Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, parenting, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Want Peace? Stop Defending Yourself and Let Go

How silence, not explanation, was the answer to all my relationship nonsense

Originally published on Medium.

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@cooljonez @ Unsplash

I got a private message today from the father of a friend of my almost full grown daughter. After a brief “Hello, how are you?” he launched into a full blown expose about the potential reasons my kid wasn’t returning her daughter’s texts and emails. The deductions he came up with for my kid’s silence were quite impressive. If it were a soap opera script, the dialogue could have won an Emmy.

The old Andrea would have freaked out about this person’s discomfort. After all, that Andrea’s only happiness rested on someone’s opinion about me. If someone was happy with me, I was happy. If someone was upset, it was my job… my duty… to make it right so they could feel better. And, better put, so I could feel better. Today my response to such insanity is super simple: silence.

Strong Silence vs. Punishing Silence

I’m not a fan of giving someone the quiet treatment just to be cruel. That kind of act is manipulation at its finest and not kind.

But when someone sets me up for a game I can’t possibly win, I am a fan of the quiet that says what words cannot ever express: “I am not playing this game.”

In a perfect world, having dodged their emotional overhand, the ball ricochets back from the wall and hits them upside the head, forcing them to bellow, “Ouch! That hurt!” followed by a quick, “Golly, gee, maybe I should look at my asinine behavior!”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world full of people who put their soul over their ego and give people the benefit of the doubt. We live in a very real world full of very real, hurting, dysfunctional people… people who are not willing to take the time to heal from their past hurts. And that’s a problem.

If we don’t heal our wounds from the past we will bleed all over people who never cut us.

I should know. I used to be that person. It was much easier (and low brow) to blame and shame others than it was to stop, look my actions squarely in the eye, and change. But, as they say in many a 12-step programs, “Grow or Die.” Me? I didn’t want to physically die. The only death I wanted was death of my old behavior to become a better Andrea. So I took the ball in the face a few times.

Okay, a few thousand times.

But I don’t regret a thing.

The Gift of Pain

Pain is no fun. It would be so much easier to drink, drug or deflect. This kind of emotional escape is akin to a ball hitting a catcher’s mask. The catcher might get klunked on occasion. They might get shook up. But it doesn’t hurt them. They don’t truly change from the experience. They just take off their mask and go home.

But what if the mask wasn’t there? What if, without thinking of the consequences, the masked man, “Protection be gone! I’d rather chew gum and look at my phone?” Then what?

We all know the answer. They’d get socked in the face. Hard. That would suuuuck. It would require potential surgery and loads of therapy and recovery, but eventually, if they were lucky, they would not go blind from the injury. They would heal and they wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Now I’m no masochist, but sometimes we need a little hurt as a wake up call to ask the right questions and transform. I know I did, especially when it came to raising kids, marriage and friendship. After at first not even being aware of my transgressions, I eventually caught on and started asking myself, “Hey, is my behavior helping or hurting a relationship?”

When I learned to ask the right questions my life shifted. The fact finding process of truly seeing my part was not unlike being hit in the face by a ball. Except for one difference: I wasn’t alone. I had begun to bring God into the batting cage with me. I had someone reminding me when to duck, when to dodge and when to sit still.

“But what about other people’s part?” you might ask. The answer, with all due respect, none of our business. If we want peace we must stay in our own lane. (Or batting cage as this analogy calls for.) I didn’t get sober five years ago to take the bait from people anymore.

I’ve done the hard work to figure out what my defects are. If someone else doesn’t want to grow, and would rather concoct a story and project their insecurities on me, that’s on them. But I’m not losing sleep over the drama any longer.

Here are just a few tips I’ve learned when it comes to engaging with drama queens and stop defending myself.

5 Ways to Stop Defending Yourself and Be Free of Insanity

  1. Nature of the Friendship: I have learned to ask myself, “Is this person a friend or an acquaintance?” If they are just an acquaintance, I don’t explain. I don’t engage. I stay silent. If they are a true friend who maybe crossed a line, I either let it go or, if it’s really really bugging me, I will make an appointment to talk to them. But… and this is a big “but”, if I can’t talk to them without being mad, I wait.
  2. No Texts: I don’t engage in long, spirited texts anymore. It’s too easy to have my words misunderstood. I, too, can’t always read the emotional nuances behind other’s words. It’s a set-up for more anger and hurt.
  3. Detach With Love: When I remember that people who cause drama are often just hurt people, I’m able to disengage with love instead of anger. I can pray for them because they, like me, are sometimes spiritually sick.
  4. Forgive: This has been, and still proves to be, the hardest act for me. But it’s a fact that everyone makes mistakes. If I want to be forgiven for my past mistakes, I must remember that one wave does not define the whole ocean. I can forgive someone for dumping on me and let go.
  5. Let Go: When I remember I’m not King of the Universe, I can let stuff go. When I think everything has to go my way, and people need to behave in a certain way for me to function, I am miserable.
  6. Trust God: When I trust God, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, says or writes. I can stay calm. On the flipside, if I have forgotten to meditate or pray that day, I take everything personally.

God’s Doesn’t Explain Himself (or Herself) so Why Should I?

The truth is that I’m here to God’s work, not explain myself. The quicker I get out of someone else’s way, the quicker they can potentially look at their behavior and have a spiritual awakening also. (It’s been my experience that 99 times out of 100 they ain’t gonna be lookin’ to change themselves. But I changed, and that’s good enough.)

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Denise Jones @cooljonez @ Unsplash

When people get crazy on me, I remember that I owe them nothing. Happiness is an inside job.

I love the picture above, because the street is not lined with defensive statements. It’s not littered with “If only you would stop talking” notices. It’s just quiet… a path leading toward some new and exciting destination.

If you’re ready to go some place new, far away from the old mindset that tells you to fight insane people, places and things, I encourage you to keep your ego in check and let go. I encourage you, when tempted to retaliate, to sit in silence and ask God what he would have you do.

These days life is simpler and peace flows where negativity and hurt used to live. And while I don’t live in Serenityville all the time, I’m happy to say it’s a solid summer home for me. As long as I keep trusting God I’ll be there year round soon enough.

And, with practice, you can be, too.

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

education, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, writing

Each of Us Has Absolute Value

And other lessons from teaching special ed math

Posted originally on Medium

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Lina Trochez@lmtrochezz @ Unsplash

Every day I fire up the computer and teach Special Ed math for one of the largest school districts in the country. And while my end game is to coach women to write books full time, this waiting period in my life is a wonderful reminder to remember my daily mantra:

Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” I always ask “What is this trying to teach me?” Then God gives me a download I never would have come up with on my own.

Today was no exception. My first class of the day consisted of 10 sixth graders. These kids are in my room because they struggle with things as basic as two digit multiplication and single division. When I first began teaching in August, I had very high hopes for this online class. I’d spend my days encouraging them to memorize their times tables.

When that wasn’t happening, I encouraged them to use their online multiplication charts to get an answer.

When that wasn’t happening, I started reminding them to “Give me a thumbs up!” to at least know they were paying attention.

When that wasn’t happening I began calling their names, one by one, asking them to unmute and shout out the answers.

Yay! That worked!

Kidding.

Crickets.

Desperate, I asked them to use the Chat feature to type out their answers.

Chat was a big success! Well, for them, not me. Instead of using it to go over math, they used it as a social forum. “Hiyo!” “Hi!” “Hola!” “Wasss up, homie?” and the occasional, “Who likes to play Among Us?” flooded the screen. I quickly learned how to work the Zoom security feature. “Chat Disable?” Check!

It’s not a shock that discontent settled in by Month 2. Thoughts of “Why bother?” were the norm, and while I’d attempt to combat it with my positive self-talk “You’re getting paid well, Lady” I often ended my day with one very conflicted jumbo thought: “You’re getting tax payers dollars to re-enact the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Is this what you’ve become?”

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Taken from this site. That was me, but with longer hair.

