Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘coping skills’

Perspective and the Detour

There are very few things in this life that change everything.  Examples might be loss, major life changes, total eclipses, gratitude, humility…

Perspective however seems to need at least two of the above examples.  And it sure changes everything.

Life changes when there is a detour on what you originally perceive as your path.  This path you have so carefully mapped out, perhaps sometime in your late teens or early twenties, or the path you have planned after that one didn’t work out.

That detour can bring chaos of unparalleled proportions.

That detour can bring perspective of unparalleled proportions.

The shift in consciousness of which you are left after the detour is not something you can hit the reverse button on a remote control.  In fact, that shift requires you move forward with a courage and boldness that you have never known.

If you have made it to this point in life where you recognize you are following the detour signs, I am proud of you.  If you have driven passed those big orange road signs and find yourself continually re-routed to somewhere else, keep your seat belt on.

You are on your way to something that your life has waited for…at a level you aren’t even sure exists until you reach the other side of the detour.

But you know when you get there.  It is like the surprise party that you wished you hadn’t been the person who is at the center of attention.  And then you have to figure out how and what to do with it.

Often we miss that surprise party, so the ah ha is more like an uh oh.  Other times, we are changed forever.

When we have perspective for what our true purpose here is, we cannot possibly use a remote control or GPS to re-route.

The title of my book is Detour.  It certainly was a detour that I could not have predicted nor could I have imagined being able to follow the signs to the other side.  I found my way and my perspective was changed forever.  I could not have predicted the good that would come out of it or the position it would place me to make quite the same difference in the lives of others that it did.

Now, the story of my Detour 15 years ago is out, in print.  Now my story hopes to be able to make a small difference in the lives of everyone struggling to figure out what the detour in their life may mean to them.

Open Hearts Open Doors

Open Hearts=Open Doors

Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that is perfect.  The only way to learn anything in this life is to hear someone’s point of view out, without reacting, without interruption, without judgment, and with an open heart.

The veterans my dog and I work with primarily live in a situation where getting along with roommates and housemates becomes a focal point.  Duke, Ruby, Koko and I spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to model and teach conflict resolution.  It certainly isn’t an issue isolated to group living because it happens in the workplace, in homes, on the highways, etc.

There is little conflict when roommates are in a state of gratitude, so I call this the honeymoon period.  The honeymoon period includes feeling grateful for housing and help toward helping themselves, and a level of humility in knowing they need to focus on their own problems rather than being sucked into the dramas unfolding with others.

Once the honeymoon period starts to wane, which is usually the time that they likely have started to really work on their issues and set goals with staff, conflicts start.  Old stuff is oozing out all over the place in lesser form, such as overreactions to a dish left in a sink by a housemate.  Shortly afterwards, they begin to blame staff, the boss, the spouse, and others in general for their unrest and upset.

Some may find their way back to feeling humble and grateful for a bit longer, some may not.  The ones that cannot at least find this intermittent gratitude and humility usually find their way back into their addiction or other unhealthy coping patterns.

What I see central to avoiding conflict is first seeking to understand the one with whom you are butting heads.  Instead, what I see most often is someone telling another what the “right” way is to do whatever, which is just about the opposite of seeking to understand where the other person is coming from.  Sometimes the other person doesn’t have the skills to tell you honestly where they are coming from, but often when asked, they can at least stop their negative reaction long enough to wonder.

Sometimes a person isn’t at all interested in sharing anything at all to help you gain a better understanding and that is ok.  Your part of it is over.  It is time to walk away.  Since almost all of us, as human beings, just want someone to understand where we are coming from, it is rare that I cannot get a positive response from the question to avoid conflict or drama.  The question has to come from an open heart and genuine desire to understand, however.

Here are some examples of what you might say:

  • That seemed to upset you. What did that mean to you?
  • That really seemed to get to you. How did you experience that?
  • I see you are upset. What just happened there?
  • That seemed to get to you quickly. What do you think is behind that?
  • I notice you do things this way. What is your process for doing it that way?


What I find is that I stand to learn a lot from validating what I see, then asking the question.  I learn that the way they saw it or the way they were doing it might actually make more sense than what I thought was the righteous and only way to do it.  I learn more about how the other person views the world and sometimes even what from their past baggage they might have reacted to with their behavior.

There are many versions of seeking to understand in the business management, psychology and self-help world, but they all boil down to the same basic idea.  If we put aside our own agenda just for a minute and seek to hear someone else first, there is far more to gain for everyone involved.


Simplicity, Self-Care and Ruby

ruby is home

Ms. Ruby has arrived into the household of Duke and The Tawny!

While the dynamics are quite different from those between Duke and Amore, it has been a relatively challenge-filled weekend for me.  I didn’t realize just how emotional it was going to be for me to bring another dog into the house after Amore.  Fortunately, by the time the long drive back home from Hardee County was over, I was more focused on the logistics of things than the tears that wanted to fall.

Mom seems to have her commands mixed up because some of the commands Ruby learned in her prison training aren’t the same ones I learned when Duke and Amore went through basic obedience.  Bless Ruby’s heart, she did the best she could on our first walk with Duke and I, given that I likely totally confused her.

Today was our second walk (the heat in FL right now is ridiculous) and we all did better.  After our first short walk since Duke can’t really go far, I took Ruby by herself and she was pretty awesome with her commands.  I am pretty sure I used the correct ones and studied up on them again before we headed out.

