Write Now

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The time is NOW.

I have a business degree and had a successful marketing career I loved in another lifetime, but through the twists and turns of life (i.e. three children, a specific life set up chosen by mutual commitment–also in another lifetime–and an internal gauge that doesn’t allow more than one setting at a time), I no longer crave the fast-paced, hand-shaking, yes-hustling, suit-wearing, jet-traveling, conference-room-brainstorming world of yesteryear.

The passion I pursue is storytelling layered with why people do the things they do, how the times we live in and people we live with shape us; what it means to be one person in this big world and one person in our own small world. The first story I need to tell is my own and it’s the story of how I lost my parents through divorce, heartache, and growing up. It feels like a giant dough ball I keep kneading and pulling apart and putting back together. I have been working that dough ball for quite some time, along with the little thing called learning to write. It feels important. 

I had a good childhood but a lot went wrong too and I used to blame all of it on my parent’s divorce when I was four-years-old. My absolute worst fear ambushed me when I went through my own traumatic divorce a couple years ago. Juxtaposing my adult experience with my childhood was terrifying and I will have to write that book when I no longer relive those few years.

Alas all is well now, I landed that highjacked plane, but I have learned some things from my child eyes, two decades of obsession with understanding human nature, and watching my three girls during our family upheaval. The story I can tell is how divorce was done in the 70s and 80s is no longer the same today. My generation was the first to experience divorce en mass, where over a million kids per year lost a parent, and maybe two by their other parent’s grief, pursuit of new love, or working three jobs. The divorce rate shot up to fifty percent by 1980. It was a crazy time. Governor Ronald Reagan signed the No Fault Divorce laws in California in 1969 (one month before I was born,) our country’s social and political structures made seismic shifts toward chaos, and yet many young people still wanted to believe the Leave It To Beaver pace of life would hold them. It didn’t, as many can attest.

I have read too many books about writing, purchased even more and I’ve been to many conferences and talks to teach myself how to write creatively. Turns out business writing isn’t so creative. I wish I could have just download the software since I already have enough school. Darn. Anyway, the time is NOW. I am starting this book and the above chart will mostly likely be the trajectory of my progress.

Let momentum be my kick in the…buns.

Positive to Positively Authentic

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As Americans we say things like, Be positive, Don’t complain, Pull yourself up from your bootstraps, Move on, Don’t let it bother you, Don’t worry, be happy, Count your blessings, not your problems; all of these, full of wisdom and the path to a happy life. At times in my life, I have been the poster child for “Everything is AWESOME!” I read Stephen Covey, Og Mandino, and Dale Carnegie, and listened to Zig Ziglar tapes (yes, I said tapes.) I was in sales and marketing, which put me squarely in the Positive Psychology camp or suffer by comparison. After all, You are what you think. With a smile, twinkly eye contact and a genuine interest in other people, a person could be very successful. Follow the 10 Easy Steps to a Happy Life; I’m sure I read it and wired it directly into my DNA.

This was in my early twenties and in my late twenties I realized, “Wait a minute, some things in life are just not okay, not happy and certainly not good.” Being positive all the time and denying reality started to seem a little foolish and might get a person taken for a ride. Cynicism seeped in. It’s so easy because there are many smart people who will jump on that wagon in a snap. It’s one of those deals where if everyone is cynical together,we feel pretty smart, in a class all our own (some would call this the Ego Mind.) “We see the REAL deal and no one is fooling us.” During this time I had a boss who was still in the Positive Stage and, wow, she was so annoying. She was repeating the earlier messages on a daily basis like I had never heard them before. Ugh!

At some point I moved on from the cheery-boss and just stopped caring. Positive. Negative. Whatever. I just let my thoughts roll. They generally liked to roll down hill. This is about the time Corporate America was revealing itself as a tad empty and also after September 11, 2001. Life needed to change and it certainly did with a move from New York back to Washington, no corporate job and a new (colicky) baby. Catapulted into suburbia, in a neighborhood of moms with babies in every home, life rocked into an easy balance between the good and, let’s just say, not so good. Moms bonded on the ‘challenges’ of said babies, but relished all the goodness these little people brought into our lives; no positive-negative decisions necessary.

Now in my forties with children/preteens, I have come full circle. I found that no one really cares if you are positive or negative, although people generally do not want to be around complainers. If you are one of those people, you may find yourself complaining to your dog or maybe on Facebook – and surely there will be those who sympathize for awhile, but gradually we learn people Like you better when you have something of value to say. Cynicism is everywhere. Cynicism is easy. Cynicism is worthless. What I have found is I am far happier when I dig in to find the beautiful, the kindness, the lessons and the love in life’s situations. Sometimes it’s really easy. I lived in the Rocky Mountains for a year where I hiked, skate skied, downhill skied, touched the river daily and was surrounded by people who did the same. Negativity? None whatsoever. It was easy to be grateful for literally everything in my life.

