How My Deceased Grandmother Protected Me from an Armed Burglar as I Slept

Cloud Heaven
The phone ringing on the bedside table stuns me out of a deep sleep. The clock reads 11:10 pm. “Kris, where are you?” I recognize it is Joan, my house guest. “I’m in bed, at home, why?” “Someone just stole your car. I’m out in your garage.” Huh? “A guy just ran out of your house with your car keys and stole your car.” I’ll be right out.


I threw on some clothes, grabbed my phone and walked hurriedly from the master bedroom at the far back of the house to the front of the house. Along the way, I noticed our 50” living room TV was half pulled out of the entertainment center shelf. Oh, my God, someone had just been mere feet from my bedroom door as I slept? And why didn't any of our four dogs bark? I passed through the small laundry room and opened the door to the two-car garage. The garage door was wide open to the dark night; the lights in the garage were too bright and there was the space where my car had just been. Joan stood there, waiting for me. I dialed 911 and calmly reported a home invasion and car theft. Then I asked Joan what happened.


Subaru Outback 2017


Joan’s friend dropped her off at my house. As their car approached, Joan thought it was odd that my garage door was wide open, and the light was on in the garage. Maybe Kris just got home from somewhere and she forgot to close the garage door. Joan walked through the garage. As she reached to open the door to the laundry room, a man rushed out the door, startling her. He pushed past her. Confused, Joan insisted, “Who are you?” “A friend,” he muttered with irritation. Then he jumped in the car and tore out of the garage. That’s when Joan called me.


Kathryn Front Yard

My mind was racing. My partner, DD was out of town. Joan was a house guest who never bargained for this kind of drama. She was very kind and understanding. The garage door was dented and couldn’t be closed. We went in the house as I frantically took stock of what I should do next. My mind was racing; my heart was pounding. He has my car keys and house key. Call a 24-hour locksmith. What valuables were in my car? A couple gas credit cards and my Costco card. Call and cancel those. He has the remote garage door opener. Get a new garage door opener. Dear friends of ours went to the all-night Walmart, picked up a new one and installed it that night. Meanwhile, where are the police?  Internet searches to find a locksmith. Infuriating. I soon concluded that all the “local” 24-hour locksmith businesses are actually call centers in Indiana. No help at all. Meanwhile, I walked around the house to see what else was stolen. Our dog’s Tramadol bottle was gone from the kitchen counter. Nothing else seemed to be missing. Back in the garage, I noticed an old gym bag on the floor had been emptied out and power tools were inside. Then I noticed the garage door had a long vertical dent in it across two panels. How did that happen? Then, I noticed that the two outside lights on either side of the garage door were out. I checked the switch – it was turned on. Huh. I reached up and sure enough, someone had simply loosened the bulbs. This was planned out. How did he get in? We figured he had a universal garage door opener and just drove house-to-house trying them and we were unlucky. We found out later we were wrong about this.


Meanwhile, where were the police? This was a Saturday night and Albuquerque has the highest rate of car thefts in the country, so maybe that had something to do with it.  An officer finally arrived around 1:00 am - two hours after I called. While taking the report, she was alarmed to learn that the suspect had been on the scene seconds before we called it in. She apologized and said there must have been a dispatch communication glitch because the call had been given a low priority response code.


I finished with the police officer and then I remembered something. Hey, when I bought my brand new 2017 Subaru Outback just four months before, I think I signed up for some kind of promotional Subaru Starlink service. At the time, I didn't even really know what it was or what it included. I ran to my files, and finally found the paperwork. I called the number and reported my car stolen. Thirty minutes later the police called me to say they found my car and I could come get it down in the South Valley area. It took forever for the taxi to pick me up. I wasn't going to call any friends for a ride at 2:30 in the morning. Several lit-up police cars surrounded my car waiting for me and my spare key. The officer entered the driver’s side door. He sat in the front seat, using his flashlight to search for any evidence. Within seconds, he presented a heavy thick plastic bag with handguns inside that had been left on the floor of the passenger side. Oh, my God - again! Did this man have a gun in my house, mere feet from my bedroom door as I slept? Two officers thoroughly searched the rest of my car for drugs and anything else they could find. Fingerprinting yielded few useful results. While waiting for the police to finish searching my car, I was relieved to notice that the only apparent damage was the missing solid triangle antenna on the top of the car. It had been ripped off and now only wires dangled there. Around 4:00 am they released my car to me. As I approached the open front door, I could smell an awful stench. It was a revolting odor that I had never smelled before. Like cigarette smoke mixed with cheap male cologne and maybe a dead fish all rolled together.


