Mama absolutely did not say there’d be days like this.

‘Your normal methods of coping may not be enough right now. You had found effective ways of coping with life as normal, but this is not normal.”

When I wrote my last blog entitled “Change is a comin'” I had no idea of all the changes we would soon be facing. So many changes. Most of them rather abruptly with an unknown duration. I’m now seeing all my clients through telehealth, meaning I no longer go into my office and sit with my clients face to face. We are doing video calls and some of them phone calls. It’s not the same as sitting in the room with my clients, but it’s been okay.

I miss hugging my children and grandchildren. We have been using Zoom to have virtual family time for all of us. The other night I read a book to the littles using Zoom and they got to talk to their cousins. We are planning a talent night soon and they can all share a talent with the rest of us. It should be very entertaining. My 87 year old mom lives with my husband and I. She has enjoyed video calls with our relatives.

I recently asked friends to post positive effects of staying at home.  Here’s some of the comments:

Cooking more.

Dinner and game night at the table every night.
I’ve taken time to get things done instead of “lounging and recouping “ when I’m not at work. I’m more driven

Those quiet moments when the dishwasher is humming because it’s full from another meal we enjoyed together, kids are reading or doing school work, and I’m drinking coffee and moving about the house kissing my husband on the cheek in passing.

I sat on my patio and enjoyed the beautiful day. I felt thankful.

It has forced me to slow down! And I have enjoyed EVERY second of it! No complaints here!!

And I’m so happy for them. I’ve found all these things to be true as well. We’ve done DIY projects that we probably wouldn’t have had time for. We are slowing down, being intentional about connecting with family, spending time outside. But, not every one has it so good.
I’ve talked to a number of my clients in the last couple of weeks about adjusting their coping skills. Your normal methods of coping may not be enough right now. You had found effective ways of coping with life as normal, but this is not normal. This is the opposite of normal. You need to adapt the skills you already have, or maybe you need some new ideas. Here’s some things I’m suggesting to clients:
1. Get outside every day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Preferably several times a day. Breathe the fresh air deeply. Look around you and try to notice 5 things you haven’t noticed before.
2. Connect with someone either by phone or video, but preferably video. As humans we need to see facial expressions. Remember Tom Hanks painting the face on the volleyball in Cast Away?
3. Eat healthy.
4. Have some structure in your day. Get up and go to bed around the same time each day. Get up and get ready for the day. Don’t lounge around in pajamas all day. Wash your face, brush your teeth, brush your hair and put on deodorant at the very least.
5. Limit the time you spend watching the news and social media. Don’t drown yourself in COVID-19 information. Check it maybe twice a day and that’s it.
6. Reach out when you are feeling sad or lonely or overwhelmed. We all are feeling it. Reach out to someone and talk through that.
7. Remind yourself each day that this is a temporary situation. This will not last for the rest of your life. This will come to an end and life will go back to normal at some point.
8. Practice being present and grateful. Without the distraction of future thinking (ie. what time to pick the kids up or drop them off, appointments, ballet lessons, sports practices, church activities, etc.) that we usually have, allow yourself to be fully in the present. Intentionally use all five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing) to experience your world. Each morning and evening find 3 things to be grateful for.
9. Do something that makes you laugh every day. Watch a comedian, a funny video, family videos, play a silly game, have your kids tell you jokes, look up tongue twisters and try some of them, etc.
10. Reach out to someone else to make sure they are alright. Text, phone, video, email, snail mail…so many options. Checking on others gives us a sense of purpose and value.
I know that some of you are in terrible situations. For some, staying at home isn’t a welcome change. You may be home with an alcoholic, an addict,  or an abuser.  You may have lost your job or the provider in the home has, causing you to worry about if you will lose your home, your car, or be able to buy necessities. You may be home with a new baby and no support. You may be a caregiver of someone and have no support. You may be grieving the death of a loved one all alone.  You may be dealing with a difficult diagnosis alone. Please reach out. Please ask for help. Ask for support. Most mental health professionals are doing telehealth like I am. We want so badly to support anyone that we can. Ask friends. Ask people in your church. Ask anyone, please just ask.
Here’s a list of US numbers that may be helpful to someone:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-TALK
Trevor HelpLine / Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ+ Teens — 1-866-488-7386
Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741
IMAlive — online crisis chat
National Runaway Safeline — 1-800-RUNAWAY (chat available on website)
Teenline — 310-855-4673 or text TEEN to 839863 (teens helping teens)