Then life took a hairpin turn catapulting me into the abyss. Suddenly finding the positive was no longer easy and the ugly followed me around like a Northwest cloud in November. Now what? I do know You are what you think, but this seemed insurmountable, like climbing Mt. Everest in a wind storm. Pretending Everything is AWESOME! was just plain ridiculous, yet I still have the DNA wiring that says to Look for the good, Pull myself up by my bootstraps, Move on, Forgive and forget is the only way to happiness, yada, yada, yada.

However, when faced with the absolute choice, balancing these two opposite views on life is the only answer and I call this Positive Authenticity; accepting and speaking your whole reality with deep recognition of our infinite blessings.

Positive Authenticity is understanding we all have both light and shadows within us. The balance of allowing others to know our challenges, humility, cracks in the armor, as well as communicating our resilience, courage, wisdom, and love of life. Mostly, it’s about knowing for sure we all have everything we need, we are whole and good and unique and the same. We are human.

 

“Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated.” Letter to the Dean.

Dear Dean of Clinical Psychology,

Thank you for the thoughtful letter regarding my experience in the interview process. I am very happy to know that you and the admission committee in the Clinical Psychology Department reviewed my application and found my experience, academic qualifications and submissions at the standard for admission into the University. I do find it curious that a few Regional Professors could have a different philosophy on a successful applicant than the University.

One of the topics that have come into our collective consciousness through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, is why women do not lean into promotions and more responsibility in their professional pursuits. Ms. Sandberg speculates that women do not lean into promotions, new careers, or assignments unless they are positive they have the wherewithal and all qualifications are fulfilled, whereas men just go for it and see what happens. When I walked into Judith’s office in Vancouver I was fully prepared to start the PhD program. My basis for this confidence was my career in the pharmaceutical industry and my MBA which I completed while working a minimum of sixty hours a week, traveling, sometimes internationally, and launching a program with a $30 million budget. I am in a position where I know what it takes to be successful and this knowledge is why I have waited until now. I did not take this decision lightly and, in fact, it has been a three-year process of deliberation considering the ages of my children, my husband’s career and my future aspirations.

I am sure that I have a very different background than most of the applicants into the Clinical Psychology program. When I submitted my application to the University, I was sure, beyond any doubt, that I was ready for the academic rigor of a PhD program, the hours that it would take as a volunteer, the struggle in pursuing a research project and a dissertation. I was ready to tackle six years of hard work to reach my professional goals. Maybe I was naïve to believe that my experiences are valid, that my academic and professional achievements would prove my perseverance, my intellectual capacity, and my dedication to excellence. As I think about the people that have made undeniable changes in our world, I can’t think of one that didn’t start with a sprinkle of innocence, of naiveté. Dr. Kill-Your-Passion has forgotten that there are many paths to making a difference in the world and just because someone doesn’t follow yours, it doesn’t mean they will fail to be successful.

In the interview I was asked why I want to pursue psychology. As I wrote in my eight-page Statement of Purpose, I am passionate about understanding how all of us make our way as individuals and as a collective humanity. I want to be a therapist to help women in their relationships with their selves, children, spouse or romantic relationships, family and friendships. This understanding of my purpose in life has been hard won by trials in my life and a deep understanding through analysis of my own heart.

I have been fully, unapologetically in life. I was a child of divorce and am a motherless mother. I have a wonderful husband but experienced a divorce of my own. I have been at the table in the boardroom in New York City and the lonely salesperson on the road to approval. I have been there for my own family grappling with the devastation of Alzheimer’s and the heartache of a dying child. Friends have suffered mental health diagnoses that changed the course of their life forever. Autism, bipolar, depression, OCD, head trauma, learning disabilities, ADD, anxiety, suicide, aging parents, cancer and it’s effects on mental health, are just some of the difficulties that happen in real life; the life that I am in. I do not have ‘formal’ mental health training that Judith could verify and easily pass along for admittance into practicum. What I do have is connections with real people whom are in my path. People who might not have anyone, but for me, to pull him or her out of the abyss they are in, right before it is too late. This is the ‘formal’ mental health training that I have now as a forty-three year old, married mother of three that I did not have when I was young and willing to do whatever someone told me to do, so that I could be worthy, good enough to wear the halo they set upon my head.

