Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Channeling Sarah Palin

Even if you don’t live in the United States, you might know who Sarah Palin is. She was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008 and has continued to make a name for herself in conservative circles. In one of her speeches, she threw a jab at President Obama, smirking in her Alaska twang, “How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for ya?”

This is not a post about politics, or even about Sarah Palin, but about that question. I find myself channeling Sarah Palin sometimes when I see one of my kids engaging in some thinking or behavior that does not serve their well being. As soon as I say it – “How’s that [whatever] thing workin’ out for ya?” – I hear Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin, in turn, was channeling the therapist I went to years ago. Whenever I was deep in my defense of some unproductive way of approaching my life, she would sit back and tilt her head and say gently, “And how’s that [denial, magical thinking, effort to control what you can’t control] working for you?” (My therapist was from New York and lacked Palin’s accent.)

The answer was always, of course, “Not so great.”

As this year begins, I have read several excellent posts about resolutions and focus words. One post that especially caught my attention, though, was Alex’s post on The Bridge Maker about leaving behind what no longer serves us. It reminded me of Palin’s and my therapist’s question.

So as we start this year, maybe it’s a good opportunity to take stock. We could look on both sides of the question. What is working for you? What is not working for you?

For me, I would say that meditation and prayer are working for me. I like to start my day with some stretches and then some quiet time to meditate, read something inspiring, pray. This year, I’m going through A Course in Miracles again, so that is part of my morning, too. When I start my day this way, I’m ready for the universe. Throughout the day, I say quick prayers of gratitude. I even have my phone set to vibrate at certain times to remind me.

Listening is working for me. I have made an effort over the last years to be a better listener. I don’t know if I’m a great listener, but I feel confident that I am a better listener than I was. When I am in the listening zone, miracles happen.

Exercise is working for me. I trained very hard last year to get my black belt in taekwondo, which I got in November. After that, I slacked off. It didn’t take long to feel my body stiffen up and my energy sink. I went back to class last night and it felt great to sweat!

Breathing is working for me. I have written before about belly breathing, consciously developing the habit of breathing into the bottom of my lungs (which makes your belly move out). When I catch myself in shallow, anxiety producing breathing, I shift back into my belly, and I can feel the physical and mental benefits right away. Belly breathing helps every aspect of my life.

What is not working for me? Regret. For one who “preaches” self compassion and self forgiveness, I am sometimes still vulnerable to that sick weight of regret that seems to crush the breath right out of me. (Good time to shift to belly breathing!) What seems most painful to me these days are memories of my early parenting years. Being around my daughter and grandson so much has been a source of deep joy and pleasure. As I watch my daughter become a truly wonderful mother, and as we all love this precious baby more than we ever could have imagined, memories of my own transition into motherhood, which had faded into the background of my life, have now come to the fore. There is so much I wish I had done differently. The recent resurgence of this pain teaches me that I need to work through it yet again. And I will. But right now it hurts.

On a more practical level, what is not working for me is multi-tasking. A skill that not so long ago was highly valued has become, at least in my life, a euphemism for lack of focus and attention. When I retired last May, I naively believed that my time would become unlimited. I really thought that there would be plenty of time for me to do everything I needed and wanted to do. It’s grossly unfair, I think, that I still have to pick and choose my priorities. (I can hear you laughing. That’s okay. I’m laughing at myself, too.) The Tao Te Ching teaches, “The sage chooses this and lets go of that.” I have a long way to go to being a sage.

What about you? Are there things in your life working well? Not so well? Whatever your opinion is of Sarah Palin, perhaps we can all channel her just enough to take a look.


  1. Channeling Sarah Palin - scary! I know exactly what you mean. For a while I worried that phrase was going to become a commonly used expression, but luckily it has dropped in popularity.

    What is not working for me is follow through in two areas: going to the gym and practicing the guitar. Each appear on my calendar several times a week and each tend to get deleted without being done. Something else always seems more important at the time. There will be a price to pay.

    I completely agree with you about multi-tasking. Recent studies have suggested strongly that doing several things at once means a poorer performance for each.

  2. Wonderful post and I remember hearing Sarah Palin when she said those words. I must say they were quite clever. As I look ahead in the new year, I want to focus on the ideas that seem to only swirl in my head and stay there. It's time to be bold with my plans & goals. Yep!