But, thanks to a few solid years of a strong Morning Practice, my mind very quickly shifted to a more productive question. To quote a woman from my 12-step program, that question was no other than, “What would God have me do?”

That’s a pretty powerful question, because sometimes we enter hard seasons. But it’s really the only one to ask if we want to stay grounded and serene, despite some rough wind in our sails.

If we look for life to reward us like a slot machine, we’re going to be sorely disappointed at our empty pockets. But if God is the ultimate wealth, then we can shift our attention to the real riches that await us if we are willing to do His will.

I’m lucky enough, after years of wandering around aimlessly with a talent for writing and people skills, but not a plan, to know what my ultimate purpose is: It’s to be of maximum service to God and others.

This doesn’t mean I want to be part of some rigid religious system or personal self-denial routine where I self-will my way into being a saint. (I get grouchy and eat far too many quiches for the austere deprivation lifestyle.) But it does mean that I can have all the creativity in the world, but if I’m not aligning my purpose and daily plans with my Higher Power’s, I’m like a bull in china shop, causing damage wherever I roam. And no one gets more damaged from being untethered than me. I need guidelines to feel centered. My boisterous aunt used to refer to her engineer husband as “The string on her high flying balloon” and so it is with my spiritual practice.

The real secret for me in becoming grounded, then, is quite counter-intuitive: To find serenity, I often must do the opposite of what I, as Andrea, wants to do to be happy. (Example: No sleeping in ’til 10 each day, spending my entire savings on a house remodel and drinking enough caffeine to jumpstart a Porsche.) Instead, it’s about doing more of what I believe God would have me do to make others happy.

When I keep my mind on service, instead of self, it’s shocking how peaceful my life goes. And, in doing so, I end up happy! Who knew?

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John Schnobrich@johnschno @ Unsplash

Everyone Has Absolute Value… and Other Life Lessons Stuffed into Math

Today, after my Morning Practice, I was still feeling rather tired from the past two months of madness. I threw in an extra prayer, “God, please, help me get out of the way so I can do your bidding.”

When I surrender my self-will run riot, I find God’s purpose for me in a most unexpected, but typical of my cheeky Higher Power, way. Today was no exception.

I was showing the kids the difference between negative six and positive six on a number line.

“It’s all about the steps back to zero!” I said. “No matter what direction you head, the absolute value is the same. And, here’s a fun fact, absolute value can never be negative!”

That went over like a Trump speech at a Democrat rally. Without even thinking — which I instinctively knew was my Higher Power talking through me — I continued, “It’s like you as people. You are all so important. Think of ‘Zero’ like your Higher Power, or your mom, or some amazing person who loves you unconditionally. It’s natural to want to take steps closer to it. And, like the numbers on the number line, it doesn’t matter if you have ‘negative’ qualities. You are loved so much. You are precious. You have absolute value.

Seconds later a beautiful brown eyed tween turned on her camera and just looked at me, eyes sunk in… tired. I looked right at her and smiled big.

“You know, Devi, you have absolute value. Are you aware of that?”

Her voice cracked a bit. “Yes,” she muttered. I could tell she meant, “WTF, who are you kidding, Ms. Frizzle?”

But her eyes stayed locked on mine. And I told her how glad I was she was in my class, even if was over the internet. I told her how I couldn’t wait to see her in person when school opened. I told her I’d hug her if I could, but I can’t (and don’t want to be fired for being a perv) so I’d just high five her from 10 feet away. Behind plexi-glass.

I think she got it. Who knows? She exited class early and I didn’t see her the next day.

So here’s the deal, readers: I’m not trying to get a pat on the back here. In moving on with her daily routine, it’s possible she forgot all about being loved unconditionally. But I like to think that she held on to it for the day, the way a smell of a birthday candle and people’s laughter lingers in the room long after the candles are blown out.

And even if she doesn’t remember her value, by telling her she had it, I will remember mine. And for a rough couple months, that’s a pretty good place to start again.

Until next time,

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

faith, God, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality

10 Reasons a Spiritual Solution is Better Than Zoloft

Confessions from an ex pill popper

Originally published on Medium.

For years before I got sober, I was on a variety of anti-depressants for all of my outside issues. My marriage was in the toilet. My son had a condition I couldn’t cure. I was struggling with balancing my writing with my domestic responsibilities and frankly, I was just having a hard time transitioning from my childhood to the intense demands of adulting.

Zoloft calmed me down. After all, my issues were in my tissues, and I hit the genetic lottery in many ways. My family on both sides were kind, loving, funny and smart people. Many of them also struggled with mental health.

If my relatives came with a Tarot card reading, you’d say I came from a line of Bi-polar with Neurosis and Addiction Rising.

I don’t blame my parents for my emotional disposition. They loved me well and gave me an amazing childhood complete with private education, art lessons and lots of time in a beautiful home to work on my writing. In fact, one of my main regrets for a long time was that I was not able to give my own kids the life I had growing up. I felt I had somehow failed because we weren’t celebrating at Jerry’s Deli once/week with Corn Beef sandwiches and black and white cookies. Life wasn’t a constant loop of performing arts and vacations back east or cruises. I wasn’t able to take my daughter to the mall every time she needed a new pair of shorts. Thrift stores became our go-to and “making due” was our motto.

Yet despite my longings to give them more (and some occasional bouts of anger) my kids had a great life.

Looking back over my mothering now, I see that it wasn’t the inability to financially provide for my kids that I regret most. It was not having the tools to navigate the pressures that come with parenting. Enter Zoloft.

freestocks@freestocks @ Unsplash

Zoloft took the edge off of a very confusing time of my life and allowed my very spinning and creative brain to CALM. DOWN.

It allowed me to focus just a bit more and, like a grace note in a sheet of music, provided just enough pause for me to think rationally about how I wanted to handle my failing marriage and special needs parenting.

But here’s the problem:

Zoloft itself didn’t fix my situation. Only a spiritual solution did. It’s been five years now since I’ve been off the psyche meds and, while life hasn’t been perfect, I have never looked back.

Benjamin Voros@vorosbenisopUnsplash

NOTE: Before anyone reaches through the internet and wants to throttle for me for saying that pills aren’t a reasonable way to cure depression and anxiety, you can hold off. I am not a doctor. I am simply telling you what worked for me. Take what you like and leave the rest.

10 Items from my My Spiritual Tool Kit

Here are ten nuggets of wisdom that have transformed my life. I use them still every single day and, while life isn’t always easy (especially the last two months) I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God of my understanding is with me. I don’t need to dull the pain anymore with alcohol or Zoloft. I simply need to practice some very simple principals, face what isn’t working, and give it God. These simple steps have transformed my life, and they can transform yours (whether or not you choose to be on medication or not!)

