This was on my mind ...
Last night, I gave a high school commencement speech. I shared a lot of random advice and I made people laugh. I belong to the brevity and levity school of commencement speaking. I suffered through my high school and college ones. (I showed up late to the second) How many times do I have to listen to someone say, “Chase your dreams and find your place in this world” before I get to pass?
In my case, the answer was twice. When I received my Doctorate in Law I skipped the ceremony altogether. After my last exam, I gave the registrar my parent’s address and told them to send my diploma there. While my classmates were strutting across the stage I was two states away chilling on my parents couch.
Anyway, last night I made everybody laugh, then ended with a story about my dad. He was born in 1919. He worked in coal mines as a teenager to help support his mother and brothers because his dad was disabled. Everything about his circumstances said he had no business being successful. The two great advantages he had were his mind and his drive. He proved everybody wrong.
Pops was dying when I became a judge. We had to drive the car up on a sidewalk to get him in the building because he could only walk a few steps. This picture, me all in pink is the moment they gave me the robe. Seconds later, I looked over at pops and he was crying like he was two. I never saw him cry before. Never. Not once.
I told that story at the end of my speech last night then said, ‘Never miss an opportunity to make your parents proud. Not for them but for YOU. That memory still lives with me today and brings me such joy and satisfaction I can’t even explain.” I was in tears by the time I stopped talking and the audience was on it’s feet. Had I had an opportunity to do it over again I would have sucked up my boredom and gone to my Law School graduation for THEM. But that’s water under the bridge and I hope I made up for it later giving my dad that one extra high before he left this world.
Love you Daddy.
To feel good about yourself.
To be in a healthy relationship in which you feel valued and cared for.
To be comfortable in your own skin.
To respect and honor both yourself and others.
This is a word from a woman who’s seen things designed to help you get it done.
When Control Masquerades as Romance.
People never go into relationships intending to be abused. But it often happens because abusive behavior can be so subtle in the beginning. In fact, sometimes early abusive behaviors resemble expressions of love. Though they can look like each other, they are not the same. You should know the difference between the two.
Take Sarah and Bobby. They’ve been dating for a month. Bobby calls Sarah a couple of times but she doesn’t answer. Next thing you know, he’s calling her every five minutes for an hour. His explanation, “It bothered me when I couldn’t reach you. You should always answer my calls. I was worried. You need to understand. It’s because I love you so much.”
That sounds nice but it isn’t true, even if Bobby believes it himself. Bobby’s behavior is not about love. It’s all about control. A lot of abusive behaviors can look like that.
– She wants to know where you are all of the time. She loves you just that much.
- It drives him crazy when you talk to other guys because he knows how they think and he can’t stand the thought of them taking you from him.
- He wants you to tell him about everyone you talk to and what they said anything about him. “I’m trying to protect our relationship,” he says, “because I’m so in love.”
While those things sound reasonable, they’re not true. Love is not restrictive and controlling. It isn’t fragile either. You both should be comfortable with yourselves and your relationship even when the two of you are not in the same room.
If the person you’re dating becomes upset when he or she can’t have you all to themselves that’s not love; that’s control. Being in a relationship should not make you feel like a prisoner. If it does … it’s something you should address.
Check out Bloom365.org Reach out if you feel the need.
Be strong. Be confident. Be caring.
Anxiety is a car full of common concerns whose brakes have failed.
The chronically concerned. The worn-out worried. The unceasingly distressed. Millions of people suffer from anxiety and depression and I am one of them.
Like most members of Anxiety Society, I can take some small concern and turn it into a disaster. It doesn’t even have to be a real problem. If I just think something that could happen … even though I have no evidence that it will … my If Machine can spit out every worst-case scenario imaginable. Next thing you know I’m stuck in a Worry Loop, going over the same thing over and over again.
And it doesn’t stop there. Once my fear chemicals are dispatched the problem I think I have doesn’t soak them all up. After they drench that concern they flood my entire life. Now everything is an issue. All of life is a potential disaster. I can’t get into the car because I might have an accident. What’s that little lump on my toe? Maybe I have cancer. The bills get bigger and my salary gets smaller when none of those numbers have changed. By then, I am face-down in a puddle of some piddling problem drowning in two inches of water.
