30 Days of Doing my Best.

For the month of November, I set a goal for myself. I vowed to do my best, as much as I possibly could. I would, as much as I could judge, do what I “should.” This included reading with my kids instead of turning on the tv, going outside, saying “yes” when my only reason for saying “no” was that I’m lazy. It included exercising even when I would be tight on time, and showing up to my work when I planned to, even if I didn’t feel like it. I ate more of what I “should” and practiced stopping when I’d had “enough.” And because this is all very vague, I laid out some hard rules to follow; No TV, No sweets or desserts. No soda. No fast food. No coffee. No caffeine. No alcohol. Do your best. Give your best. I essentially removed all of my entertainment, distractions, and numbing devices. Here’s what I learned this past month:

-You can feel what you feel and do nothing about it- I have always felt the need to “do something” with emotions, particularly uncomfortable ones. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of being with these feelings…of staying with them…letting them be…to experience your downs, sadness, frustrations, etc. But honestly, I think I’ve always, in one manner or another, numbed myself. Life can be hard. Life can be extremely trying and stressful. And sitting with all the shit that life brings up in you…that’s hard. It’s uncomfortable and saddening and exhausting. But it is also clarifying. Being with these emotions, feeling them without the numbing of alcohol, food, tv, entertainment, whatever ways you numb, makes you see yourself, your life more clearly. After this month, I’m more aware of when I feel my worst- my saddest, my angriest, my most stressed, and pissed. I’m aware of how I’ve come to “deal” with these emotions instead of reading them for what they are- totally acceptable and useful tools to taking control of my life. You can not choose what stays and goes in your life in you don’t let yourself feel.

-Self love does not always feel very loving- Self love is a complicated concept. Often we see images depicting devotion to ourselves as luxurious bubble baths, pampering, shopping, sex, food, whatever. I suppose that self love can expressed and explored in all of these ways. But self love is also waking up early to exercise, it’s making yourself meditate, neglecting yourself of distractions to really explore how you’re feeling in your life, it’s taking the run, and going to the yoga class, and choosing to skip the second glass of wine. Sometimes self love is down right painful. Because self love, while it does include indulgence at times, is ultimately about feeling and being your overall best- it’s about caring for your body, mind, and soul from a kind, loving, gracious, and disciplined place.

-The energy of change is complicated and multifaceted- I read the Ana Forrest book Fierce Medicine earlier this year. One of the many things she shared that stuck with me was this concept of “the energy of change…”. I want that. I like that thought. The energy of change… what is that? How does that feel? What does it look like and sound like? Well here’s your very vague and likely unhelpful answer. The energy of change is both exciting dull. It’s painful and releasing. It’s clarifying and wildly confusing. It’s both bright, and dull. Moving and terribly sluggish. Change is not linear, and the energy around the experience of changing yourself and your life is ever-changing. The “trick” is to know why you want to change and then to stay with it and let it be.

-We know what we “should” do most of the time- it’s available to us. We have been provided a sophisticated system of wisdom and guidance in our beings. But many of us have also been taught to ignore such inklings. This month, I felt for the first time, maybe in my life, how it feels to honor when you’re body, mind, gut, instincts, etc, guides you. When you honor that “inner voice,” it grows. I feel like learning to honor our internal compass and navigational tools requires a lot of unlearning too; more than I can do in a month. It requires practice and patience. But it’s there, wisdom, authenticity, truth. It’s all there inside of each of us.

-The hardest part of change is belonging no where- You no longer belong to your vices, habits, or the people who share them. You’re not really a part of a new set of folks like who you’re becoming. You are alone, a soul, drifting between ways of being. We often ascribe all these little bits of ourselves to out identity. So leaving unhelpful bits of “who we are” behind can be scary. Who are you now? Who are you without your vices and hang ups? Can you bear being untethered, to belonging no where, to feeling lost? At least for a while?

Onward. Any thoughts?

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Personal Growth- Review and Concepts

One of the articles I’ve recently read pertaining to personal growth is “The ABC’s of Personal Growth: How to Live a Meaningful, Fulfilling Life,” by Andi Saitowitz, posted to tinybuddah.com. I’ve included the link below, as well as Andi’s website, and it’s worth a full read with your full attention, but I wanted to share a few points that are really speaking to me today.

“Blessings:

Blessings are all around us. If we choose to look for them, we will certainly find them. What are you grateful for? What makes you smile? What positives do you notice in your life right now? Each day, look for three things to be grateful for. These blessings multiply!”

Blessings. Gratitude. Abundance. Wealth. For many of us it’s hard to see all the good in our lives when we feel stressed, anxious, angry, burdened, or just not where or how we want to be. I struggle with this. But I’m finding again and again that practicing gratitude- yes, it’s actually a skill/attitude to be practiced- is a total game changer. In my life, I’m finding rituals that support this, namely an early morning routine that includes time to thank the universe for all the good in my life, for whatever comes to my mind that I’m happy about in that moment, be it as little as the fact that my pen works, or as real and heartfelt as having healthy kids and a roof over our heads. I think practicing gratitude is often considered light and fluffy and warm, but much like meditation, it’s a practice that alters you from the inside-out and changes the way you do everything.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” Martha Beck

“Control:

There are so many things in life that we have very little or no control over—what happens to us, what other people say or do. We are not the general managers of the universe. However, we have incredible control over how we choose to respond to every experience we encounter. Our control lies in our attitude and our behavior—our choices. Choose wisely.”

Oh man, anyone else out there trying to control every detail of their world? I can not control other people. Their opinions of me are none of my business. I can control my behaviors, my habits, my attitudes and thoughts. And that’s it.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“Mindfulness Meditation:

Slow down. Take time to breathe. Mindfulness offers incomparable value to the human spirit, psyche, and body. Dedicate a set time each day to pausing, being truly present, and listening to your soul and inner wisdom.

The research available on the huge benefits of meditation is mind-blowing. Treat yourself and everyone you love to the gift of meditation. Even a few minutes a day has the power to awaken, elevate, transform, and enhance your life in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

Neuroscience has evidence today that meditation literally rewires your brain and can change your thinking, habits, and negative beliefs. It’s miraculous and it’s accessible to every one of us. Try it for yourself. Start to live a mindful life of greater peace.”

Take the time. No matter how many things are on your to-do list, no matter how anxious and jumpy you are, no matter how exhausted, take the time to meditate. Commit to this time you give yourself.

“Release:

What are you carrying right now that is too heavy? Every day, practice letting go of the things that weigh you down.

It’s not easy to let go of regret, mistakes, anger, resentment, ego, jealousy, and compassion, but each day offers us abundant opportunity to practice. Try to catch yourself when you’re getting caught up in a story in your head so you can take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and free up your energy for the people and things that bring you peace and purpose.”

This is so great to read. I need the reminder that often the places my brain goes are to memories and moments steeped in fear, regret, anger…it does not serve my present or my future. Stop what you’re doing. Take a few breaths. Let it go.

Follow the link below. Read it for yourself. What letters/concepts are speaking to you today?

The ABC’s of Personal Growth: How to Live a Meaningful, Fulfilling Life

https://www.andisaitowitz.com

Steps to Self Love

i hate nothing about you with red heart light

While I find the calls to love thy self, posted across the feeds of my social media, uplifting, I find that much of the information on how to actually do that to be terribly misleading. Often it’s scattered with simple, one-step solutions, images of zen yogis, and people in decadent bath tubs. Long baths and yoga are great. But I’m finding that one-step solutions (and bathtubs and yoga) are not the answer (at least not for me). Self-love is a life style; and for many of us, it’s one needing to be built. For you list-loving, step-needing folks who are finding the path from self-loathing to self-loving to be vague and daunting, I feel ya. This one’s for you. 💜

I’ve compiled a short list of steps that I’m currently experimenting with on my own quest toward self-love. Check it out…

Step #1 FORGIVE.

The first step on any personal quest is forgiveness. This may sound warm and fuzzy, but the burdens and guilt you haul around with you keep you stuck. Locate these in your psyche. Let it go. Forgive yourself. This is a step that is not made once, but every time your regrets and failures creep back into you life. When the ghosts of your past pains begin whispering, be prepared. Make a plan. Write it down. Keep it with you. This plan could be as simple as noticing thoughts that elicit the burdensome feelings, choosing to stop what you’re doing, and giving yourself something different to do (to create a new neural path and pull yourself out of that pattern); maybe take a walk to the water cooler. Stand up and stretch. Breathe. Sing a song. Stand on your head. You choose. But choose to forgive and let go of memories, belief systems, fears, and burdensome emotions that keep you feeling stuck, heavy, incompetent, or unworthy.

Step #2 ACCEPT.

Accept who, how, and where you’ve been. Honor the dark parts of yourself and your life for what it is- not shameful, only human; And an integral part of who you are and who you’re becoming.

Accept where you are in life. Your abilities, things you know and do not know, the way you feel, the job you work, everything as it is in this moment- accept it. This does not mean to settle, to never change, or to never strive for something different. It’s simply a step toward bringing yourself into the present and experiencing all that’s available right now.

Step #3 GROW RESPECT.

You, like all humans, are intrinsically valuable and deserving of respect. But for many of us, this truth is not enough to yield self-respecting behavior; It needs to be planned and practiced. Self-respect is like a muscle. It needs to be cultivated. Grown.

How do you do that? Give yourself something to feel good about. Set a challenging, attainable goal. And when you commit to that goal, make it matter; do not break these promises to yourself.

Attainable goals will be different from person-to-person. Here are some ideas:

  • Sign up for that 5k/10k/marathon/ultra-marathon.
  • Read instead of watching tv for 3 nights this week.
  • Call a parents/siblings/family member this week.
  • Take a walk 1 night this week.
  • Turn off the phone for one hour.
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier every day this week.
  • Substitute decaf in place of regular coffee for one of your many daily doses.

Make it whatever you want. But choose a goal that moves you in the direction of who you desire to become in an attainable way. And remember, you do not break promises to you. Not ever. In time, the energy you’re creating surrounding your commitments to yourself will spread into the other facets of your life. Let it.

Step #4 NOURISH.

I do not claim to know the purpose of life. But I’d say that enjoying it plays some part of it. So follow your bliss and find pleasure in a nurturing way. See my post “Numbing VS Nourishing” from several weeks back if you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all need to recharge, to disconnect, to refocus and allow time to recalibrate our paths. Give yourself this.

Step #5 LEAN INTO CHANGE.

Those uncomfortable feelings you get when your old habits begin to fall away- pain, anger, boredom, tiredness, laziness, feeling out of place, distracted- The space of change is murky and uncomfortable. And until you begin to really feel your newly discovered badassery, it really sucks. You may feel suddenly out of place in social circles you once called home. You may find yourself perplexed when that pint of ice cream that used to comfort you isn’t doing the trick. Try not to fix it. Instead, stay with it. Let your world shift from the inside out. Trust the process and open yourself up to the new views available when you finally allow yourself to lose sight of the shore. Underneath all that bullshit that helps secure the habits and thought patterns of the person you don’t want to be is your true self. When you begin to practice self-forgiveness and acceptance, when you are practicing and growing your self-respect, when you are supporting the growth of your best self with nourishing replenishment to you mind, body, and soul, your true self who trusts their intuition, meets life head on, and lives with authenticity begins to rise. Lean into the process of change

Step #6 REPEAT.

Do it all again. Reading this post, following these steps, and going through it again and again? Thats self-love. Put in the work, commit to it before anything else, and in time you’ll find that from self-loathing, you can begin to find shreds or forgiveness. Then perhaps you’ll discover a place of self-acceptance. Self-Acceptance leads you to self-respect, and that helps you discover this person in you who you actually like. And having self-like is a sure stepping stone to self-love. 

Please comment and share! Would you reorder these steps? Perhaps there’s something you think I’m missing? Tell me about it!

 

 

Being Ruled by Lies and Fear.

full frame shot of text on wood
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Keeping my 4 and 2-year-old at home was a decision I made, largely based on this idyllic image in my head of me and my daughters spending all these lovely days together, and then their going off to school as these confident, smart little girls, totally prepared (thanks to all that studying our ABC’s and 123’s at home with Mom). Add together a wild 4-year-old, a totally sweet but nutty toddler, the general stresses of gradually setting up a new life in a new place doing new jobs, financial insecurity, and a Mom (that’s me!) who sets totally unrealistic expectations for this experience= Mess, chaos, and meltdowns galore (many of which are mine). Welcome to my life 🙂

With a heavy cloud of self-doubt and frustration hanging over me, wading through a sea of Pre-K prep, Brain Quest books, and flash cards, anxiously planning out lesson’s and time with my kids, something dawned on me; This is not fun.

Life is not always fun and that’s ok. But learning, something that many of our kids go about naturally and joyfully….in this house, it’s become painful. Yikes. Stuck somewhere between sight words and numbers, I sat there thinking; Why did I want to keep the girls home again? Why am I trying to do everything? Why am I consistently shirking off my husbands advice to get help? Immediately a list of well-rehearsed answers strung through my mind…..they’ll go to school soon….spend time with them now….good foundations….connectedness with your kids….blah blah blah….and then as if that dark cloud that’d been lingering over my head sprung a lightning bolt, I saw it; I saw the truth; All these reasons I have for being the way I am now and making the decisions I have, they’re not untrue; but they are also not the whole truth. In part, they are a shield; One I’ve been wielding, feigning a noble cause, when on the flip side of these truths, there is another real and dark motive; FEAR. As if my metaphorical cloud began to pour, I suddenly saw that my perfectionism, my dedication to make my 4-year-old sit the fuck down and focus, for what it is. It’s not about protection or preparation. I am not functioning from the fear that my daughter is lacking. I am being driven from the fear that I am lacking. I sat there feeling foolish. Silly. Guilty. Here I am pressing feelings of lack and anxiety onto my perfectly fine kids. This my friends is one of many ways we pass our burdens onto our children.

“I am stupid.” “I am silly.” “I’m incompetent.” “I do not have the capacity.”

These are variations of lies I learned young and have carried with me into my adult life. We all have lies about who we think we are, and many of us go about our lives terrified of discovering their truth. 

This post is not about parenting or kids. It is not in any way meant as a commentary on homeschooling or using educational stuff with our kids. It’s about the lies we let dictate our lives. It’s about the way these lies and our fear of their truth creep into every facet of our beings. It’s about seeing them for what they are….lies, and then choosing a new way. My kids don’t need my lessons. And they certainly don’t need the energy of self-doubt that I’ve been drudging around here. They need my love and my attention. As do I, I suppose. 

When you look as your life, does it reflect who you really want to be? Your job, your attitudes, your politics, your habits, your hobbies, your relationships…in what ways do you struggle with not allowing your fears to dominate your life?

 

Stagnant VS Active Belief

close up view of text on wood at home
Photo by Inna Lesyk on Pexels.com

Recently I asked a writer friend of mine if she knew of any local writing jobs. Her eyes grew big, her arms spread wide. “If no, that’s fine,” I went on nervously. It turns out she had just the job for me and she’s been praying for God to present to her the person for it. And here I am! Meanwhile in my world, I’ve been using my alone time in the very early mornings, prodding the universe for a sign, any direction; what’s next for me? In life? In writing? In belonging and contributing to my community?

I was totally rocked. My beliefs and those of my friend may be different. But as I went about grinning for the rest of the day and sending “thank you” waves out into the universe, it occurred to me that it’s not what you believe that matters so much. It’s not about what god you’re praying to or the way you worship and nurture your spirituality; it’s about the energy with which you believe.

It’s easy to have a stagnant faith– one where we go through the motions, follow rules, say the prayers, and then wait. It’s easy to wait for proof before investing in the belief. This also often leads to places of resignation that the things we want are simply “not in God’s plans,” “not for us,” “not our fate,”_____ (input your preferred cosmic rejection here). It’s easy to resign yourself to a world that does not change and stamp it with some cosmic rejection, when the reality is that your world doesn’t change because you don’t change, and you don’t change because you don’t have the faith that you can. And you don’t have the faith because you don’t take the actions and you don’t take the actions because you don’t have the faith (what came first? what comes first? actions…faith…chickens…eggs!?).