By the way, let me share with you how the guy actually gained access to my house. One of my students later told me about this little-known ingenious method. Sure enough, I went to YouTube and watched a demonstration of how it is done. You take a straightened wire clothes hanger and insert it up at the top of the garage door, between the door and the garage door frame. Then you extend it so that you can hook the manual garage door opener. Slide the hook of the hanger along the length of the red rope until you snag the black handle. Now, just pull down and this manually unlocks the door. Then, simply reach down and lift up the garage door – slowly and quietly. Most people – like us – never dreamed that this could happen, so we always left the door from the garage to the house unlocked. Never again.  He walked into the hallway and immediately saw my car keys on the hall table. Who knows how long he walked around my house as I slept with our four dogs back in the far back bedroom? By the way, I also later figured out that when he manually lifted up the garage door, he didn't lift it high enough, so that when he recklessly backed out the car, the antenna caught the bottom of the garage door and that's how it was torn off.


It was creepy and disgusting being in my beloved brand-new Outback. It felt dirty inside with that disgusting stench. The police warned me that if the test came back positive for Meth in my car, it would have to be considered totaled by the insurance company. Was my dream car going to be totaled just four months after driving it off the lot? Thank goodness, it wasn’t, but I kept all the windows rolled down for the first couple of weeks trying to air it out.


I was still quite shaken by this whole experience, wondering how close I came to a much more tragic ending. I couldn’t know then that this story was about to take a miraculous turn.


Two days later, I was finally ready to get inside my car, to clean it out with practically ritual attention to cleansing it of all negative energy. I planned to wash it, wax it, and thoroughly wipe down the entire inside. I had a bundle of sage ready and one of my students had given me a small bottle of Holy Water offered by her priest.


I pulled the car into the center of the garage, brought out the vacuum cleaner, and began behind the driver’s seat. Using just the wand tube, I reached forward to the emergency brake space between the two front seats. I could barely make out a tiny piece of paper. I don’t know why I didn’t just vacuum it up. For some reason, I turned off the vacuum and reached way down and grabbed it with my two middle fingers. When I looked at it, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hand.


Miracle In Car LabelMiracle Address Label 2


It was a very small and very old return-address label of my grandmother’s. I had never seen it before. How old must this be that it was printed before zip codes were used? "Columbus 13?" How in the world did it get into my brand-new car? I had never transported photos or old keepsakes or anything like that in my car. Again, I had never even seen this before. I knew instantly this was a sign from my grandmother who had long ago passed away. She is my mother’s mother. I always felt a special closeness with her. In fact, to this day, whenever I hear a distant train whistle, I think of her because I remember listening to those train whistles as I laid in bed as a child those few times that we visited her in Columbus. Here is her old return-address label and I know she is trying to tell me that she was watching over me during this whole break-in. As tears welled in my eyes, I started to cry a soft, knowing cry of gratitude and acknowledgement. I thanked her for watching over me and for so clearly showing me a sign that she was nearby.


After a few minutes, I gathered myself and turned on the vacuum cleaner again. This time, I positioned myself a little closer to that same area in the front seat. As I started to put the crevice tool down that same area between the seats, I looked straight down in that narrow space and saw another piece of paper. What? This one was larger. I squeezed my hand down there and was barely able to pull out what I quickly realized was a photo – a 4x6 color photo. Unbelievable!


Miracle In Car PhotoMiracle Me with Tucker and Grandma Shay


Now, this photo I definitely recognized. It was a picture of me and my dog, Tucker visiting my grandmother in her nursing home. It was taken 22 years ago and a few months before she died. How did this get here?! I was blown away – again! I sat motionless and then started to cry, thanking my grandma for so clearly and undeniably showing me that she was here, and she was keeping me safe. I have never experienced anything like this. I could not ask for a more explicit sign that she watched over me. I had been feeling overwhelmed by all that happened, trying to process it all, feeling mixtures of sadness, fear, confusion, and anger. I was dealing with the police, locksmiths, the insurance company, and auto body shops, trying to coordinate all the next steps. I was also trying to consciously guide my process of emotional healing, not wanting to over-experience or under experience what even I had to acknowledge was trauma. She provided these signs to reassure me that she was here and that I would be OK.


