Three Steps to Receiving Love When We Aren't Used to It.


We are wired to seek secure, dependable love.  Attachment theory describes this instinct as deeply rooted in our biology.   And yet for many of us, receiving expressions of love from a romantic partner may feel downright uncomfortable.  

We cope with the discomfort as best we can.  We change the subject or laugh awkwardly. Perhaps we muddle through a thank you and turn inward.  

When we have an attachment history of unpredictable affection from a parent or previous partner,  accepting tenderness may be intertwined with memories of sadness, rejection, or fear.

So what to do when receiving love feels a bit daunting?  

Here are three steps you can practice:

1.  Notice what feelings come up when a partner expresses love.  

Do you feel overwhelmed, fearful, or anxious?  No need to fix the feelings. Just notice.

Now, observe what thoughts come up.  Thoughts might include: “I don’t deserve love,” “I’m not good enough,” or “They might say they love me now, but wait ‘til they really know me!”  

Again, no need to fix. Your only job is to notice the story you are telling yourself.

2.  Gently acknowledge to yourself that this “receiving love” thing is tough.  

Think of what you might say to a close friend-- now say that to yourself!  Examples of compassionate self-talk: “This feels scary,” “You’ve been through a lot so this feels uncomfortable,” or even, “You feel overwhelmed right now and that’s okay.” Research shows that self-compassion is not self-indulgence. Rather, it helps us think more clearly and connect with others.

3.  When you’re ready, and if you feel safe, share the feelings and thoughts that you’ve noticed with your partner.  

Let them know that receiving love isn’t so simple for you.  Invite them to have a conversation about how you’d like to feel when receiving loving words or actions.  Do you hope to feel more calm, less anxious, or more joy?  

Brainstorm with your partner. How can they support you to more comfortably receive their love?  If you’re not ready to say it all out loud (and that’s just fine!), try journaling or keeping notes on your phone as a first step toward a conversation.

Notice → Self-Compassion → Journal → Share.

You got this.



Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Make a Beginning Easier.

miguel-bruna-704166-unsplash (1).jpg

Hi loves,

It’s that time again.  The “Things Are Beginning Again" time.  We watch Summer collect its things and trail sand around the house.  Fall is pacing outside.    

A new school year. New job. New plans. Transitions. New feelings. Finding ways to say goodbye. 

You may have questions.

Will I feel safe (in this new place)?

Will I find people who care about me (in a real way)?

Will my new job/school/role provide me with a better life?

If you’re feeling a bit ungrounded today, let’s look at what we can do right now.

1.     Play that favorite song of yours. Full volume. Sing it or dance it. Move your body like an octopus. Or imagine you are an octopus. It’s okay to laugh.

2.    Write a real, pen-to-paper letter to yourself.  Take 10 minutes (or even five). What do you want YOU to know about feeling anxious, excited or hopeful right now? Sign the letter. Fold the paper in half, and then again. Stick the letter in the bottom of your purse or wallet. Let it surprise you when you find it a week or month or year later. 

3.     Call/ text / Skype someone who makes you feel anchored when floating. If that person hasn’t appeared in your life just yet, imagine what this person might say. Imagine her face.  “Everything will be okay,” she says, looking at you.  And she means it.

With love,


If you're feeling the need for some extra support during a transition, you can reach me at (510) 361-0346 for a free, initial 15-minute phone session.  Or send me a message at

Do You Miss Your Old Self?


“Will I ever go back to my old self?” My client asks me this question. I wonder if he notices my face grow soft. My eyes, mostly. He watches closely.

“Yes,” I say. “And also no.”

I guess that’s what hope is, he says. I nod. It feels more like a bow, the way my chin touches my chest.

* * *

I stay later than usual in the office to watch the sky turn orange and pink. I think about his question. I think about the things I want him to know.    

That we are still ourselves. Even when in pain and scared. That we can feel angry and disappointed at the world, the doctors, at the very cells of our bodies. In these moments, nothing will feel the same as before.