Other goals that I will fulfill in my life are to do research, probably more qualitative, and to write a book or maybe several. I want to be an advocate for women, for mothers. Our country needs people who are grounded in understanding and compassion; to be in communities, at the ready to both make things happen for them and to help them understand they need to make things happen for themselves. My passion, my understanding of humanity is what will help others believe that they are capable and are whole just as they are. These goals have nothing to do with a PhD in Human Development. That would never be a viable option for me.

My first choice in fulfilling this vision was to go to your University. However, your professor’s demeanor and condescending discouragement of my application was arrogant and insulting, not to mention a waste of my time and money. She did not know anything about me, nor did she have any intention of learning. There are many paths and I have options with my time and with my resources.

I do appreciate the offer to interview with another faculty member of the school. However, sometimes a bad first impression can taint an entire endeavor and I think that is what has happened. Judith has tainted the entire school and when I consider the number of hours that I would spend to fulfill a PhD, not to mention upwards of $150,000, I don’t have the time to prove my worth to someone who will never see it. It wouldn’t make sense for me to be in a Cluster in another area, as one critical piece in my decision to go back to school is to be among like-minded, passionate people that I would have lifelong connections with. When people do things that don’t make sense, it automatically makes that person suspect. I want to study with others from the Northwest and I don’t want to have to explain myself, especially when there is negativity attached. Staying in the NW, while Judith is the main link to the school would not work out based on how she treated me in the interview. I used to accept this kind of behavior when I was in the corporate world, when I was much younger, but I am wiser now that I am a mother; instead of breaking down walls to be regarded as an equal, I will look for an environment that is accepting of different paths and views in the world.

This year I will work on the requirements for admission for several programs to apply for the fall of 2014. If there happens to be changes at the University, then I will consider applying again.

Thank you again for your letter and offer to move forward in the interviews. This process has succeeded in doubling my conviction that I am working toward the right goals and purpose in my life.

Best regards,

Janna Bushaw Crist

The Power of Nature. The Power of Us

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The absolute power of the ocean waves takes me by surprise as soon as I reach the end of the trail. The waves crashed on the hard surface of the lava rock at the same time as the soft, malleable sand beneath my feet. Every breath of the salty air, heavy with moisture grounds me a little more. The sound of the waves so loud that I have to get closer to hear the voices of my children. You can feel the sheer power of nature standing on an island beach in the Pacific Ocean. The waves collide with the earth, while the aftermath trickles in covering and taking anything left behind.

In the Rocky Mountains of the West, there is another example of nature that appears more delicately but equally powerful. Springtime brings new life into the hills, only a few weeks ago covered in snow and ice. On a recent hike I was struck by the familiar scents of summertime. Sage plants have new growth to which I pluck a small piece and rub between my hands to release the vibrant, invigorating smell that I have come to love so much. At the top of the mountain, smooth silken grass has muscled its way through the dense, rocky earth to bask in the rays of the afternoon sunshine just as I am. This power is slow and steady. A person cannot witness the formidableness of these tiny plants coming to life from a meer seed but instead we can imagine the potential of what is to come. A seed was planted and had to wait in the frozen, rocky ground through the unrelenting winter months until the temperatures rose and moisture was able to penetrate the earth. Only now can we witness it’s sheer potency.

I have recently been learning about Ayurvedic Medicine and went to a conference led by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Andrew Weil. “Ayurveda is the most ancient natural healing system of India . The word Ayurveda means the science of life. It is to do with healing through herbs and natural means. This system is a part of Vedic science and goes back to more than 4000 years B.C.” (http://www.ishwarcenter.org/) We, as in all of us on earth, are a part of the natural ecosystem, we are powerful in our own right. Although sometimes (or quite often) our inner voice gets drowned by past scripts playing through our minds, marketing campaigns aimed at convincing you that you need something to be who you already are, and even our friends and acquaintances at the ready to recommend what worked for them. We have forgotten that we already have all that we need, that our grandmother’s wisdom and remedies are our most important methods of healing, that we are whole. But we have to pay attention because rarely is our power as obvious as the crashing ocean waves but instead it is the potentiality that exists within us and that requires patience, strength and fortitude, just as the mountain grasses coming to life in the springtime.

To be continued…

Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I had visions of having our beautiful child, spending 3-4 months at home and then returning to my career just as I had planned since I was thirteen. I would get up in the morning, dress for work just as Mary Poppins would glide in and provide my baby everything they would need and then some. My husband and I would come home from work and we would sit down for a family dinner lovingly prepared by Ms. Poppins… We would stroll around town on the weekends stopping in to get a NY bagel and a Starbucks. Ahhh life was going to be AMAZING.