Still sitting in the back seat of the car, I realized I better get moving; I was supposed to meet friends for lunch soon at a nearby restaurant. I quickly got changed and got in my car to leave. It is my habit to put on my seat belt, put the car in reverse and turn on my favorite political talk radio show. As I pulled out of my driveway, a thought occurred to me in my mind that was as clear and composed as could be. “Change the channel to a music station; I can’t get a message to you through talk radio.” What was this? More evidence? I had two preset music stations. I didn’t know which one to pick. I told myself to just pick one. I did. A song was ending, with its last few words. Without interruption, the next song began,

“I Can See Clearly Now, the rain has gone, I can see all the obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Oh, yes, I can make it now, the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day.”

I was blown away! Here was my grandmother – or someone on the Other Side - expressing even more comfort and reassurance. I reached for another Kleenex. As if that’s not enough, later that day, after I returned from lunch, I called to make a phone appointment with a Medium I had met with once before. I guess I just wanted to share all this and see if he had anything else to add. We set a date and time, but just before hanging up, he told me to wait. He had a woman on the Other Side who was insisting on not waiting until the appointment to send one quick message. I figured it was my grandmother, but no; he determined that it was my mother. He said that the message from her was kind of odd. “She is telling me to tell you to go into the bathroom.” Ha Ha! I recognized her message instantly. This was definitely my mom. I have told this story to many groups at many workshops through the years. Here is the story. Way back, during my first year of college, I was talking long-distance on the phone with my mom, apparently stressing over every kind of crisis – my boyfriend, my classes, not enough money, etc… After patiently listening for a while, my mom finally interrupted with some lighthearted advice, “Kristin Lee, go into the bathroom, turn on the light, look at yourself in the mirror and have a great big laugh! You are taking all this way too seriously; everything will be OK.”


What a day it had been! My mom and her mother had teamed up to be sure I knew that they were there for me. I know that our loved ones get very excited when we finally recognize their presence. I was humbled and overwhelmed by their efforts to express their love for me. Now I have much more of a daily consciousness of their presence and often send a knowing wink their way to acknowledge small signs. I have been blessed with two other major examples of being visited by loved ones who have died. My sister visited me in a powerful dream the night before she passed away. And my mom visited me in the back seat of my car as I raced to Arizona while she was in emergency surgery. She never regained consciousness and died two days later. Perhaps I will share those stories sometime. I know this all sounds a bit unbelievable. The really great news is that you don't have to believe in it in order to experience it.

Sunset Red 

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I Can't Breathe

Breath Taking

I Can't Breathe George Floyd

It’s sweltering hot chained to the dark hull of this sailing ship

I can’t breathe

This white man’s sweat-stenched body pounding on top of me

I can’t breathe

Shot by a U.S. Army soldier on my own people’s reservation

I can’t breathe

This noose around my neck yanked by my own body weight tightens so fast

I can’t breathe

Thrown in a dark solitary cell for marching for women’s right to vote

I can’t breathe

Shoved off the train and crammed into this gas chamber

I can’t breathe

Thick smoke from the fire and I'm trapped on the top floor of this shirt factory

I can’t breathe

Deep in this old coal mine, the soot is so dense

I can’t breathe

An innocent man waiting for the switch in this cold electric chair

I can’t breathe

Dying of AIDS all alone, people too afraid to touch me

I can’t breathe

A young gay man beaten and tied to a ranch fence post out on this prairie

I can’t breathe

Attacked in a dark alley, I'm left to die for being trans

I can’t breathe

I'm a second grader fallen from my desk, gunned down in my elementary school classroom

I can’t breathe

People running and screaming from this gay nightclub, I am hit

I can’t breathe

Can’t take this bullying anymore, I decided to hang myself, at last

I can’t breathe

Quietly worshiping in my mosque, then I am shot in the neck out of nowhere

I can’t breathe

Lost my job and my healthcare, now I'm dying from cancer alone at home

I can’t breathe

My husband beat me harder than usual today, I’m crumpled on the floor

I can’t breathe

My black head is locked in this white police choke hold

I can’t breathe

They tore me from my mother’s arms and put me all alone in this cage

I can’t breathe

Walking in a peaceful protest, they shot tear gas in my face

I can’t breathe

Left in this COVID ICU bed, no family allowed, this hoax will kill me yet

I can’t breathe

An innocent black man, I got this police boot on my neck eight minutes, 46 seconds

I can’t breathe

                                                                           Kristin L Roush

Confessions of an Imperfect Meditator: Or, From Zafu to Snafu!