All of this newness have me thinking about all the other things I have had to adjust to in the past six months or more.  It really is no wonder I feel as tired as I do, quite frankly.  Fortunately, I started out the year making sure that I simplified and streamlined as much as possible.

It really is the simplicity of the basics in this life that make everything else better.   Healthy food, quality sleep, quality down time, and quality social time certainly set the stage for better balance in my life.  All of this also sets the stage to better adapt to change while managing a chronic illness, two jobs, and now again two dogs with different needs.

My problem is that I often deviate from those simple basics and forget that all of them are necessary.  I have been forgoing the quality down time and replacing it with social, and the two are simply not interchangeable for a person with an overactive central nervous system.

While attempting to catch up on dental and other health concerns, I have also forgone the quality down time with appointments in addition to the social.  It hasn’t really served me well, particularly as I embark on a new adjustment at home.

I have given myself some leeway in the past several months to test out the limits of interchanging these basics.  It was a necessary part of my process of figuring out how far I can push before my body begins to reel me back into its necessary balance.

I have learned a lot from the process, but also have learned that it takes me a bit longer to restore this balance once I reel it in.  I have been reeled in for nearly three weeks now and am still not quite back to where I would like to be.  There is some work to be done for sure!  But isn’t that always the case?



Lesson of the Lilies

Lesson from a Lily

For the past two weeks, I have watched these two lilies trying to rise up and bloom from the pot on my patio.  I don’t recall it taking them quite this long to actually bloom, so I have made up a story about how the cooler weather has confusing them.  I have no idea of the validity of such a story.

Each time they seem to be close to bursting out their beautiful orange pedals, they stop doing anything for a few days.

Like the lily, I feel like I have tried to rise up to burst open into full bloom, but haven’t been able.

Today, I studied my lilies closely.  I wondered what it might be like to be the frustrated lily.  How were they managing the barriers to their full bloom?

They still stand tall.  They are still poised to reach their full potential.  They have not stopped trying to bloom in spite of the crazier than usual winter weather in Florida.  Each day, they keep trying to make it happen because they don’t know any better.

Unlike the lily, I do not have just one blooming experience for which to strive.  I plan to have many, but that doesn’t make the lesson of the lily any less significant to me.

I have to continue to stand tall and poised for any and all potential blooming experiences.  No matter what bricks are thrown at me from my mailbox or the doctors’ offices, I cannot stop trying.  It doesn’t matter what might happen or why it might happen that way because today, I am going to do my best to keep going as if I didn’t know any better.

Bunker It

igloo bunker image

Photo Credit: John and Merilyn

No matter how simple I make something, at times it all still feels quite heavy.  To ease the weight of my full plate today, I built myself a bunker.  I imagine it to look very much like a bomb shelter, except that it is above ground and mixed together with an igloo image.  It has gray, thick, block-shaped slabs of concrete for its walls and a rounded top, much like an igloo.

I didn’t realize I was actively building it as the day progressed until I thought back on my first image.  My first image was one gray wall that was taller than me.  Then there were two walls, then four and then a ridiculously rounded top that made me chuckle by the middle of the afternoon.

Throughout the day, I tossed some of the heavier issues that are on my plate into the bunker.  I could see myself tossing them into the air and them landing in the bunker.  At first, this is probably why it didn’t have the igloo part.  That makes it easier to lob over some intrusive thought of one of the heavier things on my plate.

Today was not the day for any of those heavy things.  Today was for Duke and HEP, and later for my students at Phoenix.   I will pull out some of the heavier items from the bunker for tomorrow.

What do you do with the things that weigh heavily on your mind?

Tawny’s Gratitude Tree

Tawny's gratitude tree

A few days ago, I got this idea in my head that I wanted to make a Gratitude Tree.  I haven’t quite figured out the particulars, but I spent a great deal of time thinking of things and people I am grateful for that would go on my tree.

I imagine myself in my mind’s eye using a black Sharpie marker to write down what it is on the back of a colorful looking ornament.  I only really see the back of the one-dimensional ornament—where I am writing.

The idea has actually spiraled so out of control in my head, that all I can think about are lists of things and people for which I am grateful.  As I go through my day, I am imagining writing with my Sharpie the people in front of me, and hanging it on the tree.

I think I am going to need a mighty big tree.

I got the idea from a Christmas tree, of course, but the ornaments would signify the something’s or someone’s.  I imagine it to be one of the mightiest of pines in the forest.

The more I have thought about it, the bigger the tree has grown in my mind’s eye.  After day three, the top of the branches are reaching the clouds in the sky.  I am on a tall ladder hanging the ornaments.

Since having my idea, I have noticed a shift in my perception of my world.  It seems that the blue filter has been lifted.  I am too busy going through my days picking out ornaments for my tree.

I knew I was grateful before this unintentional exercise in mindfulness.  I knew that I had many blessings to count.  I didn’t know that it would be a challenge to count them because they are constantly being added into my world.

Because of the drastic shift in such a short period, I am going to continue to play around with this idea.  Perhaps I will really create a Gratitude Tree, or maybe I will suggest it to others to simply imagine.

Kitt O'Malley

Bipolar Writer and Mental Health Advocate

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