I Choose Peace

A client shared the following story during session last week and I want to share it with you. It’s about a friend of hers–let’s name him George.

George was recently divorced, living alone in an apartment in downtown Indianapolis. He awakened on Christmas morning feeling unloved and lonely.  True to tradition, however, he spent Christmas morning with his kids at his parents’ home engaging in the routines they had enjoyed for years.

Tradition abandoned him that afternoon when he customarily would have accompanied his family to his in-laws’ home. This year, his kids would leave to go with their mother while he traveled back to his apartment–alone.

Rejected, he made the decision to bundle up and face the frigid Indiana wind. He walked toward Massachusetts Avenue peering around each corner, normally alive with cars and people. Empty streets. Gray sky. He thought to himself, what a pathetic reject I am. Alone on Christmas Day while everyone else is with their family and friends. He walked, allowing himself to acknowledge the sadness. The eerie stillness of the usually bustling street was unnerving.

As he walked, snow began to fall and he was gently awakened by a sense of peace. A sudden awareness that the silence–the lack of cars and people–was actually a gift. He was able to smile, to pull his hood around him and experience the shelter against the gust. He saw the Christmas lights and neon signs in juxtaposition to the gray sky. I have a choice, he thought. I can wallow in my sadness and rejection, or I can claim this peace.

He walked another few blocks, energized, and toward a red neon sign, OPEN and walked into the neighborhood bar. He ordered an enormous plate of nachos and his favorite beer.

“So, what are you up to this afternoon?” the bartender asked as he set the feast on the bar in front of his lone patron.

“Well, after I enjoy these nachos and beer, I’m walking back to my apartment and I’m going to watch my favorite movies for the rest of the afternoon. Treat myself to a movie day. I’m going to  choose Peace.”

So many of my clients face special challenges during the Holiday Season. Recently, I’ve spent hours with clients processing the emotional onslaught brought on by loss and change. Or, for some, the added stress of extra time spent with family. Each of us faces his or her own set of challenges that the holidays magnify.

This year, I send for you a wish for the will to let go of perfection and any expectations thereof. The ability to accept others as they are. The gift of kindness to yourself. The gift of Inner Peace.

 May there be Peace on Earth.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~Dalai Lama

The First Annual Ruegg Brothers Fishing Trip: Nature vs. Nurture

The world of psychology has enjoyed a long, open debate regarding the effects of nature (our genetics) versus the effects of nurture (learned or environmental influences) on personality and behaviors. As four brothers raised in the same household, born to the same set of parents, we share DNA as well as many learned traits. When we get together, four adults from separate households, our shared idiosyncrasies make us laugh.

I encourage my clients to know and embrace their family traits and history. The more we learn about our families, the more we know about ourselves. Even though, for some, this may be a painful process, there are lessons to be learned. One family may be loud and highly emotive where another may be silent and stoic. Anxiety and depression may be shared in families just as the propensity for height and weight.  The acceptance of inherited attributes, equips one with a valuable resource to face family-specific challenges.

The oldest of four boys and the only one to have moved away from of our home town, Waynesburg, Ohio, I look forward to time spent with my brothers. It is a special event. This past Christmas, we sat around the kitchen table at brother Rusty’s and brainstormed . . . “Let’s do a brother trip this winter.”


“Why don’t we go somewhere warm?”

The plan was hatched. Rick, Roger, Ron, and Rusty Ruegg would meet in Ft. Lauderdale, drive south in a rented truck to Big Pine Key for four days of mid-winter sunshine and fishing. We booked a hotel room, a boat, and a local fisherman to act as guide. Everyone was excited.

This was last week. Last week when record cold temperatures hit The Keys and high winds wreaked havoc on fishing boats. We tried fishing–once. We nearly froze as we headed back, laughing that our bait was larger than the fish we caught. All was not lost. Even bad weather could not ruin the sharing of four brothers with a sixteen-year age span and a wealth of shared history between them.

Even though my brothers and I are unique individuals, the four of us could be a case study for inherited, male-pattern baldness. We walk and talk alike, and share a body type, noticeable even from a distance. Once, when three of us were walking in a parking lot, a guy drove by and rolled down his car window, “You guys aren’t brothers, by any chance, are ya?”

What really makes us chuckle is when we sit around and talk shop. It’s always a source of amazement to the Ruegg Brothers when we share stories about how we operate. We each own a small business. And we share the “blessing/curse” of the innate ability to see what needs to be accomplished, the spacial gift for organizing a plan, and the inexhaustible energy to see the plan to fruition. Our plan, that is. The problem arises when we project our “abilities” onto co-workers. Be it family or employees, shop work or home landscaping, “No one can do it like a Ruegg.” It’s our way . . . or our way! It’s a problem and we all have it.

Our parents were blessed with knowing the “right” way to do just about everything. Our dad had a reputation for having the straightest lawnmower lines in all of Carroll County. My mom vowed, “You boys are going to learn to clean a house as good as anybody!” And she made sure that happened. We love to joke about our parents’ habitual behaviors until someone points out how often each of us display identical patterns.

So we laughed at ourselves when we set out early Monday morning for our drive to the airport. Not one of us would consider hitting the road without cleaning the windshield and the mirrors of a vehicle. Not possible. And yes, Mom, we left the hotel room just like we found it.

No definitive answer has been reached to the nature/nurture question. Research has been published favoring the influence of either camp.  Some consider it a non-issue at this point. What is important to know, however, is that we never grow away from our past. Our family of origin, the influences of both nature and nurture, positive or negative, are vital to knowing oneself and eventually self-acceptance. Growth.

As for the First Annual Ruegg Brothers Fishing Trip, the most important thing was enjoying time spent together. Laughing and sharing stories with those who “get it.” And, finally, hoping for some real fishing weather in the years to come.

Quotation for the week:

“Genetics do play a role in how you consciously or subconsciously manifest your true self.” ~Ben Harper


My Best Friend

  • “Nobody listens to you.”
  • “You will always be overweight.”
  • “You will never find a better job.”
  • “You will never have the relationship you want.”
  • “You will always be the stupid one.”
  • “You never have succeeded at maintaining an exercise routine and you never will.”
  • “You always sabotage a good thing.”
  • “That is nothing but a pipe dream.”

Would we keep a best friend who spoke to us like this? Hopefully not. So why do we allow the constant, negative litany within our own heads?  It amounts to anti-affirmations, and we inflict them upon ourselves constantly. In fact, it would be easier to get rid of a friend who spoke to us like this than to redirect our negative neuro-pathways, or invalidating inner chatter. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.

One action we called for in our list of “Best Friend” qualities last week was “listens.” Certainly, listening to self-talk, recognizing its effect, begins the process of establishing a friend within ourselves.

Changing the Cranial Conversation

Step One: Recognize. Listen to what we tell ourselves.

Step Two: Resolve. Determine to change the pattern set by years of negativity.

Step Three: Practice. Catch negative self-statements and rewrite the dialogue.

Step Four: Implement. Memorize positive affirmations to modify the thought process toward gentle, kind, compassionate notions that uplift.

I often suggest a simple activity to my clients of writing positive statements about themselves on a 3 X 5 card and reading them aloud three times a day. Sticky notes on your mirror, reciting affirmations, reading a positive statement daily, subscribing to a daily inspirational email feed or Instagram can encourage.  Tools abound. Whatever works best for you, use it. The goal is to develop a lifelong attitude of kindness, loving compassion, and acceptance of one’s true self–just like we treasure from a best friend.

“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” ~Alice Walker
Next Week: A week in the life of person who is practicing self-love.
February 16th, 2015|Balanced Life, Fulfillment, Gratefulness, Happiness, self-love|