Child Abuse Hotline — 800-4-A-CHILD (800 422 4453)
National Domestic Violence Hotline — 800-799-7233
Missing & Exploited Children Hotline — 1-800-843-5678

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — 1-800-662-435

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So it’s important…

“Don’t give anything so much significance that if it doesn’t go well it destroys you, or invalidates who you are.”

When I was in my 20s…and 30s…and maybe a little in my 40s….it was very important tobirthdaycake-R6noC1o5Vnp61fOlQCj9sZI-680x383 me that things were celebrated on the right day. If my birthday was on Tuesday, I wanted to celebrate on Tuesday. If an anniversary was on a Thursday, I wanted to celebrate on Thursday.  I didn’t want to celebrate on the weekend, which would have been easier and given us more time. It needed to be on the exact day of the significant event.

Then, a few years ago, I stopped. My family of 6, had turned into a family of 17. My children had become parents and in-laws and step parents. There were A LOT of people that wanted to see my people on holidays. This resulted in my kids being overwhelmed every holiday, trying to get to 4 or 5 “celebrations” and not enjoying any of them. In addition, I only got them for a short time each holiday before they had to head to their next destination.  I decided that we needed to change something, so we did.

This year my family of 6 is a family of 20! We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. I get more time with my people and they get to enjoy our family time.  I stopped giving the day on the calendar significance, and instead, I have started placing the significance on the time with my family, whenever that gets to occur. This year we are moving our family Thanksgiving celebration to the Saturday after.

SignificanceThis caused me to begin thinking about the importance of, well anything really. A day, an event, a person, etc. all only have the amount of significance that we choose to assign to them. We’ve all been in love and assigned that person top priority in our life, only to break up and that person now has little or no significance in our life.

Do you see what I’m saying? Any day, is just a day, until you decide it’s more to you. Any person is just a person, until you decide they are more to you. Any event is nothing, until you decide it isn’t. I was talking with someone recently who had worked for months to do well on an assessment that could result in a promotion. They told me that if they fail, all their self-esteem would fall to nothing, and they didn’t know if they could recover. They were thinking of quitting, to avoid the possibility of failure. I told them, “Don’t give this one event the power to invalidate everything you have accomplished.” Don’t give anything so much significance that if it doesn’t go well it destroys you, or invalidates who you are. Not a wedding, not a holiday, no test, no interview, no person. You choose how much power you assign to anything in your life.

What are you giving significance to? You can choose. Do you need to examine the things you hold so tightly (rigidly) and see if the significance is misplaced? Is there something  that you fear failing at because you think that means YOU are a failure? It doesn’t.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m welcome…

“Maybe that’s what I was missing when I was lonely. A deep acceptance of my presence by someone.”

Have you ever felt lonely? I have. I’ve felt lonely when I was alone and lonely when I was with hundreds of people. Loneliness can be deep in your heart or it can be a momentary missing of someone. The dictionary definition of lonely is: sadness because one has no friends or company. From my experience with loneliness, I don’t feel like this definition is very accurate. I had friends, I even had company, and yet I still felt lonely. How then can we define loneliness more accurately?

I asked those who follow my facebook (Jules Kilson, LPC) to help me with a better definition. Here’s what some of you said:

“A feeling of isolation regardless of how many people you are around.” LH

“Not having someone to closely connect with.” PK

“A deficiency of human contact.” JK

“A void that seemingly cannot be filled, no matter who you’re surrounded by or the environment in which you live.” EK

“Walking into my empty house and going without human interaction.” LC

“A self-induced social hiatus.” KH

Feeling of isolation, lack of connection, lack of contact and interaction, a void, a social hiatus. I asked the author of the last one if that is refreshing or lonely, and they said both. In our culture, we can get overwhelmed with being constantly connected to others

219664-The-Eternal-Quest-Of-The-Individual

electronically. But, we are made to be in community. We desire connections and interactions. When we are deprived of these things, voluntarily or not, we are lonely.