I am seated comfortably in a slightly darkened and quiet space – spine easily erect, eyes peacefully closed, perhaps my palms are facing up.  I am using my breath as an anchor for awareness, gently returning there after each pesky wayward thought. Aah… meditation. Aah… mindfulness. I am accepting each moment as it is with no judgment, no attachment, and no aversion. Focusing on the breath. Inhale … Exhale … Aah… I love mindfulness. Time seems to have vanished. I feel relaxed and composed; all is right with the world. I surrender to this peaceful moment, and accept what is. All body tension is released. What a lovely and pleasant practice. Aah … meditation. Aah … mindfulness. Life is good.


“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through

paying attention,

on purpose,

in the present moment,


                                            Jon Kabat-Zinn


Spirituality for the Other Six Days of the Week

And then, there is the real world. What about Mindfulness while Life is happening?  What about mindfulness when you are not sitting on that fancy $80. round pillow (Zafu) and instead, you are sitting in the dentist chair, exposed by that bright light, those sterile sights and sounds, the too cold AC, and the promise of physical pain any minute? And after a loud CRACK! the dentist reluctantly stares down at the floor and stammers the clearly bad news, “I’m so sorry, we broke off your front tooth while trying to remove the temporary crown.” Teeth - Missing Front Tooth

“WHAT!?!?!” The ballistic racing thoughts are propelled in all directions simultaneously. “What do I do now? How much is this going to cost? How did this happen? What do we do now? How am I going to pay for this? You better be planning to pay for this. I can’t afford this. What will I look like without a front tooth? I can’t go out in the world without a front tooth! Thank God I don’t have to stand in front of a classroom tomorrow. Now what!? Shit!” “Uh oh, do people who meditate say shit?”


And then, “Oh, yeah, mindfulness. OK, wait, how do I do this mindfully? What am I feeling? What is happening in this present moment? What are my thoughts? Don’t think of your thoughts, just focus on your breath. What am I feeling? I’m feeling scared and angry. Where am I feeling this in my body? “How am I going to pay for this?” Woops…  Accept this situation for what it is. No judgments. Wait. How can a broken off front tooth NOT be a bad thing? No aversion. Seriously? Yes, seriously. OK, I’m in this moment, blessing this moment for what it is. Yeah, right. This moment sucks. Do I get credit for being in this moment even though I am judging it as being a sucky moment?  Clearly, I am not that evolved yet. OK, breathe… “- The dentist says she will pay all the costs for the new implant. She will send me to the best Oral Surgeon in town and pick up the entire tab. “OK, whew…”   


Exhale… And then, “What’s an implant? What does that involve? Bone graft!? Three months!? Screw in my gums and then another four months!? And then the final implant after about a total eight-month process!?  What!?!?”


“OK, back to mindfulness. What am I feeling? Get back in this moment. Focus on the inhale, then focus on the --- hey, wait, I haven’t exhaled at all in the last 10 minutes! Quick, exhale! Oh, and focus on it! This moment sucks. Stop judging this moment. That last moment is already gone, so get back into this one. Well, this one sucks, too. It’s all ok; in the great cosmic scheme of things, this is just another thing, another life experience. Accept what is. No aversion. OK, but now I am averse to being in aversion. I can’t win.”


“What about Mindful Self-Compassion?” – “Oh, yeah. OK, What was that four step process that Kristin Neff talks about? Oh, yeah –

                                                                “1) This is a moment of "freaking out".

                                                                 2) "Freaking out" is part of life.

                                                                 3) May I be kind to myself.

                                                                 4) May I give myself the compassion I need.  


Whew… breathe… and remember to exhale this time.  And focus on it, damnit!  Uh oh, do people who meditate say damnit?  Oh, geez, back to my $80. round pillow.


