Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Does worrying about the what-ifs suck the joy out of your soul?
If so, you're not alone.
My goal for my new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, is to introduce a few simple but effective tools to help us find comfort, healing, power, and peace through our struggles with the often paralyzing and debilitating fears that prevent us from fulfilling Papa God's purpose for our lives.
The first step in defeating these fears is to recognize the monster hiding behind the fear mask. There are as many different fears as there are diets in this world, but for the sake of simplicity, I've grouped common fears into five basic categories, all beginning with the letter "S". (So that this doesn't get too long, I'll start with the first two on this post and cover the next three on the following post.)
Spurting Fear: Raw, reactive emotion, not unlike blood spurting from a fresh puncture wound. This is naked emotion. The unpremeditated, gut-level, internal reaction incited by something that makes us break out in a cold sweat, quiver like a tower of Jell-O, and maybe even toss our cookies. Your reactive choices are fight, flight, freeze, or freak out. An example of spurting fear would be glimpsing a snake slither through the grass at your feet.
Saturating fear: The invasive type of fear that often originates in childhood and permeates our adult lives in ways we don't always see. These fears, often manifested as phobias, are enmeshed within our personalities. Saturating fears are probably the hardest fears to eradicate because they soak into our personalities and become so enmeshed in the fiber of our being, we have difficulty recognizing their individual threads. An example would be an underlying fear of abandonment that pervades your adult relationships because your father left your family when you were small.
As a side note here, saturating fears can be benign and still affect our thoughts and behaviors. An example is my hat fetish. I had no idea why I've always chosen to wear hats most of my life until an innocent comment by a childhood friend a not long ago flashed me back to a long-forgotten (I thought) humiliating incident about my messy hair in the sixth grade. Oddly enough - or not - it was about that time I bought my first hat.
Hats, of course, are neither good nor bad, but it was quite enlightening to finally understand the root of one of my seemingly random long-standing behaviors.
How about you ... are there any saturating fears influencing your habits and decisions?
(Tune in for Part 2 next post.)
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 7:45 PM
Monday, April 8, 2013
|Think he'd react if I gave him some pit sugar?|
Take this fellow with the red plume, for instance. His job is to be stoic ... unresponsive ... stone faced. But he's not as out of it as he appears - he's quite alive. And uber aware.
His mind is fully operational. He's feeling lots of things (like "Crimey! I wish this daft American would get off me blinkin' foot"). He just doesn't show it.
When I read back over my previous post "You, too, can be a showstopper," (two posts ago) about the mostly dead audience who fooled me, it brought back to mind another memorable unresponsive person I dealt with about 30 years ago.
At the time I was the occupational therapist in a skilled nursing facility (read: Nursing Home). I had been out of OT school all of about two years and had accepted the job because I didn't really mind working with the elderly population. My job was to see my patients either in their rooms or down in my therapy hovel for about thirty minutes a day to keep their upper extremities limber and them functioning in order to return home after a stroke or debilitating injury.
One afternoon, I began making my rounds upstairs on the orthopedic floor to treat the patients who hadn't made it downstairs that morning.Things went swimmingly with my first few patients and then I entered Mr. Maloney's room.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Maloney," I chirped in my usual cheerful manner. "I'm here to do your therapy." He was sitting in the chair beside his bed, eyes half closed, slightly listing to the starboard. This is the normal posture of eighty-year-olds at 2 p.m.
Without further ado, I grabbed his arm and began ranging it (short for performing Range of Motion) as I always did - first the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist and fingers. Hmm. He seemed a little stiffer than usual, so I commented about it. Mr. Maloney continued staring straight ahead as he always did, not bothering to comment as I chattered away while giving him a good work-out.
But suddenly I noticed that his chest was not moving. I stopped ranging him and spoke louder. "MR. MALONEY - ARE YOU FEELING ALL RIGHT?" Then I stuck my finger beneath his nose. No air moving in. No air moving out. Uh oh.
I dropped his arm like a hot potato and stepped back. Yup. He was unresponsive for a good reason. Mr. Maloney wasn't just mostly dead.
So I did what any good therapist would do. "I'll go get the nurse now, Mr. Maloney. Don't worry - there will be no charge for today's therapy."
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 6:00 AM
Friday, March 29, 2013
|A worthy winner of my Choc-OUT contest|
With Easter rapidly approaching, amid the lavish presence of the seasonal Cadbury Cream-filled Eggs, I thought it fitting and proper to share with you this awesome chocolaty, faith-inspiring story that I recently came across.
This is a story about a girl named Helen. Helen Cadbury, to be precise.
Helen was born in 1877 into a wealthy Christian family. Her grandfather, John Cadbury, and great uncle, Benjamin Cadbury, had founded a cocoa and chocolates company in Birmingham, England. Helen's father and uncle, Richard and George Cadbury, had then relocated and expanded the factory, and Helen and her seven siblings moved into Moseley Hall, an ancient estate with secret rooms and underground cellars, lakes and wooded acres, which was to be their home for much of their lives.
I picture a smaller version of Downton Abbey ... with a lot less drama.
The entire household met before breakfast every day for ten minutes of Bible reading and prayer.
Then when she was twelve, Helen attended a street revival with her father, held in a poor section of the city. There, she felt a still, small voice compelling her, and she went forward at the alter call, a well-dressed rich girl among the poorest of the poor, to accept Christ as her Savior. From that day on, she had a new purpose in life: to share the joy and light of Jesus with her friends.
Helen began carrying her huge Victorian Bible to school, but because it was so clunky and cumbersome, her father gave her a small New Testament she could put in her pocket. Helen read from it to her friends every day, and led many of them to faith in Christ. Soon all the girls were sewing pockets into their dresses so they could carry the little Bibles and began calling themselves the Pocket Testament League. They gave out New Testaments to anyone who promised to read them. A policeman was one of the first in the community to receive Christ after being given a Bible.
The Pocket Testament League still exists today, over 100 years later, and has expanded into a world-wide movement, having given away over one hundred million New Testaments or Gospels of John.
So never let it be said that Papa God can't use any of us - including a little girl - in mighty ways. Helen Cadbury Alexander Dixon passed away in 1969 at the age of 92. And today I will enjoy a scrumptious Cadbury bar in her honor.
Won't you join me?
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 7:41 AM
Monday, March 18, 2013
|Deb hoofing it through England|
And sure enough, they seemed to be. Frozen.
The kicker is, I'm a humorist, and so the point of my talks is to draw a smile from my audience. Maybe even a chuckle or a guffaw. Occasionally a profound belly laugh.
But nothing was happening here. A profusion of nothing, actually. One lady in the back almost showed her teeth. Once. But maybe that was a grimace. Or a hot flash.
And when I finished my most hilarious story, I think I might have heard a snicker. Or it could have been a snort. I felt like I was rolling around the toilet bowl in a slow flush, about to go down the hole of no return.
I had to remind myself that I couldn't really know what they were feeling, although their collective body language appeared to scream "catatonic." They did seem to be warming up as I kept hacking away at the granite that was their faces, and by the end, there were actually a few smiles. Not a lot, but a few. At that point, I was happy with crumbs.
To my amazement, as the fine folks filed by my book table on their way out, nearly all of them bought books and thanked me for coming. I couldn't believe how many times someone stood before me with a solemn expression and said something to the effect of, "That was wonderful. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time."
Life is like that, isn't it?. We never really know the effect we're having on other people ... how much of us is rubbing off on our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. They don't necessarily show it, but they're internalizing bits and pieces of us all the time. Just like we are of them. Little pieces that fit together like a puzzle to make us who we end up being.
And maybe one day, before the show's completely over, we'll take the opportunity to tell them how much a part of us they really are. How much they've meant to us. Because they probably don't know it from our poker faces.
And then we can slap each other on the backs and say, "That was wonderful. I haven't loved that hard in a long time."
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 7:34 AM
Friday, March 1, 2013
|A mighty banyan tree - love 'em!|
I noticed right away that this restroom was different. Unlike the grody, grimy, get-your-business-over-quick-and-flee-this-nasty-place fare we've come to expect from public toilets, this one actually gleamed.
It had, in fact, a sort of ethereal feel to it, if you can imagine as much from such an unlikely place. There was no black icky grime in the corners, no misplaced sprinkles or puddles on the floor, no graffiti on the stall doors. You actually wouldn't mind setting your purse on the spotless floor of your cubical, except that you didn't have to because all the hardware - door locks and purse hooks - were not only in place, but sparkling brightly.
A faint whiff of gardenias was in the air. And someone with a very pleasant voice was cheerfully humming.
It was ... well, lovely.
I momentarily forgot I was in the bowels of a county fair midway and thought, "Now this is the kind of place you'd like to kick back and stay for a while."
Upon exiting my stall, I noticed two white-uniformed attendants busily polishing counters and sinks and realized one of the ladies was the source of the lively humming that perked up the place. I couldn't help but comment about the surprising cleanliness of the bathroom. She smiled from ear-to-ear and said, "There's not a speck of dirt beneath, behind, or across our seats. You can go to any other bathroom in the whole park, and trust me, you'll come back here... we're the best!"
I left that bathroom grinning and uplifted from the obvious pride this woman took in her work. A scripture came to mind: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might," Ecc. 9:10.