That we will ask big questions and mundane questions in the same breath: What did the latest blood tests show and what will I eat for lunch?

We will stop for the crosswalk, dry dishes, daydream, remember what life used to be like. We will remember ourselves slowly or suddenly—a flash of a memory—and so we begin to write a story different than the one planned. 

That there will be moments of happiness, joy even. On good days, perhaps peace. There will be milestones you never imagined for yourself.  Good ones, boring ones, seemingly miraculous ones.

The story will be far messier and unpredictable.

It will feature love in many, many forms.  

There will be new celebrations. Birthdays, remission anniversaries, strange and funny daily rituals and sometimes homemade signs you will leave up for weeks or months that read, “Welcome Home” or “We Missed You.” 

My dear client, I know you miss yourself.

One day, you may pause and wonder how it all happened, this becoming more hopeful than the week before or the year before. You may wonder how you kept moving and trying and didn’t give up.

You may wonder how you didn’t vanish, the way you told me you wanted.

It’s getting late. The sky is barely pink and orange now. I write a quick note to myself: “I guess this is what hope is.” I tuck the note in my jeans pocket.

It’s time to go home.

Chronic Illness Support throughout California.


Experiencing a chronic illness can be isolating and overwhelming.  I offer weekly 50-minute phone sessions for those who would like extra support from me, a therapist.

Sometimes leaving the house is not an option.  

I’d like you to save that precious energy. hold onto it for what matters most.


Here are some things we might talk about during a session: 

Ways to tolerate uncertainty and sadness. 

Ways to honor who and what you value most—even with pain.

Ways to increase self-compassion on hard days.


Ways to connect with the people you love. 

Also: happy things, silly things or funny things you would like in your life.   

I'd love to hear from you.  


To the Person Who Isn’t Feeling Festive.


Hi. It’s Jenny. 

I heard you weren’t feeling very celebratory this season.

I heard you were feeling pretty down.  Especially when well-intentioned people say, “Look at all those twinkling lights!  Look at the holiday gatherings and the cheer!” 

It’s okay that you want to look away.  It’s okay that you feel sad or disappointed or scared. 

Maybe someone you love is ill.  Or someone you love is missing this year.  You have been feeling more fragile, more tender. 

And yes, there are people and things for which you are grateful, you might say.  I hear you, because it’s possible to feel many things all at once. 

So here's my Holiday Experiment for you:

If you happen to look at twinkling lights or old photos this week, also wrap yourself in a blanket or a favorite sweater. 

Allow the warmth to soothe you for 6 seconds. 

Right now, you are allowing yourself to feel more than one thing.  

(I’ll count to six with you now.) 

* * *

We are many things. 

We are complicated with gratitude and with grief.  With lights and with blankets. 



Listening to Your Body.  A Three-Minute Exercise.


Dear Ones,

It's the day after another trauma.  You’ve been watching the news and scrolling through your phone.  Reading posts about victims, fear, guns, hurricanes, motives.  You keep scrolling – you want answers, of course – and yet, your body asks for something softer.

The body holds pain that we try to push away.  We do it every day.  Sometimes, all day long. 

For the next three minutes, let’s listen to your body.

Take a seat on the floor.  Put a pillow or blanket beneath you. 

Take your hand.  Press it to your chest.  Feel the warmth of your body.

Begin to breathe.  This is where your heart lives.  

What do you feel?  Maybe a tightness.  A sharp pain.  A dull aching.  A numbness. 

When you locate it -- and trust that you will know when -- stay here a moment longer.

Keep filling your belly with air, with space.  

On your in-breath, “I allow.”

On your out breath, “I am not alone.” 


Repeat until you sense your heartbeat slow.  Until you feel your chest release, even a tiny opening. 

If you feel emotions rise up, know you are okay.  In this moment, somewhere, someone’s breath is synced with yours. 

With love,






A letter to three women who may be hurting on Mother’s Day.


To the woman who has lost her mother:

Sit with me.  Tell me about her.  How she laughed.  What did it sound like?  I wish I could hear it, too. 