A Golf Analogy

I wish I could say that this scenario description is an exaggeration. Well, maybe a little. But mostly, I lived this exact situation. I was just pleased that I had the presence of mind to at least try to be mindful in the middle of this mini-crisis. After more experience with meditation, I have no doubt that I won’t have to “try” to be mindful. It will become my default way of being. It already has become part of my daily comings and goings – at least the ones that don’t involve sudden and major hardship!                                          

                                                                                              Golfer Driving Range

I think that meditation is to mindfulness as the driving range is to playing a game of golf. On the driving range, I pay attention to every little detail: how I address the ball, my grip, my back swing, my upper body, keeping my left arm straight, my hips leading, contact with the ball, my follow through. Every ball in that bucket is about focused concentration on the micro movements of my golf swing. Then, when I am all done, I can go about the joy and the challenge of simply playing a game of golf. I pay rudimentary attention to my club selection, grip, and stance. But beyond that, I trust that all that focused attention on the driving range will come to the fore (no pun intended) and reveal itself naturally with little conscious effort.


I trust that, in time, I will reap the benefits of my meditation practice. I will more naturally and mindfully take things in stride without having to consciously direct my responses. When experienced meditators are asked how they have benefited from their meditation practice, the most common response is this: “I feel like there is a bigger space of time between stimulus and response. I have just that much more opportunity to choose my response instead of just reacting.”


In the meantime, my meditation practice will continue with a lighthearted nod to good intentions and generous self-forgiveness for when I don't get it just right. Mindfulness is a quality that I have invited into my life, a daily intention to live my life with awareness - even when what I am aware of is the shock of a missing front tooth!


Be sure to join us at the 4th Annual New Mexico Leaders in Mindfulness Conference on Saturday, April 21.

The Conference will be held at the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque at 3701 Carlisle, NE 87110

9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Registration is only $75.



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Mindful Self-Compassion: A Guided Meditation Script

Rocks with Leaf 2

I Am My Own Beloved

Pause to take several conscious breaths, bringing yourself into this moment. Read the following slowly, quietly, gently, allowing for several pauses to stop and take the words in.

Now find yourself in this moment and gently rest your hand on your heart.

"My beloved, I adore you. Yes, I love you just as you are. Sometimes, you lose your way and forget the Truth of who you are. And that is why we are meeting here today. Yes. Do you think this is a mere chance meeting that we are connecting here today – today at this very moment? I have whispered in your ear and conspired with the Universe that you would make clear the path to arrive here now, at this very moment. Consider the thousands of other choices placed in your path and yet, here you are by divine appointment. You are here to be reminded.


You are loved. You are lovable. You are loved. Yes, you. Say it silently with me now. “I am loved. I am lovable. I am loved. I am my own beloved, I am my own beloved. I am my own beloved.”


Yes, breathe this in . . .  and breathe this out . . .  I love me. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. I am love. Where I move, love moves. Where I sit, love sits. Where I walk, love walks. Where I am, there love is, because there I am.


Alright, let me speak – briefly – lovingly, to the One Who Forgets. Let me quiet your protestations. You say you don’t deserve, that you are flawed, you act with hate towards others and even yourself. So, therefore, you are not lovable. Well, of course, you act with hate. We all do. We all act with hate when we are fearful. And we are fearful when we forget – when we forget the Truth of who we are. The Truth is we are love and we are connected with all the Universe. So, if you want to stop hating, stop forgetting who you are. It is indeed, that simple. How do you remember the Truth of who you are? Meditate. Pray. Meditate. Pray. Meditate with a smile. Simple.


Now, let us remember once more. Yes, breathe this in . . .  and breathe this out . . .  I love me. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. I am love. Where I move, love moves. Where I sit, love sits. Where I walk, love walks. Where I am, there love is, because there I am. I am my own beloved.

Yes, breathe this in . . . and breathe this out . . .

Love . . . Love . . . Love . . .


This is the Mindful Self-Compassion Guided Meditation script written for the Third Annual New Mexico Leaders in Mindfulness Conference, April 22, 2017 in Albuquerque, NM. Please share freely while giving credit to the author.


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A Woman President is Now Taken for Granted?

Flag 4th of July
A Woman President? Of Course! ...
Not So Fast!

Michele Obama's historic and riveting speech at the Democratic National Convention described her experience as a black woman in the role of First Lady - and First Mother - of the United States. We were enthralled with her eloquence, her fervent honesty and her very personal story about realizing the enormity of what she and her daughters would experience in the coming years. She described the weight of the responsibility to raise her daughters as "normally" as possible. 


