What we do for a living is irrelevant

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. – from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

This is just an excerpt from the book The Invitation and I first heard this quote during a weekend retreat. Had I known then what my life would be like today I would have told you that you were kidding. The entire quote can be found here: http://skdesigns.com/internet/articles/prose/oriah_mountain_dreamer/invitation/ but what I realized is this poem has 12 stanzas and I felt it would be a good thing to share my own thoughts on each stanza per month in the year. My hope is that you add your own personal reflections, thoughts, and stories to this as well.

This quote resonates within me on a deep level. So many of my identities scream out at this and it is challenging to rise above the noise to fully take it into myself. Let's break this down into more manageable pieces.

-It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

As a professional counselor who supports folks with career-related and mental health concerns in my practice, this first line is often a big part of my clinical work. The counselor in me says that it is irrelevant what you do. What matters is how you feel about the work you do and the time you invest into it. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking isn't what I run into out in the world.

Think about an event you recently attended and you didn’t know a lot of people in the room. When you introduce yourself or are introduced to others by a friend or colleague, what is the first question usually asked? “What do you do?” is a common response and often is the first information we get from others. This says a lot about how we get to know someone and the value we place on what the person does professionally.

Here’s where I like to pause and check in by asking, “What’s your first thought after you hear someone say ‘I’m a teacher’ or ‘I’m an attorney’ or ‘I’m a janitor at my community public school’?” Do you place a judgement/value on earning potential, the degree of difficulty in work-related tasks, work schedules, etc.? I won’t fault you if you do because we have been socialized to place a higher value on the occupations that have the greatest earning potential. It is so ingrained in us from a very young age.

The board game “Life” is a great example of how we are socialized to think that "good" jobs need to make a lot of money so you can afford things; the bigger house, better car, vacations. My 8 year-old son is upset every time he pulls the “Salesperson” job with a low starting salary and limited earning potential. Commence Socialization! It begins this early. He somehow understands that being in a retail job is not a good job because it is tied to less money. The game reinforces it. My wife and I remind him that money is one factor, but also ask if you were excited to get up and go to work every day, how would you feel then? We have to consciously fight the impulse, as well as popular culture, that money is everything and the only way to to be deemed "successful" is to have a high-paying job. It helps, but it isn't everything.

-I want to know what you ache for…

This reminds me often of the process of discernment. Discernment is an unfolding process of examining the deepest parts of self and the environment so that a decision can be made, regardless of the outcome. Discernment is hard work and can often take a very long time, especially if it doesn’t connect with the deepest parts of longing. As I understand it today, the first part of true discernment is asking yourself, “What do I ache for in my bones?” This ache is tied to our deepest desires, ones that are placed and formed by thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences. The Jesuit tradition, which is a part of my education and faith formation, states that our desires are placed in our hearts by God, and because God is good, so too are our desires! This is good news and a great place to start.

Quick question: Of the people you know well, how many of them have disclosed to you their deepest desires? If you are lucky and have this as a part of your relationship with them, you would know. For many of us, the answer is “not many”.

What I take from this is that our deepest desires are often the wishes we have for ourselves but somehow keep hidden, locked away from the outside world. Perhaps we feel they are so fragile that oxygen will corrode, damage, or even destroy them, so we keep them protected and, sometimes, even keep them from ourselves. Think back to the event in the previous paragraph, now picture yourself standing there and instead of asking someone whom you’ve never met before “What do you do for a living?” asking “What do you ache for most in this world?” And they answer you truthfully. It’s an entirely different conversation and you get to see something so fragile, so ingrained, so THEM.

-if you dare to meet the dreaming of your heart’s longing.

It’s risky to expose yourself and your desires to others. It is a basic human characteristic to understand ourselves by comparing to others. Where we get into trouble is when we place a judgement or a value on our beliefs and on the beliefs of others. I believe this to be why we hide so much of ourselves from each other. We are too afraid of being hurt or our desires being invalidated by someone who doesn’t understand, won’t understand, or is already hurt and is looking to not be alone in that hurt. I believe the author is identifying this as a dare; to be courageous enough to express the longing of the heart and being strong enough to keep it alive and out in the open.