  3. Hi Galen,

    That is definitely an eye-catching title since I am not too fond of Sarah Palin. Hard to miss her nevertheless. I will pass on channeling her and just focus on what's working and what's not. :P

    Yes we all have regrets and guilt about what we should have done and could have done better. But what we know today, we know with the benefit of hindsight. Given what we had to work with back then, we probably did the best we could. I know you did the best you could in trying to raise your children.

    One of the things I struggle with in my divination practice is foresight. It is easy on hindsight to say you should have done this and that. Hindsight while obvious, only shows us the outcome of one possible path. But even this is the tail end of things after it has happened. When you are at the start of things where there are many possibilities, it is a challenge to sift through them all to make the best choices.

    There are many factors that affect our ability to manage at any given time. There is awareness and knowledge of the situation. There is our circumstances. There is our state of mind and the support we have. There is the skills and abilities we possess. And of course there is the bigger picture. By bigger picture I mean why we are equipped with certain skills and abilities at that given point in time. So don't be too hard on yourself. You laid the foundation so that your daughter can be the wonderful mother she is today. What she has become and will be was because of what you did and that will have to be enough since you say she is a wonderful mother. :)

    What's working for me? Divination. Till now, I have been using it in a very narrow scope. I intend to expand my usage of it this year to other areas I had not considered before.

    What's not working for me? Illusions. I need to see things more clearly as they are rather than what I want to see. It is a challenge, but this is something I will have to work hard at. I need to have the courage to know the outcome of my actions early instead of just pressing forth blindly hoping that I can create miracles.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

  4. Bob--It's interesting that studies show that multi-taskig is not all it's cracked up to be, and yet we seem to persist in trying to master it! Maybe you could post a short guitar recital on your blog--that's motivating! Thanks for commenting.

    Cynthia--To paraphrase one of my favorite shows, you can boldly go where you haven't gone before! Thanks for your comment.

    Irving--Why is it that I can completely agree with everything you say, and know in my rational mind it's true, and yet still cringe in remorse when I remember certain things? Sigh. Really, most of the time, I have the right perspective, but sometimes.... Thanks for sharing your working and not working ideas. I know that divination has been a central practice in your life for some time now. I'm glad that is working for you. Thanks for your comment.

  5. I think that's a very good question to ask of oneself every now and then.

    Galen, I can relate very much to that feeling of wishing to have done differently in bringing up our children. I am very much humbled and at the same time challenged by the mistakes that I made in this department. I am a works-in-progress mom and I have every faith that it will all work out in the end.

  6. I am working on that belly breathing, too. Why is that so hard?

  7. I can understand the feeling of regret. Even now and at times, as I review the early days when I first became a mother, I wish that I have done things differently. It would be great if I wasn't the panic-stricken, angry and negative person I was.

    Luckily, my children are still below 12. Hence, there is time to make amends or so I hope. In the recent years, I have been trying to assist with some form of emotional clearing work. Still, I cannot say that I have completed helped them address any past traumas.

    With greater awareness, there is much more love now. I realize that the path to becoming a better parent ultimately lies with me. I need to look within and address my own internal issues first before I can be of any help to my kids.

    I laughed at the part when you talked about "multi-tasking". It is something unavoidable for every blogger. Because the workload can be heavy, I believe that the ingredients that keep a blog going are passion and purpose. Without meeting passion with purpose, it is very easy to stop blogging.

    Hope to read more of your posts in the new year! Have an amazing year ahead!

    With love,

  8. Inspiring--Humbled. That's a good word. I feel that way, too. We all do our best and hope it's enough. Thanks for your comment.

    Carrie--I think it's hard because over the years we developed a habit of shallow breathing. Habits that are repeated as often as breathing are very hard to change. But we can change them. I still have to consciously remind myself, but I'm quicker to notice when I'm doing the shallow breathing and I can shift. Thanks for your comment.

    Evelyn--Like you, I learned as I went along, and I grew into what I hope is a pretty good mom. And most of the time I feel fine about that. There are just those times.... Something to work on in 2012. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Wow Galen! Congrats on so many things you're channeling right. :) Working out being one of those. The Taekwondo thing is really cool. I hope your 2012 is off to a great start!