12Gabrielle Henderson@gabriellefaithhendersonUnsplash
  1. Gratitude: Every day I write a list of five things I’m grateful for. Staying grateful even in troubling times does not take the difficulties away, but it makes them bearable. I have done them so consistently, in fact, that now my mind automatically goes to grateful even when I’m less than enthusiastic about my Monday morning routine. Ex: Grateful for a working computer! A cup of hot tea on a desk my husband made me! My beautiful brick wall pictures of my kids smiling down at me! Netflix playing a cozy cafe’ scene in the background! My ridiculous camel lamp lighting up my office, reminding me to ‘Get over the humps with God’! Yup, gratitude lists have re-set my negative thinking to positive thinking and it’s made all the difference.
  2. 12-Step Programs: I go to 4 12-step programs a week. I have a sponsee. I take calls daily. I reach out to others who are struggling. I would say I spend, on average, 10 hours/week dedicated to this practice. And while, yes, that’s a lot of time, I also used to spend a lot of time being depressed, anxious and out of control with my emotions. Being an active member of 12 step groups allows me to be connected to a community. To not feel alone. And most importantly, to be reminded that God, not me, is in charge. This reliance on a power greater than myself has kept me out of my head and into action where the solution lives. This leads me to my next point:
  3. Service: In helping others every day, I get out of self. Unlike in my past where I’d help to subconsciously be liked, or to feel worthy, I now do it because it’s what I feel God would have me do to help others heal as I was able to do. I get to pay back what another so kindly paid forward to me. (Thank you, Violet!) Seeing someone else transform their mindset or simply get temporary comfort is a mental boost I never got from Zoloft.
  4. Music: I’m not going to lie. I play Christmas jazz all year long. The sounds of the bells and the happy voices put me in a cozy mood that transcends any negativity in the world. It also sets a joyful tone in my home. Sure, my teenagers roll their eyes when I lip sync “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with my wooden spoon microphone, complete with 50-year-old bootie shakes #okBoomer, but I know they are grateful for my present day levity instead of the past heaviness. I also know for a fact that God has wired me to be happy, joyous and free, but it’s so easy for me to forget with the myriad of tasks on my to-do list. Music is my soul’s gentle reminder that it’s okay to feel happy even when I’d rather get back under the covers and sleep.
  5. No Coffee: I know! I know! This one is crazy. But in giving up caffeine I’ve found I have more patience for my family, friends and co-workers. Every time I think “Man, I could use a cup of Joe” I automatically picture myself pouring out this bad breath juice, saying, “God, I’m emptying my self-will. Fill me with your spirit today.” And I swear, it works. (Though I won’t lie. I miss the taste like crazy. And no, I won’t do decaf. Too many chemicals. Like alcohol, coffee’s treat had become my prison with last minute bathroom trips and an overly stimulated nervous system. Like Marie Kondo, I thanked it for it’s service and ushered a host of delicious teas into my kitchen instead.)
  6. My Will Vs. God’s Will: My default mode is “Control Freak.” In remembering each day, and sometimes on a minute by minute basis, that God is in charge, I have so much more peace. It also helps me make better decisions. When I’m in God’s will, there is serenity. When I’m in my will, I often find myself hurting the people around me in a mad attempt to be right or get my way. I find myself clinging to ridiculous beliefs like, “If only my kid would fold the towels exactly this way I’d feel better about the linen closet and I wouldn’t be angry.” Um, how about instead I look at what is going right instead of what is going wrong? I have a kid who is home, during Covid, folding 1970’s towels. I’m pretty sure the only thing “wrong” in choosing my will instead of God’s is that I make towels and rigidity more important than the loving, easy going spirit of God’s will.
  7. Inside vs. Outside Based: As an A+ Catholic student, who was far too tall to attract the popular boys and not good enough athletically to make any sports team, I found that my grades were a super big validation for me. Unfortunately, it was very outcome based. It didn’t matter if I was feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, as long as I got that “A” all was right in my world. Ummm… “my” world as opposed to “the whole big world”… a world I was ill prepared for with this thinking. My tenacity with grades might have landed me in top universities, as well as landed me as a TV writer when the competition was super fierce, but it wasn’t sustainable. I could not “study” my way into getting people to like my scripts once I was hired. I couldn’t “A+B+C” my way into getting my kids to remember to take the trash out. I couldn’t “1+ 2 = 3” my way into getting my husband to want to spend $5k on getting our house painted. Enter frustration. And yes, Zoloft took the edge off this anger. But in getting to the bottom of the anger, and surrendering to the fact that God loves me… and I don’t have to control everything to be happy… the anger faded. Takeway: When I remember that my insides are more important than the outcomes, I feel peace.
  8. Prayer: Keeping constant contact with something greater than me reminds me that I am never alone. Instead of getting into a “My Will” vs. “God’s Will” battle, I can just choose God’s way first. I can pray something as simple as “Thy will be done.” In doing so, I can surrender to whatever is happening in my life as happening on purpose for a reason. I don’t have to agree with something, but I can get into acceptance. And ah… the Land of Acceptance. It’s a destination that I can keep in my heart and soul twenty four hours a day and doesn’t cost a thing. (Note: Not being in acceptance costs plenty in terms of lack of sleep, fractured relationships and anger.)
  9. Meditation: You’ll be sick of hearing this, but meditation has quieted my brain in a profound way. If prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening. Every morning I take just 10 minutes and get still. In doing so, like in #7, I’m offering up my insides to God to take care of my outsides. It helps me be less outcome based and more present. It reminds me that rest and beauty and nurturing is just as important as my pay check. And when I slow down, I am more aware of beautiful synchronicities and signs that remind me I am on the right path.
  10. Keeping it Light: When I think I’m in charge of the universe, anger and frustration enter. When I remember that life is one giant game to grow my soul, I can laugh at misfortunes. Ex: Yesterday my car broke down. Twice. Once on the way home from my overnight stay at the beach (which was supposed to be my spiritual retreat for myself) and once at the Whole Foods parking lot with a car full of groceries and beer that this alcoholic was delivering to my 90 year old mama. I could have gotten furious, but I remembered to say, “Thy will be done” and just called a tow truck. If I had not been in fit spiritual condition I’d have been calling my husband in a spitfire rage of pissiness, inwardly cursing him for not showing up quickly enough. I’d have stayed in my victim story. Instead, I simply walked back in Whole Foods, asked for a cup of hot water, and drank some herbal Chai while waiting for the driver who, miraculously, appeared within 20 minutes. This brings me right back to #1: Gratitude.

When I Surrendered My Outsides to a God of my understanding, I didn’t need Zoloft for My Insides anymore.

Arno Smit@_entreprenerd

I know many of you out there are suffering. Perhaps my reasons for suffering are different than your reasons. And I can’t pretend that doing one thing on my list, or all of them, will “cure” you right away. But I can promise you this: There is a greater being out there that loves you. And if you can take the time to tap into that being, in whatever form works for you, your burden will lighten.

You will find freedom.

And most importantly, you will find peace.

Today I wish you joy, hope and love. Whether you are on meds or not, I hope you will find time to get outside and see the beauty of a flower. Take a strong sniff of the sea. If your house is a mess, stop focusing on the dishes in the sink and find one small corner of your home where you can sip some tea and get into gratitude for what is working instead of what isn’t.

There is always something to be grateful for.

There is always something to hope for.

I pray that in a world that can often feel dark and despairing, that, as my 12-Step Program promises, you ask God to “Grant you the serenity to accept what you cannot cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In doing so, with the God of your understanding residing within you, your outsides might not change over night, but inside you will transform to the radiant person you were meant to be all along. And your life will never be the same.

Why not start today?

Until tomorrow,

Andrea

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality

What is Your Motivation? When You Know You’ll Stop Blowing Out Other’s Light and Shine Your Own

Prateek Gautam@pgauti @ Unsplash

I didn’t set out to revamp Happily Ticked Off as a blog about trusting God, trusting signs, and asking the right questions. But as I say in almost every post, life began for me this very week when I started asking a profound but simple question:

Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” I began to start asking “What is this trying to teach me?”

In asking this question my very self started to unravel. Because in seeing the truth behind the crazy events of the past 60 days I saw that God wasn’t sending me heartache and change to make me uncomfortable. He was making me uncomfortable to shake me awake. And here’s what I realized:

  • I am controlling
  • I play the victim so I don’t have to have accountability
  • Deep down — despite all my outside achievements — I don’t feel worthy in my own life

I hate to put all this on record for everyone to see. After all, on the outside I’m a six foot, fairly attractive fifty year old.

I’ve got a good job, I write on the side, I have a nice husband and two kids that, so far, have not over-sexed, over-drugged or stolen beer from our local A.M./P.M..

But the truth is, I have parented, friended, daughter-ed and wife-d from a place of brokenness. I have not trusted God, as much as I say I do, that who I am — as Andrea — is enough.

In not trusting God, I’ve attempted to manage people, places and things around me (outside issues) to fill the hole on the inside (inside issues.)

I thought that in giving up alcohol five years ago I had surrendered my will power, and while I had let go of much of my control, I hadn’t given up all of it. How do I know? Because the people around me are miserable. This morning was no exception.