I am a counselor today because my desire to help people by sitting with them in their pain, joy, sorrow, grief, uncertainty is one of the deepest desires of my heart. I was able to find a vocation and calling that allows me to answer the question “What do you do for a living?” and also, “What do you ache for in your bones?” at the same time. My great hope in my work is that I can help people see the choices they have available and, wherever possible, connect them with their heart’s longing and the courage to show it.

I’m interested in your thoughts and welcome any and all comments, as long as they are respectful towards others. I’ll check in again next month with the second stanza of the poem. Happy Counseling Awareness Month!

Be well and thrive,


The Holiday Season - Gratitude and Challenge

We made it. As the holiday season steadily gets smaller in our rear-view mirror, I often think about the challenges I've faced and the gratitude I've experienced along the way. I am fortunate enough to have a group of friends and loved ones around me to help me pause and appreciate the moments in the blur that always is the holiday season. Two such friends consistently offer a moment to look back at the holidays, find gratitude, process the challenges, and look to the new year with cheer. They host a gathering each year called, "Apre le Duex" or "After the Two" signifying a time to get together as a larger group of community to share with one another the year we have just come through. I have been reflecting on what I might say to those who I haven't seen in a while. Here's what I have come up with so far:

2015 was full of challenges for me personally and for the local and national communities. Transition: from graduate student to practicing professional (and small business owner), New job(s)...yes, 3 in the past 4 months, and more parenting time while my partner took on a second role in her workplace. There have been so many new things, and while we are privileged to have them, they have been a scheduling challenge to find time to spend with others. Grief: The miscarriage-it continues to be a process of working through it and I stay in it because there is still so much there to work on each day. Polarization: Gun violence both locally and nationally has created a swift divide in the community between those who want to possess a highly lethal weapon and those who think they should all be confiscated and melted down. Human brothers and sisters leaving war-torn and increasingly oppressive states, yearning for hope and a better life in the countries with the most opportunity, finding themselves rolling the dice landing in a foreign land not knowing if they will be recognized for their humanity or for their capacity to take away from others afraid to share it. The fabric of our collective humanity has experienced a great rip, and it will take all of us to mend it back together.

It's sometimes harder to see the gratitude of the year, but having attempted to look deeper, I have found:

Love: More time with family has shored up the rocky and loose confidence that life tends to erode away. Watching my son grow and listening to his stories. His imagination has lifted my spirits to imagine again and I am always inspired by him. Taking time away with family always brings me back to my center. True and deep friendships always pushing me to find a deeper sense of self show me that the capacity for growth is always there and I sometimes need help to discover a new cave of depth to my soul. Grace: The ability to forgive self and others instills in me the patience, respect, and understanding for others and their own moments. Hope: The future is always uncertain and while that is often times scary and uncontrollable, it can be a blessing to stay right here, right now and extract as much as we possibly can from this moment. That is the kind of control we all have and what a time to try and be more aware of that than now.

The party is tomorrow. I'll raise a glass, look friends in the eyes, tell them I love them and am so grateful for their love and support. I'll raise a glass to you and me, and our desire to come together, repair the rips in our seams, and take as much as we can from this moment. Cheers!

Grief and Moving Forward

November 10th begins like any other day in the autumn. The morning starts with darkness and a pot of coffee brewing. I wake up and start the day with a "Good Morning!" from my son and spouse. I am busy getting breakfast ready and preparing for the day ahead. This November 10th is a bit different and is feeling more empty than any other previous November 10ths in the past. Today was our due date for child number two.

This year has been a challenging one with so many new choices to make and live through. One we were exceptionally excited about in February was the news that we were pregnant with our second child after several years of off-again on-again trying to conceive. I was relieved, excited, and nervous as soon as my partner told me she was going to have another baby. I also remember feeling a different sense of excitement mixed with a little bit more serenity, knowing that I have done this before. I immediately started thinking about the first 3 months, the amount of diapers, feedings, swaddling, and routines that were going to take place and I was genuinely grateful and enthusiastic. These feelings told me that I was indeed ready for number 2 and that I would be able to do this all over again.

