” Hopefully this will cause them to accept that you have declined their request. If they persist, politely excuse yourself and leave (or hang up if you’re on the phone…or stop responding to their emails if they continue to badger you online).

If someone is upset with you though you did your best to accommodate them, you can acknowledge their disappointment while saying you did your best. For example, if someone tries to blame you for something not turning out as they hoped, you can say, “I can see that you’re disappointed right now, but I did the best I could.” That way, you acknowledge how they are feeling, you take your part in the situation and you leave the other person to sort out their part. Remember, you are not responsible for managing other people’s emotions, only your own.

If someone requests something of you that you can’t do right way, you can say, “I’d like to help you with that, but right now is not a good time for me. Can we arrange a time that works for both of us?” This is a gentle way of saying “no” that leaves options open to a different time that is beneficial for both parties.

Another excellent option is that, instead of saying “no” right away, simply say, “I need to think about it and get back to you.” A lot of times we struggle with saying “no” because we said “yes” too quickly. Giving yourself time and space to consider a request is fair to you and to the other party. It’s fair to you because you can decide without feeling pressured. And it’s fair to the other person because it communicates that you are willing to consider their request.

And if you do anger someone for saying no, keep in mind that just because someone is mad at you doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Sometimes they are simply mad because they realize that their attempts to control you with guilt, fear or obligation are not working on you. But again, that’s for them to sort out.

So the next time someone asks you to do something (or implies that your compliance is a given), take a second to ask yourself if this is something you truly feel you should do and then respond accordingly. If you need to think about it, say so.

You have so much to give to the world. Just make sure you’re giving it where you truly feel called to and not where you are being pressured to.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more. There is a lot of letting go involved in saying no. Letting go of outcomes. Letting go of other people’s behaviors and emotions. Letting go of the need to please people. Letting go of worrying. Letting go of someone possibly being disappointed with you. But as you start to bring this powerful word into your life, you will find that you have more space and freedom to say “yes” to the things that are most important to you and it will become easier for you.

Not only that, you’ll feel stronger and more confident when you don’t give your personal power away to people who use your good-natured heart to manipulate you. The more you respect yourself, the more others will see that they need to respect you too if they want to remain in relationship with you.

Change usually takes time and practice. Things that are difficult now will become easier the more you apply the things you learn.

I wish you strength on your journey and light on your path. I’d love to hear your comments, concerns and questions below.

If you need more help with saying “no” and you’d like to schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me, please click here and book yourself an appointment. I’d be happy to talk with you!

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10 THINGS TO DO WHEN THINGS LOOK HOPELESS

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1) Pray. If you’re not the praying type, then sit quietly and meditate on something good, true or beautiful. A few minutes, or one minute. You might find it so beneficial that you stay with it for longer periods of time and eventually might want to do it every day.

2) Call a friend and pour your heart out. Go ahead. Don’t be shy. Don’t convince yourself nobody wants to hear about your problems. Just call and ask if your friend has some time to spare and tell them that you’re needing a shoulder to lean on. Then let it out—the hurt, anger, sadness, grief, despondency, fear. Sometimes just being allowed the freedom to express how you’re feeling, and to know you’re supported, can lift a huge boulder off your back and help you to believe that things can get better. We’re not meant to carry our burdens alone.

3) Remember another time when things seemed hopeless and they ended up working out okay, or better than you thought, even if they got pretty unpleasant (or even horrendous) in the middle.

4) Watch something—like a movie or video about someone who overcame impossible odds, survived and went on to lead an amazing life. You could even watch nature—the way an ant will carry a piece of dirt or food that seems too heavy for it and try again and again until it succeeds. Or a bumblebee. Did you know that aerodynamically, it’s actually “impossible” for them to fly?

5) Listen to a song that inspires you and makes you happy (sing along at the top of your lungs). If you don’t have access to music for some reason, sing or whistle. It’s medically proven that both are good for your health and mind.

6) Get moving. Moving your body can release endorphins in your brain which will help you feel more positive. Dance, go for a walk, go running, do yoga, just do something that reminds you that you have a body. And don’t forget to breathe and notice your breathing. This alone can help you feel more grounded.

7) Do something nice for someone else. It makes the other person happy and it will automatically make you feel better. It’s an amazing principle woven into the fabric of the universe.

8) Make a gratitude list. You might be thinking, “A gratitude list?! I’m going through the worst thing imaginable.” I know. Just try it. Start with 1 thing. Then 3. Then 5. Then work your way up to 10. You may find that just writing down one thing will lead you to think of a bunch of other things you hadn’t thought about till now. Examples: friends, the ability to see, the ability to hear, good books, etc.

9) Do something—anything—to improve whatever you feel hopeless about…even if it seems pointless and like it won’t make any difference at all. Joan Baez said, “Action is the antidote to despair,” and she was right. One small positive action might be the beginning of everything turning around for the better. Don’t underestimate the power of starting small.

10) Believe that everything will be okay. It’s better to be an optimist and be wrong than to be a pessimist and be right. If everything ends up turning out well, think of all the days and hours you will have wasted fretting and worrying and being anxious. It’s always better to have faith. It’s better for your entire immune system, your muscles, and every part of your brain. Pessimism isn’t good for anything.

If you need help getting started with any of these and you’d like to schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me, please click here and book yourself an appointment. I’d be happy to talk with you!

Grace & love,

Monique