My Wake Up Call

Khadeeja Yasser@k_yasser @ Unsplash

I woke up late today. I was able to meditate with my husband and do a quick spiritual reading with him, but I was rushing to get my morning pages done. And yes, I did do them, but the whole time I had an agenda going. “How will I get the blog post in, school work done and get a few things cleaned up before the cleaning service comes over?”

#1: I realize how lucky I am to have a cleaning crew come twice a month. It’s a luxury I have only recently been able to enjoy. The problem, of course, is not that my house was such a mess before. (It was.) The problem was that I was not trusting God that I could get my blog done (my purpose) and let the cleaning crew deal with the little tidbits I’d rather them not see. (The overflowing trash/the excess Halloween decorations/the fur on the couch which can only point to the furry member of the family who is really in charge round these parts.)

Exhibit #1’s theme? Fear of judgement (What does this point to? “I’m Not Enough”)

I rushed through my shower, threw the dishes in the dishwasher and made my way to the garage to start a load of laundry. In my head I was thinking, “Why aren’t the kids doing these dishes?”… “Why didn’t I print the household contract and stick it on the fridge like I said I would?”… “God, I’m setting the worst example!”

Looking out the kitchen window didn’t help my mood. “Could there be more dog crap in the yard?”

Exhibit #2 — Negative thinking, Overthinking & Too Hard on Myself (What does this point to? “I’m Not Enough.”)

On the way back from the garage I looked through the window and noticed my sweet older daughter was still in bed. She is supposed to be up daily at 8.

The conversation basically went like this:

External Me: “Hey, you’re not awake!”

Internal/Sane Me: “Walk away, Andrea. You’re cranky. This won’t go well.”

External/Insane Me: “I guess that means no electronics for 3 days.”

Her: (Groggy) “What do you mean? I’m awake! I’m just checking my texts like you asked me to.”

Internal/Sane Me: “She’s really trying. It’s been a hard season. Love over judgment is always best.”

External/Insane Me: “You’re pissing your life away!”

Her: “Wow. Ouch. That hurts, Mom.”

Internal/Sane Me: “She’s right. That kind of really sucked. Why would you say that?”

External/Sane Me: “Save it for your therapist.”

Then I walked away. Furious.

Exhibit #3: I’m unhappy with my own progress so instead of coming to my child with love, I come with anger, insinuating that she is not enough. (Where does this come from? Oh, right… “I’M NOT ENOUGH.”)

I felt like crap for obvious reasons and went to talk to her 30 minutes later. Her head was low. She hadn’t moved from bed. After a few back and forths, she basically told me, “Mom, sometimes my self-esteem is low because I can’t do anything right. I feel like you’re going to get mad. And it just doesn’t feel good.”

Oh, God. That felt like a knife in my heart. This precious child is someone I adore more than life itself. We used to be so close. But based on some things going on in her life, we just aren’t right now. And while I don’t take 100% responsibility for her emotions (I’m not that powerful) I knew, in my gut, I had done some damage. And, well, that didn’t feel good.

I asked for a hug on the way out. Her response? “No.” And who can blame her?

I went upstairs and did what I’ve done every day this week. I called my sponsor, and thank God I did, because what she said forever changed the trajectory of my thinking.

Violet: “Instead of seeing this as a moment of despair, Andrea, why don’t you use it as an opportunity to forgive yourself?” she asked.

“I don’t know if I can,” I said. By now I was really freaking out, because in addition to cleaners coming by in 20 minutes I had to teach class. (Negative Thinking Self: “You fucked up your kids. Why bother anymore?”)

Exhibit #4 — Regret and remorse instead of self-forgiveness (What does this point to? “I’m not worthy.”)

My sponsor gently reminded me that I’m asking the wrong questions. “Who is in charge?” she said.

Me: (half-heartedly) “God.”

Her: “Is it possible that God is using this opportunity for you to finally wake up and see that you are parenting through a lense of fear and control instead of love?”

Me: (Big sigh) “Yes.”

Her: “And does God make mistakes?”

Me: “No.”

Her: “Then you get to start over. You get to remember, once more, that you are worthy. That you get to love yourself for being human.”

Me: “What if my daughter doesn’t forgive me?” I asked.

Her: “Whether she forgives you or not is none of your business. She has her own God, and you aren’t it.”

She went on to say, “The issue is not that your child sleeps in. The issue is that you are ‘Outcome based’ and when it doesn’t go your way, you get angry. What if you didn’t approach either of your kids unless you were free of expectations and could approach them with love?”

“But what about consequences?” I balked.

“Consequences are fine if they are done from a place of love. Unfortunately, your child sees you giving them from a place of anger and shame. And that never feels good. And it’s not allowing God to operate when you’re in control.”

Ugggg.

Who We Are, Not What We Do, Is God’s Agenda. Do You Believe That?

Jamez Picard@truemedia @ Unsplash

That last statement hit me like a ton of bricks. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had been playing God in both my children’s lives — but not the loving God of my understanding today. I was playing out some BC Old Testament God who was quick to anger and smiting.

Yes, I did a lot of wonderful things for them when they were growing up, but I also felt extremely guilty for things I couldn’t provide for them. In the end, they didn’t need the stuff.

What my kids wanted growing up… what they still need as teens… is for me to show up as an example of a balanced, loving woman who knows who she is in God’s eyes. That is it.

I thanked my sponsor, got off the phone, and headed downstairs. In the three minutes I had before class I found my daughter and read her a text I’d written her. It basically went like this:

Hey, Mickey. I want you to know that I’m sorry for this morning. I was mad at myself and I took it out on you. And while I’ve made mistakes over and over in my past, I am realizing now that this came from a place of unworthiness on my part. I don’t expect you to forgive me — and I’ll likely still make mistakes- but the mom I want to be is loving, kind and understanding. I know you’re going through a lot, and I want to be a safe place for you. I love you.

She looked me, and- although I was willing to surrender the outcome to God no matter what her response was — she said, “Mom, I love you. You are very special to me. I don’t always love what you do, but I love you. So much.”

And then she hugged me.

And inside, despite feeling like once again I crapped on the person I love most in the world, I felt a feeling of hope.

My soul acknowledged, for the first time, that I didn’t have to earn God’s love. Just being me was enough.

From that place of love, I will start a new journey with my beautiful daughter — one with less criticism and expectation.

And so, friends, I leave you with the two questions I will be asking myself as I continue down this parenting road and don’t know how to respond to a situation:

  1. Am I angry and controlling? (That’s self-will… I will walk away)
  2. Am I coming from a place of love and compassion? (That’s God’s will… I will stay and connect.)

I am going to finish up this post by saying that sometimes life is super brutal. But if we’re willing to ask the right questions, we can transform everything and begin to shift. For me, today, I am grateful that God added some spiritual dynamite to my soul.

I was blasted with the truth — truth that I don’t always believe — that I am worthy.

I love my kids more than life.

God loves me more than life.

And when I remember how very worthy I am — since God made me — I can drop any unrealistic expectations I have for my kids and parent them from a place of love, joy and radical compassion.

You, too, my friends, are so very worthy.

Happy weekend.

About Me

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I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, writing

An Abundant Life is Yours for the Taking – Are You Willing to Trust the Signs?

Austin Chan@austinchan @ Unsplash

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve had a lot going on. And it’s been exhausting. I am grateful to God that I keep a spiritual practice every single day which forces my monkey brain to calm down and trust that something other than me is in charge. This spiritual practice doesn’t take away life’s relentless challenges, but it certainly allows some joy to creep in, even if that joy lasts no more than the hour I spend each morning getting centered.

The Power of the Right Questions

As I often say — and it bears repeating — it’s not what happens to us that matters as much as our response to it. But how can we respond positively if we are not happy with what is happening? The answer for me always comes back to the same question.

Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” I must always ask “What is this trying to teach me?”