I think that we desire authentic connection. We desire to be truly known and accepted by someone else. We desire interactions that are genuine and intentional. Interactions that are specific to us. We desire physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual contact with others that is deep and meaningful.

Both times I was in Africa, I was so impressed by a small gesture that is a part of their culture. When you enter, someone says,”You are welcome.” At first, I thought I was being chastised for not saying thank you for something. When was the last time you were told you were welcome somewhere? It feels good to the recipient. It felt good to walk into my office and have my friend Mgbechi tell me I was welcome with her, or my friend Michael say I was welcome in the car with him, or my friend Destiny say I was welcome in the kitchen while she was cooking. It made me feel noticed when my friend Rose in Uganda would say I was welcome on the patio with her. I knew they didn’t mind if I shared the space, but to hear them say it to me was a deeper acceptance of my presence.

Maybe that’s what I was missing when I was lonely. A deep acceptance of my presence by someone. Authentic connection, genuine, intentional interactions that were specific to me. Contact that was deeper than the surface and meaningful. Now that we figured that out, what can we do to manifest that in our lives and in the lives of others? How can we create connections, interactions and contacts that fill that void? I believe we can look at these things we have identified and see what is missing for us. Maybe we are scared. Maybe we are scarred. Maybe we are cautious. Maybe we can just start by saying “you are welcome” to someone else.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m shifting…

It’s been a little over 8 months since my dad died. I’m still figuring my grief out.  This week has been a struggle. It happens. This morning I’m coming out of a four day funk that was really hard. But, today seems better. If you’ve lost someone you love, you know. I wrote my feelings. Maybe the words will resonate with some of you.

grief

At first, my grief made me feel as though I was adrift in a dark ocean.  Tossed about, at the mercy of the waves. One day, I realized I had washed upon the shore. Laying on my belly, exhausted, but on the ground in the light. Still later, I found myself standing, but the sand under my feet was shifting and not predictable. Recently, I felt as though I found my footing. Sand that is mostly packed, that holds me steady as I go through the day. But, it’s still sand. Some days, with unpredictability, the sand under my feet shifts. I’m unsteady, tentatively taking steps to see if I sink. Some days I can’t. It’s too much work. So I stay still. And then, just like that, I stand again, unfounded confidence urging me to move forward. I accept the cycle.  Right now I can’t imagine that solid ground is an option. Then again, at one point I didn’t imagine that sand was an option to being tossed in the waves. So I’ll keep moving forward. Allowing myself kindness and compassion for the unsteady days. Enjoying the sun on my skin, and the feeling of the water washing over my toes. Knowing he loved to see me smile.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m loved…

“I often write about things that keep coming up in sessions. It seems like a lot of hurting people (all of us, right?) need to hear that they are precious and treasured and unconditionally loved.”

He looked at me with tears in his eyes. “Jules, I’m trying to wrap my head around that.” He said he had always known it, but never felt it. We joked about the great distance it is between our head and our heart. Literally only about 12 inches, but a great distance exists between knowing something is true in your brain, and knowing it is true in your heart. He said he has always been good at the head part, but not so great at the heart part. He admitted that working on the heart part is not historically in his comfort zone, but he’s starting to warm up to it.

What I had told him was that God loves him. Not because of anything he has done, but just because he is His. This idea of unconditional love. The idea that you are loved not for your performance, not for your behavior, not for any reason other than you are created by God and He loves you. This was mind blowing. Heart breaking in the best sense.

You don’t believe in God? Ok. He still loves you. You don’t acknowledge God? Romans 829
Ok. He still loves you. You have done a thousand terrible things? Ok. He still loves you. You struggle with your faith? Ok. He still loves you. You can’t escape it. You can’t make it go away. You can’t make Him stop.

