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children

I've Had Enough...


I am in a bit of a pickle.

You see, for the last two years or so I have been engaged in a whole lot of soul work. Along the way I have come in contact with hundreds of women both in person and in online groups and classes, and the one thing that keeps coming up for all of us is the belief that we are lacking in some way, or in most cases, in a lot of ways.

It is almost like a rash we have been infected with - this belief that we are not enough.

It isn't all that complicated either. We are born - whole, precious, miraculous, pure, soft-skinned packages filled with goodness. Then, somewhere along the way, we begin to believe a tale that involves the numerous ways in which we are not enough. Each of our stories is different… Mine is "I am not smart enough. I am not experienced enough. I am not likable enough. I am not pretty enough. My hair is not long enough. I am not skinny enough…" It makes my stomach churn to share that with you. There were other variations that included all the ways I didn't have enough.

I remember what it felt like the first time someone said to me: "You are enough." I was shocked. I was afraid to respond because I knew anything I said would prove to her how wrong she really was. I even felt like a fraud unsure of how I could convince anyone that I was enough when clearly I was not. Now, I know I am enough even though I forget sometimes.

I know my story. I know how painful it was to see it all come together over the years. I remember the people who helped me write it - most likely without the intention of causing me harm. It was a long and lonely story. It has been a HUGE amount of work to rewrite it.

I also know so many other stories that are a lot like mine. I see the hurt in the eyes of these beautiful women as they tell their stories. Some of them believe that they are not enough. It breaks my heart that they cannot see the whole, precious, miraculous, pure, maybe not so soft-skinned but still better than ever being that I see when I look at them. I want them to know the story they are telling is based on lies. So much work goes into rewriting our stories… that is if we even have the heart to rewrite them. Some of us never will.

And now, I am watching in disbelief as my very own son's story begins to take shape. His spirit cannot be contained in a 2x2 place at a table full of other children. He likes to wiggle and squirm. He starts conversations when he is asked to be quiet.

My son's story already has a chapter detailing all the ways that he is not enough. The adults in his life have written it for him by telling him that he isn't okay as is - that he isn't good enough.

He is 8 years-old. He is at a crucial point in his development because this is when the stories start to really stick. This is where a seemingly small slight or joke made at his expense can make a huge impact. It can be devastating. It can change the course of his life.

So, what do I do? I can't control the storytellers. Even if I could - how long can that go on? Will it be enough for him to hear my husband and me whisper in his ear each night "you are enough" when all day long he hears otherwise?

This is my cry for help.

If you are an adult who has children or who works with children, please be mindful of the ways in which you communicate with them.

It may be true that my son makes it difficult for you to maintain a sense of control over the space you are in. It may be true that his tendency to get distracted is distracting to others. I would by lying if I said I wasn't experiencing the same child at home. Here's the thing though: my son's behavior is directly related to a need he has and cannot express. Could you maybe take a minute to check in with him before shaming him in front of his peers? I think you could.

Don't destroy a child's sense of self because what he or she is doing isn't convenient for you.

You can be honest and kind at the same time. I'm not suggesting you allow the children in your life to reenact Lord of the Flies when you're with them. I am suggesting you be careful about the ways you respond to children. In any response you have to a child's behavior, I estimate there is about a 99% chance that your response has nothing to do with the child and everything to do with you. Your response is a projection of you and your life experience - the way you were parented, the way you were taught, the stories you've come to believe about yourself. Your negative response comes from a place of discomfort with what the child is doing.

My friend Mariah Belt calls this place - where we respond from a need to control - the Dominant  Paradigm. The alternative is the Peaceful Paradigm (Mariah teaches the Peaceful Paradigm in her work as a Peaceful Parenting coach). Here, we come from a place of curiosity with the intention of connection. We might notice a disruptive behavior then head on over to a child like my son and say, "What's up little guy? Can you tell me more about that?" Rather than, "Stop it! You are being bad! Go sit on the bench…" It's a shift, but it can happen.

I love the Peaceful Paradigm. It feels right to me. I understand that it may not resonate with everyone. I also recognize that the words we use are powerful. So, after experiencing and witnessing the pain that results from a lifetime of being told that any of us are lacking in any way - that any of us could possibly not be enough - I beg of you, please stop the madness. Stop helping children to write these fictional stories about themselves. Be kind. Be mindful of the ways you speak to children, knowing that what you say, even if it was never intended to cause pain, can be devastating.

Thank you.

9/11, Depression, and the Meaning of Life


Many people are remembering 9/11 today. It's hard not to remember. So many of us can recall exactly what we were doing when we first heard the devastating news - for me it was that a plane crashed into a building in New York City. I remember a group of students gathered around a TV screen in one of the Social Work buildings. It was one of our first day of classes. I wasn't sure what they were watching, but I cruised right by already late to class.