If I don’t ask that very simple question I will forever play a victim and deflect my issues onto the people I love most. And, well, that’s just ridiculous. And not just that — if I don’t get to the bottom of what a certain situation is trying to educate me about — there is very little doubt that I will be presented with yet another situation along the same theme that will attempt to get me to wake up and pay attention. I’d rather figure it out earlier so I can give it to God, let go, and move on with my life.

The Trap of Busyness

One of the ways I try to pretend that everything in my life is okay is to stay busy. On the surface, my brain lies to me. “You’re just trying to help people,” it tells me. “It’s just your season of life to take care of everyone,” it whispers. “What are you going to do? Not work and not eat? You can’t just sit around all day and do nothing.”

But the truth is that, on some days, this is exactly what I need to do. I need to make room for the joys of life that don’t come with a pay check… that don’t come with the rush of dopamine I get when someone says, “Thank you so much, Andrea. I couldn’t do this without you.” Um, yes they could. And it’s time I start letting them just a bit more.

The Joy of Letting Go

One of the things I’ve learned to do, thanks to my practice, is to listen to my spirit. And that spirit has been screaming to me lately to “Let go.” This has taken the form of me literally tossing out 50% of the items in my house I don’t use anymore. How many wooden spoons do I need in the kitchen? Do I really need two boxes of VHS tapes as a reminder of my kids’ childhood? (And honestly, raising teenagers is tough. Seeing a simple Elmo video can put me in tears. It was so much simpler back then!) How about a whole box of letters I wrote to my cousin when I was knee deep in my Ricky Schroder obsession? Couldn’t I just save one pin and call it a day? The answer, of course, is “Yes!” And I know this to be true because I am starting to see the signs pointing this out.

The Signs Don’t Lie

As an ex-wanna be Bible thumper, I used to think “Seeing the signs” was for people who were nuts. But the more I meditate and pray, and the more I trust my gut to “Let go” of things that don’t serve me anymore (both ideas and personal items) I make room for God to operate. I start seeing messages designed just for me — that make my soul zing like a slot machine bell — that would not have been present had they been covered up in material goods or an exhausted mind.

This morning, for example, I woke from a 12 hour sleep (courtesy of giving up all forms of caffeine) to find myself a bit groggy. Today started as yet another day of endless tasks to do, from working and food shopping to paperwork for an outside issue, one of my kid’s appointments and a meeting later in the evening.

Despite prayer and meditation, my head immediately started working on me, “What are you doing with your life, Andrea?”… “ You’re still teaching on top of your coaching business!” … “When is that musical ever gonna get done?”

Instead of listening to my head, which used to be my favorite past time, I picked up a book on my bed which had been hidden in my closet for almost 20 years. I found it during the Great Office Purge of October 2020. The title? “The Art of Doing Nothing.” It spoke about exactly what my very own spirit has been telling me to do… to rest. To remember I am a human being, not a human doer.

I smiled as flipped through some of these comforting pages and then, something told me to check out my bookshelf. There was another book along a similar theme: “Simple Abundance.”

For over 20 years I’d kept this book in a box and never looked at it. But today, as I opened the first page, I was struck with how perfect it was for me: The author writes:

“What I wanted was to write a book that would show me how to reconcile my deepest spiritual, authentic, and creative longings with often-overwhelming and conflicting commitments — to my husband and daughter, invalid mother, work at home, work in the world, siblings, friends and community. I knew I wasn’t the only woman hurtling through life as if it were an out-of body-experience. I knew I wasn’t the only woman frazzled, depressed, worn to a raveling.”

She goes on to say how she found in writing the book she found the answers she had been looking for all along: to slow down and to savor life.

This has been so true of my experience, too. That in writing my books I have found healing, and in helping others write their books I have aided in their healing, too.

I am grateful today that I took some time to slow down before the beginning of a crazy day. To read something comforting. To be reminded that I am not just the sum of my bank account or my children’s accomplishments. God created me to be of maximum service to others through my heart and through my writing. And when I forget that, I only need to pause and look for the signs in my daily life that will point me back home… to a heart that reminds me that “Simple Abundance” is indeed enough.

Until tomorrow, may you have a day full of signs and wonder that remind you that you, too, are so deeply loved. And that who you are, and who everyone around you are, is enough.

It really is.

Andrea

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

God, self improvement, writing

10 Reasons I Canceled the Time Suck That is Medium!

Well, after writing daily for almost 3 months I canceled Medium. It was not an easy decision, because I kind of thought for once I had found something that I could really excel at.

But at the end of the day, after 3 months, I made a total of $5.73.

I learned a ton. I found a great site with amazing free stock photos (Unsplash).

I learned that people do, actually, make money on that site. It’s just not going to me.

I also believe, with 100% certainty, that I could be one of those writers that makes a crap load of money off of going viral. But to go viral, there’s a lot I’d need to do. In addition to writing – a lot – I’d have to:

  • Have a mailing list
  • Have a blog with affiliate links here that tracks back to Medium
  • Have a product to sell
  • Have a kick ass web page
  • Spend a really big part of my life leaving comments for folk throughout Medium so they would then “like” me back and I could get more money from the big pot.

Honestly, that sounds like too much work. It sounds like my high school experience where no matter how much I tried, I just was never going to be the most popular girl on the block.

I am not snarky enough.

I am not pushy enough.

And, if I’m being totally honest, I’m not “Top 10 Reasons You Need to Write a Blog” bait clicky enough. And, even more importantly, if I’m going to have all those fancy bullet point items (which I plan on) it might as well be for my own updated dream website, not Medium’s.

With time off from subbing, and as I continue to write my musical (hey, I’ve stuck with that… bonus points for me!) I now have time to learn how to build that website… a site with affiliate links and a shopping cart for my books – one with a nice big “Buy” button and “Hey, check out my webpage where I can help you write books” button. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having this kind of site, but it must serve a purpose.

My purpose? I’m a story teller. My goal is to continue to get paid to help other people tell their stories while I tell mine.

I’m tired of spinning my wheels feeding the corporate writing machines.

To end on a positive note, I continue to make some decent side money writing for a few magazines and working with two memoir clients. This on top of my taking care of my family during this crisis, not to mention myself, is enough.

For those of you who have followed my many journeys to figure out where I want to write and what I want to write, I thank you. I hope that you, like me, give yourselves permission to find your dreams, make mistakes and grow along the way.

Until next time,

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Coaching and Wellness, education, self improvement, teenagers, Tics, Tourettes, Uncategorized, writing

Everything I Learned About Parenting I Learned from Tourette Syndrome (An update on Stink who is, gasp, 17!)

Stink, 17 and Pip, 15

Some of you know me from reading my book, Happily Ticked Off. Others of you found me by Googling “tics and Tourettes” and voila — here I am! Others of you might have found your way through a Tourettes forum or randomly googling “Misophonia.” Either way, I’m super stoked you are here.

Tourettes and My Son

My son was diagnosed with Tourettes when he was 4. Tourettes is a disorder that causes uncontrollable verbal and physical tics that change in nature and last up to one year. My boy’s tics never included cursing (which happens in only 10% of kids) but did include quite a deal of vocal sounds (gulps, clicks, throat clears, coughs) and physical movements (neck stretches, arm thrusts, neck rolls, eye blinks).

He’s now 17 years old, 6 foot 6, and a year and a half from heading out to college. For a long time I wrote about my adventures with this unknown disorder on my blog, HappilyTickedOff. Armonia Press even published a book about it which, to be honest, is one of the best things I’ve ever written. I didn’t get rich off of it, but every time I get a small residual check, or a tired mom from Kansas writes me to tell me that I made her laugh and cry over her pea soup or in the carpool line, I’m beyond thrilled.

Why I Ceased Writing About Tourettes

For a while my son told me to stop writing about him altogether. Like my drinking days, it was okay until it wasn’t. And so, just like I honored my kids by getting sober, I did the same thing when it came to writing about him.