He won’t force it on anyone. It’s there. Freely for you to have. But, it’s always your choice. Even if you don’t accept it, He still loves you.

I always told my kids, “I don’t love you because you are smart, or funny or kind, even though you are those things, I love you just because you are mine.” There is nothing my kids can do to make me stop loving them. They could reject me, disown me, stop acknowledging me, and it would break my heart. But, guess what? I would still love them. That’s my choice, not theirs.

And, if I, a simple, flawed, imperfect human can love like that, just imagine how much more God can love. How perfectly and purely and wholly God can love. It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.

not so powerfulI often write about things that keep coming up in sessions. It seems like a lot of hurting people (all of us, right?) need to hear that they are precious and treasured and unconditionally loved. When that moves from your head to your heart…that’s powerful stuff. It’s overwhelming. To feel and know in your heart that you are loved despite your mistakes, despite your unbelief, despite…well, anything.  Sit back and immerse yourself in that love. Rest in that love and let it fill you with a peace that you are searching for. Sink into that love and find acceptance.  Snuggle into that love and stop struggling.

It’s here. It’s happening right now. You are being loved. You are being pursued. As you read this you are being treasured and prized and adored. It’s here. That’s His choice. Can you accept it? That’s your choice.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

 

So I’m…a mom

“Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time.”

(Disclaimer…I know there are lots of daddies that show up as well, but only having experience of a mama, I speak from that. If you are a daddy and this applies to you, share it with your daddy friends.)

My son surprised me. He likes to do this. He said he wasn’t coming home for Christmas and I have been cursing the Army for a month for keeping both my boys from me. Thursday morning the doorbell rang and there he was, with his wife and kids, and I was totally confused. I was thrilled, but so confused. He showed up and all my sadness was gone. Those sweet baby kisses came, and I forgot all the days I had cried over them not coming home.

This post is for all you mamas who are especially busy this time of year. All of you who feel mommy guilt for not getting it all done. The ones worrying about not getting every teacher a gift, and decorating cookies with the kids like Pinterest. For all of you who are lucky to get all the gifts wrapped, let alone put bows and tags on them. For all of you that worry your kid will be scarred for life because you didn’t watch Christmas movies in matching jammies and write letters to Santa.

You worry about getting the presents they want, making the money work, getting to the programs at school and church. You go to the store with toddlers and babies to buy gifts, because finding a babysitter costs too much. You have to remember a million things, and then your second grader says they need a reindeer headband the next morning at school.

Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time. So many celebrations, so many places to take the kids and get them off their schedules. So many opportunities to feed into our mama insecurities.  I know. I was you. I remember.

You’ve never heard what I’m going to say. I’m going to tell you what Christmas is about. It’s about God showing up. It’s about God saying “I’m coming to you.” and then showing up. That tiny baby in the manger was God, choosing to be human, choosing to depend on humans for his life, choosing to experience all we humans experience, because of his love for us. He’s a great father.

Mamas, hear what I’m saying to you. Kids know who shows up. They know who is there every single day, listening, reading their favorite book for the 36th time, feeding them, taking them places, kissing boo-boos and healing broken hearts. Laughing and celebrating and having impromptu dance parties. They may be disappointed Christmas day if they don’t get the toy on the top of the list, but you show up every day, and that makes all the difference.  You show up. You’re a great mama. You show up, out of your love for your children, just like God.

Be kind to yourself this season. Give yourself credit for showing up the other 364 days, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make this one day perfect. Because it won’t be. Do what you can, and enjoy the time with your family. My 85 year old mom tells me often “The days go slow, but the years go fast. Enjoy your moments.” Merry Christmas mama❤

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m healing…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been healing and celebrating and saying goodbye and hello and goodbye again. It’s been a year of hurricanes, not only in my country, but in my life. A category 5 that wiped me out and I’m rebuilding.