Tell me about her face.  What parts do you miss most?  What parts do you love?


Let’s remember together. 


* * *


To the woman who has lost her child:

I’m here with you.  You say your heart--that day and every day since--has shattered into a million pieces and disappeared into the sky. 

I see those tiny pieces in you, shaped into grief and love and all the things your daughter loved, too.  

Tell me about her face.  What parts do you miss most?  What parts do you love?


Let’s remember together.


* * *


To the woman who wants a child, so very much:

This is grief.  You may feel this grief intensely right now.  Especially when you see mothers and children on Sunday afternoon.  Or any Sunday afternoon.

It’s a grief that’s hard to describe. 

The categories include: what could have been. miscarriage. stillbirth. fertility treatments. trying. loneliness. 

Tell me about her face.  What parts do you see most clearly? What parts do you love?


Let’s imagine together.


With you,


An illustrated guide to feeling understood.

illustration by mari andrew

Mari Andrew is a writer and illustrator.  Every day, she posts a new Instagram illustration.

Mari illustrates the things that connect us. 

Loss, love, grief, vulnerability, resilience.  The tiniest moments and the big ones.  She's also quite funny (and lovely and warm in non-digital life). 

Take a moment to meet Mari and her artwork by visiting  

I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.


With love,


If you're feeling the need for some extra support, you can reach me at (510) 361-0346 for a free, initial 15-minute phone session.  Or send me a message at 

To My Clients, The Bravest People I Know.

To My Clients,

Today’s post is for you, to thank you. 

You are the bravest people I know.

You, my client, have lost someone you love.  And still, you are willing to sit in the quiet of a room with me, and with grief. 

You, who got out of bed today.  I know that was a battle.  We honor the sadness and gently unhook from the thoughts.

You, who feels sky-high waves of anxiety.  So we practice self-compassion.  You breathe with me and I am in awe of your strength. 

You, who is scared of losing her.  You look at each other.  It’s the bravest thing we can do.  To look. 

You feel so very raw today.  And yet, you opened this door.  You got here.  So we drink hot tea together and yes, it’s okay to cry. 

With love and gratitude,


If you're feeling the need for some extra support, you can reach me at (510) 361-0346 for a free, initial 15-minute phone session.  Or send me a message at 

“English major? What are you gonna do with that?”


Holidays can be wonderful.  Lights and fireplaces and Cinnamon-Infused Everything. They can also be quite uncomfortable and may require a large helping of self-soothing. 

So, from my holiday heart to yours, please accept these self-compassionate, pre-scripted answers to well-meaning questions.  You get to choose your level of vulnerability.  You get to choose your boundaries. 

Darling, bring on the holidays. 


1.  Any new boyfriend/girlfriend we should know about?

Say to self:  “It’s okay that you don’t have a partner.  You are loved by many.  Take a deep breath.  Lift your head.  You, my dear, are fabulous on your own.”

Say out loud:  “No.”  (*Please note there are no shame-filled responses to be found here.)


2.  So, when are you having a couple of kids like (insert name of sibling or friend)?

Say to self:  “You are just fine.  Take a deep breath.  Lift your head.  You, my darling, are lovely as you are-- with or without children."

Say out loud:  “Kids? Hmm, not now.”


3.  How’d your job search go?

Say to self:  “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about this.  It’s okay if you feel angry or sad.  Remember to breathe. Lift that head.”  You, my dear, are on your journey." 

Say out loud:  “Went well (or was difficult or whatever word fits for you), thank you for asking.” 


4.  Job Part II:  So, what are you really passionate about?

Say to self:  “REALLY??”  Then take a deep breath.  Maybe one more.  You, my darling, are finding your way-- passionately."

Say out loud:  “So many things.” 


5.  English major?  what are you gonna you do with that?

Say to self: “It’s okay that you did/are doing what makes you happy.   It’s okay to feel irritated right now.  You, my dear, have all the words on your side.”

Say out loud:  “Anything and everything!”  (*It’s okay to smile when you say this.)


With love and cinnamon,