Common sense doesn’t help at all. Twenty wise men could sit down and explain to me why my worries are absurd. I would follow the logic, have no rational rebuttal and still not be convinced.
Even when I’m not caught up some looping disaster, my anxiety, of a more garden variety, still messes with my day. It stands between me and where I want to be whispering in my ear. “You sure you want to do that? You know it could be dangerous. As a matter of fact, why don’t you just stay home? It’s the safest thing you can do.” Housebound. That’s how that ends. Dreams die in that atmosphere. Even if opportunity knocks you’re too scared to answer the door.
Lately, I have run into a lot of fellow fighters in the war on worry. And though I know the battle isn’t the same for everybody, there are some common traits. That’s why I thought I’d shared my story. First, so you don’t feel so alone (That worry loop can be all-consuming and very isolating.) Second, because many find it hard to believe I battle anxiety given what I do. But it’s common and a concern a lot of successful people have. Most just don’t talk about it. And last, but
Though I am still prone to bouts of panic, regularly awash in worry and on occasion consumed by ridiculous concerns, I’m not as bad as I used to be. I’ve chipped away at my worry so it’s less likely to consume me now and these are some of the things I employ that help me keep it together.
I changed the way I looked at it.
I used to call my anxiety The Beast. To me, it was a stalker; something I could not control that pursued me all of the time. That was part of my problem. I needed to reframe the issue in a way that emphasizes things I could control no matter how small. So now I see my anxiety as a hiccup in my head. One that I can tinker with even if I can’t shut it down. That alone made me feel less conquered. Though I can’t just stop the Lorry loop, I now believe there are some smaller things I can do to help myself.
I control my environment
Every day I do things that help me construct a worry unfriendly environment.
a) I read everything I can about anxiety. What it is, how it starts and what things tend to help. Understanding what you’re dealing with always
b) Every morning I engage in physical activity that gets my heart rate up. That produces endorphins -natural chemicals that make you feel good. I load my head up with those early so the fear chemicals have more of a fight.
c) Once I get off the treadmill I do not stop. I have a set of Must Dos (like you have to feed the kids). I also have a list of Should Do’s designed to de-stress my head. I keep busy with things I find interesting and demand total attention. Busy brains don’t worry as much.
d) I keep things around me meant to interrupt an erupting worry before it goes too far. When I was a judge I had screen-saver that said. “Are you solving or are you worrying?” It was a constant reminder not to let one thought take up too much time in my head. Now, at home, my computer wallpaper says. “Solitude beckons me far more often than it should.” It reminds me not to allow the emotional comfort of staying at home to keep me from living a full life.
e) I give my feelings voice. I say things out loud. “Stop it, Lynn; this is ridiculous.” “That’s a fear move.” “Get up. Go outside.” It’s not Mt. Everest, it’s a trip across town. Get in the car.” Yes, it sounds stupid. People around me find it weird. But it stops worry from being some amorphous feeling and gives it shape and form. It’s far easier to hit a target you can actually see.
f) I get help. I see a psychologist at least once a quarter. I know that may not be financially feasible for everyone but I’ll just say this. We all spend money on things we’re used to having that we don’t necessarily need. Hair, nails, clothes and the like. You can always scale that back. I just think that what’s going on in your head is so important that you should save what you can and go if you have to. There is no shame in it at all.
Likewise, I have no fear of trying medicine. I know a lot of people do and it’s such a personal choice. That said, I have gone through periods in my life when my anxiety and eventual depression threatened my very being. Phone calls were made. Family gathered and medicine was dispensed. I truly believe on one occasion it saved my life.
I’m not saying go out and find a pill to pop and everything will get better. I’m saying educate yourself on what’s out there and what it does just so you know what’s what.
