Annette McLean Counseling


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Going with the Flow...

Posted on November 18, 2017 at 1:38 PM Comments comments (491)

What would it be like to stop resisting life and just allow it? I mean allow it all without a war in your mind or a plan or a witty comeback. Allow it without letting fear take over and control the show. Just. Let. It be. 
Renowned author, Michael Singer says in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself,The truth is that most of life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside your control, regardless of what your mind says about it.”
I like Michael Singer but his words challenge me greatly. Because this letting go is not my “default”. It feels like going against the grain. Even when I try, fear creeps in. And it is clever. It is sly.  Sometimes, it even disguises itself as intuition.  Then I have to try to tease that apart too. Is this my inner knowing or just fear in a new suit?
And if not fear, sometimes self-righteousness walks on stage. “How dare he or she or they or the government or the president?”  The list goes on. And what makes this all the more challenging is that there is a place for righteous anger and a place even for fear. We need then both. At times…
So how do we let go and allow life? And how do we do discern the difference between our knee-jerk reactions and the next right action? Here are some of the ways I practice:
1.    Be still. Life cannot catch up if we don’t stop.
2.    Breathe
3.    Allow and notice whatever emotion is coming up.
4.    Find the emotion in your body. Notice where you are holding yourself tense or tight. Do it without judgment.
5.    Notice the story that fear or self-righteousness might be saying.
6.    Listen in the stillness and determine if this is a matter that needs your attention or if letting go and allowing are where you need to put your attention.
7.    Trust, because everything will probably be okay. It usually is, isn’t it?

8.    Finally, be gentle with yourself.  We are all on a path. No one does any of this in even close to perfect order. 
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Goodbye Lola Bean...

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 2:53 PM Comments comments (126)
 Nothing seems to bring me to such raw emotion than saying goodbye to a pet. I don't know if it is the enormity of having to make the life vs. death decision to euthanize ( was it too soon, did I let her suffer too long, etc.) or if it is the fact that they love so completely and unconditionally.
Maybe it is guilt..."Could I, would I, should I have acted sooner, noticed the symptoms sooner, shut the screen door tighter and so on."
I know first hand that guilt complicates grief in significant ways.  I once had an iguana. By rights, my son's childhood iguana that I inherited. I broke a cardinal rule for cold-blooded animals and left her in her enclosure without shade. It was only for a short time and it was only in the 70's but I broke the rule and she died in my arms at 16 years old of heat stroke. EXTREME guilt complicated that grief.
Or maybe it is just the guilt of my sometimes being fed up with all of the responsibilities inherent to the relationship of elderly pets (I have a few) and having thoughts of how my life will be easier someday sans my houseful of dogs. Maybe it is the guilt of ignoring her too often in favor or some other task or who knows what I considered more important at the time. Maybe it is the knowledge that I do the same thing now with the humans in my life. That any loss I have will be accompanied by the ultimate question of "Why didn't I make more time for them?"
All I know (and I do know this) is that grief is grief and it is big and messy and complicated and it is all okay. It has no timeline and I think questioning life and death decisions like euthanasia should make us pause. I think recognizing that we all get caregiver burnout and desperately both want our elderly pets or even family members to live forever and die tomorrow is normal. I think we can meet ourselves at that tender spot of raw emotion with self-compassion and patience. I think we can give ourselves however much time we need to heal. I know I will.  

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We are all WIP's

Posted on July 25, 2017 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (133)
I love to crochet. My mother taught me when I was around 11 years old. I started with Barbie clothes and worked my way up. Although, honestly, it would not be unlike me to crochet another Barbie dress. Anyhow, I digress. I am part of a Facebook board for crochet enthusiasts like myself. They are forever posting pictures of what they term their WIP. Initially, I was confounded and thought for a moment that WIP must be a fancy new stitch. But alas the light dawned: WIP=Work in Progress.
Ah, yes. I always have a few projects, art, crochet, books and otherwise that could be termed WIP. And then, I had another “aha” moment: Me. How about me? How like a WIP am I? Some good stitches and  plenty of mistakes. Sometimes I can catch and undo the errors and sometimes they just become part of the fabric that is me in this life.
Did you know that the Amish would purposely leave an incorrect stitch in their work to remind them that only God is perfect. I am indeed awesome because, I don’t ever have to TRY to make a mistake! They come natural as breathing.

How about you dear reader? Are you able to recognize and allow that YOU are a WIP? Can you correct your wrongs when possible and give yourself grace for the “not so easy to fix.”  Can you be okay with  not only the perfect rows but the tangled, knotted and often self-inflicted messes? 
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Netflix's To the Bone: Helpful or Harmful?