My partner was also excited, but also scared, anxious, and stressed about work schedules, time off postpartum. I can't tell you the totality of her range of emotions and feelings because as a biological father, there is no way I can tell you the amount of stress, pressure, and anxiety facing women today who are pregnant. My role is easy in comparison to all of the stigma surrounding pregnancy, changing body image issues, and postpartum expectations placed on new mothers.

We had been trying for years to get pregnant again. There were periods of not talking about it and not trying to trying too much. As with most experiences in life, there is a spectrum and ours was like others I have talked to about this process of dealing with fertility issues. There were times when I questioned myself and my partner's biology, physiology, and character during this process and vice versa. Some conversations were warm and others were cold. This also was like what others said about this process. Once we knew we were pregnant, we couldn't wait to tell our doctor, who had helped us through our first pregnancy. We looked forward to our 12 week check-up so we could see her in person. It was all I could have hoped for and more when we first saw our doctor. She was exuberant in her jubilation for us and we were swept up in it as well. She has always been such a caring physician and that came out in our appointment. We went through the usual intake questions at the beginning, identified the due date (November 10, 2015) and started talking about diet and up-to-date research on what to avoid, take in moderation, and to eliminate entirely. Then came the first ultrasound.

We found out that we lost the baby at the appointment. All of us wept. I was trying to stay positive, thinking that the equipment in the office wasn't catching all that was happening in the womb. It was confirmed later that day with an ultrasound. We both wept. We scheduled an appointment to finalize the process (DNC). We wept more. We then went home. We wept even more. Then we were faced with a pressure of do we talk about it. How do we talk about it? Are we even able to talk about it? Do we tell our son, who was 6 at the time? How do we tell him? What do we do? All while trying to make sense of or completely ignore the deep sadness that entered us.

I think there was this feeling of shame and that we should bear this ourselves. This is a common feeling from others I have spoken with about miscarriages. The mothers feel an overwhelming sense of blame and shame-"my body rejected the fetus", or "something's wrong with me" are what I hear reported most of the time. The fathers feel lost and unable to offer comfort to their partners or themselves because most often we are socialized to not talk about feelings. I felt a strong sense of failure not being able to protect my wife and unborn child. It was guttural and raw. I felt exposed and weak. Both of us have commented on how hard it has been to see expectant mothers, especially those that are due around our due date. We have shared this with one another and also not shared it as to not open the wound again and again. 

Where does this behavior originate so that we silently suffer? Does it hold its roots in the civil conversation rhetoric that says to only talk about the superficial and to ignore the real? Have we lost touch with the permission to speak our pain and suffering as much as our joys and successes? Are we concerned about others' feeling discomfort in our pain? To me as a clinician, these are the tell-tale signs of unresolved grief and negative image of self. Grief, when gone unnoticed, unrecognized, or ignored, has a way of showing itself and permeating into every conscious experience over time. If it is addressed, it loses its power over us to keep us in a place of isolation and despair. To me as someone in the grieving process, it is difficult to bear. I notice that there is unresolved grief when I fixate on the same song (Small Bump, by Ed Sheeran) or look at a photo of my already beautiful family and see something missing rather than what is already there. We can't move forward when we don't acknowledge and work on the feelings we get from our grief.

November 10th is just like any other day in the autumn. We are choosing to do something a little different by taking a night away, just the three of us, in the hope to reflect on what we have, acknowledge what we lost, and attempt to move forward, together and not alone. 

For more on the issues of miscarriage, infertility, and safe places to talk about it and other grief, request a consultation with dkp counseling or visit:



Change is the only constant in life

Summer has ended for the Northwest, even though we had a 70 degree day only two weeks ago. The weather has been noticeably different. The leaves have changed color, the grass is growing a little bit slower, the surface of the roads are a damp, and the clocks are turning back this weekend. Here is Seattle, we were fooled this summer with consistent heat and sunshine. It was a good thing. Lots of time to spend outdoors playing, laughing, and needing cool refreshment along the way. It seems like the change this year between seasons has been swift, yet, minute by minute, the world has been slowly changing and preparing for the fall and winter resting time.