Whatever, it says. Regardless of the lowliness or loftiness of the job before you, do whatever it is with all your might. And be proud of the fruit of your labor. You will not only please your heavenly Father, but will be infused with a strengthening dose of self-worth and purpose.
I don't know about you, but for some reason, I'm suddenly in the mood to scrub my potty.
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 7:58 AM
Friday, February 22, 2013
I just had to share with you this awesome story I ran across about a 108-year-old lady who really rocked. It ties in well to the chapter in my new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, about not being afraid to try new things.
Sadie Galego was born in 1900 in a small town in Maine where horse-drawn carriages were the norm. As a teenager, Sadie packed sardines for 25 cents per hundred cans. She went on to teach for forty years in the same classroom, a stereotypical old maid schoolmarm with a heart of gold for the thousands of students who became the children she never had.
After retirement, she grew tired of the same ole same ole and became a world traveler, hopping on planes to see exotic places and experience new thrills. Then, at age 89, she got married for the first time - to a man 12 years younger!
Yep, Sadie robbed the cradle. Or at least the rocking chair. She had been friends with Frank for more than 30 years when they suddenly decided to get married, surprising their families with the good news only just before the wedding. They lived happily together in a retirement center until Sadie up and outlived her husband by 8 years before she passed away in 2009.
Now's the right time for a brief quote from my book:
"Becoming a risk-taker is, well ...risky. Probably because most of us prefer our safe little lives of relentless repetition. They're just so ding-dang comfortable. Why change something that's no muss, no fuss, to risk appearing ridiculous, or incomepetent, or just plain wrong?
I'll tell you why: because Papa God intended our lives to be abundant: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, NKJV).And living abundantly includes facing a series of opportunities that requires taking risks.
We mustn't be afraid to try something new. Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
Cinderella, who had never before been to a ball, was overheard marveling, "One shoe can make all the difference."
Noah had never built even a dinghy before he took on the ark.
If you never try new things, you'll turn into a tree stump. And sooner or later the termites of atrophy will gnaw away at you until you're nothing but sawdust. Limp, lifeless, useless sawdust.
Now really, is that the kind of life you want?"
Well, is it, dear reader? I'd love to hear from you how you avoid a tree stump existence.
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 8:20 AM
Thursday, February 14, 2013
|Photograph by Marian Crawford|
Okay, got your guess of the top 5 fears penned and ready?
They are in descending order:
1. Loss of a loved one (spouse/child/parents)
2. Debilitating illness/terminal disease
4. Old age/senility
5. The unknown/the what-ifs
Other common fears that were repeated but didn't quite make the top 10 were:
- Trying new things
- The dark
- Public Speaking
- Disappointing others
So how do your personal fears compare with those of your peers?
You know, our fears spotlight what matters to us most ... those hidden corners of our life in which we trust Papa God the least.
Those are the hot spots we need to work on. Because fear first worms its way into our thinking processes, then it affects our actions. If we allow fear to continue to wreak havoc in our lives unimpeded, it can eventually erode our self esteem, relationships, and even our faith.
But remember, we can't embrace change until we let go of fear. And change is a product of the power, love, and self-discipline referred to in 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
We need that change, don't we? A change from imprisoning phobias, destructive anxiety, and unproductive fretting. A change from worries that keep us stretched tighter than size 8 jeans over a size 12 tushie.
A change that will enable us to boldly step up to our fear monster, grab his beard, and as his mask falls away in our hands, realize that what's beneath there isn't really as frightening as we thought.
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 5:49 AM
Thursday, February 7, 2013
In my travels as a speaker, I've encountered countless women like me who have spent years running from their own personal fear monsters.
Some fears have names and specific countenances; others are faceless, frightening creatures that lurk in the shadows just out of sight. But we know they're there. We feel them. And we yearn to boldly step up to those fear monsters and yank off their masks.
In order to pinpoint real fears women struggles with on a daily basis, I conducted a survey of 500 random women between the ages of 18 and 80. I was surprised at the results - I fully expected fear of being alone to rank among the top two or at least three, but it was number six!
There are five other fears that dog us gals even more.
Okay, just for fun, before you read any further, take out a pad and pen and see if you can guess what the top ten fears of all the women polled were. Dollars to doughnuts your own personal fear monsters will show up somewhere on that list.
Ready to see how good a guesser you are? Here's the bottom half of the top 10 list in descending order:
7. Dependency on others
9. Specific critters (e.g. snakes, roaches, rats)
10. Being judged unfairly
So what do you think the top 5 fears are? (Now don't cheat and look it up in F3!)
Yup, I'm gonna make you wait until my next post for the answer. But I'll give you a hint: The #1 fear was w-a-y out in front ahead of the others; in fact, double the percentage of women listed it as their worst fear above even the next highest fear (#2).
Holy moley! What do you think frightens women hands down more than anything else?
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 9:54 AM
Thursday, January 31, 2013
|Deb and daughter Cricket at Canadian Niagara Falls|
It's long been amusing to me how women - especially southern gals - can say anything they want about someone, no matter how catty, scathing, or gossipy, and as long as they end it with "Bless her/his little heart," it's completely socially acceptable.
It's the vocabulary equivalent of ketchup.
One of my college gal pals from Alabama was the queen of this acquired skill. She could roast a rival crispy over an open verbal fire but because she always closed with a smile so warm it could melt butter and gushed a "bless her sweet little heart," no one took offense. Quite the opposite. We even considered her extraordinarily compassionate to be blessing all those hearts all the time.
And now I see males have finally gained equality. They've taken up a slang phrase that enables them to disagree, speak their minds, spew venom, and even to ruthlessly ridicule without apology. And it's not only publicly acceptable, it's considered completely hip. Ultra-cool. Tooled. I'm just sayin'...
In case you're not completely hip, ultra-cool, or tooled, I'm not just saying nothing here ... that's the phrase: "I'm just sayin'..."
It's all over FaceBook and Twitter, used by women too, but I notice it seems to be more prevalent among guys. And rightly so - how many of the muscled, macho, hairy gender can get way with "Bless his tiny, mangy, blood-sucking heart" when they disagree with someone? Now they can rent, tear, and rip apart other people with a smile on their face just like us girls.
Recently I've seen statements like:
"That's the stupedest thing I've ever heard. I'm just sayin'..."
"You can't believe anything he says, he's such a liar. Just sayin'..."
"You're not really going out with her? Just sayin'..."
It might behoove us all to remember one of my favorite scriptures about now: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." No, wait. Oops. That's the gospel according to my mother.
Actually, it's Proverbs 21:23 (NLT): "Keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble."
Now there's some sage advice. Plain. Wise. Always hip.
And if you refuse to heed it, you deserve to be stung by ten thousand angry bees and swell up bigger than the Good Year blimp.
Just sayin' ...
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 11:12 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
We all know they exist: the Haves and the Have-Nots.
First there are the Haves. Those who are accepted in a specific environment - the peeps, the gang, the Sistahs. They're quietly respected; the natural leaders who others seem to automatically fall in line behind.
Often they're the ones with the highest skill level or who have achieved the most acclaim or accomplishments within the tribe. They aren't necessarily boastful or cocky; some are actually quite humble. But they definitely belong and everyone knows it. It's a given.
Then there are the Have-Nots. They're the ones who might hang out with the group, but somehow are not the same. They're on a different level - a slightly lower level - and although the Haves may be friendly enough, and include them as part of the whole, there's an invisible barrier that separates them and they're never really in the group, only with the group.
You know exactly what I mean. Right?
We've all been in situations where we're the Haves, and other situations where we're the Have-Nots. Naturally, we gravitate toward the former and avoid the latter if at all possible. Nobody wants to feel like a K-Mart purse in a rack full of Pradas.
I recently came across the terrific advice, "Go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated."
A good idea to bolster sagging self-esteem, surely, but not something we can always do. Sometimes, the circumstances of life toss us into groups of people where we may be unknown, disrespected, unappreciated, and dreadfully uncomfortable. But we must stay there for one reason or another.
I was in one of those just last week. In fact, it won't be the last time; I'll be affiliated with that same group of people superior to me for many weeks to come. After I came home feeling wretched from being repeatedly stuffed onto the bottom shelf, or worse yet, ignored completely, I realized that I was going to have to find some way to endure the situation, because it wasn't going away.
It was going to feel like being chosen last for the 8th grade kickball team every single week for the entire school year.
So I prayed. Lord, throw me a life preserver - some sort of tool that will help me hold my head up and shoulders back when I'm with these people. I know they're better than me at this particular activity, and my best never will be good enough from their perspective. So please help me endure. No, not just endure, but enjoy myself ... if that's even possible.
And wouldn't you know? He sent me a message. A very important message that helped me glory in my smallness. A special reminder that Papa God delights in making small things great.
"His mighty arm does tremendous things! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly," Luke 1:51-52 (NLT).
So I'm going to return to that group this week with a new attitude. I will be smiling. I will be gracious. Because I have a secret. I know something they don't. It's okay if I'm on the bottom rung of the ladder, because one day we lowly's will be exalted. And I may even get to be the kickball captain!
Posted by Debora M. Coty at 12:49 PM