With Hillary Clinton's nomination, Mrs. Obama went on to celebrate that her daughters could now "take it for granted" that a woman could be President. The fact that young women take this in stride as a given is both a victory and a caution. How wonderful that the women's movement has reached this stage of success that young women - and men - can assume that of course, a woman can hold the highest political office in the land. It is now taken for granted.


When I heard this proclamation of success, I nodded my head in agreement while also wanting to scream, "No, don't you dare take this for granted!" I flashed to all the women who came before, who marched, who were imprisoned, were abused and humiliated and pummeled into submission at the audacity of asserting women's rights.


I want to educate these young women, these millennials, to share with them the history of pain and sacrifice, and indeed, lives lost in the quest to achieve the right to vote, let alone the possibility of a woman becoming President of the United States. Never, ever take it for granted in a shrug of the shoulders or a roll of the eyes. In fact, stand and lower your gaze in respectful memory of the courageous women who sacrificed so much so that you today have the privilege of taking for granted what they could only dream of.


Mary Roush in Rocking Chair

 I find myself now at the age where I can occasionally turn from the knee of my own women elders to speak to the younger women who now - incredulously - sit at my knee seeking the same experience and wisdom. And when they look to me, I often see myself. I was you, once, I want to say. I remember who you are. I see me in you. And now, I have the advantage of my subsequent years that brought me to today. 


 I can now speak from some sense of balance. I quipped to a friend recently, "The older I get, the more I want to apologize for who I was when I was younger." And during this time, I long for my mother, to seek her guidance as I try to reconcile this new adolescence I now navigate in my 6th decade. I understand what I mean when I say, yes, take it for granted, and in the same breath, but don't you dare take it for granted. That exhortation only makes sense to someone with the perspective of many years.


I am one of the millions of women, Democrats and Republicans both, who last night wept tears of joy and somber gratitude, our chests heaving with the exhales of our exhausted ancestors who fought for - and finally won - our legitimate place in American history. May we never forget.




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Self-Esteem: What it Is, What it Isn't, and Where to Go to Get Some

Self Concept- Valentine Candy I'm Me
I recently had the pleasure of presenting three workshops at the National Conference on Student Leadership in Washington, DC. The title of one of those talks was The Psychology of Leadership Qualities. As I prepared for this talk, I realized that a good, healthy, solid self-esteem was an essential component to most of the qualities typically associated with successful leadership. I then adapted this talk and presented it during the faculty training week for Southwestern Illinois Community College in Belleville, Illinois.  

For today's post, I am sharing a simple bullet list of some of the major points that I made during those presentations. They aren't in any particular order. I look forward to hearing what you think.

  • Low self-esteem is at the core of the proverbial peeled onion. Regardless of the stated presenting problem of all the clients who ever came through my therapy office door, when you peeled the onion and said, “and what would that mean? and what would that mean?” fears and insecurities related to low self-esteem were the true core issues 99% of the time.


  • The fear, self-doubt, insecurities, negative beliefs, need for social approval and fear of conflict that stem from low self-esteem will result in self-sabotage. You will manage to push good people away and delay decision making. You will become risk averse to the point of paralysis and stagnation. It will blunt your imagination, creativity, and therefore, your innovation. The good news is that you won’t have the challenges of managing change in your organization because your paralysis will cause you to fear and avoid making changes.

Challenge Hikers Up Hill Expansive Backdrop

  • You will give away your power.  You will compromise your standards in order to ensure approval from others (this is the very definition of codependency). Weeks and months and years of doing this will stockpile your anger, which, when left unrecognized and un-addressed, will morph into resentment which will turn into bitterness, which will become cynicism. Then you will become the mean old man on the block who yells at the kids and throws rocks at the birds. “Beware the wrath of the patient man.” Eventually, you will become physically ill. Self-esteem. Get some. Now.


 Self-Esteem: What it Isn't

Before we go any further, let’s stop and define our terms. What is self-esteem? It is not your self-concept. Self-concept is your concept of yourself, who you believe you are, how you would describe yourself to someone – your values, your attitudes and beliefs, and your personality traits. That’s your self-concept. You wouldn’t have a “high self-concept” or a “low self-concept.” You might have an accurate or inaccurate self-concept. Your self-esteem is how you feel about who you are. Self-esteem could be high or low.


Self-Esteem: What it Is

  • For our purposes, self-esteem refers to a healthy and balanced positive regard toward yourself. It is a belief that you are a good person with a good heart. You have gifts to share with the world, with a unique purpose and contribution to share. You are not perfect. There are things about you that you still want to improve on. You deserve to be here on the planet and you are special in the same way that everyone is special.