I continued to write on my blog the past five years. In addition to that, I also dipped my toe into the water of education. I became a special ed aid and then a substitute teacher. But by far, my greatest teacher has been my two teenagers. And while I write quite extensively about my daughter, such as this post, but this particular article? It’s all about my son. And it was his idea, which shocked the hell out of me.

Why I Started Writing Again

“Mom, if you want to write about me and my Tourettes again, it’s totally okay,” he told me one day while I was making him an after school snack. By “snack” I mean “meal.” And by “meal” I mean four gluten free veggie tacos with a huge side of guacamole.

“Why is that?” I asked him, trying to sound cool but on the inside more thrilled than a new Grace and Frankie episode appearing on Netflix. I’ve missed talking to other moms about this often misunderstood syndrome.

“I am super happy with myself,” he told me. “I have so many friends. I’m loving my computer programming.” He went on to add, “I guess because you’re okay with me, I’m okay with it.” And that last piece, my friends, is why I’m writing this article.

I Was Not Okay with His Tourettes for a Long Time

Before you judge me, I want to be clear that I didn’t want to not be okay with his syndrome, but I struggled. Part of this is because I was not confident in myself. I worried that I would be judged. And I was worried about him and how he’d be treated. (Yes, he was bullied a bit for noises he couldn’t control.) But most of all, I had a condition I didn’t know I had called Misophonia where certain noises drove me nuts. Combined with a marriage on the rocks, and drinking more than I cared to admit (until I had to admit it) the grunts and squeaks sometimes put me over the edge.

As I mentioned in this article on Misophonia, our relationship was super strained with all the “fixes” I tried to get him to stop making vocal sounds. I tried everything from:

  • Acupuncture
  • Special diets
  • Meditation
  • Medication
  • Supplements
  • Therapy…

And on and on. He went along with the program from ages 9 to 13, but the rubber hit the road for me when I realized:

  1. He doesn’t want me to fix him.
  2. He didn’t mind his Tourettes

Just like drinking, I had to give up my need to fix him or our relationship would be doomed. So I did. Here are just a few things I implemented over the past 4 years that changed our relationship from one of strife to one of safety and calm. (And, my friends, I’m convinced this is a huge reason why he is doing so well today.)

How I Gained a Safe Relationship With My Son

  1. Questions: I ask more questions than I give commands. If I’m not sure about his grades, I ask “Why is your Chemistry at a C?” instead of demanding, “Why are you not at an A?” Lack of stress has greatly reduced his tics, too.
  2. Positivity: I keep my negativity to myself. If I’m frustrated with a writing project, or a lack of a writing project, I leave that outside before I walk in the door. In doing so, I’m not bleeding all over someone who never cut me.
  3. Listening: I stopped talking so much about myself and just asked about him. Often times I’d just sit on the couch with a book. If he came by to read with me, great. If he didn’t, that was fine, too.

By just being a still presence I was creating a safe harbor for him to just be him, tics and all.

4. Self-Improvement: In working on myself, and realizing what I needed to change (less drinking/more writing) I stopped trying to live through my son. I mean, it’s one thing to want your kid healthy for him. But I was doing it for me. And friends, that sucks.

5. Laughter: We laugh a lot. He is the worst joke teller in the world, and also hilarious. Ex: “How do you call someone who collects phone books?” Answer: “You don’t. They call you!” Stink (his nick name) and I pun like professional ping pong players. We have Scooby Doo marathons. And we trade ridiculous memes over text. Each example is super small, but it’s the little intentions that build a strong relationship over time.

6. Forgiveness: Last year, as part of my 12 step program, I made an official amends to him for asking him to change his tics. I cried. He listened. And he honestly, truly, forgave me. I also made a promise to never ask him about his tics again. Because we have gotten so close over the past four years, he believed me. And I’ve stuck to my word.

My Son Barely Tics Now

I’m writing this post to tell any of you scared mamas that not only is my son okay emotionally, he’s okay physically as well. He rarely tics these days. Some of this is because he is 17 and tics do, indeed, subside. But some of it is also because he is not stressed. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important to me than how my son feels about himself. If it means me backing off and letting him go to a Junior College instead of a 4 year university so he can navigate high school at his pace, I do that.

In the end, more important than curing Tourettes is my son’s keen awareness that his mother accepted him 100% for who he was in his soul. Everything else doesn’t matter.

No Regrets

I am proud to say that despite making mistakes raising this beautiful boy, I have no regrets. I, like everyone else on this globe, am a human being. I wasn’t raised by perfect parents. I got bullied in school by kids who were also not perfect.

Right or wrong, I placed many of my unhealed issues onto my son and raised him through a lense of fear. But I’m not doing that now.

Your Child Will Be Okay — Especially If You Are Okay

I want to tell you that I know how hard it is to get a diagnosis you were not expecting. But I also want to remind you that your child is not his or her label. He or she is their spirit. I can 100% promise you that if you nurture their spirit, far more than focusing on their disorder, everything will be just fine.

Think of Tourettes as a giant invitation to a party on life’s terms. It might not be easy, but if you allow it to be, it just might be the best adventure you’ve ever been on.

Want to Write Your Own Memoir? Contact Me!

Are you a writer who wants to write a memoir? I can coach you! Reach out at Andrea.Paventi@Gmail.com or find me at my blog www.happilytickedoff.com. You have a story and I can help you make it happen!

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, humor, self improvement, sobriety

Confessions from an Enmeshed Parent

How I broke the toxic cycle of co-dependent parenting to let my teens live their own damn lives.

(Also published on Medium.com)

Bonnie Kittle @ Unsplash

I love this picture. It brings up images of parents that are there for their child but willing to let them run free. It’s a wonderful symbol for what I strive to be for my own kids.

In my last post I spoke about how I was going to take advantage of my forced vacation from school (AKA: My Coronacation) to spend more time with my children. By “children” I mean “very tall teenagers.” And by “spend time” with them I mean “not micro-manage their every move.”

To be clear, I by no means am going to let my 4-bedroom home become a movie set for Lord of the Flies, Coronavirus 2. Nor am I sewing myself a cosplay outfit ala Captain Vontrapp either, complete with a military style schedule and a whistle. (I could never look as hot as Christopher Plummer, so why bother?)

But this wasn’t always the case. There was a time in my parenting career where I lived and breathed everything my children did. I wasn’t a helicopter parent, but I was absolutely an enmeshed one.

Mitch Lensink @ Unsplash

Definition of an Emeshed Parent

According to Psyche Central, you might be an enmeshed parent if this applies to you:

  • “Your children’s good or difficult behavior, and successful or unsuccessful achievements, define your worth.”
  • “Your children are the center of your life — your sole purpose in life.”
  • “Your entire focus is on taking care of your children, rather than also taking care of yourself.”
  • “Your happiness or pain is determined solely by your children.”
  • “You are invasive — you need to know everything about what your children think and do.”

If you asked me if I fit that description, I’d give you a hearty, “Hell, no! Just look at my house. Do their disorganized bedrooms, and their less than perfect school grades, match the traits of someone who is overly concerned with her kids?

But the more I researched it, the more I realized how wrong I was.

An enmeshed parent doesn’t apply to a child’s exterior life. It applies to their emotional ones which, to their supreme detriment, is bound up co-dependently with their parent’s feelings of well being.


My Daughter and Her Enmeshed Mother in Transition

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter is super independent. She’s smart and sassy and doesn’t take to people telling her what to do. That said, she is still only 15. She simply doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. As her mom, it’s my job to set boundaries with love.

It just so happens that yesterday, on our first day of our Coronacation, we decided to take a walk on the beach. There were no people there… lots of open space… no fears of people coughing Covid 19 over our sun screened faces. It was a perfect time to talk about something that had been on my mind for a long time: her grades, her time management skills, and a particular class next year she really wants to get in.

That last item? She doesn’t just want a spot in this prized class. It’s all she’s been talking about all year. There is an audition component to getting in and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been super anxious about her getting in myself.

