Internal compass


I visited my mother yesterday who has been ill for a couple of weeks. When I first saw her, I felt alarmed. She  looked scared; her skin was grey and she had  huge dark circles under her eyes. She hadn’t wanted me to visit but when I insisted, I think that she was relieved. Toward the end of the visit, she just happened to mention that the person doing her taxes was very concerned about a large chunk of money that seemed to be missing. They found the issue a couple of weeks ago and told her that they would get back to her but she hadn’t heard anything and had not called them either.

I asked her what she had done about this and she said that she was using “positive thinking” and every time she thought about it, she got so sick to her stomach that she wasn’t thinking about it.  She hadn’t really been able to eat in a couple of weeks. I realized as we talked that she had been so frightened about this tax issue, that it was compounding her illness. I asked her if she would mind if I made a call to a friend who is a CPA and then my mother herself, made a call to the tax preparers. I looked over at her talking on the phone, while I made her a quiche, and I could see the color returning to her face. She called last night to say that she was feeling much better. Nothing about the tax issue has been resolved yet but she wasn’t afraid anymore.

Positive thinking is not ignoring feelings. It is not just repeating rote affirmations over and over, while underneath feeling terror. It is acknowledging the feelings, and working to change them before we take action. I always ask myself the question, “What thought can I think right now about this situation that would make me feel better?” and then I stay with it until I actually feel the change. As I begin to feel better, either the solution (or next step for me to take) presents itself or the problem seems to dissolve. Sometimes I need to take action, sometimes I don’t, but either way, I never ignore my feelings. They are my internal compass, letting me know if I am going in the right direction.

“Success comes from taking the initiative and following up… persisting… eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?” Tony Robbins

18 thoughts on “Internal compass”

  1. Feeling afraid…
    How fortunate your mother is to have you to offer her a way out of the fear, someone to share and lighten her burden.
    Tou are a blessing for your mother as well as to members of your White Feather Farm Flock!
    Love from Fran

    1. Exactly my thoughts, Fran. Mary, my heart ached for your mother (meaning, I know, for my own mother). Illness compounded by fear compounded by a feeling of helplessness. How wise and compassionate you were to insist on visiting.

  2. This post is the jolt I needed to “do the work” of dealing with my fearful feelings and thoughts – not just doing a slogan, taking a pill, distracting, etc. – but facing them and processing them. Coincidentally, I have the therapy appointment today in which to do that. Thanks for the gentle wake up reminder.

  3. Your mom is blessed to have you close by and in her life, sharing your wise perspectives and helping her through the roadblocks that can pop up at times.

    I have, for years, felt inadequate in this area of ‘positive thinking’ because, although I would be filling my mind with affirmations, deep inside the fear would be very much the elephant in the room. I am so grateful to you, Mary, for the ‘how-to’ you presented in this post! Once again, you’ve given us a roadmap for doing this the right way. You can’t know how helpful this is to me today. Thank you.

  4. I’m such a left-brainer, my automatic default is to immediately go to The Flow Chart: Is there anything I can do about this? If yes, then what is it? If not, then let it go. But under Mary’s tutelage, I’m working on paying more attention to those first feelings and instinctive reactions (fear, frustration, woe-is-me, why this, why me, why now) and processing them before I move into fix-it mode. I’m finding It really does help, in a very cumulative way, so the next “disaster” is more likely to evoke a sigh and a smile rather than a meltdown. Very helpful. Thanks, Mary!

  5. I needed this today as yesterday I found out I owed the government $1300 for taxes…with no savings I panicked. I called my Credit Union and they assured me they will work with me to solve this issue….whew, I felt so much better once I talked with them. I also called Social Security to have 7% taken out this year so this will not happen to me again and I plan on taking more time off from my part time job also which will help me mentally and physically…..thanks Mary for being there for all of us who read your blog…

    By the way, I am glad your Mother is doing better. I am 75 years old myself so I know how scary things like this can be.

    1. Julie, what a wonderful example you have given, saving yourself days of endless worry. By calling your credit union right away (you said this all happened yesterday? Wow!) and Social Security, you have given yourself the peace of mind to know this won’t happen come next tax season. My own mother was a great keeper of secrets, not allowing her daughters to know some very disturbing family issues. Secrets that hide or bury what we do not want to face become monsters that fester and take prisoner the one who tries to keep them hidden. It also renders the loved ones helpless. Mary, I am so glad your mother let you in on what was troubling her, and that your sensitivity in listening to her, offering her a solution, and a quiche!, well, what better medicine than a daughter’s love and concern? – Thinking back to what we were advised as women in labor – work with the pain, breathe yourself through it, – it simply can’t be ignored being such a physical thing, but it is sometimes harder to let surface the baggage of littler fears and pains we carry with us. Dear Mary, now we know where you were yesterday, You were helping your Mom open that door and face the monster together. Strength in numbers, and here at White Feather, I feel our friendships are growing by the day, and our sharing is making us all stronger. Love to all.

  6. Mary, your post this morning is a fantastic reminder that “positive affirmation” starts on the inside. Even though I know this, I can still be seduced by my mind’s strong ability to distract me whenever something frightening or stressful occurs. Thank you for not only helping your mother find her way back to peace, but for this story as an invitation to trust the wisdom of feelings.

  7. Thank you, Mary. I tend to think the positive thoughts but avoid the actions necessary to make the change. That just leaves me still avoiding the issue. Thanks for the reminder that I have to do the work for anything to happen.

    1. Yes we are Julie, – just checking in before bed and sending you a warm hug! xoxox Susan

  8. Isn’t it strange how we can get ourselves worked up over what seems to be overwhelming things? Positive thoughts and positive action are not always the same. Wise words dear Mary. Years ago Mom invested money in some kind of Fanny Mae thing and she was getting payments pack on her money. Then she got a letter that said the loan had been paid off and she had $2,040 due her but they couldn’t release it without the original papers. If it was under $2,000 they would just send it without any paperwork but since it was $40 over they wouldn’t release her money. Well she couldn’t find the papers and was making herself sick worrying about it. I tried to help but she was in California and I was in Nevada with a sick husband. I wrote letters, called Wash DC and finally gave up. She said to forget it as it wasn’t worth her health. Years later my husband had passed away and Mom came to live with me and we resumed our efforts to get her money. Roadblocks at every turn. It was so frustrating and for really not a huge amount of money. We finally truly gave up and then one day about six months after our last effort guess what came in the mail? A check for $2,040!! It was over 5 years since our first attempt but it finally came after we finally let go and gave up!

  9. @Suzanne Tate: It went well. The problem was a little larger than expected, so there’s several stitches in place. This is three days post-op and how delighted I was to actually be able to count my fingers I held up in front of that eye. I kept doing it all day!!(happy inner child.) I must have patience. I can use all my “tools” with this, including Mary’s wonderful words.
    Thanks so much for asking . Your thoughts and love are so appreciated. The positive energy of this blog is mind boggeling.

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