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

Reaching by Darrell Raw

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

THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOUR FAMILY REJECTS YOU

by Nuriko Kun

Sometimes the people that we would most expect to love and accept us—those we’re connected to by blood or family line—can be the very people who cause us the most pain and suffering. We see pictures and hear stories on social media and the news of blissfully happy families and are faced with the realization that it may not be like that for us in our own families.

The scars of rejection and/or boundary trampling run deep and can affect our lives and our view of ourselves in massive unpleasant ways if we don’t deal with them. Studies have shown that whether it’s physical abuse or emotional abuse (such as lack of respect for personal boundaries, the silent treatment, constant criticism, unwillingness to let children become separate individual selves, etc.), the negative effects on a child’s brain are similar. And the word “child” means up to the age of eighteen. Whether you have been physically abused, emotionally abused, or both, you need to know that it’s not your fault. Being mistreated by the people who are supposed to love you and care for you does tremendous damage to a young person’s (or any person’s) psyche.

If you’re relating to any of this, please remember a few things:

Your worth does not depend on another person’s ability (or inability) to love you properly. Your worth comes from the fact that you were made by a loving Creator who sees great beauty in you. You are precious simply because you exist…because of who you are, not because of what you do or don’t do.

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You do not have to earn anyone’s love. It can feel that way when you’ve been programmed to think that you have to jump through hoops to win people’s approval and love, but it’s not true. In fact, we could go so far as to say it’s a lie. Don’t waste your time and energy running after anyone. They may come around one day, but don’t sit and wait for it.

Try not to take it personally. That’s easier said than done, but your family members are likely broken people who don’t know how to love because someone in their lives behaved similarly toward them. The good news is: the cycle can end with you.

Even Jesus was rejected by his family. They questioned who he was and were offended at his claims and his authority to talk as he did. Some of them believed in him, but some didn’t see who he was at all. They felt threatened by him and even ridiculed him. So, in a way, if you’ve had that happen to you, you’re in good company.

Those who try to manipulate you do not have your best interests in mind. Don’t be fooled. Tune in to your intuition. People who truly care about you do not make you feel uneasy. Don’t allow yourself to be guilted into doing and saying things you don’t want to do and say for fear of meeting with someone’s disapproval. You shouldn’t need to win their approval to begin with.

There are people who love you and care about you. Sometimes we forget this because we are busy wanting our family of origin to love us. But if we change our focus and look around, we’re sure to find people who know how to love us and don’t play games with our emotions to meet their own unmet needs. Move towards those who emotionally support you, not those who drain you and cause you to lose focus.

The Wounded Squirrel by John Anster Fitzgerald

Sometimes family isn’t made up of people in your family of origin. A lot of times we feel safer, closer and more accepted by people who have no relation to us whatsoever. When you’ve had a rejecting encounter with your blood family, it’s important to get around those who treat you with dignity as soon as possible.

Consider talking with a counselor or therapist. It’s important to face the pain and work through stuff so we don’t stay stuck in patterns of thinking and behavior that may be left over from unhealed family wounds. It can be important not just for us, but for all the other relationships we will have. We don’t want our unhealed hurts to come out at people who never did us any harm. Chances are that those who don’t treat you right have never seen a counselor or therapist and have therefore never done their own inner work. The fruits of this are obvious. You can break that pattern.

No family is perfect. In all those photos you see on social media where everyone looks so happy, keep in mind, that’s just a snapshot. Everyone has their issues whether you hear about them or not.

You’re not alone. Look around and remember that oftentimes those in our lives who do know how to care for us are God with skin on. Underneath all our pain, there is a loving presence in the universe. You may not see it as God, but behind all the darkness, there is a force of love that calls to us and accepts us as we are. That loving presence will sustain you when all other sources of love are unavailable or gone. It is this presence that runs beneath every current of your life and accepts, rather than rejects, you. This is the presence that ever and always will call you “Beloved.”

If you need some help working through some of these things, you can schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me by clicking here to book yourself an appointment. I would love to talk with you!

 

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** Picture credits:
Nuriko Kun (top)
The Wounded Squirrel by John Aster Fitzgerald
Crown by Shabby Scraps

MORE WORDS ON SELF-CARE

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My last post on self-care a few months ago brought up some apparent concerns and questions from people, so it seemed a good idea to post a continuation of this topic.

I was asked where is the place to draw the line between when it is appropriate to take care of yourself and when to put yourself aside for the sake of others, especially when wanting to live out a life of love and self-giving. Admittedly, the topic isn’t always cut and dry. There are circumstances that come up that make it difficult to draw the line. For example, when someone you love is suffering mentally or physically and needs extra care or attention from you. Or when you’re the only one available to run the kids to their classes or activities. There are responsibilities and duties, yes, and sometimes you can’t just say, “Oh, you need to get to class and Dad’s not here to drive you? Well, sorry, I’m having a time-out right now, so you’ll need to find a ride.”

What we’re talking about here is balance in life, not a life where no one can ever impose on your time. Self-care isn’t just about time to yourself. It’s about putting yourself into the picture of people you care about. It’s doing things that keep you balanced so that you have more, not less, of yourself to give, and that the you that you are giving is coming from a place of joyful giving rather than resentful giving that leaves you sputtering under your breath in frustration and anger.

One of the most important steps in caring for yourself is setting healthy boundaries. This requires some self-reflection and self-awareness as well as a willingness to feel uncomfortable. If you don’t set healthy boundaries, you may find yourself resenting the people who you feel are trying to control you, and eventually you may find that you’re resenting yourself for not having the hutzpah to stand up to them.

How do you set healthy boundaries? Well, the first place to set them is with yourself. Admit that you have a problem with saying “no.” You can read my previous post on saying “no” here: https://artoflifeandwellness.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/no-is-not-a-four-letter-word/

You may be asking, “Okay, I get what it is, but how do I do it?” And my question to you is, “What can you begin doing today to nurture yourself the way you would a good friend?” Sometimes stepping outside of ourselves and imagining seeing someone we love in the same position helps us to realize what we need. It almost sounds too simple.

Begin small. How much time can you take out for yourself each day? Ten minutes? Thirty? Just five? Then start with five.

What kind of ritual can you set up for yourself? Where will you have this ritual? It doesn’t need to be the same place each day, but it can be. Some people need the consistency of a certain place or space. Some prefer variety. It’s up to you. You get to choose!

When will you take this time? Do you need it first thing in your day to get focused and centered and grounded? Or do you need it at the end of the day? Or both?

How will you make sure you take this time for yourself? Do you need to arrange it beforehand? Is it just an inner decision you need to make?

The main thing is: what can you do to care for yourself in such a way that, even when you can’t get out of certain duties you have, you are taking care of your own needs too so that you have the energy and the love fueling you to live from a place of groundedness.

No matter how it might appear, you always have choices.

I look forward to hearing from you of the steps you’ve taken and the results you’ve seen in your life. As always, if you need some help, just send me a message.

Wishing you peace and blessings,

Monique

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* Paintings by Maxfield Parrish

“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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