What to do When We Lack Compassion

In the medical community we call it Compassion Fatigue. You get it when you are immersed in situations that require constant compassion for others. Once in a while someone manipulates you and it sours you or the constant drain of your energy to take care of someone leaves you exhausted. There are other situations that we experience Compassion Fatigue too. We tire of the dramatic situations of our relationships at work and at home. We get sucked into attention-grabbers on social media and we become detached because none of it seems real anymore. It’s hard to know what to lend our emotions to and what not.

What should we do when we lack compassion?

1) Realize that it’s okay not to get emotionally involved.
Taking good care of a patient or loved one doesn’t mean that you become responsible for them or that you have to be involved more than you feel comfortable. You can listen to friends but you don’t have to offer advice or take on their problems.

2) Don’t confuse compassion with pity.
Compassion is a sense of solidarity with others. You are with them. Pity is simply feeling sorry for them which doesn’t empower either one of you.

3) Recognize when it’s time to take a break.
Working overtime constantly, caring for someone around the clock, or being available to a friend or coworkers around the clock burns you out quickly. Everyone needs to take a break and step away from the situation. That may mean talking to family members about taking turns caring for the ill member. Making sure you are working in an environment that ensures a team approach rather than “one guy that’s the only one that knows how to do a job” syndrome is wise as well. Setting healthy boundaries with friends is vital to lasting friendships. Only you know what those boundaries should be.

4) Transitions happen so go with it.
As a society we fail to recognize that sometimes relationships transition. This is most often relevant in friendships but could happen in marriages or work relationships. Even though you’ve been friends for years doesn’t mean you should hang on no matter how painful it’s become. In the case of work, we often hold onto a job because of the fat paycheck or because we have been there so long that it’s comfortable. The two extremes of comfort are exactly the problem. What good is a friendship if you cringe when the phone rings? How good is a job if you are so comfortable that you don’t think you have to follow the rules anymore or that you come off to others as thinking you are superior?

Compassion is something that most all of us want to have but compassion is meant to be healthy not dysfunctional or codependent. It requires interbeing. We have to remember that true compassion is required in every aspect of our lives starting with ourselves. If we don’t take good care of ourselves we can’t take care of others. We have to balance our lives with alert knowledge and apply it. We have to recharge our spirit with mountain hikes, gardening, social interaction or alone time, taking time to do our favorite things like cooking, painting, listening to music, or taking a run. Our compassion never really leaves us but we do need to give it a chance to breathe.

Bringing Life Into Old Age

IMG_20140614_141850085One of the toughest parts of my job is helping people place their parents in the nursing home. They are often overwhelmed emotionally and physically. Showing them the benefits as well as the reality has been very educational for me. What I didn’t expect when I started out was how different each patient and family would be. Some would think that sounds funny but consider that many of us have this vision that the only reason someone would have to be in a nursing home is because they are “a vegetable”, unable to talk or think for themselves never mind make a decision. Reality is that there is a spectrum of needs for patients as well as families and ironically how each reacts to their own situation plays a big role in the outcome.

* Even in old age attitude is everything.

* Staying positive can actually help you physically heal.

* It’s okay to fall apart.

* Being in a nursing home doesn’t mean you have to give up.

*Quality of life is dependent on having purpose.

* Having someone else care for your loved one doesn’t mean you are a bad person.

* Being busy is not a viable excuse for anything.

* You can be bitter but remember it’s a choice not a circumstance.

* Perfection doesn’t happen in nursing homes. Reasonable expectations make for less suffering for everyone.

* You can be sad for awhile about losing everything you ever worked for but keep in mind you don’t need all that stuff to be happy. It’s just stuff.

Bringing life into old age isn’t about looking young or even out running gate. It’s about adapting to your circumstances in the best way possible to continue to live a good life despite what may come your way.

The Disease of Being Busy

Becoming a Minimalist:

When did we get so busy?

Originally posted on Live & Learn:


The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi, recipient of the 2009 Teaching Award for Professor of the Year at Duke University:

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.” Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.” The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

…How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

…In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, 

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It Is Enough

Becoming a Minimalist:

It is Enough

Originally posted on CultFit:

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

Anne Alexander Bingham

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Sacred Sundays: Joy of the Uncomplicated

I used to think that intricate meant better. That the more items a recipe had in it the better it would taste or the more complicated my goals or my plan, the better the accomplishment. My former self thought that simple must be boring and certainly not adventurous. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Every Sunday morning I have those quiet early morning hours to reflect on life. Today I find the joy of the uncomplicated. I think about how our routines have saved us time and reduced chaos as well as stress. It’s amazing how deciding to be less has quieted my mind and helped me focus on the present moment and what is really important. When I let go of covering up and worked on beauty from the inside peace really started to roll in and I listened to my heart to move further on the path to becoming a minimalist. Maybe it does sound boring to some but we have enjoyed every moment that we put complications behind us.