Then Ground Hog Day began. My daughter cried for a year. We moved back to Washington State into Suburbia. My husband was traveling at least 60 percent of the time. Mary Poppins was nowhere to be found and my job was back in New Jersey. My suits would have to wait for a year or two. That will be okay. I was sure that I would be back in them in no time. We won’t speak of them being a size 4.

Two more children and suddenly eight years has gone by. My beloved suits and high-heels are covered in dust – actually I think it transitioned to dirt by this point. I resolved to send them to a charity for professional women and so I gathered half of them and put them in another closet for removal when I got all the information together. Two more years go by. Now it has been ten years. My rational brain is looking at the size 4. My rational brain understands that I will not be going back to work in the same capacity as I did before. My rational brain understands that these suits aren’t even close to current style. My rational brain reminds me that the hundreds of dollars that I spent on them is way past sunk cost. Why was it so hard to give them away?

Then I received an email about a women’s charity that would be collecting women’s professional clothing in my home town. I gathered every bit of resolve to finally remove my old life so that I could make room for the new. I loaded my suburban to the top and started driving downtown. My stomach seized and by the time I got there (15 min) I didn’t know if I would be able to get out of the car. I went into the store that was collecting the clothing and the woman gave me a rack to hang my clothes. I stumbled in and out of the store and literally filled the rack with all my beautiful clothes. My professional life before children. Afterwards I went back to the woman to get my receipt but she had me sit for a minute while she attended to another customer. I thought I was going to lose consciousness. I started to sweat and became clammy. I needed to just hold it together to leave the store before ‘something’ happened. By the time I left the store I thought I might need my husband to come and get me. After sitting for a few minutes, I was able to drive home. I walked in the door and went directly upstairs to lie down. Fifteen minutes later I was absolutely fine.

Letting go of my before-child life was really, really hard. So hard I believe that I felt that loss physically. I did it though and there was no going back. That day I tried to remember all the clothes that I had just donated and if I really wanted them back. I didn’t. I haven’t missed them at all. I love my new life. I love being a mom. I love the opportunity I have to figure out what I really want to do when I grown up.

Ahhh. Letting go is so liberating in so many ways.

I am grateful to receive a SMILE

I recently had a conversation with a friend about Givers and Receivers. Of course my friend and I were both Givers. The alternative seems so selfish. This concept has perplexed me because we need both in life don’t we, as who would Givers give if there weren’t any Receivers receiving? Yet we do not want to think of ourselves being a Receiver, of being selfish.

Actually, I believe we all have the potential to be Givers and Receivers and it is a continuum that should have fluidity to go back and forth. Another bell-shaped curve. The happiest among us are able to freely move within the bell-shaped curve to Give and Receive and to reside in a neutral position on a daily basis. However, we are not a world or even a country full of shiny, happy people are we? In fact, there are many that really are just Givers or just Receivers and they usually attract each other.

I am learning to reside in the middle, at neutral and not to be only a Giver attracting only Receivers. Once again we learn how to Give, Receive or reside in the middle by our families of origin, by our parents. Our attachment patterns when we were younger provide a framework for us to connect with others. When we become aware of our own patterns, we can be more fluid in how we reach out or accept others who might be reaching out to us. We can feel comfortable that by residing in neutral position we can still connect with others in a more flexible way.

My family and I just moved to a very small town in the mountains of Idaho. In the past I would have been very motivated to connect with others by being extra friendly and outgoing even though my core personality is more on the introverted side. I now understand this knee-jerk reaction that I have and am free to choose how I will connect and with whom to connect. Being friendly is still very important to me as I have figured out that with a smile and a hello to a passerby I am BOTH giving and receiving. I am in neutral and within the bell-shaped curve. But I can choose to be friendly to strangers AND choose to connect with those that are important to me – like my family. These two concepts are separate. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It is healthier to reside in the gray area.

I went trail running yesterday and about six women in their mid-forties came racing down the mountain on bikes. As each one went by me they had big smiles and said “Hello”. Wow. It felt so good to be the receiver of friendliness. I, of course, smiled and said, “Hello,” back. Later I passed another woman mountain biking where I was the one who smiled and waved. She didn’t smile or say hello. I smiled again.

I am grateful for the little people in my life

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I am grateful for the little people in my life.

Their sense of adventure, curiosity, exuberance, innocence, happiness, creativity, emotion, tenacity, sensitivity, empathy, strength, vulnerability, presence, joy, delight, their love. Really, I love it all.

Please add your words to my list of reasons that you love children.

I am grateful for all the children in my life, but especially my three beautiful girls.