    For the record, I'm pretty sure Sarah Palin was channeling Dr. Phil. :)

  10. Hi Galen,

    I like your idea of meditation and prayer in the morning. I have a morning ritual too with a little journal writing, meditation, reading a little inspiration and some yoga. That works for me. Regret does not work for me and I can totally relate to feeling regret about some things during my parenting years. I've worked hard to let that go and know that we all do the best we can at the time.

  11. Excellent post! What an awesome question to bring to the face of reality in one's life...stop with all the "not working" and focus upon the "working". Prayer is the one activity that works for me every time but yet it is the one activity that I struggle with most b/c it requires total shut down of that "Martha" within me....truly enjoyed your post this morning.....Happy Thursday

  12. What a great question to pose to oneself...I can think of some of the things that are working for me right now - exercise, diet, have a more positive outlook...What's not working so well is forgiving some relationships in the past...Still lots of work to do...Now I'm going to be asking myself this question quite often (and I'll hear lady Palin's voice when I do!). Galen, you're a treasure! ♥

  13. Bryan--Channeling Dr. Phil. That's funny! My year is off to a good start, thanks. Hope yours is, too. Thanks for your comment.

    Cathy--It's nice to have that morning time, isn't it? It seems that many of us can relate to the parenting regrets. I know you are right that we all do the best we can. Thanks for commenting.

    Rhonda--Great image of shutting down the "Martha" part. For me, it's less Martha and more just distraction. What character in the Bible is that?? Thanks for commenting.

    Corinne--Yes, that forgiveness thing, a hard one for many of us! No one has ever called me a treasure before--you made my day. Thanks!!

  14. As usual I find your post beautifully written and your thoughts, ones to ponder. I feel much like you in many ways. I too have moments when I think about my early child rearing methods and wish that I had the wisdom that I have now. I thought that I would have unlimited time when I became an empty nestor; but I seem to be even busier. I need to fish through what is important and what isn't. Thanks for an excellent post and I am going to ponder on your thoughts.
    Blessings to you and may your New Year be awesome.

  15. LeAnn--Thanks for your kind words. I hope your New Year is awesome, too!

  16. Nothing but walking and deep breathing is working for me right now....I am consciously trying not to resist the message..
    I am reading an Anthony De Mello book right now about Awareness for book group - it is really making me anxious feel like a load of - well you know what I mean...
    I decided to work focused on thank you notes...starting with today's post on Patricias felt I am not making so many plans or thinking far ahead...just being in the moment.

  17. Congratulations on getting your black belt. What an accomplishment. I sometimes wonder how today's parents will feel when they look back. They are doing well but I still wonder. I parented with great conciousness and intention and no regret from day to day...yet, I too, look back from my retirement years and see so much I would have done differently. But we know that we all do the best we know how to do with the knowledge we have at the time. Peace be with you.

  18. Hi Galen,

    thank you for your honesty. First off as for dear ol' Sarah, how are things really working for her? The roads she likes to build are going nowhere. (Just thought i would throw that in.)

    We all have regrets, but they should not be called regrets, they should be called learning experiences. That is what they really are. Now in this life we don't get overs, but seriously would we really want them.

    As for raising children, that is one of the hardest job anyone can have and I would say that if your daughter is a great mother, you did do thing right.

    Times is to short to beat ourselves up when it comes to the past. I always looked at it this way when raising my kids. If they grew up and stayed out of jail, hey I did something right. LOL

    Beside children are mature adult when they forgive the parents for what they think they may have done wrong.

    As for multi tasking, That is something some one else came up with and it really doesn't matter to me if it is "working for them" I like doing things my way, but am always open for new wisdom.

    Thank again for your honesty and you are a very warm kind and wonderful person, I can tell. Have a wonderful year and leave those regrets in 2011, that is where they belong.
    Blessing to you always

  19. Patricia--Walking and deep breathing are great practices and will get you far! Thanks for your comment.

    H&W--Thank you for your kind words. Commenters have been very reassuring and comforting about how we look back at our parenting years. I appreciate it.

    Debbie--Funny reference to the road/bridge to nowhere. I also know what you mean about the bar we set...I used to say that every day my foster daughter stayed out of jail and didn't get pregnant was a good day! Ha! Thank you for saying what you did about doing something right because my daughter is such a good mom. I will hold onto that. And I will try to follow your wise advice and leave my regrets in 2011. Thanks for your comment.

  20. I quite often here myself channeling Dr. Phil and asking 'how's that working fer yah!' It does make sense to turn that question back on myself and look at what works and what doesn't. Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. Hi Galen,
    What an open and honest post. Congratulations on the black Belt and I know you can knock self-dobt right into the next millennium! Really! You doubt yourself or think about regret because you are human. You are an amazing mother, friend and guide for others. I have too many regrets to mention...most of which involve me NOT doing something rather than doing something.
    Regret is so last year! Oh, and your openness has helped me feel better about my own regrets. I screwed up big kids forgave me. I need to do the same and you can too xxx

  22. Well, so far I am doing good at putting one foot in front of the other! No specific goals, but directions to explore are there.

    It is funny... I had one instance/action that I regretted so deeply, but when I spoke to my kids (grown now) they had no memory of it!!

    Congrats on the taekwondo... super activity that I wish I had kept up.

    It is going to be a good year, this 2012. Sarah Palin... won't go there.

  23. Alida--You're the second commenter who mentioned Dr. Phil, so now we have three sources for the question--Palin, Dr. Phil, and my former therapist! Thanks for commenting.

    JSM--Nice to hear from you! I like that image of knocking self doubt into the next millineum. Ha! Hope you and your family are doing well. Thanks for your comment.

    Barbara--That's funny. I've done the same thing with how some of us remember things so vividly that others completely forgot! Thanks for commenting.

  24. Hi Galen Happy New year, Life is like a martial art, we learn the technical stuff and the rest is about timing and rhythm - we are all on the same path growing toward the sun, May your breathing meditations be fruitful :)


  25. I love your posts Galen because they truly make me think; I love what Debbie stated - love your honesty!!!!!

    Oh the regrets of life - I too being a mother of a 29 year old and 27 year old have regrets from my early parenting. I wish I knew then what I know now - my style of parenting would have been so much different. No regrets though for both of my children have grown up to be beautiful flowers.

    My goal is to be like the sage - I just ordered the Tao Te Ching and plan to read it this year.

    How's it working for ya - magically!

    In love and light my friend,

  26. Lloyd--Lovely image and wish. Thanks for your comment.

    Nancy--The Tao Te Ching has been one of the most profound sources of wisdom and inspiration to me for decades. I hope you will email me as you read it and let me know what you think. Translations vary of course, but my favorite opening is "The way that can be told is not the eternal Way. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things." Enjoy! And thanks for commenting.

  27. Hi Galen
    Happy New Year. Loved todys post and the focus of channeling what's working well. The more we do this the better we will become. Letting go of regrets and focusing on lessons I was sent to learnt sits better with me. Thnaks agin for the reminders.
    Regards, Mel

  28. What a great list. You know, setting your phone to vibrate is a great idea. I know I need to do some energy clearing through out the day but can't seem to remember. Vibrate - set an alarm - good idea.

    It seems like this blogging thing is working pretty well for ya! I think I'll keep mine around too.

    What is not working for me is feeling like I have done something wrong when good things come my way. I can relate to your feeling of regret - it is a terrible sinking feeling that takes the breath out of me.

    Shine on!

  29. "How's that working for you" actually seems like a wise way to look at things. I got done nearly everything I'd set out to do last year, but it doesn't work well for me to spend too much time in my head. When I get out of myself and do something for someone else, I'm much better. So solitary time might be one of those things I can cut back on.

  30. Multitasking doesn't work for me either, so I don't try to do that. I am going to foster 2 habits this year: belly breathing and exercising.

  31. Multitasking doesn't work for anyone. It was always an excuse to pay people less by requiring fewer people to do more work. Like driving while texting, the quality of one of the activities must suffer.

    You have lots of responsibilities. Forgive yourself for getting cranky. Now that it's part of the new dog training regimen, I'm doing motion meditation - concentrating on the specificity of walking.

    This post was not only fun to read and think about by itself. What a great set of thoughtful comments!

  32. Mikey--Is motion meditation the same as walking meditation? I did that in my Shambhala training. And yes, the comments really add to the discussion. Sometimes I like coming late to a post because I like to see the continued discussion in the comments. Thanks for adding yours!


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