I still have a busy life but it’s simple.
*We have little clutter in our home to clean up so I can bake bread instead of clean on Sunday mornings.
*We buy a few basic products for our pantry that do just about everything.
*We keep entertainment simple and at home.
*We make much of what we eat from scratch.
*We make our own laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner, cleaning solutions, and soon skin soap.
*We plant a garden and add onto it every year to move towards self-sufficiency.
*We enjoy the present moment.

On this Sacred Sunday I wish you peace and joy in the uncomplicated.

Think About it Thursdays: Life Happens Or Do We Create It?

I grew up with two parents that taught me how to survive. A father that’s a former Marine taught me how to change a tire, survive in the wilderness, and stand up for what I believe in. A mother that had her own health challenges as a Diabetic and coming from a household of two alcoholic parents taught me grace, trust, and how to make lemonade when life gave you lemons. They both taught me a lot about life in very different ways. I was fortunate.

Life Happens
Life does happen. There are times that the unforeseeable falls into our lap and there seems to be no way out. Money, time, energy, physical abilities, and employment or lack thereof are some of the factors. We can’t control everything. Some people feel like they just can’t catch a break. The spectrum runs from those little bumps in the road to bad things happening over and over again. When will life get easier?
I used to think that life just happened to me. I was unhappy and couldn’t understand why “people” couldn’t act how I thought they should or why I just couldn’t have a good life.

Creating a Life
Somewhere along the line I grew up and decided to take action. I stopped being negative and chose not to participate in negative conversations. It took some time to get out of that habit. Then I looked at some of my choices and decided to make choices that would create peace in my life instead of chaos. I went from working in a busy hospital in the ER to working in a Physical Rehab facility. My family moved across country so I made the choice to leave a lot of things behind including relationships and material possessions. Challenges still come my way but I choose to stay positive and look for the best way to deal with it. It wasn’t that my life had changed that much at all. I just looked for opportunities to to direct it.

Do you let life just happen or do you create it? Do you think that it’s possible to change your life?

Here’s how I created a new life:

The Four Agreeements


The Four Agreements have really helped me live better. It made me realize that I have to take some responsibility. If I’m not impeccable with my word, if I take things personally, or I don’t do my best, it creates suffering for me and possibly my family. If I want a good life I have to do my part.

Step Out of Chaos
Because of the nature of my former job I had to be involved in everything. Every conversation, every problem, every meeting was getting me deeper into stress and chaos. The intention was trying to help. The impression was a busybody. The outcome was negative chaos and stress. I had to step out of that persona and job. At first I stopped being on committees, then I stopped listening to other conversations. I helped less. Some people took it personally, that I wasn’t being a team player. Some were relieved.

Relationships take time and energy. I’m a believer in transitions. Some people are only meant to be in our lives for as long as our spirit benefits from the connection. When you find yourself spinning your wheels, when it becomes more difficult that uplifting is the time to disconnect. People take that personally too. It’s unfortunate.

I respect the fact that we all have different views and ideas on life. I’ve shared some of mine here.
Please share yours in the comments.

What has worked for you?
What is your biggest challenge?

Grateful Tuesdays: Core Relationships

I’m so grateful that I’m not 18 or 21 anymore. Back then I expected everyone else to make me happy but me. Thankfully that has changed through the years but not without some harsh lessons. Somewhere along the line I had that light bulb in my head turn on and realized that if I wanted good relationships I’d have to be responsible too.

My first marriage was rocky. I’m grateful that I have two great kids and that their father is a good guy. We just didn’t live together well. My marriage now is so much different. We went through those first years of establishing trust and learning how to work together with finances etc but it was shaky. Too shaky. We finally sat down and talked about what we were going to do. Somehow we came across the book The Love Dare. It’s Christian based. We have our own beliefs so we decided to take away the main messages and not worrying if we weren’t doing such things as praying together. We didn’t finish the book like we should have. What we did do was we got the message.

In a relationship you have to be willing to give. It doesn’t work if you don’t make it a point to do nice things. Giving doesn’t cost anything. It’s making the bed when the other guy is busy. It’s not getting uptight if things aren’t perfect. It’s doing your share of the work, sometimes more without resentment. Unconditional giving is the strongest way to improve a relationship. It takes guts and trust. It also takes love.