We moved our desks into a circle. There were a few people frantically pushing numbers on their cell phones. The instructor had the affect of someone trying to maintain calm. It turned out that several of my classmates' families were in New York and my classmates were trying to reach them. As the beginnings of the story of 9/11 unfolded, we exchanged looks of shock. Our professor asked that we stay for the full 2.5 hours of class. We thought she was crazy.

I remember going home and watching the news all day long. I remember going to bed terrified. I couldn't snuggle in close enough to my husband and I finally fell asleep wondering what kind of world I was bringing my firstborn into as I thought about him sprouting from a little seed inside my belly. Earlier in the day I had wondered if our new insurance plan would cover my pregnancy - we had just moved to Michigan from Arlington, Virginia. That seemed like a non-issue at bedtime. I couldn't stop thinking about how I had driven past the Pentagon every day on my way to work when we lived in Arlington. I couldn't begin to make sense of what had happened in our country - the land of the free and home of the brave - that day. Nobody could.

It is National Suicide Prevention Week. I saw a post on Facebook yesterday about a group call To Write Love On Her Arms. According to their mission statement, this is a  "movement is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide..."

Yesterday's call was to write the word "LOVE" on your arm to help raise awareness. So I did that, knowing that finding hope and help for these issues specifically is a cause that I hold close to my heart.


When I woke this morning to stories of 9/11 and LOVE on my arm, I began to think about graduate school and how I had diagnosed myself with almost every mood disorder I learned about in class. It was actually quite liberating to learn that there was an entire vocabulary for the feelings I had struggled with my entire life.

In a different Facebook post yesterday, someone I know shared a picture of LOVE on her arm. She included a note to her dad - I gathered he had committed suicide. I thought about my dad's sudden death about 3.5 years ago. He didn't commit suicide, but before we knew the cause of his death, the possibility that he did commit suicide wasn't out of the question. With drugs and alcohol, he certainly found other less severe ways to escape the pain he felt in his life.

After his death, I pretty much fell apart. With three little people to care for and my husband back at work, I knew I needed help. I decided to take anti-anxiety medication. While my grief intensified my anxiety and symptoms of depression, it is true that living with anxiety was something I had been doing my whole life. I didn't have words for the constant feeling that something could go wrong at any second until I learned more about anxiety and depression in graduate school. I thought I was "too sensitive" while the truth was I felt things really deeply. Maybe more deeply than other people. When the pain was too much bear, I looked for ways to hide it or dull it. 

When I finally decided to take medication for my anxiety it was in part because I remembered a friend saying to me "Anna, you don't have to live this way" referring to my constant state of anxiety. I never wanted to take medication, but at that point - after my dad died - I didn't think I had time for therapy and I knew from my studies that it would help me. It was a very small dose, just enough to take the edge off and not enough to keep me from crying my way through a year's worth of contacts in way less than a year's time.

The thing about living with anxiety and depression that is so hard, and can be debilitating even, is that you feel so alone. So hopeless. So isolated. And on top of all that, you can feel ashamed of feeling that way. You think the only way out of the pain is to stop it. People try stopping the pain in all kinds of ways.

I would never, ever tell anyone that the key to happiness is to take medication. That is a choice you have to make for yourself based on your own history and your own present situation. What I would do is to say what my friend said to me - "You don't have to live like this." You have options.

See, I have come to realize that while there is immense pain and suffering in this world - and while I am not immune to any of it - we are not here on Earth to suffer. We are here to enjoy our lives and to live them peacefully. I don't know what that means for everyone, but I know that it is true. I don't have any proof, you'll just have to trust me.

Sometimes I wish my medication would numb me to the pain I feel, and that's when I know that it is time to take it up a notch in other areas of my life. When I want to escape what I'm feeling, I have found that writing helps me to feel more grounded. Yoga reminds me to breathe and helps me to stay present. Meditation helps me to quiet my "monkey mind" - the what-ifs that can spin out of control if I don't stop them. Being outside soothes my soul. Taking walks and running (or trying to run...) helps me to clear my mind. Spending time with people I love helps me remember who I am - not a condition, but a soul doing its best to enjoy this human experience. When I can return to myself and what is most important to me, I can better handle whatever life throws my way. 

For me, art is a cure-all. Creating connects me to my core, the Creator, and all things created. I try to create something every single day. Sometimes it's just dinner (usually it's not dinner...). I have been keeping a Blessings journal for a while now and I love it because I can do just a little bit of creating very easily every day AND reflect on the things and people for which I am grateful. 







Yoga, art, and meditation are some of the tools I use to get to break away from the every day and get back to what matters most to me. 

We all have those tools - those things that can help us to slow down and re-focus on what matters. For a lot of people prayer will do the trick. No matter how much pain you are in, you must remember that life is not about the pain. Life is about JOY and you have the right to live in peace.

