Imagined Conflict

Over rehearsing

I was in a hurry and distracted when I picked up the prints of my “Forest Angel.” They seemed a bit darker than the last ones, but I went ahead and paid for them and headed out the door for the next errand. When I  got home and compared the prints to the proof, I realized they were much darker. I didn’t think I could even use them.

For the next couple of weeks, I debated whether I  should go back and see if they could re-do the prints. Part of me wanted to just go somewhere else and get new prints to avoid potential conflict. But part of me said I should at least offer feedback and the opportunity to correct the problem. Being busy with other projects, I kept putting the print issue off.

Then, last week, I decided it was worth a try. I rehearsed several conversations. Most of my rehearsals portrayed me being assertively diplomatic, while some scenarios led to snarkiness on my part when I imagined being denied new prints at no charge. I even went so far as to imagine a worst case scenario of the manager implying I was stupid for paying for the prints if I wasn’t satisfied and that I should have looked at them more closely. (This was really my own self-criticism.) I became indignant and threatened to tell all my friends. I think I spent about two seconds imaging a good outcome. All this went on in my head before I even got in the car to go to the place where I get my prints. Talk about making mountains our of molehills.

On the way there, I observed that I felt nervous, almost afraid.

“Stop it!” I told myself. “This is ridiculous! What’s wrong with you? You know how to be assertive. This is just an exercise in assertiveness.”

When I got to my destination, I showed the manager the prints and how much darker they were than the proof. I explained that I’d been busy and distracted when I’d picked them up a couple weeks earlier.

“Okay, leave them here with the proof and I’ll talk to the printer. He’s not here right now, and he’s really busy.”

The whole interaction took less than 2 minutes. No debating, no snarkiness.

How many times I’ve worried needlessly over imagined conflict. Having a history of being a pushover, I don’t want to be taken advantage of and tend to over-rehearse standing up for myself. But most of my imagined conflicts never happen. Who needs that extra drama?

I picked up the prints last week with no fuss, no extra charge, and a big thank you from me, feeling secretly sheepish for all that imagined conflict.

I do think I’m getting better at catching myself, but sometimes I still need reminders to let go, have faith, and stay in the moment. Hopefully I’m learning this lesson at a deeper level.

Here’s my “Forest Angel” reminding me to let go.

Forest Angel ligher

What helps you let go of imagined conflict?

Asking, Receiving, and Taking Care of Me

face the fire

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately with my job, family challenges with my adult children (who I love forever, in case you’re reading this), too much to do, and too many emails! I get to that point every so often, and I tell myself:

Don’t take on anything new!

But I don’t always listen to myself.

I said yes to a church task of writing thank you notes to people who donated for our stained glass window restoration fund. I like handwriting notes, and can have good handwriting when I focus. What I didn’t realize was that I would need to collect the names and addresses from two separate documents emailed to me. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it wouldn’t be if I didn’t have other things to do, and if I wasn’t already feeling overwhelmed by my abundance of emails. Does anyone else ever feel overwhelmed by the number of emails you get?

So I sent an email to the church committee that I was feeling overwhelmed. We have a small congregation and so most of us are doing many different tasks. I worried that people would think I was whining (MY issue), But I knew something had to go.

I got support from my church family. I was offered the option of being given a list every Sunday of the names and addresses. One list, a hard copy. What a relief!

I just had to ask.

I’ve been fighting off a cold, getting ready to travel halfway across the country to see my grandchildren. To help my immune system, I got a massage today, something I haven’t done in a long time. And I slept late today.

I think I’m winning.

Not whining.

Asking for what we need is not whining.

Asking for help is not whining.

It’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to take care of ourselves!


Affirmation Update


superhero-of affirmations

For years, I’ve using and teaching affirmations usually starting with the letter I.

“I can do it!”

“I enjoy healthy food.”

“I love my _______.”

New research suggests that when it comes to talking to yourself, using “you,” or your own name, is more effective than using “I statements.”