We are only human. No one is going to do things perfect all of the time. Life happens and you have to have patience. Practice patience when you think the other guy isn’t listening. Be patient with yourself and know that it will all pay off. Hold your tongue. Spouting off hateful reprimands doesn’t fix relationships.

Don’t Take it Personally
We have this thinking that if someone loves us enough they will automatically understand us and always be considerate. The moment they don’t we take it personally as a sign that they don’t love us enough. That’s rubbish. In relationships you can easily get caught up in analyzing every little detail. Stop. If he forgets to do the laundry don’t take it personally. Find a way to help him remember. If he still doesn’t do it work around it. Maybe he hates it. Agree that he has a different job that would help out instead. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you enough to do the laundry. It all seems a bit silly when you write it down doesn’t it? We get busy and aren’t always mindful. Help each other. Work on it.

Get Rid of the Victim
You are not a victim. Get rid of that mentality. You have choices. If you are in a relationship with someone that is not ever going to be a giving person and you have given them every chance in the book then it’s time to make a decision. Only you can decide what to do about it but continuing to fight a battle that’s not worth fighting will only keep you miserable. Seek counseling. Make appropriate decisions. Create a life.

We had been worrying more about ourselves than about the other person. That’s the wrong perspective to have. When we took the time to do nice things for the other person something wonderful happened. Our relationship bloomed. Things got easier. We practiced more giving. It was better yet. We had to take that leap of faith that the other person would reciprocate. It worked. To this day, I make him his coffee on the weekends and bring it to him. Not because I have to but because it’s that little thing I do that shows how much I appreciate all he does for me. We don’t argue about housework, laundry or bills. We trust that the other person will hold our best interest to heart.It’s not perfect. There are days I have to hold my tongue and there are days when he has to practice patience. Those days are much fewer than ever before.

My friendships have been much harder than my marriage. I am an introvert. I don’t do lunch. Social gatherings make me crazy. Christmas parties are totally out of the question. I tolerate girl friends very little. Drama is something that I simply don’t understand. I’m as emotional as anyone else but I can’t tolerate people that keep doing the same thing over and over even though it’s making them miserable. The move across country was helpful in distancing me from the drama. It seems harsh to some but I made a decision for 2015 to totally disengage from those relationships that are just simply chaos. I cleaned out my social media and I don’t correspond. It’s not something that I think everyone should do but I appreciate the peace it has afforded me. I am not isolated. I’ve made friends with like interests and little drama. I am more careful with my choices and I simply don’t encourage friendship at work. I work well with others and I interact but I don’t get involved. It has brought a lot of peace in my life to set boundaries and walk away when I needed. I am grateful that I am confident enough to do that. I have choices. It wasn’t something I could fix, believe me I tried.

Core relationships affect our life every single day. We have the choice to make them spectacular. What choices have you made that you are grateful for? What would you do to make a relationship better?

Sacred Sundays: Starting Fresh

Two years ago today we moved across country to a new life. We left family and friends and took a leap that changed our lives. We had expressed our desire to move to Utah five years previous and after struggling to find the right fit for a job my husband had a friend and coworker call him with a job. They accepted him right away and we moved within 30 days. It all happened quickly but we felt it was meant to be. Our apartment complex had apartments in the area where we were moving so we could transfer our lease. We both ended up having jobs when we got here which is simply unheard of in this area. Everything fell into place and allowed us to start fresh.

Becoming a Minimalist Family
I was moving towards minimalism myself for quite some time but it was tough to convince my husband to do the same. When you are talking about moving everything you own across country minimalism looks pretty attractive. It became easy very quickly determining what to keep and what to donate. The neighbors and the thrift store loved us and we loved them. We kept only what was valuable enough to move long distance. Suddenly my husband got into the minimalism thing. He still loves his technology but now he gets it.

New Job New Attitude
We had both worked for the same companies for 20 years. We were in that rut of sheer boredom and negativity. Had we stayed I would have looked for something new anyway. We longed for new challenges, new people to work with, and a new spark. Even though he stayed with the same company he went to a different division. He has the best of both worlds by having new coworkers and a new job but he gets to see his former coworkers at national meetings and such. By moving to a different area of the country we immediately had our challenges, new people to work with, and yes, that spark that we had longed for. New attitudes were right there.

Our new life affords us new opportunities that make us think outside the box. There are all kinds of things for families to do here. We joined the Nature center, Dinosaur park, and the Zoo. Now we plan weekend adventures. To afford these outings we have to cut corners elsewhere in the budget. We decided to make it more of a game than a negative worry. We also look for free events to attend. By choosing jobs that no longer have crazy hours (like my hospital job) we have more opportunities to spend time together as a family.

A New Perspective
Our perspectives have changed. We weren’t really negative people to begin with but starting fresh has made us realize just how lucky we are. Not everyone gets to move across country and have a clean slate. Some wouldn’t look at it the way we do. I could have chosen to be heartbroken to leave all that I have known. He could have chosen to look at the challenges of his job as impossible and regret the move. We didn’t.

We aren’t wealthy in the monetary sense. We don’t always have it easy. What we do have is the opportunity to start fresh every day. We have peace by having less crap and stress but more space and peace. Everyone can make a life. It’s what you choose that makes your life what it is. Life is sacred. Treat it that way.

Think About it Thursdays: When Did We Stop Cooking?

As I cruised the grocery store last week to buy just whole foods I began to wonder when we stopped making things. We stopped baking bread and were apparently so impressed with the Wonder of that, we went on to include nuts, seeds, and anything we could fit in a loaf. Then we supersized them and buddied them up for a pack of two or is it three? We have the power now to make skillet meals out of a box along with pancakes, tacos, and whole meals even according to Banquet. We can microwave anything as long as it has directions, plastic, and occasionally that little silver disc for pizzas.

When did we stop doing simple things? When did it become so inconvenient to cook real food?

The answer is most likely when women went to work. With the dawn of more women working outside of the home came a whole new market for processed food. We have no objections to progress at our house but tell me why we settled? We settled for more salt, preservatives and ingredients we can’t even pronounce, so much packaging we’ll never get rid of it all. The irony is that we even sacrificed taste. For instance, I’ve made biscuits for years from a mix in a box. It’s what my mother did. A few weeks ago I decided to stop buying processed food altogether. I made the best biscuits from just a simple recipe including flour, baking powder, oil, and milk. They’ve been so good we’ve had them several times. All I could think was that this recipe is so simple and doesn’t take any more work than pouring from that box and yet I never bothered to try it. I thought it would be too complicated, take more time, or heaven forbid I would have to think for myself instead of mindlessly following the crowd.

My accidental experiment with biscuits has set off a whole whirlwind of baking bread, crackers, tortillas, cakes, breakfast food, and entrees. I bake on the weekend for the next week so all I have to do is pull something from the freezer or the pantry. I work all week so I make one casserole, cook rice, beans, and vegetables for lunches, then heat them up just as I would have a frozen meal from a box. I make easy recipes and have a variety of staples on hand in the pantry that are essential. I recently started making my own oat and rice milk. The rice milk I make thick enough to use for creamer in my coffee. I use these for baking as well. I also discovered that ground flax mixed with water is the best egg substitute you could ever use. A little goes a long way and it turns out perfect for baking. By getting off my duff and exploring the options, I’ve developed a whole new creative world for me and my family.

Cooking with whole foods isn’t really that hard and you have the advantage of knowing what’s in your food. Most days you can pronounce what you eat, and oddly it saves a ton of money.

Would you make the switch to whole foods?


Grateful Tuesdays: There is Enough

In becoming a minimalist I made the journey to a life with less. Now we have less stuff, less stress, more time, and more space. People have asked me how I do without. My reply: “Without what?”

We don’t live a life of deprivation but there is little need to “organize” or “declutter”. We don’t keep extras for “just in case” , a garage piled with boxes that no one knows what’s in them, a cupboard full of the latest and greatest products made to make our life “easier” or better. We keep things simple by using the basics for everything. The oil that I use for furniture I put on my skin and cook with as well. The flour that I bake bread with is the same flour I make breakfast, tea time, and dinner with. There are few “kits” at our house. We don’t buy magazines, books, DVD’s or CD’s. If we do buy any of that it is in digital form that we can carry anywhere with us and it doesn’t find itself on the end table-ever. These times are rare because the internet has afforded us with so much to read and watch endlessly.

And yet there is enough…

We always have food on the table. Simple food  keeps us healthy and happy.

We always have clothes on our backs to keep us warm or cool according to the weather.

We always have shoes to wear.

We have time to spend together as well as doing the things that speak to our spirits.

We have space to breath, to think clearly, to play, and to sleep.

We have hot water to keep us clean and healthy as well as our home.

We have each other. We never take that for granted.

All of these things seem simple and basic and yet we feel blessed and feel the wonder of each of them. These simple things many take for granted or don’t even notice or think twice about. We find them all a luxury. We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to appreciate all that we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. We don’t feel the need to fill up our lives.

They are already full. There is enough.