My father died this year. Whew…that’s still so hard to say. My dad was the best. I learned about God from my dad. Not just words, but what a father is, and what a father does, and how a father makes you feel. I learned about family from my dad. I learned a lot of other things from him as well, how to ride a horse, how to change a tire, how to …………. fill in the blank. My love of flying, of cars, of city lights at night, of chocolate ice cream…all from him. My ridiculous sense of confidence in new situations, my generous spirit, my compassion, my patient nature…all from him. He was (still hard to use past tense) the best father.

So this summer, my hurricane season, went something like this: My oldest son graduated from basic and we made a few trips to Georgia so he could see his wife and kids. He was starting Airborne training and would be there a few months more. Dad was ill often. I made the 2 hour trip to my parents’ house several times, sometimes staying a day, sometimes staying a few days depending on how he was and what Mom needed.  At one 19441758_10155482791693739_1128828333922711115_opoint he was in the hospital and I had been there a few days without my husband, my oldest daughter called and said she was heading to the hospital to have g’baby number 8. I told Dad and he sent me off with a kiss. I sped home, picked up my husband and got to the hospital in time to kiss those sweet, new baby cheeks.

Dad was not doing well and I headed back up there. That was pretty much the story for the month of June. My dad was moved to the nursing home.  July 4, he gave up. The storm hit with full force. I thought I had prepared, I thought I had boarded the windows and hunkered down, but I was wrong.  The deepest, greatest sadness I’ve ever felt came, and settled on me like a heavy, wet wool blanket. My protection was my husband, my children, my siblings, my mom, the house of family that my dad had worked so hard to build stood strong. We had a public visitation, and over 300 people came to pay their respects to my family. I had friends drive several hours to show up for me, and it meant the world.  We planned a private family funeral for a few weeks later.

 

The Sunday of the funeral came, and our giant family celebrated the life of my father. Every single person spoke of my dad’s great love of his family. That Friday, g’babyHaven number 9 was born. Her daddy was able to get leave from the Army and come home for 10 days to hold his precious new daughter.  As excited as I was, I was torn to my core with grief that my dad would never see this great granddaughter that he had been so excited to meet. I left the hospital crying uncontrollably and couldn’t go back that day. The 10 days flew by and we had to tell our son goodbye again. He was broken leaving his wife and 3 children, again.

In September, my husband and I went to Florida for a week. We stayed in the same hotel on the beach that my parents had stayed at for the last 20 years. We invited my mom to come with us, to rest and heal, but she understandably wasn’t ready to leave home.  It was wonderful to sit on the same beach watching sunsets that I knew my parents had sat on so many times. The peace in the eye of the hurricane.

We then said goodbye to our youngest son as he headed to across the world for deployment until June 2018. His wife and 2 year old moved in with us as she would be having their second daughter in a month or so. At the same time, we moved our older son’s wife and three kids across the country to finally live together again after 10 long months of separation. Again, a hurricane of sadness and happiness swirling and blowing together.

22769642_1317678038343022_4388228918228156563_oOctober 17 g’baby number 10 was born. Her daddy made it home the next night and got to spend 10 days kissing his girls. But, alas the 10 days were up and we again told him goodbye until June of next year. My heart broke watching my son leave his family.

My hurricane season brought devastation. My life has been altered in ways it will never recover from. My hurricane season brought life. Three new babies that have helped heal my heart and brought so much joy to us all. My hurricane season brought goodbyes that I didn’t want to say. Goodbye to my sons, goodbye to my dad. My hurricane season brought sadness. Watching helplessly as my mom grieves her husband of 67 years. Watching my brothers and my sister grieve their dad. Watching my children and grandchildren learn to accept that their time with their grandfather is over. My heart breaks for them all.

Here’s the thing: My dad lives on in every act of kindness that I see my kids do for each other. He lives on in every phone call I make to my mom and my siblings. He lives in every story my siblings tell and every memory I share with my grandkids. My dad lives on in photographs that show him being there for all of us. He lives in the faces of my brothers and phrases we all use. My hurricane season was chaos, but the aftermath is full of love, and the house my dad built stands strong.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules