nobody wants to feel like a shit-head

I’m pretty big on taking personal responsibility. Some people in life have trouble apologizing–if I see that I’ve done wrong, I’m happy to apologize. Step right up, Swoboda is here, and she’s ready to make amends.

I’ve joked (though I’m somewhat serious) that, given how many mistakes I’ve made in this lifetime, it’s a good thing I’m not too humble to apologize. In fact, it’s one of my best qualities.

Here’s my hurdle, though–perhaps it’s yours, too: I find it more challenging to apologize when I don’t trust that the recipient is going to receive it with compassion and take a moment to own their part, as well.


Everyone has a part

Yes, that’s right–everyone. It wouldn’t be “conflict” if everyone didn’t have some kind of part to play in it.

Offering an apology, to me, often feels like a sense of relief. I’ve done wrong, and I want to make right. My heart is right there on my sleeve, and I’m vulnerable and naked (emotionally, of course) and wanting connection (alright, people, get your minds out of the gutter…).

But, ugh–that relief is short-lived if I offer the apology and see a hardening of the eyes, a tight purse of the lips, a lift of the nose into the air, perhaps a disgusted-sounding “Well, thank you!” that carries a tone of, “Damn straight–it’s about time you apologized, bitch. You OWED me that.”

Yeah. I don’t do so well with that.

Have I done it before, to someone else? Given them the “you really screwed up” cold shoulder when they apologized? Of course.

My most powerful relationships have been those where someone was mature enough to say, gently, “I notice that it doesn’t feel like my apology was really received. Is this really cleaned up?”

That kind of love and compassion has afforded me the second chance that (secretly, way down deep) I was hoping for.


Humility Is Good

The thing is, no one wants to feel like a shit-head who messed everything up, even when we were the one acting like a shit-head who messed everything up.

And since, 99.9% of the time, there’s always something that both parties can take some kind of responsibility for--somewhere along the way!–I’ll share with you something powerful that I’ve noticed…

…when someone apologizes to me, it’s really helpful if I’ll get my Ego off of making sure that they delivered an apology for their wrongs, and instead place my energy on owning my part, too.

It creates the very best kind of win-win, because honestly–it can’t truly feel good to sit there holding a grudge after someone apologized, anyway.

So why not drop it? Why not let them off the hook? Why not take this opportunity to practice love in the form of not making them the shit-head who screwed everything up?



And then–then there are those times when you’re the one offering the apology, and you’re on the receiving end. Someone wants you to feel like a shit-head. End of story.

First, take a moment to do this (privately): BLECCH!!!

I mean, really get it out there, because that sort of behavior leaves a nasty taste in one’s mouth, and I’m not going to give you any hippy-dippy affirmations to try and pretend otherwise.

Now you get this chance to practice being an adult.

As Cheri Huber says, “Almost no one wants to grow up.”

The challenge is this: someone needs to. You could watch two parties argue with one another and dub whiny, kid-like voices onto everything that they say, and you’d see quickly enough that there are two triggered little kids bitching at one another (“Well you said…” and “No, you said that first!” and “But it wasn’t FAIR when…”).

What’s behind the mean-ness that would drive someone to make you feel like a shit-head when you’re trying to make things right? The same thing that would drive you to do it to someone else–you’re still hurt. You’re not yet open to the apology.

Perhaps there’s a fear of a loss of power. There’s definitely a fear of a loss of some maintained identity (“It would mean I was a ‘weak person’ if I accepted an apology for what she did!”). Perhaps there’s some future tripping (“If I accept this apology, she’ll just do it all over again!”).

Get present to those voices, those Stories, and what they’re telling you. Notice how they’re shaping your experience–how, if you believe them, you have a different experience than if you choose not to believe them.

And then try this: imagine your “opponent” on the inside. Imagine the heaviness, the darkness, the pain of carrying around grudges.

You can’t control them. They control themselves. They will decide whether or not to forgive and let go.

It’s a powerful choice to own your part, apologize and make amends, and then go about the business of practicing for yourself what you want them to practice, with you–letting go.

If you know how bad it feels to hold onto this mucky stuff, then…well, what would love do? And what would love choose for them–and, for you?

(( This week, my e-letter received this blog post + a complementary exercise. My e-letter is like a free weekly e-course, a little oasis of 20 minutes to stop amidst a busy day and examine you, your life, and how to live with courage. Join in. ))

what time management and diets have in common*

“Diets don’t work.”

When research was published in the early 2000’s that came to this essential conclusion, I imagine that it landed something like a thud in many a dieter’s mind:

You mean…I’ve been doing this entire self-hating, punishing routine, denying myself food and pushing myself to complete workouts… and it probably won’t work? The weight won’t stay off?

The tricky thing about this is that combatting the message that diets don’t work is another one, a message that’s very powerful:

Diets will work, if you just have enough self-discipline (says the hot-looking model standing next to a bottle of diet pills, on the cover of a book, or doing high-kicks on the infomercial for a home workout system).

When you turn over that statement, it seems true enough–so back on the diet you go. Clearly, some people can make it happen, and some of us will go to any length to be one of those people.

Pause–this piece is not a pooh-pooh on dieters or dieting. I actually feel turned off by the backlash that has happened around dieting, to the point where I feel as if I have to justify myself if I say that I’d like to lose ten pounds (because I would), or else someone might say that I have poor self-image.

I think that dieting is a personal choice, one that people make either from a place of love or a place of self-hate. Other people’s choices? Not my business to judge.

This piece is about restriction, rigidity, and striving for perfection–which is what most traditional diet and exercise plans tie into, on some level, and which is what “time management” systems also try to capitalize upon. It’s about suffering, and stopping suffering.



Traditionally, your stereotypical concept of “dieting” is about not eating certain foods, the “bad” foods. Proper time management is about not taking time out for certain activities, the “bad” activities that will take you off of your projected schedule.



Dieting, in its most traditional sense, is about rigidity–it’s a “slippery slope” towards diet failure if you allow yourself even one cookie…you might lose control! Time management can be the same–deviating from your agenda can mean that you don’t get things done.


Striving for Perfection

Dieting is rooted in a good/bad mentality, and so is time management. There are standards to uphold that, for many people, are really about control. And what is control almost always tied to? Some desire for “perfection,” not in the squeaky-clean objective sense, but in someone’s personal narrative about the way things “should” be if they were going “perfectly.”

Diets are about “self-discipline” and “hard work,” and “not making excuses.” For many people, so are “time management” systems.

The abuse in particular is what makes diets and time management unworkable.

You’re good if you’re following the diet/the schedule.

You’re bad, if you’re not.

You’re good if you’re skinny/getting your to do list done and being productive.

You’re bad, if you’re not.

The comparisons come in. So-and-so is able to get it all done /lose weight, so why can’t I?


And, of Course

Diets don’t work because people can lose the weight and still be miserable. Time management systems don’t work because, as many people can attest, you can finish the to-do list and feel positively awful about your life.


Breathing Space

Earlier this year, I created an e-circle on overwhelm. I see “overwhelm” as being different than stress. Overwhelm is moreso about a rich combination of taking on a lot, both because you want to and because you feel you have to, and having a desire to juggle it all and find “balance” but feeling frustrated at not knowing how, nor being clear on what’s getting in the way.

I was clear with everyone joining the e-circle that the group would not be about “time management,” because I don’t think that time-management is really at the core of the problem.

What’s at the core is what pushes us to take on ever more, and how we determine what a richly-lived, 100% fully alive life looks like–and what supports and nourishes that.

The outpouring of emails that I received from people who desired to take this class had me realize that there was a real need, for many people, to create more Breathing Space in their lives.

Creating this space wouldn’t be about “starting a meditation practice” (another thing “to do”), nor would it be about minimalist living, or “finding balance” (whatever that means; sounds like more struggling to be perfect).

Instead, it would be–let’s get curious. Let’s unpack overwhelm. Let’s spend some time investigating instead of running away from, in a supportive environment. Let’s look at the beliefs and emotional terrain that keep overwhelm in place, AND let’s pull out strategies and tools that can be used in our daily lives. That’s what Breathing Space is all about.

There are no 1-2-3 step plans, but there is the possibility for something really beautiful to open up when we start asking the questions that cut to the core.

Along the way, there have been tears, there has been laughter, there has been deep and honest sharing, and there have been moments where someone has shared that quite honestly, they’re feeling really stuck–what now?

Somehow, through the alchemy of practicing courage, the “what now” seems to arise, in little inches of freedom.

–and every inch gained, worth it, indeed.

* While this thought hit me during a long, late-night commute, I (later) realized, while reading my proof copy of Danielle LaPorte’s The Fire Starter Sessions, that she’s already made this comparison–so I’ll just assume that it must have been floating around in my subconscious for awhile. For her take on it, pre-order your copy, here.

expectations low, vision high

You already know that I’m not a big fan of expectations. They’re limiting in a multitude of ways, and are a fertile ground for breeding Stories about what it did or did not mean when the expectations were, or were not, met.


All that said, it’s demeaning to ourselves, to our dreams, when we walk the world with a defeated tone:

“Well. I’d better not expect anything out of this.”

Usually, someone will choose different words–they’ll spin it more like, “I’m staying focused on not getting attached” in a chirpy voice–but the energy they’re carrying is: It’s painful to wish for, to want, to hope for, to desire. It’s so painful and scary that I’m trying to numb out altogether.

That’s not the same thing as releasing expectations.


Releasing Expectations Is Really About…

presence. releasing the grip. opening to whatever arises. noticing the tendency to judge and categorize. not isolating or constricting in the face of fear, but rather, being open to the fear as one of the possible experiences that will be present.

“I’d better not expect too much” is the sad, monotone statement of defeat.



There’s something about someone who keeps their vision high, though–they radiate. They’re connected to how they want to be of service, what they want to create, and the power of what they have to offer.

What they radiate isn’t coming from expectations–how they’ll perform, what other people will think, the end result.

Their radiance is coming from the pure, utter joy of feeling alive–of being connected to their passion–of being excited that they get the privilege of doing what they know they were meant to do.

It’s not about money or recognition. It’s about being.


Wanting So Much It Hurts
Wanting something to the point of hurting for it is a killjoy. Oprah tells the story of how badly she wanted the part of Sophia in The Color Purple. “I never want to want anything that badly, ever again,” she says–the wanting became so painful that it was an obsession.

Wanting something to the point where it hurts just hurts–and it will keep the money and recognition away.

–And– so will taking on the dull monotone of “I’m not going to expect too much.”

You see, trying to control outcomes through caring too much doesn’t work any better than not caring enough. They’re both defensive mechanisms that hinge on a Story:

“If this goes the way I want it to, I’ll be happy.”

All we need to do is look at the people in the world who radiate when they talk about their work, to know that this isn’t true.

People aren’t happy because things go the way they want them to.

People are happy because they choose to be, and people who radiate are keeping their vision high–they’re choosing that for themselves.


Why Did You…?

Why did you… decide to become a mom?

–or work for yourself?

–or write a book?

–or work at that job?

–or marry that woman or man?

You made all of those choices. Why did you make them? And to what degree were you thinking, “If this turns out the way I want it to, I’ll be happy?” And to what degree were you radiating?

In the first moment you held your child in your arms, were you trying to strategically plan your happiness? Or were you radiating?

When you got the call that the job was yours, were you trying to plot income projections for the next five years? Or were you radiating?

When the moment of inspiration hit that said, “Write that book!” or “Try making a go of it in that new career!” were you steeling yourself against the rejection letters, or were you basking in the excited glow of inspiration?

All the good stuff comes from radiating, and attachment to outcomes and expectations is always the wet blanket.

Keeping expectations low–and vision high–is a powerful combination. Let your vision soar, and see how that takes you farther than strategizing.

The next step will appear. It’s not “If you build it, they will come,”

–it’s “If you radiate it, they will come.”

The proof of this won’t be in your bank account–it’ll be within.