I Have Plans for When I Worry
Even though I make a point to keep my environment worry unfriendly sometimes it just doesn’t work. So, I have things that I’m supposed to do when I’m swirling the worry drain.
a) I have a Worry Book, otherwise known as The Book of Stupid. In it write down all my looping thoughts when I’m stuck in the What If Machine. I include every stupid detail and ludicrous disaster scenario. Part of what stresses me out is the thought that I’ve might miss some essential detail. If I write it down I know it’s there that way I don’t feel as compelled to keep it in forefront of my mind.
The second thing my Worry Book does is keep a record of the ridiculous. Every time a worry passes I go back and write down what actually happened. So, whenever I’m adding a new worry to the book I re-read all my old ones. It gives me perspective and
Then there is that solitary phrase on the last page of the book “Do you realize that nothing you ever worried about ever actually happened?”
b) Music is a potent drug that extends beyond logic and settles in your soul. Knowing that music can change your mood I’ve created playlists to help me when things get hard. The key is to start out with music that matches your mood then gradually go on to new songs whose rhythms and melody are increasingly like the mood I’d like to have.
My I Want To Feel Better Playlist
A Song for You by Donny Hathaway
So Very Hard to Goby Tower of Power
Kashmir by Led Zepplin
Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars
Why Don’t You Stayby The Muddy Magnolias
Seven Nation Army by Alice Russell
Maybe Your Babyby Stevie Wonder
Cabbage Alleyby The Meters
Love Will Never Do Without Youby Janet Jackson
Love the One You’re With by Luther Vandross
Joy to the Worldby Whitney Houston
The Way You make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
The Projects by HandsomeBoy Modeling School
Signed Sealed Deliveredby Stevie Wonder
Holy Ghostby The Bar Kays
Atomic Dogby George Clinton
c) I globalize my pain quotient. Reminding myself of the misery some people deal with makes me feel better about my own. You go on YouTube and you’ll find people with no water, no limbs, no freedom, no choices who still make it through the day. When I get done with that I say “Bitch, really?” out loud. Then I step on to some of that busy work I always have lined up.
d) I get out of the house and talk to people. I know it’s the last thing you want to do. So you need to plan for that. I have enlisted my husband to keep an eye on me and tell me when it’s time to go. In the beginning I’d tell him no and stubbornly stay in the house. But once I had a better understanding of how that story ends, when my head told me “no I can’t’ go”, I’d give it the Smith and Wesson Test.
The phrase “I can’t” is an outrageous lie we tell ourselves far too often. My mother never let me use it. She told me when you say it, it’s almost never the literal truth. Usually, it means it’s hard, I don’t know how or I really don’t want to. In order to tell the difference, I employ the Smith and Wesson test: A man having a seizure can’t stop. A woman in labor simply can’t decide to put an end to the contractions. But if a man came put a gun to your head and said put that Oreo Cookie down, I bet you would. While the Smith and Wesson test can’t simply pull me out of a worry loop it can get me to do the small things.
Though I’m sure I’ve done other things over the years I think this is a fair representation of the way I go about it. If you take these steps or make up your own your anxiety won’t just up and walk away. But it helps. My journey continues and I’m always getting better.
I wish the same for you. And remember, Anxiety is a lie.
Anxiety, you are a lie,
a false prophet of doom,
… taking today and tear it up into pieces
in unrelenting anticipation of a horror
that never arrives.
I rebuke you.
I will fight you.
I won’t take this nonsense sitting down.
I know these things seem unrelated but I don’t believe they are. They, too, feel like intractable problems but I don’t believe that either.
¨A man climbs into his car with his estranged wife and their children and drives them all into a lake.
¨An eight-year-old boy hangs himself after being bullied.
¨A man returns to his former workplace and starts firing at will.
¨A young woman kills her lover and herself when she finds the relationship is over.
¨A woman is beaten to death by her husband becoming one of the approximately 1800 women in the U.S. who die every year in a quiet, constant killing stemming from domestic violence.
¨A man walks into a public place and starts shooting. This act, once thought the sole dominion of the mentally ill and ideological terrorists, having become a part of the public consciousness has become a growing choice of the distraught.
¨A young man finds himself alone in the room with a powerful authority figure and ends up being groped.