Happy vs. Enmeshed in Our Kids Lives

I mean, who wouldn’t want their kid to be happy, right? But if I’m being honest, it’s more than that. I have the tendency to want her to be happy so I can be happy, and that’s never a good combination. That’s enmeshment.

I’m really careful about these days about this toxic parenting. But I wasn’t always. The old Andrea would have been up my daughter’s butt for six months telling her what she needed to do to get ready for the big try out. But this new Andrea — the one who is writing enough herself to not have to live through her daughter’s dreams — was able to be more chill about it.

I’m pretty proud of how the conversation went. It involved more questions than directives. I only brought up the topic when I was calm. (Hence not in the car when I was still pretty irritated about a dental appointment that didn’t go so well.)

Instead of launching into a lecture, I said a little prayer before I began speaking: God, let this conversation be about what is best for Evie’s life, not my enmeshed Mama ego. Let me remember that this is her life, not mine. Let me remember the difference between control and suggestion and have the wisdom to know the difference. (That last bit, God, I suck at. So feel free to smite me when I go overboard.)

Our Healthy Conversation Along the Beach

Tyler Nix@jtylernix @ Unsplash

Me: So, Evie, I’d like to talk to you about your tryout. Is this a good time?

If she said no, I’d have dropped it. I mean, what’s the point of having a conversation with your teenager, unless it’s truly life threatening, if they are not ready to listen?

Her: Sure. What’s up?

Me: Well, I know how badly you want this particular class. And I told you in September I wouldn’t bring this up anymore — and I didn’t. But… you now have three extra weeks to prepare for the tryouts thanks to our enforced time off from school.

Her: And?

Me: And… I’m not seeing you rehearse that much for it. What’s up with that?

Her: Oh that’s simple. I’m not rehearsing!

Me: And… this is because…

Her: It’s because there’s another piece to the audition that I’m much weaker on. I have been using my time to work on that instead.

Me: (Starting to get frustrated… enter enmeshed mama trying to break in) So the first piece isn’t that important?

Her: Oh, no, it totally is.

Me: (Truly stumped) Can you explain to my why, if it’s so important, you’re not doing it?

Her: Yeah. It’s because forever I felt that you wanted me to have this more than I did. And that didn’t feel particularly amazing.

Me: Hmmm.

Note: “Hmmm” is my go-to when I know my kid just needs me to listen. And also when I know she’s right. Translation: May day! May day! My ego has just taken a big hit and it needs comfort big time! Pass the wine!

Crap, you don’t drink anymore! Pray! Breathe!

So I did. Then I pressed her for more detail and braced myself. (Her frankness is not always pretty.)

Her: I sometimes think you don’t see how hard I’m working at other areas of my life and just focus on the areas that are important to you.

Me: Yeah, I can see that. But on this occasion, I do know how much you want this class. I wouldn’t be a great mom if I didn’t at least point out where you have an opportunity to improve.

Her: I know. It just reminds me of how you used to be.

I wanted to scream, “And I was right then, too! Just as I am now!” Instead I went with:

Me: Okay, you have my word I won’t bring it up again.

Her: You won’t have to. Because, don’t freak out, Mama Llama, I’m going to practice more. I just needed you to back off first.

Enter angels singing on the beach! (Okay, not that last part — but it was a victory!)

Lest the above conversation sounds like a cheesy script for the Family Channel, those sentences really did come out of each of our mouths.

We didn’t yell. We didn’t get snarky. We just shared from the heart. None of it would have been possible had I still been acting from my enmeshed mama’s ego.

I Want My Kids to Succeed!

Of course I want my daughter to get into her class, but more important to me is that she wants it. There is nothing in my kids’ lives, minus their health, that I should want more than they do. If I do, I’m bordering on obsessive again. And that, my friends, isn’t healthy.

As an adult, I’m only now finding my way in this world without needing to be propped up by anyone but my own higher power. Rather than have my kids have to figure this out in 12-step rooms, I’d rather they learn this now.

This comes from being a mom who listens more than she talks.

Who asks more questions rather than assumes.

And who has enough of her own life that my kids can go on to have their’s.

As far as my daughter goes, it means that if (worse case) she doesn’t get into that coveted class, she has a safe person to share her disappointment with.

Until next time, may you be less enmeshed, ask questions and, when in doubt, go for a walk on the beach. It really is the balm for all grrrr. (Even more than wine. I promise.)

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

education, faith, God, parenting, self improvement

Coronavirus Isn’t Happening to Us

It’s happening for us… to wake us from complacency to joy

David Mao @ Unsplash

So I get it. This virus is a big deal. Italy is on lock down. Vulnerable people can die more easily. The President is taking credit for acting quickly over something he should have been on top of months ago. We might have to start washing our butts with garden hoses and, just when our kids might finally be allowed back at school, they will be out again for summer break. (#insanestyearever)

None of this is easy. I, for one (as a Class A Extrovert) am super bummed about missing my AA meetings, not going to Magic Church for the foreseeable future, not meeting my bestie for a cup of Starbucks that I shouldn’t really be spending money on anyway, and those Disneyland gift cards I got for my big 50th birthday? By the time I cash those in for annual passes I wouldn’t be surprised if the price is doubled to pay for all those weeks the park was closed. (Plus I hear the payments on that Millenium Falcon are a bitch.)

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that, as a substitute teacher, I’m not one of those lucky educators who is getting paid while we’re off school. And while I am not playing the victim card here (I have an English degree, not a teaching degree) I am losing quite a bit of income.

All of the things above is enough to send me into a wave of self-pity — and believe me, despair is dancing on the surface — but when I take a breath I feel something much deeper that is buoying me up: Hope.

Hope in a Quarantine? Are You Kidding Me?

Putting aside my worry for those who are most risk with this ridiculous beast, there is a side of me that is relieved to be home. These feelings are not that different than how I felt when both my babies were born. During their precious stages of early life, there wasn’t much I could do while they napped. So I focused on on staying as present as possible.

I stayed close to the phone.

I read books.

I occasionally watched television.

And I wrote.

Life was smaller back then. I had tremendous worry about what the future could hold, but stronger than the worry of what could be was the absolute joy and excitement for what I had in my little cozy nest: two humans that I loved with all my heart.

Coronavirus Can Suck It

Cristian Escobar @ Unsplash

I refuse to let Coronavirus steal that joy from me now. Granted my two babies are no longer co-sleeping in Scooby Doo sheets and wearing matching Dora the Explorer panties… they are almost six foot and six foot six… but they’re still under my roof. And with their insane high school schedules, and my teaching and freelance schedule, it’s been a loooong time since we’ve had such a long span of uninterrupted time together. With only a year and a half until my son graduates, I am going to take full advantage of this unique, if not unusual, opportunity.

Making the Most of Our Corona-cation

So it’s not exactly a stay-cation or a trip to Hawaii (nope, my daughter’s choir trip was canceled) but we will make the most of it anyway. Here’s a list of just few things we’ll do to keep our souls happy and our brains from flatlining more than getting stuck at a Costco canned food stampede. We will:

  • Come up with a schedule of chores
  • Listen to each other’s playlists on Spotify
  • Swap books (I will finally read my son’s book choice, Fahrenheit 451, my daughter will read The Help and my son will likely be forced by my daughter to cry over any one of her John Green novels.)
  • Netflix binge! I will drink tea with my daughter as she catches me up on Stephen Universe and explains in great detail the difference between gems, humans and how Steven himself is actually a combination of the two and why Pearl never shows signs of aging. (Spoiler alert: It’s a gem thing.) My son and I will trudge our way through a truly terrible, but hilarious, What’s New Scooby Doo series.
  • Paint the bathroom. My son has a collection of 214 rubber ducks, all different faces, from nurses to a quacking navity set. These rubber fowls have been sitting in a trunk at the edge of his bed for five years. Now’s the time to paint the stall walls bright blue and display them on rain gutters. Who doesn’t want to use the facilities while being stared out by an Abraham Lincoln duck? Plus it’ll make the experience more enjoyable when, ultimately, there is no toilet paper to finish the job.)
  • Jog around the block
  • Learn a new language on Duolingo
  • Clean out our bedrooms
  • Get back into a prayer routine
  • Play some video games (with a limit… they go off at 10pm and don’t go on until 10am. If no one is up before 10am then no computers.)
  • Check in on our family and friends that are hurting and do a little bit more cooking than we normally have time for. (That’s assuming there’s anything left on the store shelves to eat.)