Children Best Girlfriends

  • Where does our self-esteem come from? As children, we are very dependent upon our parents for information about our worth. Parents, primary caregivers, teachers and other adult authority figures have a tremendous amount of power in programming our self-esteem. We innocently download messages from them about who we are and about our worth as human beings. Pretty soon, during our grade school years, we take in messages from our culture (TV is a big influence) and our peers. You compare yourself to your culture’s norms for physical attractiveness, success, intelligence, financial prowess, and approval from others.


Self-Esteem: Where to Go to Get Some

  • Ideally, in your late teens and early twenties, you will shift the source of your self-esteem from external sources to internal sources. You will reject all those external superficial measures of self-worth and you will make a choice – a deep, thoughtful, philosophical, even psycho-spiritual choice. It will be a decision to have a healthy sense of self-esteem - not because you deserve it, or because you have earned  it. It will be based on a philosophically derived personal belief that you deserve innate self-esteem simply because you are a human being. And you will extend that generosity of spirit to others. It won’t be Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky. You will still recognize hate and evil in the world, perhaps even in yourself. But you will put them within the perspective of a larger understanding about life and why people are the way they are. And your over-arching attitude about life and about people in general will tilt toward the positive. This is called maturity and it is the first step toward adulthood and eventual wisdom. Better yet, just start menopause now.

“You do not have to be a victim of your autobiography.”


  • A great way to teach children to have low self-esteem is to not give them any consequences for bad behavior. This accomplishes four things: it teaches them to lose respect for you, to feel insecure in a world where their grown-up is weak, to have to escalate their behavior in order to find a safe boundary from you, and to feel guilty and bad about themselves. They know the difference between right and wrong. When you don’t insist on right behavior from them, this sends the message that you don’t care and that they are not worth the effort. If you are this permissive parent, start the trust fund now for your child's therapy when they hit their teens.


Joy Word in Stone

There is a big difference between “feeling good about yourself” and believing in your core self-worth. Feelings are transient. They come and go hundreds of times in a day. Feelings are a dime a dozen. If you want to change your feeling, change your thought. Here’s a thought: “You just won a million dollars.” How do you feel? Elated, thrilled, relieved, happy. OK. Here’s another thought, “Hey, man, they’re towing your car outside.” How do you feel now? Angry, scared, confused. Here’s another thought. You are at the grocery store and you have the memory, “Oh, I need to buy some milk.” How do you feel? Nothing in particular. Here’s another thought. “Your evaluations are back and all your coworkers and supervisors love you!” How does that make you feel? Happy. I feel good about myself. So you feel good about yourself; you feel high self-esteem right now. Do you now have high self-esteem? “Sure, people love me, so I must deserve to like myself.” No. You don’t have high self-esteem just because you are feelin’ the love right now. By the way, feelings never ever get to be judged. You don't get to judge others' feelings and you don't get to judge your own. You can judge behavior if you like, but feelings are off-limits.


  • True self-esteem is actually more than a belief. It is a Knowing. It is a deep, unshakable Knowing that is not affected by transient moods or feelings of self-doubt or even transient feelings of self-satisfaction. It is one of your most valued possessions. You must protect it as fiercely as the mother bear would rear up and protect her little cubs. Animals Polar BearJohn Bradshaw used to lead his audiences in this group recitation, “You mess with my self-worth, and you answer to me!” I will not hand over my self-esteem on a velvet pillow to anyone. You cannot have it. You cannot take it away from me. You cannot cause me to doubt my core value as a human being. I will not give you that power.


  • Self-esteem is not the same as narcissism. In fact, it is the opposite. The person with the “superiority complex” is actually masking an “inferiority complex.” True deep, solid and healthy self-esteem does not require self-promotion. The self-promoter is telegraphing his low self-worth. Now, self-promotion is not the same thing as the person who is comfortable with their healthy self-worth. They can graciously receive a compliment with a warm “thank you” while maintaining eye contact and saying, “Thank you. That is very kind of you to say.” Can you do that? People are afraid to like themselves or they are afraid to let others know that they like themselves. They are afraid that they will be conceited or “have a big head” or that others will at least think that they do. I give you permission to like yourself today.


  • You can have wonderful self-esteem and still have humility. Humility is not about being a door mat or about being totally self-critical. Humility, for the high self-esteem person expresses itself as gratitude – gratitude for one’s blessings while also compassionately co-existing with areas that still need improvement. This whole discussion requires an ability to find and be comfortable somewhere between the extremes of self-hate on one end and conceitedness on the other end. Our American majority culture is so dualistic in how we perceive the world. We think in either/ors and all or nothings, black or white. This way of thinking is stunted at the cognitive development stage of about a six year-old. Navigating the numbers 2 – 9 is the challenge of adulthood and a sign of maturity.


  • How about your handshake? What does it say about your self-esteem? Is it a wimpy wet rag handshake that says, “Hi, I don’t deserve to be on the planet … and you probably shouldn’t hire me.” Or is it an overly tight grip that attempts to be a power play to intimidate others? This handshake says, “Hi, I am actually very insecure, but I am trying to over-compensate for that by being overbearing … and you probably shouldn’t hire me.” Or, do you use a full handed clasp that is simply firm and solid? This handshake says, “I am comfortable and confident; you can trust me with your company and … it would be wise for you to hire me.” News Alert: The current standard in American business culture is for both men and women to shake hands with both men and women using a firm, strong handshake.


  • “When you try to make an impression, that is the impression you make.” Be a person of attraction, not promotion. (One of the AA Twelve Traditions). Tell the story of Aesop’s Fables’ Mr. Wind and Mr. Sun and their competition to remove the cloak from the man walking along the road below. When Mr. Wind blew and blew, the man just held his cloak tighter. When Mr. Sun simply shone brightly, the warmth caused the man to willingly take off his cloak.

Driver Cheauffer

  • Are you “driven” to succeed? Or, do you “have drive?” There is a big difference. They look like the same behaviors, but the underlying motivation is very different. If you are “driven” to succeed, perhaps this is a compulsion, an addiction - to succeed; you are pushed from behind by a fear of inadequacy. The person who simply “has drive” is making the choice to achieve and accomplish because it is satisfying and fun. Think about it. If you are “driven,” who is in the driver’s seat?


  • The middle path between low self-worth and narcissism. Passivity on one end and aggression on the other end. Ex. El Paso Times reporter’s interest about my Assertiveness Workshop for women at the minimum security prison in Las Cruces. The reporter thought it was so strange that these women would need to learn assertiveness. He was confusing assertiveness with aggression – a common mis-understanding.


Man Tearing Hair Out

  • Anger and fear are two sides of the same coin. Explain. How many of you grew up in a home where the grown-ups modeled the healthy expression and resolution of anger? Anyone? Most of us have a very warped relationship with anger. We tend to over-express it or under-express it. “Anger is our protest over that which cannot be changed.” From The Courage to Heal . Most of the time, when you are feeling angry, this is just a defense mechanism against feeling either fear or emotional pain. The next time you get angry, ask yourself, “Hmm, what might be the fear or emotional pain about this situation that is under my anger?”

Ocean Evening

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Do You Suffer from pTSD? "pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder"

 Do You Suffer from pTSD? There is a new diagnostic category called pre Traumatic Stress Disorder. It refers to the experience of anxiety caused by events that are imagined and have not yet happened. This disorder is characterized by intrusive catastrophic thoughts of the world coming to an end and the persistent belief that your entire self-worth depends on your stellar performance in everything that you do. Most notable are the Inner Critic voices running amok in your head, screaming negative thoughts of failure, doom, and disaster.

Physical symptoms include increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tightness in the chest, stiff neck and shoulders, and shallow breathing. Because it is true that thoughts are chemicals, these thoughts produce a gush of cortisol inside your body which contributes to inflammation (read that premature aging) and depressed immune function. Physical sickness, accident proneness, irritability, depression, and strained relationships are not far behind.

Get a grip on your thoughts. Get back into today, where you belong. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, whatever the present moment is. – good, bad or indifferent.


Note: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a spoof diagnosis. It is intended to bring awareness to the futility and stress caused by worrying about what we don't have control over in the future. It in no way is meant to minimize the very real challenges of living with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Make this easy for yourself! Let me come to you!

It's FREE!

When you become a Subscriber, you will get an e-mail from me when I occasionally publish a new post. The link will bring you right back here with one click. Just fill in your e-mail address over there >>> on the right side bar where it says, "Subscribe."