So, how do we get back there? What will it take to get you back to the peace? Here are a few steps you can try to take...
  1. Breathe
  2. Think of one thing that brings you peace
  3. Take one step, make one stroke, write one word, recall one memory, or reach out to one friend at a time - whatever it is that will take you to peace
  4. Keep breathing
  5. Keep going
  6. Get there

The only way through anything is to go through it. Seriously. Sit in it for as long as you need to. Feel what comes up for you. Yell, scream, cry, stomp your feet. Get as angry or as sad as you need to be. 

And then remember that you don't have to live there. You don't have to stay in the darkness. Let it - whatever it is - flow through you, then you too can go with the flow. You can move through whatever it is. It might take hours or days or even years. Choose one thing that brings you joy or peace and take one little step in that direction whenever you can. You will make your way out of it. And, know you're not alone. If you need help, reach out for it. It's okay to ask for help.

This world - one where true heroes sacrifice their lives to save others, where slowly we are raising our voices around issues like depression and suicide, where communities come together in times of despair to help one another, and where we recognize that we are all connected - this is the world I brought my now eleven year-old son into. It is a world filled with war and hate and hunger and pain and suffering, and it is a world filled with beauty and peace and joy. We have to learn to live with the good and the bad. It's not an either/or proposition. 

When you are suffering, you don't have to stay there. You don't have to live like that. You have options. My hope is that we all choose PEACE and JOY and do whatever it takes to get there.

With all kinds of love and big Anna hugs... xoxoxo

Wisdom from Mama

A few weeks ago, this mysterious being appeared just a few steps from my door...


Meet Mama, a female snapping turtle. She seemed to have either fallen from the sky or sprouted up from the earth. She arrived in her spot with intention. I thought I saw her laying eggs as I watched her, but then I thought maybe it was just her legs moving. I was mesmerized.

Reptiles fascinate me. When I see one, especially so close like this, I feel powerfully linked to all of time - to dinosaurs! I watched her carefully and took some pictures. My daughter didn't want to leave Mama. I didn't think she could move too far too fast, but within a half an hour of our departure, she was gone. It seemed so sudden that I thought maybe I had imagined the entire thing.

With the help of a friend, I learned that this mama was most likely laying her eggs by my door. She dug a hole, deposited her offspring, and returned to the creek behind our home. The process is awe-inspiring, and while she did it all on instinct, it was deliberate - thoughtful even.

I learned that as one of the oldest reptiles, the turtle was a symbol of Mother Earth to the Native Americans. The turtle is a reminder that Mother Earth provides for all of our needs.

As I dug deeper with Mama Turtle, I was also taking stock of the end of another school year. I was thinking about my mistakes - like the music night we completely forgot about, and the decisions I made about the next year - moving my son to a new school and enrolling my daughter in full day kindergarten. None of these decisions were taken lightly, and yet I wondered if I had thought of everything - explored every option? Prepared for every possible outcome?

Sometimes I feel so unqualified to be making such weighty decisions. I wonder if I'm not doing enough to help my children navigate their lives? And if I am doing enough, is it too much? Am I overbearing? Will they be equipped to leave home when it is time? Will they remember to chew with their mouths closed when I am not there to remind them? Being a parent is so hard. For me. I think it is hard for a lot of people, and I am not sure we always feel comfortable admitting that. I know a lot of mamas spend a lot of time wondering and worrying about the choices they are making that affect their children.

In the midst of my day and my reflecting, I couldn't stop thinking about Mama. A highly esteemed reptile, she is so revered that she is thought to symbolize the mother of ALL mothers - Mother Earth. How could that be? How could a creature who lays her eggs and leaves her babies to make their own way back to the water represent this divine Mother? It wasn't adding up in my mama mind as I spent the day wondering where I had held on too tightly and where I still needed to let go.

I thought about my sister, who had just delivered her second child safely and lovingly into the world, and how she and her new son would be closely connected for many months to come. He dependent on her for everything... Her wondering if she was doing everything she possibly could to meet his needs and help him ease into life outside the womb. With him every single step of the way, she would never dream of leaving him to make his own way in the world. That is what it means to be a human mama - we are gifted in the art of wondering an worrying, and in holding on and learning when to let go.



By the end of the day, I realized that Mama Turtle might be one of my greatest teachers. Maybe leaving her babies to make their own way back to the water is the bravest thing a mom can do for her young. It is sometimes hard to accept this, but the truth is, each of my children is on his or her very own journey. And, I am on mine. Much of what we do, especially while they are children, is done together, but eventually they will be left to walk their paths without me by their sides.

I can hold on tight and let go again, I can intervene and stand back, and I will continue to wonder and worry, but the truth is no matter what I do to help guide my children, it is ultimately up to them to make it back to the water.

Thank you Mama Turtle. xo