Archive for July, 2011

Banning squishy language

Friday, July 29th, 2011

“I think I may consider going to Texas to visit my sisters and dad,” I said recently to my husband Jeff. What I should have said is, “I’m going to Texas to visit my sisters and Dad.” More direct. More concise. More truthful.

This pattern of speech–overly cautious, hesitant, seeking affirmation–is stereotypically feminine. Women are less assertive in their speech, communication experts tell us. We ask a question when we know the answer. I bet many of you say, “Would you like to go out to dinner tonight?” when what you mean is, “I’d like to go out to dinner tonight.”

“Weasel words”–a term my writing teacher uses–pop into our speech. Words like “perhaps,” “seems,” “possibly,” “maybe.” Are these words always a cop-out? Not necessarily. But often we insert them to soften our opinions or observations. They give us an escape hatch, should someone disagree with us.

What underlies our use of indirect and squishy language? A desire to please? Cultural conditioning? Habit?

In my case it’s probably (no, strike that word) a need for approval. I want someone to agree with me, so I communicate in a way that invites that person to say, “Yes, that’a a good idea.”

In our daily blogs, Deb and I are raising issues or situations that get in the way of growing. We’ve put ourselves on the line by revealing what our own roadblocks are. We’re committing to change.

Direct and honest communication is my intention moving forward. (Unless, of course, it’s not appropriate. No, strike that.) Let us know what you’re thinking. What’s standing in your way? What would you like to let go of?




Letting go of guilt

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Perhaps it was the confessions I was required to make as a child growing up in the Catholic Church. “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” Or the societal pressure to be productive–every minute, every day. Or my own need to feel worthy by devoting my life to the greater good–whatever that may be, or engaging in demanding professions during the first half of ¬†life.

For whatever reason, I feel guilty about simple pleasures–reading a page-turner novel during the day (oh, my), waking up without an alarm clock, starting my day at 10 a.m. after a leisurely read of the paper and a splash in the pool, spending an afternoon browsing shops when I’m not on vacation. living life without a clearly articulated goal staring me in the face.

Is it possible to let go of guilt in a single day? This is a question to you, dear reader. Help me on this. Can a lifelong commitment to responsible living be transformed by writing a single blog?

I start today with this intention: I release unnecessary guilt by valuing¬†who I am, not simply what I do. When that nagging thought–Shouldn’t you be doing something more productive?–arises, I will return to this intention.

Hey, are there other guilt-ridden former careerists, former confessors, former do-gooders out there who now embrace pleasure unabashedly? Or who would like to? We’d love to hear from you.



Outgrowing a dress–and an identity

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

My deep purple gown with its sparkling bodice and flowing skirt wants to leave home. Or rather I’m ready for it to depart. It marked an important occasion eleven years ago–the completion of six months of chemotherapy. My friends and I¬†celebrated by going to the Des Moines Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Concert and partying afterwards until the early morning hours. My dress and I made an important statement: treatment for breast cancer would not sap my ability to savor music, merriment or memories.

Whether I would indeed survive breast cancer was an unknown then. ¬†Nonetheless, I claimed the term “survivor” as a badge of courage. In my first Komen Race for the Cure, I proudly walked as one among many.

Yet labels can be limiting and with my life history, I can identify many things I have survived–spina bifida, a failed first marriage, and an unsuccessful campaign for the Iowa Senate to name a few. These experiences made me stronger. Today I consider myself resilient, wise and peaceful.

So this lovely dress served its purpose, as did the label I embraced early on. In honor of all women now undergoing treatment for cancer, ¬†I let this dress go, delivering it to Beacon of Life’s resale shop. May all women with cancer have the opportunity accorded me to one day reflect on their experience with peaceful hearts.


Deb and I will blog during the next couple of months on what we are letting go of each day. We’ll look at what’s getting in our way, what no longer serves us, what we no longer need. What are you ready to let go of? Materials things? Behaviors or beliefs? We’d love to hear from you!



Leaving the prairie behind

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Much as I tried, whenever I visualized my inner garden, I saw a Charleston-type gated sanctuary, not a wide-open wild prairie. So why was I living on eight acres in an old farmhouse with three acres of native grasses and flowers edging our backyard?

Our century farmhouse captured our dreams: space for visiting family, overnight retreat space for guests, walls that encapsulated history, windows that revealed both the huge orange moon emerging from the land and the pink and purple sunset announcing the end of the day.

It was our dream–until it was not. We spent most evenings and weekends taking care of it. Removal of a single tree on our forested land could gobble up our vacation savings. Family and guests did not visit often enough, leaving empty rooms to remind us of our relative isolation. It was time to move on.

Fast forward a year and a half. We’re through the grief of selling our dream home to someone with a new vision for our place. After supper, my husband and I discuss what we’d like to do–or whether we’d like “to do” anything at all. I have a small carefully landscaped garden outside our bedroom.¬†We let go of what was standing in our way of more leisure time, not without pain. Yet we had confidence in what was calling us next.

This topic of letting go comes up frequently in our workshops and mentoring. So during the next couple of months, Deb and I have challenged ourselves to blog about it–not to reminisce about the past, but to let go of something new every day we write, no easy task for someone who has recently downsized. We’ll let go of non-material things as well–limiting beliefs, behaviors we’ve outgrown or need to change, fears that are getting in the way of growth. Join us on this adventure of weeding the gardens of our lives and tell us what you’re wanting to release. Diane