We are privileged to know and support local farmers, Matt and Christina,  and I can't help myself by checking in on them daily through Instagram (@GreenbowFarm) and at our weekly trip to the farmers market, where they have a stand to sell their goods. Farmers are still the best at cataloging change. They work with it every day and are so in tune with the physical changes around us. So much so that they feel change and respond accordingly. Those of us who are wrapped up on the "work" road (read the previous post in this blog to get the reference) have a harder time noticing, or feeling, the subtle but also constant change around us.

It makes sense, logically, that change is also very hard for us, especially when we feel as though it has blind-sided us. We are unequipped to deal with or even acknowledge some of the change that is going on around us, perhaps for weeks or months beforehand. Personally, there have been moments of change in my life that I desperately wanted to completely ignore because it was too hard to "go there". But there have also been moments of change where I was able to see the opportunity to be a part of the change; to allow it to transform me and for me to give my gifts to it. I gravitate towards this kind of change today. I seek it out. I look for it. I try, desperately at times, to feel it. So much of my professional development as a therapist, advocate, and human being can besummed up in the desire to, as the Dali Lama once proclaimed, "Be the change you wish to see in the world". I have felt a freedom since looking at change in this way. I have owned my part in the change, because it is happening, whether I want it to or not.

As we set our clocks back an hour this Sunday at 2AM PST, I am reminded of a few things:

1) I get an extra hour of sleep (I also need to set my son's clock back because he will wake us up at 6am if we don't). 2) There is change available to me and the opportunity to be transformed because of it. 3) The farmer is harvesting food and goods and transforming our lives by giving their change to us.


Why is "work" always first when we talk about balance in our lives?

Work/Life balance...What does this say about us and our values today?

I consciously default to this way of thinking at least five times per day Monday through Friday. Typically, Sundays are the focus and planning days; where I work with my wife to plan out the upcoming week. Often, we are talking about the work week, most of which is consumed by our work schedules and our son's school and extracurricular activities. We trade work schedules with each other, organize drop-off and pick-up times for our son, plan out our meals, make grocery lists, and try to keep up with the fast-paced, often-uncontrollable reality that is being a dual income family in America today. We are extremely blessed and privileged to even have the ability to do what we do each day, but often, I feel as though we are just distracting ourselves with more plans, more work, one more email, one more item on the to-do list. This kind of thinking sometimes works, when everything happens as it is planned. This does not happen most of the time.

What is missing? The other parts of our selves, longing to be connected, nurtured, and cared for by those we love. Life. It's hard to even find or connect with that "non-work" self these days. So much of "life" today is trying to manage things: job, paycheck, bills, savings, education, yard work...the list could go on and on. How do we connect with that deeper self that is always in tune with the world around us and the people in it?

Step 1: Grace, for yourself and others who are continuously tempted to stay on the "work" life road. Being conditioned to always work; towards a promotion, a higher salary, more responsibility, more things that define us can keep us "focused" on the goal-have a better life than those who came before us. This is tempting and where our economy wants us to be. Always wanting more, working harder and harder to get it. In the end, what is left? A hole that can't be filled with things.

Step 2: Search for other roads. Roads that lead us to a deeper understanding of self, others, and the world. These roads can be found in a number of ways. I have found roads by searching my interests, my values, my prejudices, and my identities. They have challenged me, ignited me, and evolved me, so much so, that they have been worth the extra mileage on my heart.

Step 3: Love what you do, as often as you do it. The old saying is true, "It isn't work if you love doing it." We are imprinted, at a very young age, with curiosity, mysticism, and wonder for everything we encounter. Re-connecting with this sense of awe in daily life can dramatically change the perspective. It is connecting with that deeper self, the part of us that knows what we have forgotten.

Step 4: Fail. Often. This has been the hardest part for me to accept, since it goes directly against the "work" life way of moving through the week. I have found that failure is needed in my life just as much as success. Failure tells me that I am not perfect. It is a gift; one which creates space to re-connect with Step 3 and find myself again.

Balance. Life. Work. Grace. Explore. Love. Fail. Repeat.