Contentment or Dread? You Choose!

I had the opportunity last week to drive about 8 hours roundtrip in one day.  My van sort of died on our way home from visiting family. A few days later, with little explanation from the mechanic, it was revived enough for us to drive it home, a miracle of sorts. You know, the kind where the person’s heart stops beating and everyone thinks she died but then she just wakes up and is fine. That’s my van. It has 196,000 miles on it…one of these days it will die and not come back to life.
This particular day offered me one of those opportunities where I had a choice to make. I could be pissed off at God or my car or whatever that we had to drive back to the place of my van’s pseudo-death and drive it home. Or, I could choose to be content. I chose contentment. I do not say this to win accolades but to reinforce the concept that contentment is a choice despite our circumstances. I recognize fully that my circumstance was a first world problem. My husband and I had to drive together in one of our cars to get the other car. Some people have no car. I get it. But I do live in a first world and this was a problem I (and many others) face.
There’s no magic in choosing contentment. You just consciously, with intention, do it. In my case, I looked at the drive as an opportunity to listen to a bunch of speakers I admire and learn from.  Before we left I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown. They are my current favorites. I also downloaded a Story Telling podcast on the topic of addiction. The drive turned out to be intellectually exhilarating. I learned powerful lessons on that drive. Lessons I might have missed.
Every aspect of our lives is rich with meaning and purpose if we are willing to look under the surface and find it. We can! We have the amazing ability to look, to think, to question, to understand and accept. I love this about us!!! So today, how will you approach your circumstances in a way that inspires you toward contentment rather than dread?

Moving from Disconnected to Vulnerable

I grew up in a system that, whether intentional or not, praised only perfection and joyful emotions. When I was very young I was aware of this system. Somehow I knew I had to put away the parts of me that made mistakes, were hurt, angry or scared. I don’t remember consciously doing this but it became a way of life for me. I thought I was normal. I thought people who expressed anger, sadness or fear were out of balance. I thought it was normal to be disconnected. I would not have used that word, but that’s what it was. I went along merrily this way until I was about 36. Then, I had an affair. The disconnected part of me could do this. At times I would come into the feeling place and realize what I was doing was horrible on many levels. But I didn’t stay in that place and would bob back down into the disconnected place. After my “perfectly disconnected” life fell completely apart, I went to counseling. I worked with a variety of counselors and coaches over the next few years. Each one was part of healing and weaving together all the parts of me: the scared parts, the angry parts, the sad parts and the joyful parts.
I am not as tidy anymore. That seems strange. I was tidy before and I thought that was better. Now, when I am not tidy, I feel a bit uncomfortable. In the earlier stages of my healing I would feel really uncomfortable as I let out the real me. In the earlier stages I needed to get used to really feeling, even if it was super messy. It helped to experience messiness and learn to be ok with it. When we shut down parts of ourselves, when we are unwilling to be vulnerable, we are only partly present. Our relationships are only partial relationships, our connection with and enjoyment of this world is only partly connected and enjoyed.
It’s scary to connect with all of who we are because there can be some really painful stuff inside. I recommend if you haven’t felt all your parts…if you identify with being disconnected, find a good therapist or coach who can help you navigate the waters of feeling.  A few recommendations are Shadow Work (, EMDR (, Henry Cloud and John Townsend books: “Hiding from Love,” “Changes that Heal” and “Boundaries” are just a few (  I learned and processed a ton in the Cloud and Townsend Ultimate Leadership Intensive (their definition of a leader is very loose).  I attended a recovery group for co-dependency.  Mine was at my church ( but you can also attend a CODA group or any recovery group similar to AA ( and I read Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” and continue to read “The Language of Letting Go”. I’m sure many other helpful ideas are out there. This is just a short list of options.  These were the tools I used in my recovery journey.  Yours will be unique to you.
In my messiness, I now have fabulous connections with other messy people.  They welcome all the parts of me.  We are vulnerable with one another, we encourage one another to continue on our journey, and most of all, we accept one another.  That was my biggest fear as a child, that all of who I am wasn’t acceptable and loved.  That’s why I hid away my parts, the ones I thought weren’t acceptable and lovable.  Surround yourself with people who accept and love all of who you are and are willing to journey with you as you knit back together.
A note on this acceptance piece.  Parts of me need refinement.  I can be harsh in my delivery sometimes.  While that is a real part of me that I choose not to put in hiding, the people who love and accept me speak truth into my life (with a heavy dose of grace!).  They encourage me to delve into why I am harsh at times, to work on softening my edges.  That’s just one part of me that needs refinement.  I can be highly critical, shaming, jealous, greedy…  I want and need those parts to be accepted and loved but not condoned.  This is tricky.  We often assume if someone points out a part in us that needs refinement they are not accepting us.  This isn’t necessarily true.  Listen to the words of others; allow them to speak into your life, process through the words.  Are you being given a gift of finding out “what it’s like to be on the other side of you”? That’s a John Townsend quote that I love! If the person is just being mean, don’t take that on.  Put a lot of weight on who the messenger is.  Is this someone you trust, someone who has your best interest in mind? If so, listen to and process what you have heard.  Use the information for your good and continue on your journey of staying connected.
PS There is so much more I want to say on this subject.  Especially how our disconnected selves affect the productive parts of ourselves, like our creativity and interests.  I try to keep my posts short and to the point.  This one is already longer than I would like so, I will write my next post on the connection between disconnect and productivity.