Coronavirus has been the frosting on the bitch cake of 2020,but I refuse to let it ruin my appetite for what nurtures me most: my family.

When I remember that this damn virus didn’t happen to me, but it happened for me, to slow down and appreciate the blessings I have right here in my home, quarantine has never looked so good.

Here’s to flattening the curb with social distancing and also raising the line with our connection to the people that matter most.

As for my personal goals? I’m gonna finally get cracking again on that musical I’ve been putting off. Plus I’ll be writing here daily as a personal commitment to what makes me happiest: words, thoughts and hopefully a little engagement with you beautiful people.

We are in this together. See you tomorrow.

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, humor, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality, writing

Why Putting Off Your Dream Is a Terrible, Furry, Hellacious Mistake (And that lie we all believe about working a “real job”)

(Also published on Medium.com)

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Happy weekend, people! I survived my 50th birthday and so far haven’t died from the Coronavirus. I’m grateful to have had so many friends and family celebrate with me. My good friend, Irish Mama, came out to visit with me and I must say it was glorious. One of the highlites was fish tacos in Malibu and watching her giggle with joy when she saw a pod of dolphins frolicking through the waves.

In honor of those dolphins, I’m continuing my pursuit of frolicking in my own life. That begins with my writing.

Thanks to all of you here at WordPress who inspire me every day to read and continue writing. Below is a post that was also published on Medium. I’m giving myself permission to double up on the sites until I figure out what each site will be. (Medium will for sure be more of a niche while this site will be more personal. That said, even if I double up, please go over there and give me some love. Your time on my post gives me financial support and I will of course do the same for you.)

Stay safe, wash your hands and for fxxx sake enjoy your life. (This comin’ from an official old lady, so listen to me!)

“You’ll never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Not too long ago I was subbing for a public school. I was attempting to teach middle school kids to go after their dreams while simultaneously dodging milk cartons being lobbed at my noggin. It turns out something even more powerful than cow juice was directed at my brain. It was a life changing thought: “How can I empower students to live their dreams when I‘m not living mine?”

This insight was not an obsessive compulsive devil in disguise, taunting me on my shoulder. It wasn’t my misfiring mind out to derail me. This knowledge was a real deal truth bomb that lodged into my heart and exploded like emotional shrapnel right into the center of my soul. It shattered the glass walls I had been constructing around me that kept me from doing what I knew was my life’s purpose: to write.

Working a “Real Job”

It’s not like I hadn’t made money writing before, but life, kids, marriage, sobriety (and a pesky pit bull who insists on flying through window screens to maniacally search for our dearly departed roommate) got in the way.

I thought I needed a “real job” to keep all the nuts and bolts of my complicated existence purring like a top. The only problem was that while my family was able to go to the doctor for every scrape and ailment, thanks to my amazing insurance package, they were suffering daily with the sickness of my discontent.

After this one fateful day of subbing, it dawned on me that my “real job” wasn’t just to put braces on my kids so they could one day have perfect teeth while working at a job they also hated. My only “real job” was to show up as my authentic self so I could model for my children what they needed to do to live their true purpose.

Photo by Ian Dooley at Unsplash

“But I Can’t Just Leave My Day Job” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Listen, people, if you’re yelling at the computer screen, I relate. I told myself for years that I, too, could not just quit my job and go after what I really wanted to do with my life. But honestly, I wasn’t asking the right question. And perhaps you aren’t either. So let me help you out with this million dollar inquiry: If you’re not ready to bolt from your secure but lifeless job, are you at least ready to leave your negative thinking behind so that one day you will have the power to leave?

For me, this last question was a game changer, because subconsciously I was addicted to my victim thinking. “I’m too old.”… “I’m not good enough.”… “My family will be mad at me”… “I need the money.”

The real facts are that I was not lacking talent in writing. I was lacking in faith. Yup, I was missing the divine belief that the shepherd boy possessed in The Alchemist. I was not trusting that something much bigger than my own human plans could work everything out.

What Good Is a Higher Power if You Don’t Trust It?

When I got sober, I had to choose a higher power that was bigger than myself to keep me from downing a bottle of Two Buck Chuck over my daily restlessness, irritability and discontent. This higher power was absolutely vital because, as it turns out, it wasn’t my drinking that was my biggest demon — it was my thinking.

Sobriety encouraged me to accept that my higher power, who I choose to call God, loves me unconditionally. But that sweet emotional froth means nothing if I don’t trust it to work in my life. I had to take the plunge. Like Indiana Jones in the second movie, I had to trust that if I took a leap, something invisible would appear beneath my feet and allow me to not crash to my death.

Did I leave my job Norma Ray style in the arms of a handsome man that looked like a cross between Jamie Fraser and Liam Neeson? I wish. But no. Instead, I made the simple decision to cut down from working five days a week to three. I already had a small writing gig in my pocket, and I trusted that with some time off to breathe I’d get more.

Spirituality Can Be as Simple as Getting off Your Ass

Trust is lovely, but action seals the deal. That very night, fingers trembling, I reached out to Sesame Street. I ignored the lie that told me, “You’re nervous. This is a sign you shouldn’t be doing this, Dumbass.” How many times had I gone out with a man who didn’t wear his pants above his butt cheeks and convinced myself he was Prince Charming? Maybe my mind wasn’t such a good source of help after all. No, this time I would go with my gut where truth lives, not my head where confusion lives.

I told this iconic television show that I had a computer full of songs and scripts. I told them that I had exactly the talent they needed to creatively partner with them for new story ideas and lyrics. I was so proud of myself! (You need a melody and poem to tell kids to not fear the Coronavirus? I’m your gal!)

I excitedly emailed my sponsor to let her know that, despite wanting to puke all over my new chevron gray and white rug, I was finally following her guidance: to take the steps and leave the results up to God.

While I’d love to say that Sesame Street immediately returned my email and I’m now writing award winning songs for Cookie Monster, that did not happen. But something else cool did happen: My sponsor informed me that someone in our group composed music for Sesame Street. “Write him!” she nudged me. So I did.

As it turns out, he was just in a similar place to me: confronting his financial fears and wishing he could go after his real dream of writing. What we had here was a miraculous problem: He was a composer that wanted to write, I was a writer that needed help composing music. We made an appointment to meet the very next day to talk about it. Crazy timing. Was it odd or God?

Since that day I have not only begun a fledgling partnership with a brilliant thinker, I have polished up my resume, landed a few more freelance writing clients and begun working sub jobs only in high schools where kids’ brains are more fully developed than a lump of Trader Joe’s pizza dough. (Plus I don’t need to worry about 8th graders smoking Mary Jane in the middle of a math quiz. Yes, that’s happened.)

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Have I gotten rid of my real job yet? No. It’s only been two weeks! But to quote one of my favorite songs from Frozen, “For the first time in forever….” I am trusting that what I’ve been gifted to do is not an accident. I don’t have to people please my family, my culture, my parents or even, most importantly of all, myself. I only need to trust that when I lead with my heart, everything else will roll out like a red carpet, ready to have me dance toward my prize of serenity and joy.

Living Your Dreams is Actually Quite Simple

I had been making everything so complicated, and it’s really quite simple: I have a purpose that was planted in my soul. When I go against that purpose, I feel like crap. When I work toward that purpose, I feel good. And not just that: When I run toward my talents with God at my side, doors fly open quicker than the castle gates at Arendelle. I deserve to feel content and satisfied. And friends, you do, too.

God is everything or he is nothing.

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )