All posts tagged: change

The first hug in a year

I gave my first hug to a friend I hadn’t hugged in over a year. I felt a mix of tenderness, joy, relief, sadness, and distance. The feelings surprised me. I expected sheer delight – I love this person SO much! Instead, I think the hug was exactly what is meant by the word bittersweet. 

I recognized something else in that hug and subsequent first hugs after. My feelings right now are different than I assumed. They are milder and murkier than I expect. I think this is because for the last year, I was not able to have many nuanced emotions.

My mind has been locked down tight. I was focused on attending to the safety and wellbeing of my family and the community. I watched Covid take people’s lives, wellbeing, and livelihood.  I witnessed the racial reckoning of our country with held breath and continued to find what I must do and undo professionally and personally to be a part of ending racism. I observed friends navigating hardships from a distance and did my best to send love. I supported clients in their huge lifts to carry on their missions.

This last year I felt sad, and angry. At times I felt grateful and glimmers of sweet joy. And that was it.

My focus was tight and that was necessary, but it had its repercussions.  

I did not make room for a larger reflection on what was missing.

My spectrum of thinking, feeling, and experiencing was constrained to attend to the immediacy of survival and to respond to immediate personal and societal concerns.

This is not a new thing for humans. We all close in our emotions, and perspective in our daily lives in moments of pressure, trauma, conflict, violence, and loss. 

As tender and quieter thoughts and emotions emerge, I can feel the shape of the cold, exterior container I built to get through the last year. I do not want to be in that container but I know it will take awhile to set it down.

I want to share with you the slow ways I am dancing with the re-emergence of a fuller spectrum of emotions and thoughts. (I am not a trauma-expert, so I am including other resources below.)

You can better see and support others in your work and life, if you tend to where you are emotionally, mentally, and even physically, in this transition.

Here is what is supporting me:

  • I am paying attention to how I am feeling in the moment.
  • I am moving at the speed I can and trying to understand what others may be feeling or experiencing (i.e. go at your own pace and support others in their own pace.)
  • I am building connections with people who can listen without judgement or shame and whom I can offer the same to.
  • I am reflecting alone with walks, movement, and writing. 
  • I am finding moments of appreciation, thinking “I appreciate this… I appreciate you for…” and then letting the appreciation sink in.

The cliff notes:

  • Notice your feelings.
  • Go at your own pace.
  • Know and understand other peoples’ pace.
  • Connect with others who can listen, and you can listen to.
  • Reflect alone.
  • Appreciate the people, moments, the things you can.

Reflection questions to go deeper alone or together:
– What have I been feeling about…
– What am I feeling now about…
– What do I need? What do you need?
– What am I experiencing right now?
– What do I want to take with me from last year?

May you have moments of real connection with others and with yourself this month.


Here are two guides from the past months to support in this continued time of transition:

5 steps for grounding during instability
How to prepare for reopening


Trauma, grief & tending to emotions – a mix of resources

People on Insta for support & resources:
@nedratawwab – Nedra Tawwab
@Alex_elle – alexandra elle

Websites
Self-compassion – Dr. Kristin Neff’s resources & meditations
Cloud Sangha – facilitated mindfulness groups, including groups for people of color and women
Spell for grief & letting go – adrienne maree brown

Movie
The Wisdom of Trauma movie – Dr. Gabor Mate

Books
The Body is not an apology, Sonya Renee Taylor
The Body keeps the score, Dr. van der Kolk
No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Thich Nhat Hanh
Walking each other home: Conversations on loving and dying, Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush
The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, Nadine Burke Harris

Thank you to my social work colleagues for these resources! 
Have others I should include in my list? – Please send your recommendations.

Rheanna SmithThe first hug in a year
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How I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, flowers are beginning to peek up out of the ground. The days are getting longer. A smattering of them have been without rain. Which means there are less mud puddles. That means a lot less loads of wash for me to run. 🙂

Thankfully, some of my family have managed to get their Covid shots. In most places, infection rates are reducing as opposed to rising. 

I find myself thinking… perhaps I should be feeling more relief. More hope. 

Yet, I find myself sitting with a strange mix of emotions these last weeks. Here are the words that come to mind as I try to name them: exhaustion, wariness, nostalgia, sadness, hope, gratefulness, and grief. As we face the prospect of returning to gather in person, my hope and relief is mixed with powerful reminders of what family, friends and community have had to endure this past year – the loss of time spent together, the loss of jobs and security, the loss of loved ones. 

That’s when I begin to notice my posture of “just put your head down, Annie, get through it, push on.” This is not the first time in my life I’ve used this survival technique. It works. For a short time. But it takes a toll when I do it for long enough. 

You see, in order for me to “push through” I must also actively avoid feeling my own emotions – both negative and positive. That includes empathy, grief, tenderness, and gratefulness. This year provided me with moment-to-moment opportunities to both experience and avoid my feelings. Because of the intense magnifying glass our lives have been under this last year – I am noticing the moments I’ve avoided my feelings in order to simply “push through”.

The key for me moving towards hope and accessing my ability to open myself back up to people and public space, is to move myself from a posture of avoidance into a position of allowing myself to experience my own feelings. I am doing this now… ever so gently.

Here is how I am opening myself up to the feeling of hope and the learnings of the last year:

I am focusing especially on my feelings of grief and gratitude.

I am noticing in a specific way. It’s a technique coming out of mindfulness and Buddhism. 

I try to be aware of any feelings I may be experiencing in the moment. Then, I see if I can slow down and acknowledge the feeling, whatever it may be. It goes something like this:

“Hello there, sadness.” 
and 
“Whew, here it comes again… I’m missing someone…” 
and 
“Wow, I am so grateful for…”

I say to myself or (if appropriate) to those around me, just what it is that I am feeling.  I offer appreciations out loud when I am experiencing gratitude. 

I try to offer some variation of Valerie Kaur’s offering around grief if I am grieving with or because of something someone else is experiencing, “You are grieving, but you are not grieving alone. I am here with you.”

I let the feeling remain with me. Till the next one comes.

Then, I am practicing being quiet and present in the moment. (You know me – this is taking a lot of practice!)

This is not new information. It is centuries old and across traditions. However, there is a reason we continue to strive to learn it – it is hard work & it is life changing.

Here is what happens when I allow myself to notice & experience my emotions, especially grief and gratitude:

  • I experience more love and connection in my life, and less resentment.
  • I give love and acknowledgement to those I am with, allowing them the opportunity to feel loved and appreciated.
  • I can stay in the present moment, which reduces worry, anxiety, and fear of the future,
  • I feel human and notice the humanity in others.
  • When I notice gratitude – it expands and unearths more appreciation. Gratitude and appreciation can coexist with pain and grief.
  • I move through the emotions so that unexpected emotions are less likely to surface later, which reduces the harm I enact on myself and others.

It can be hard. 

I am still head down, barrel through at times. And that is okay.

However, the more I drop into my emotions and the lessons they point to, the more prepared I am to keep showing up as a human being.

As I practice feeling more, I process more of the incredible lessons and hard moments of the last few years. As I sit with the grief and the gratitude, I find myself learning how to be a better friend, partner, and teammate. I recognize that I have more capacity than I imagined. 

And that gives me hope.

What are you feeling right now?
What emotions are you paying attention to? 
What are they teaching you?

May we allow each other the space to feel as we enter a new time of transition.

Feelings and emotions too overwhelming right now? Here is a place to go for support: NAMI Hotline

Want more resources to support feeling your emotions, supporting others in their grief, and practicing gratitude? 

Here are a few offers:

See no stranger, Valarie Kaur, The People’s Inauguration  and other learnings
A guide to transition from winter to spring, Kirin Bhatti
Lama Rod Owens – Acknowledging emotions meditation
Tara Brach – Pause for Presence
Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Emotional Agility, Susan David

Need examples? Here is what this looks like in real-time:

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the lost time with people I love.
  • It hits me in a pang in my chest.
  • I sit with it and I say to myself, “Whew there is that feeling of missing and loss.”
  • I send a message or call when I can to tell the person I miss that I love them.

Gratitude

  • There is always more to do in our house, with our child, in my work. It is easy to get bogged down.
  • I am practicing noticing when my family is actively working on supporting someone else in the house or helping with a household task (which is actually very often).
  • I try and see it in the moment or shortly after and let them know I am grateful for what they are doing and/or I am grateful for them.

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the people I care about who have lost loved ones to Covid.
  • I am feeling grief when I hear stories of people who have lost loved ones, including their children because of hatred and violence.
  • I offer my love and feeling of grief in the form of a mediation. 
  • When I can I drop into the moment with the person or the story and practice listening not solving.
  • I look for actions I can take afterward, in response to the grief – learning more about the story, taking a direct action, and supporting a person or organization.
  • For individuals in my life I am grieving with, I look for simple ways I can show up in support (and ask them first).

Gratitude

  • I notice when my heart is welling up with tenderness. It can be when I watch Lino and Rob dance in the living room or play cars. It can be when Lino is creating a hilarious made-up scenario or when Rob or his sister Lisa is preparing a warm meal.
  • When I feel the tenderness rise up, I notice it if I can.
  • I set down what I was doing just for the moment and take a mental polaroid.
  • I say to myself “THIS” and I say to myself or out loud, “I see you, I appreciate you”


What are the ways you acknowledge grief and loss?
What are the ways you offer appreciation?


I’ve created a guide to help you move forward during this time. Grab the guide here.

Rheanna SmithHow I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)
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Make a big change in your career and life

In the past few weeks, I offered up steps to take in preparation for a life transition and what you can do to create a shift without making the immediate big change.

Now I am sharing a process that sets you up to make a big life or career transition.

There are two ways to use these tools:

  1. Try out these steps when you know you are ready to implement a change in your life and you feel, “this is it! Now is the time!”
  2. Use any of these tools to move you closer to the change you want in your life or career sometime in the future. Hint – these processes work at ANY TIME to give you more clarity and alignment in your life!


If this moment in our history has awakened something inside you, igniting your creativity and a new direction, and you are ready for a change – use these tools to begin decisive action.

If this time of challenge has provided you or your family with clarity that what is currently occurring cannot continue in the same way – use these tools to walk toward a more sustainable future.

And if you are currently working hard to manage each moment in front of you, using your energy to tend to your well-being and your family’s well-being, and cannot possibly think of or talk about a change right now – you are not alone!

You can try only one of the first steps to gently lay the groundwork for the possibilities of what you want to come in a year or two. (Or come back to this process when you are ready.)

Here is the guide that includes these tools, plus the previous processes offered for building towards a transition in your life.

May you be well as you move toward change or stead yourself right where you are.

Rheanna SmithMake a big change in your career and life
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Shift your current situation while staying put.

Something needs to change. You can feel it in your muscles or hear it from a quiet, determined voice inside. Perhaps it is a small change whispering to do it differently. Maybe you know something big needs to shift and are feeling antsy and excited.

But what if you cannot make the change right now? Or the way forward isn’t clear?

Focus on what is in front of you and in your control. You can always make subtle changes in your environment and in your own response.
Watch this video for actions you can take now to shift your current situation before you make a bigger change.


You do not have to leap all at once. Little shifts in your current environment can lead to new openings and perspectives. 

(Missed part one, check it out here – 4 steps to begin a transition.)

Need to see this all in writing? Download the accompanying guide!

Getting ready for a transition and not wanting to do it alone? 

In a leadership position striving for positive community change and in support of justice for black and brown people?

I am starting a special edition Clear Harbor cohort specifically focused on leaders who are contemplating a career or life transition. There are only 3 spots left!

Let’s talk!  Plus more info.

Rheanna SmithShift your current situation while staying put.
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4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life

Why, you may ask, am I offering up thoughts on making a big transition in a pandemic and during economic instability?

Many clients and friends are thinking about making large (and small) life transitions.

Multiple times a week I talk with someone about changing a career or finding a new way to do things.

The pandemic, the fight for justice for black and brown people, the economic uncertainty is causing many people to get clear on how they want to show up in the world and where they want to put their efforts.

And some of us are in the thick of the biggest challenges of our lives. There is little time to think of the next hour. If you are there, this first video could still offer a place to carve a little breathing room for what happens in a few years.

Check out these 4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life.

I’ve created this guide with all 4 steps as a resource for you.

Getting ready for a transition and not wanting to do it alone?

In a leadership position striving for positive community change and in support of justice for black and brown people?

I am starting 2 new Clear Harbor cohorts this February. One is specifically focused on leaders who are contemplating a career transition. 

Let’s chat – more info here and jump on my calendar to talk more.

Rheanna Smith4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life
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