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 8:42 AM Comments comments (232)
Netflix's To the Bone: Helpful or harmful
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2017 8:35 AM
I just watched the trailer for the coming film, "To The Bone" about a teenage girl with anorexia nervosa. As an eating disorder specialist, I am more  concerned than encouraged about this movie. While we need to raise awareness about eating disorders, i fear the triggers will harm more than help. I am also aware that individuals with eating disorders, even restricting types like anorexia, come in all genders, colors, shapes and sizes. The lead actress, however, depicts, once again, the typical stereotype of a white, middle class anorexic female.Visual images of bones protruding and numbers being touted, (as in the trailer) are BIG triggers for those struggling with eating disorders. I also suspect that since this IS television, they are going to need to wrap it up within a certain amount of time and that leaves a potential to trivialize it. Eating disorders are LONG and ARDUOUS and emotionally PAINFUL illnesses. There is not much that is heartwarming, humorous, or easily fixed. I will reserve my full opinion until I watch the actual movie, but this morning, I am cautiously pessimistic.
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The Hands That Feed Me

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 8:02 PM Comments comments (365)
   Writing a book is like having a baby. First you have this little idea the size of a pumpkin seed. You realize it might be best not to tell everyone. After all, you may lose it. It is not yet viable. Better wait and see.
   Then you get to the middle stage and you realize it is kicking! It IS viable. It is alive! So you start telling people about it and you don't even feel so self-conscious about it any more.
   Finally, reality sinks in. You are actually having this baby. There is no turning back. And all the fears arrive. What if no one likes my baby? What if it does not have 10 toes and 10 fingers? Translated to book language: What if it is full of grammatical errors? What if no one likes it? (Or, if you are me, you have dreams where it was printed only in Swahili.) Also, like the end of every pregnancy I have known, is the "Get this thing out of me" stage. I have spent the last two months there.
  Yes, writing a book is tough and it is a uniquely vulnerable process. In other words, it brings up your unresolved crap. But I am happy I wrote this book and I am equally happy it is out of me and in print.
   I wrote it, after all, for two reasons: #1 Because it felt intuitively right and #2 I wrote it for you. I wrote it to come through the page in my most authentic voice and help you live your best life. I hope you like it.
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Acceptance continued...

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 3:13 PM Comments comments (126)

I really like this Rumi poem. It speaks so well to dealing with life on life's terms and rather than running from what life brings us, facing it square on, looking it in the eye without fear or malice. only then can we determine the best course of action. 

The Guest House 
This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 
A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 
Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 
Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

 ~ Rumi ~
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"What if?"

Posted on May 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (287)
What if you really thought that you were good enough? Because isn't not thinking that you are good enough just another way to postphone your life? What if you could finally know that you were worth the risk, worth the chance and open to all the wonderful possibilities, not just the "but,what if this bad thing happens or that horrible thing happens?" Seems our usual "what ifs" are once again, back to living in fear of not being approved of or good enough and so on. Helen Keller once said, "Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold." Perhaps it is time after all, to take a chance, to be bold and to go after the life you have always deserved. 
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"Why me?!"

Posted on May 20, 2012 at 4:39 PM Comments comments (395)
Along the same lines as my last post about "fear", I have been thinking a lot about "suffering" in general. The Buddha understood that some suffering is just part of life. He said something to the effect of us experiencing in our lifetime, ten thousand joys and ten thousand sufferings. Jesus said it slightly differently, "In the world you shall have tribulation." But similar to when we experience fear, most of us prefer to run and hide or numb our selves in one addiction or another. Often times, we try to find a reason or something or someone to blame for our suffering. What if instead of asking why, we just accepted what we were feeling even if it was pain or hurt or saddness. If we were not stuck in the blocking or blaming and just felt what we were feeling, perhaps it would be easier to find our way to compassion, forgiveness and even joy. 
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Future Events Appearing Real!

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 11:29 PM Comments comments (138)
We talked in group tonight about fear. One of the women said she had heard fear described as "Future Events Appear Real". Wow, so true. What is it that makes us repeatedly hurl ourselves into an imagined and horrific future.  The Buddist teacher, Tara Brach said in a recent podcast (highly recommend her) that as humans we are hardwired for a certain amount of anxiety. That we all actually wake up about 10 times per night,(only the insomniacs remember it)and it is an old hard-wired survival mechanism. I guess our ancient ancestors needed to be sure a venemous spider wasn't sitting on their chest or a hungry tiger prowling a breath away. So basically to think we will banish fear completely is not realistic. But how often do we add "insult to injury" by criticizing ourselves for our fear or anxiety. What if we just were able to 
1. Recognize it. ("Oh yes, hello fear....")
2. Accept it. (no eating it away, drinking smoking, avoidance behaviors) 
3. Locate the story. What are my thoughts? What is fear saying about this situation? Is there a more balanced way to think of this?
4. Compassion. Real change only comes from treating ourselves, even our unrealistic fears with the utmost compassion.  Our self talk needs to be like a mother to a young child. We also need to feel the feeling. The current fear may be unrealistic or imagined or exaggerrated but fear is still there and maybe just connected to our helplessness in controlling the future or maybe connected to really old pain. We need to feel it. 
5. Healthy Detachment. This may be the hard part.  Allow and experience the fear without attaching to it. The part of you able to see that this is your old pattern,is the healthier part of you.  That part helps you see that you are more than your fear or anxiety and that you certainly do not have to be ruled by it. 
For those of us with a lot of fear, it is usually a very old pattern. Worrying gives us the false impression that we are contolling something we may really be helpless too. Think about your relationship with this primal emotion. Are you a fearful person, a worrier, a planner...What do you know about your relationship to this universal emotion? 

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