(I statements are still better when giving feedback to someone else.)

I can go with that. Or rather,  You can go with that, JoAnne. When I’m spontaneous, I do tend to address myself as you, or by name.

You can do it!

You don’t need to worry about that.

You’re stronger than you think you are.

Or the implied you:

Stop thinking about that!  Think about being something good. Think about how far you’ve come. Think about how great it’s going to be!

The NPR article at the bottom of this post contains an inspiring clip of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai sharing with Jon Stewart how she spoke passionately to herself. If you want to skip to that part, it’s about 4 minutes into the clip:

I love how she uses a nurturing, yet firm, tone with herself.

Whether we use “I” or “you” or our names, the most important thing about self talk is that we be positive and encouraging.

Here’s the whole article:

How do you talk to yourself? Do you use I or you?


cloud heart



Coping with Toxic People

Toxic peppers on shelf

Too many screaming jalapenos give me a headache.

Last week I wrote about ending toxic relationships. But sometimes we may find ourselves temporarily stuck in a toxic situation. I say temporarily, because it won’t last forever. Hopefully it won’t last more than a few minutes.

Regardless of how hard we try to avoid toxic people, we all find ourselves in situations that are potentially toxic. We may run in to them at work, standing in line at the store, waiting in the doctor’s office, or maybe even in our own homes. Some of us have toxic relatives who we feel obligated to visit, though we would prefer to love them from a distance.

Here are some suggestions on how to take care of ourselves in toxic situations. Not all will work in every situation. It depends on the circumstances, so experiment and trust your intuition.

1. Remind yourself it’s not forever.

Find a way to limit the time you are exposed to a toxic situation. I know someone who limits visits with  a  “close” relative to 20 minutes. It’s okay to say, “I have some things I need to take care of.” You don’t have to say that one of those things you need to take care of is you, or that you need a nap, or time alone.

2. Try mindfulness.

Mindfulness is observing the present moment without judgement. If you’re not safe, get the hell out of there! But if you’re truly stuck, or want to practice mindfulness, just observe one thing at a time without reacting. You don’t have to attend every party, fight or argument you’re invited to. (Slow, deep breaths help too.) Related to mindfulness are emotional detachment and grounding. You could be mindful of person’s tone and body language, the sensations in your own body or the location of the exits. You can also be mindful of individual words or the message of the person or situation and ask  questions for  clarification.

3. What lesson or skill is this experience teaching?

It might be the “See ya later” skill, but it could also be an opportunity to work on listening or patience. (Oh joy, another one of those opportunities.) You can always ask God to show you a way to cope and what you can learn.

4. Assertive Boundary Setting:

I like to define assertiveness as honesty with respect. For example,

     “When you criticize me like that/yell at me, I feel overwhelmed/sad/angry/scared/hurt. I’d appreciate it if you could say something positive sometimes/Could you please lower your voice?

(It’s easier for me to focus on what someone is trying to say if I’m not caught up in the fact that I’m getting yelled at, unless there’s a fire. Then, by all means, yell.)

Here’s another example:

“If you continue to talk negative/yell I can’t  stay in the room with you.”(If you live with the person this could be a time to go to the bathroom.)

5. Use Positive Distraction.

Sometimes it’s not safe to leave, like when you’re in a moving vehicle. But you might be able to change the subject. If you’re with someone who likes to gossip about other people, you could ask, “So how are you doing with your job search/new hobby/class?” Or, “I loved that pie you made last October, can you tell me what you put in it? I think I’d like to try to make one.”

When all else fails, you can distract yourself by imagining a rainbow or angels above the person’s head. This could lead you to pray for them and for yourself. If you need to pay some attention to what a toxic person is saying, sing a simple tune in your head like the ABCs or a nursery rhyme.

Whatever you do, take care of you!

Any other ideas about coping in toxic situations? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Ending Toxic Relationships

Emotional Abuse

Sunday, I wrote about taking a break from the mostly bad news. Watching or listening to too much bad news can be toxic. So can some relationships.

You can ask for what you need to make the relationships better, and sometimes healing happens. But sometimes you just have just have to save yourself.  If you’re lucky, you are in a position to tell the other person or people to leave, but sometimes, its not that easy.

It should have been easy for me all those years ago; I wasn’t even living with the guy! But the grief of divorce left my self esteem so low, I created my own barriers of denial. The insane belief that I could make the sick rebound relationship work and the subconscious belief that I had to make it work, kept me stuck. I’m still amazed that I stayed in it for that long miserable year experiencing all five of the signs above. Afterward, it was like waking up from a bad dream. At least I learned to have more compassion for people who stay in toxic relationships.

Here are some things I learned that might help some one end a toxic or abusive relationship, whether with a partner, a relative or a once upon a time friend.

1. Make a list of pros and cons. What are some good things about the relationship? What does it provide for you? Does it make your stronger or wiser? What are the bad things? Does the stress of the relationship make you physically sick, does it make it hard for you to focus on your responsibilities? What percentage of the time are you happy and comfortable? Do you feel safe emotionally and physically?

2. Build Your Self Esteem. What are your strengths? What are you good at? What was your best subject in school? What have others complimented you on? What does God love about you? What activities do you enjoy? Take time for those things that feed your soul.  And know this:

You are a creation of God and deserve to be treated with respect.

3. Build your support network. If you don’t feel safe, contact domestic violence agency for counseling, services and resources. Find people who support your goals and nurture your spirit. Look for a church or support group that’s a good fit for you. Or strengthen your bonds with an existing faith community and supportive family members and friends.

4. Plan your exit strategy. You may or may not want to tell the person you are ending the relationship, but if you feel safe doing so, be clear about your needs and your boundaries. Clarifying boundaries may be more important for you than anyone else, so put your boundaries on paper to make them accessible to you. Do you want zero contact? Do you want to meet only in public places? If it’s a close relative, can you tolerate 5 minutes of respectful conversation by phone? In many cases continued contact with a toxic person is not healthy or realistic, so a clean break may be best. If you feel any danger, consult with domestic violence experts and create a safety plan. An example of a personalized safety plan can be found here: )

5. Free yourself when you are ready. Trust your intuition. Take the steps slowly or quickly depending on what feels right to you.  Maintain your boundaries and distance. Maintain and strengthen your support network. Enjoy your  life and be safe!

Bird taking off

Do you have a story about leaving a toxic relationship? What gave you the courage to leave?


Next week, we’ll take a look at ways to keep your sanity when you find yourself temporarily stuck with a toxic person or situation.

Healthy Love is Here to Stay

joanne and david at the river

Three years ago, the ecstatic butterflies were going crazy. I was trying to keep my feet on the ground, but my heart knew: This second first date with my high school sweetheart would be life changing!

Now, on the third anniversary of our reunion, the butterflies are calmer and fluttering joyfully. I am comfortable…thankful.

This relationship proves that I can love myself and my partner at the same time, and even better:

It is possible  to have a healthy, intimate relationship,

and not lose myself in the process.


We’re moving beyond the honeymoon stage and finding we don’t always agree on everything. It helps that we have have similar values on most things. We help each other unpack some of our old baggage, which takes patience, along with honest, respectful communication, one day at a time. He supports me and encourages me to grow in the direction of my  dreams, and I do the same for him. We are comfortable and happy most of the time.  We enjoy spending time together. This is what a healthy relationship feels like.

Comfort and joy is what I asked for in a relationship, and it came to me when the time was right.

It took a long time for David and me to find each other again (39 years) but we needed that time to become ready to journey together. It was worth the wait.

Never give up! Don’t settle for some one who you’re not comfortable with. Don’t subject yourself to someone who dis-respects you. Keep on loving yourself and and growing into your best- your true self.

Wonderful surprises are on the way with perfect timing!

This is for all the Lonely People (from America)