I have not posted in a few weeks.  I have been busy, other interests have taken priority over blogging.  In a sense, this is an appropriate springboard for boundaries.  Boundaries, according to John Townsend and Henry Cloud, authors of the book, Boundaries, serve the function of defining and protecting.  Our boundaries state what we are OK with, what we like, what we are interested in as well as what we do not like, are not OK with, and are not interested in.  Our boundaries say something about who we are and who we are not.  This then transfers into what we will allow inside our boundary.  If I do not like to be hit, then I will say no to someone hitting me, get out of the way, or get out of the relationship.  I know that example is loaded and I know it is not always that simple.  The person with a solid boundary is going to get out of or avoid an abusive relationship.  The person who stays, despite not being OK with the abuse, does not have a solid definition of herself.  Her boundary wall has become intertwined with the wall of another.  She is defined, in part, by the abuser.   That is why it is so hard to get out of the relationship.  The person resembles a conjoined twin.  Part of her being belongs to herself, but part belongs to another.  As hard as it can be to hear this, it is a choice to be intertwined with another.  We can choose who defines us.
Usually, our fuzzy, indistinct definition of self started in the late infancy/early toddler years.  This is the stage in life when we begin to notice that we are separate from our mother or primary caregivers.  If that separation was encouraged by our primary caregivers, then we have a much better chance at developing a strong sense of who we are (also referred to as a strong sense of self).  If our primary caregivers did not welcome this stage or were inconsistent in their parenting, we probably have boundary issues today.  All is not lost, there is hope!
Begin to notice why you do what you do, believe what you do, feel what you do.  Is it for others, because of what others will think of you, or to gain acceptance?  What if it did not matter at all what others think or how they react to you?  What would you do, think, or feel?  I am not talking about things that are illegal or unhealthy.  Who are you at your core?  What are you passionate about?  What do you like to eat?  How do you feel about politics?  Do you like to travel?   What are your thoughts about spirituality?  Asking yourself these questions can help you begin to define yourself.  You are finding out what you like and what you do not like.  You might not know the answers.  Begin to find out.  As you eat the meal in front of you, notice the taste and feel of the food in your mouth.  Is that enjoyable to you?  If it is, then that goes inside your boundary as something you like.  If not, then put it outside of your boundary.  When you read a book or article, ask if you like or even agree with the concepts presented.  The same goes for things like movies, music, colors, styles, and people.  We do not have to like everyone.  We are to be kind toward all people, but we do not have to agree with them or even enjoy being around them.  It is not only acceptable to have separate views, likes, and dislikes, it is imperative in defining yourself.
A huge word of warning:  Not everyone in your life is going to like that you are clearly defined.  Often the people in our lives who have robbed us of the gift of defining ourselves will protest our efforts to separate.  As painful as that can be, whose life do you want to live?  Yours or theirs?  At the end of your life will you have a smile on your face for discovering who you are and living out the life God intended for you or because you lived someone else’s life?  I believe an authentic smile and a sense of satisfaction come from the former.  We live in a culture that does not welcome boundaries.  Often people who speak their likes and dislikes are viewed as offensive.  That is unfortunate.  It is refreshing to be with a person who is clearly defined.  We know exactly where that person stands.  They are consistent.  We also know the relationship with a healthy, genuine, well defined person is safe.
It is important to note that a clear definition of self does not give us license to treat people in a cruel way.  We can disagree with kindness and appreciate that we are different from one another.  We can have compassion in our voice as we tell someone we do not see eye to eye with them or that we will not be doing what they want us to do.  If the person is unwilling to accept us because we do not agree, then we may have to let that relationship go.  We can give the person opportunities to be in relationship with us, but not control us.  Some people in this case will self eject out of the relationship.  In some ways it sounds like, “Fine! You won’t do it my way? Then I’m not “playing” with you anymore and you can’t come to my party!”
If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to get in touch with a local safe house.  Abusive people do not give up easily.  There are cases where the abuser kills the person trying to leave.  Please do not become a statistic.  There are a lot of community resources dedicated to helping people get out of abusive relationships.  Conduct a computer search for shelters in your area, but not on your home computer.  Go to a local library and use a computer there to find the answers and the help you may need.  Follow the advice given.  You will need their support.