The Stories We Tell Ourselves

At a recent funeral of a family member, I found myself  reconnecting with someone who had come to show his respect for my family, someone with whom I had not spoken in several years. Though we had a very pleasant conversation at the funeral, I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the more tense ones we had in the past. Later that evening as I was reflecting on the day, I was suddenly struck by how this person had hugged me, both in his initial greeting and again later as he was saying goodbye. Each time, as his arms went around my shoulders, he leaned in with his right shoulder and seemed to create a barrier or block. It was unnatural and noticeably different from his hugs in the past, and I couldn’t help but wonder what this new version was really about. Was he still trying to “win,” even after all this time? I had so hoped we had finally made our peace…

As I pondered, it wasn’t long before I was quite sure there was intentionality and a not-so-subtle message in the hugs.  As my annoyance grew, I considered sending a text to call out the behavior and let him know I was on to his game. But I was also perplexed. Our conversation that day was quite cordial and even kind-hearted. Why the mixed message?  So,  before sending my indignant text, I thought I would first try and recreate the so called ‘hug’ and see how he could have intentionally done it – TWICE.

As I draped my arms around an imaginary me, I realized I needed to bend my right knee slightly so my right shoulder would lean in and re-create the perceived block. At the same time, my left knee had to be locked and straight.  Yep, that was the move! If creating some sort of block was his intention, this move was definitely repeatable!

And then it hit me. I remembered hearing he had knee replacement surgery a year or so ago. Could it be he simply couldn’t comfortably bend his left knee so that his hug would be more natural?

Oh my.  I sure am glad I didn’t send that righteous text.

My habit:

  • I have a habit of taking action. Had I sent the text immediately, my habit would have been controlling the situation. My choice in how I could behave would have been limited.

My lessons:

  • It’s amazing how our stories, fueled by our history and more by our imagination, can so quickly become distorted truths.
  • How important it is to notice how those perceived truths can influence our behaviors and create a dynamic that can quickly take us off course.
  • Sometimes I just need to wait….

My practice:

  • When ever I find myself jumping to conclusions, I want to practice thinking of 3 possible stories that make the other person good instead of bad.
  • Be honest – could any of them be true?
  • What are the implications?
  • If I chose to act, what behavior best aligns with who I want to be?

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Ironing Pillowcases

Not too long ago I found myself ironing pillow cases. There were ten in my pile, so I had plenty of time to reflect while I ironed. I wondered if I was being just a bit obsessive-compulsive in wanting my guest linens to be ‘just so’ before our friends came for a visit. (I concluded the answer was most likely yes, and I was quite fine with that being true about me. At least I wasn’t ironing the sheets too!)  I laughed at myself for being me (again!) and subtlety began to notice something else.  As I moved the iron back and forth, finishing each edge to perfection, I noticed the practice of  ironing was very calming.  The typical noise of my cluttered mind was quiet as I studied each edge, noting where I needed a bit more steam and also where my work was  crisp and complete.  And then it hit me. Could it be ironing was the mindfulness practice of the last century, the thing that kept our great-grandmothers sane?

My habit:

  • I get energy/adrenaline from always being busy.

My lessons:

  • I really like the peace I find living in the present moment.
  • As I seek ways to practice quieting my mind so I can simply be present, ironing could be another way to build my presence muscle.
  • Sometimes the most mundane can actually be really good for me!

My practice:

  • Look for day-to-day activities that could translate in the same way as ironing does.
  • Create more wins in the mundane and practice every day!

Meanwhile, check out this related and interesting TED Talk!

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About You

Do you want to simply relax and enjoy life more, to be more able to live in the moment rather than ruminate about a past experience or worry about the future?

Perhaps you:

  • Notice how the same stories, or stories with similar themes, play over and over and over in your mind?
  • Are your own worst critic, finding fault in yourself and others too?
  • Second-guess yourself and get stuck trying to decide what to do.
  • Are curious and wonder why you sometimes do or think the things you do?
  • Wonder what is limiting you?

Would you like some practical tools to help you enjoy the good, navigate the challenging with more ease or discover how you can be stronger in the broken places?

Then join me on a journey of self-discovery.  You will read stories of every day living, where we uncover the lessons that come from reflection and the questions we ask. You will learn about habits and how to notice whether yours may serve or limit you in a given situation.  Last but not least, there will be practices for you to consider, designed to support shifts or changes in thinking, behavior and how you are “wired.”  The practices are not meant to be prescriptive. Rather, they are simply an offer, intended to support shifts or changes that will help you learn how to live wisely and well.

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How This Blog Can Help You Live Wisely and Well

As you think about this blog’s place in your life today,  consider which  approach will serve you best.  What level of commitment to living wisely and well is right for you right now?

  1. Life in the “Fast-Lane” approach works for those who simply don’t have time for more than a quick skim.  If you are one of these people, you will quickly read each post with openness and curiosity.  You may even spend some time reflecting (perhaps on the drive home or while in the shower?) and when you do, relevant insights will likely emerge for you.
  2. The “Notch-it-Up” group will read with an added level of commitment.  The commitment might be that you and your walking buddy read each post and then discuss the lessons, habits and practices together.  You might ponder out loud as to whether you can relate to the story or how your own story might be different.  You will do the same with the lessons and habits.  Finally, you will decide if the practice offered is one you want to try and  compare notes over time if you do.
  3. Then there is the “All In!” group.  These are the people who are truly committed to devoting time and energy to living wisely and well.  If you are one of these people, you will likely do both of the above and you will spend time journaling as you reflect on each post.

Whether you choose one or all of the above, here are some questions to keep in mind:

  • Can I relate to the story?  How is my story like or different than the one here?
  • What of the lessons are relevant for me?  Are there others?
  • What habits of mine become apparent for me as I read this story (or my version of this story)?  Do my habits serve or limit me in my story?
  • Do I want to experiment with the suggested practice or is there another one that appeals to me?  Note:  Some of the practices will be cognitive, other’s will be somatic and involve the body.  The point of practices is to support the shift or change that will help you live wisely and well.

Finally, trust yourself to choose what is right for you!

“Laissez le bon temps rouler!”

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About Barbara Hunter

If you are curious to know a bit about me…

Background:  I grew up in the south–North Carolina to be more specific. Most of the time I am quite proud of that fact. Sometimes I am mortified by what I still see and hear in this part of our great nation…

Family:  I am a wife, a mom of two grown daughters and “Bammy” to a precious granddaughter.

Friends:  My inner circle is small, my outer one rich and robust. Both are important to me and feed my soul in important ways.

Work:  I founded a small consulting company over 20 years ago, and my husband and I are now business partners. I work with people who want to do and be their best and who come to me for coaching and facilitation support in that quest. My husband is a professor of bio-statistics and a clinical research consultant. We’d like to believe that together we are “changing lives through the knowledge of science and the wisdom of people.” If you want to know more, feel free to peruse our website at www.HunterRockhold.com.

Why am I blogging?  After a lifetime of joys and sorrows, after an ample share of bumps and bruises, coupled with hundreds of hours of certifications and training, I have learned a lot about living wisely and well. I would simply like to share some bite-sized pieces with you for your consideration. My biggest hope is that these blog posts will make a positive difference in the lives of my readers. If that happens for just one of you, I will consider this endeavor a success.

My wish for you:  May you find insight, inspiration and some wisdom of your own as you venture through these posts!

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