These things appear far flung and unrelated. After all, mass shootings are individual bursts of horror we can’t anticipate. Domestic violence is a private thing that we don’t see until the worst has already happened. Bullying is just how things go, a rite of passage as old as time. Sexual harassment and assault are the hallmark of a perverted few. They certainly have no common cause, no less a common solution.
Or do they?
I believe there is a shared thread that, if pulled, will unravel this tapestry of destructive behavior. These behaviors are, at their core, emotional outbursts or self-involved acts protected by cultural norms. Power, control, lack of empathy, low self-esteem, unhealthy gender norms: these are the Root Causes that underlie all of these things.
You put someone who suffers from a sense of powerlessness in the life a person with low self-esteem, you get controlling and abusive behavior. You tell a man obsessed with control that his wife is leaving and the odds of him killing her go way up. Put a young man or woman alone in a room with a powerful person who lacks empathy you get unwanted sexual advances. Find someone who’s angry, isolated and feeling feeble expose him to the idea of killing en mass as a way to regain his power and you get … well, too many examples to list.
We are suffering from individual, yet continual, emotional catastrophes. We’re watching what happens when people become undone by their lack of power or a damaged sense of self. We’re seeing the effects of a society estranged from one another lobbing ever-escalating emotional tirades at each other on line. All the while domestic violence continues flourish in the homes of those who struggle with issues of power and control.
Though it is almost impossible to predict these individual affective acts before they happen we can address the root causes in a way to make them less likely to occur.
If we change the way we deal with how we feel – if we re-evaluate and address cultural norms related to power and control – if we actively address our eroding sense of empathy for others we can uproot the causes of emotional upheavals that inspire both abuse and lethal outbursts.
I know, it sounds like a herculean task but we have faced and cleared such hurtles before. It occurs when we, as a society, decide we are going to change what we teach the next generation. There was a time when nobody wore seat belts. Now everybody does because of a conscious, targeted effort to make that that happen. The same goes for smoking. We decided, as a society, to target a generation of young people to change habitual behavior and we succeeded.
We need to do that in an effort to address this emotional tsunami as well.
BLOOM365’s vision is safe and healthy relationships for all. It seeks to address the root causes of abuse and violence early and with an entire generation. Bloom365 partners with K-12 schools and community based youth organizations to give young people the knowledge, skills and confidence to prevent abusive behaviors. And, through peer to peer mobilization, we activate young people to create and environment in which empathy, respect, kindness, consent, equality and peace are socially accepted norms.
We enter schools and deliver a seven-dose program over a several weeks in which we walk them through the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships. We allow them to challenge social norms that allow such behaviors to thrive. Then we leave with a Bloom Crew in place to re-inforce the new ideas we foster.
Bloom365 works. Its methodology has been studied and determined effective. And it’s not only important because of the groundwork it lays for healthy relationships moving forward. It intervenes in real time for those children who are currently suffering from abuse or, equally important, showing signs of becoming an abusive person.
At every – not some – but every school we’ve been in we’ve run into teens in abusive relationships. Sometimes we are approached by victims who didn’t realize that what was happening to them was wrong. “Now I know,” one young lady said, “That my boyfriend should not be going through my closet telling me what I can and cannot wear.” Another said, “My boyfriend won’t let me have any friends and he won’t let me go anywhere without him. He said it was because he loved me so much. Now I see that’s not what it is.”
Bloom365.org doesn’t just help victims it also identifies potential perpetrators. One young man stood up during the program and said, “You know that empathy thing you’re talking about. Well, I don’t have any of that.” He’s a young man with whom we worked to bring him into the fold. Another said he was going to kill myself, the that guy that did that thing to him and everybody he told who didn’t believe him. He, too, was encircled and cared for.
Bloom365 is trying to affect cultural norms. We are trying to make the ongoing, conscious creation of an emotionally able, empathetic society the standard. It should be something we all engage in as a part of basic education.
Is this a quick and easy answer? Will it stem the tide tomorrow? Are the results of our efforts easily quantifiable? The answer to these questions is a resounding no. But the absence of an easy fix, however, should not prompt us to simply shrug our shoulders and walk away.
Tomorrow’s casualty count, the next wave of #MeToo hashtags and the extent of our children’s exposure to domestic violence all depend on what we do today. Our success won’t be obvious but you can see the process at work. Who knows what the boy with the list may have done had we not caught him in time? It’s just a story that did not happen. All of our victories will look like that.
It is a daunting but doable task and will only work if we all get on board. We should pursue this as if our lives depend upon it, because, if you think about it, one day, they might.
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You’ve asked. She’s answered. In Dear Sonali, Judge Lynn speaks to all the young women who call her Mom2 or the Auntie in their Head.
Judge Lynn Toler became the host of the longest running television court program, "Divorce Court" in 2006. Prior to that, Judge Lynn Toler graduated from Harvard University and The University of Pennsylvania Law School. She began practicing law in Cleveland in 1984. In 1993, at the age of 33, she was elected judge of The Cleveland Heights Municipal Court. Judge Toler volunteered actively in her community creating innovative programs for young offenders such as Woman Talk, a program designed to intensively mentor young, at-risk girls.
Toler also headed the Cleveland Heights Coordinated Community Response to Violence against Women, a countywide initiative for the coordination of community resources to assist women who are victims of violence. She was also active as an advisory board member for Templum House, a battered women's shelter. As a result of her work in the area of domestic violence in 2002, she was awarded The Humanitarian of the Year Award from The Cleveland Domestic Violence Center.
Judge Toler's dedication to ending domestic violence continues. Currently, she is on the Board of GoPurple.org, a non-profit organization that addresses the issue of domestic violence through education. GoPurple.Org sends educators into classrooms teaching students about healthy relationships, signs of potentially abusive relationships, and ways to help both themselves and others who are in abusive situations.
Judge Toler has served as an adjunct professor at Ursuline College, where she created and taught courses on Civil Rights Law, and Women and the Law. She was also a frequent instructor for the Ohio Judicial College, where she helped create and taught continuing judicial education course for other judges.
Judge Toler is the author of three books including her most recent "Making Marriage Work: New Rules for an Old Institution." Her first, "My Mother's Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius" published in 2006, is a humorous memoir in which Judge Lynn recounts a childhood lived in the shadow of mental illness and provides a practical guide to the emotional lessons learned from that experience. And her time on the bench. Her second book, "Put It In Writing," coauthored with Deborah Hutchison, was published in September, 2009. It gives readers concrete, conflict-free solutions to the difficult situations that arise between family and friends.
Judge Toler has written for a variety of magazines including Divorce Magazine published through out the United States and Canada. In 2009, Judge Toler was given The Voice of Freedom Award by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joining former honorees Colin Powell and Vice President Al Gore, in ringing the Liberty Bell on Martin Luther King Day.
Currently, Judge Toler appears regularly as a guest expert on WeTV's Marriage Bootcamp. Born on October 25, 1959, she has been married to Eric Mumford since April, 1989. She has two sons and four stepsons.
Last night, I gave a high school commencement speech. I shared a lot of random advice and I made people laugh. I belong to the brevity and levity school of commencement speaking. I suffered through my high school and college ones. (I showed up late to the second) How many times do I have to […]
Y To bloom. To feel good about yourself. To be in a healthy relationship in which you feel valued and cared for. To be comfortable in your own skin. To respect and honor both yourself and others. To bloom. This is a word from a woman who’s seen things designed to help you get it […]
Anxiety is a car full of common concerns whose brakes have failed. The chronically concerned. The worn-out worried. The unceasingly distressed. Millions of people suffer from anxiety and depression and I am one of them. Like most members of Anxiety Society, I can take some small concern and turn it into a disaster. It doesn’t […]
I know these things seem unrelated but I don’t believe they are. They, too, feel like intractable problems but I don’t believe that either. ¨A man climbs into his car with his estranged wife and their children and drives them all into a lake. ¨An eight-year-old boy hangs himself after being bullied. ¨A man returns […]