It’s hard to have active faith- to be so sure that your god/the universe/source energy/the goddess/whatever, is delivering that you are actively making your next moves with that deliverance in mind. Active faith is harnessing the energy of what you want, perhaps through prayer, meditation, tarot, chanting, (choose your guidance-seeking preferences), and then carrying it on with you. You’re putting that request out into the universe, trusting it’s already done, you have it, now you live it. It’s being certain that if you show up, do you best, and follow that itch to ask, to listen, to see, you’ll know when to offer a “hey do you happen to know of any local writing jobs?”, that eventually, you’re going to find yourself dwelling in awe at your success and the great, cool, amazing, connectedness of the universe/god/goddess/source energy/whatever.

I think that there are limitations as to how and what we can affect through faith and manifesting. The greatest of which, I believe, is the limitations of your own faith. For example, my dreams include a house in the woods, a giant garden, my writing being read, freedom, horses, and cats. I cannot manifest that whole dream right now. And some may say, well whether you say you can or can’t, you’re right! And they’re right! But so am I. It’s easy to get so excited about the fact that what we want in life is actually available to us, that we forget that there’s work to be done. For me, my faith is simply not big enough to manifest that kind of energy, the energy of my full dreams. The work for me is to grow my faith. Luckily, faith, like so many other things, is something to be grown. It flourishes with attention, nourishment, and practice. And in time, who knows what you’ll find yourself attracting into your life!

What are some small(ish) ways we can practice having active faith?

-If it’s a date or a new friend you desire to have, set a date by which you’ll have this and then make an actual date. For real, make a reservation for you and your new friend at your favorite restaurant. Then make time to get quiet, get connected, and stay open to how this person may show up in your life.

-When you’re going shopping, before you pull into the crowded parking lot, imagine a lovely spot, right up front, opening up just for you. Feel that calm assurance as you roll down the aisle toward the store. Feel the gratitude now. And enjoy your convenient parking space.

-Can you manifest answers to questions burdening you? Next steps in relationships? Jobs? Hobbies? How to take your next step in personal growth? To guide you to that “just right” life coach? To find a pediatrician that really suits you and your kiddos? To choose a bank? A gift? A milk alternative?

What ideas do you have?

Kindness Rocks

Recently my kids and I made a crude, economic version of the behavioral “marble jar”- often seen in classrooms- good behavior, add a marble. Optional- bad behavior, remove a marble. We made ours with rocks and a milk jug.

In the process of gathering rocks, we plucked several from wherever we went. In the parking lot of my daughter’s karate studio I picked up a smooth, round rock. A good one for painting (we painted our rocks), I thought to myself. I added this one to a little bag in my trunk, filled with rocks and pebbles of all shapes and sizes. As I looked them over, I was suddenly bothered. This isn’t going to work- they need to be the same. Otherwise, the act of kindness won’t match the size of the rock added (meaning it won’t take up as much space in the jug as it should, given the magnitude of the kindness). And the same vice-versa; if the act is tiny, it hardly seems fair to add a giant rock that takes up tons of room– my thoughts went something like that. Aside from the obvious fact that I was way over-thinking this project- my kids just want to paint rocks and earn treats- it also occurred to me that the quality of this project that I’m citing as flawed is actually very life-like. It’s actually kind of perfect.

In life, it’s impossible to really measure how far the effects of any act of kindness will ripple. A “thank you” to an under-appreciated server could be the thing that changes his day. It could be the impetus that reminds him that he’s doing something real and valuable and worthy of “thank you,” and that he in general is a worthy, valuable human being (you never know!). While it may not contribute to a literal “Kindness Rocks” jug, all kindness, no matter how small, matters. It all counts. It all contributes to a greater good.

Can you imagine…

…if we all chose eye contact with people serving us, instead of our screens?

…if everyone gave the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst?

…if everyone always held the door? and respected right-of-ways? and drove safely because who knows who’s in the cars around them? and left the last bite for their partner? and loved on their kids despite their being little shits? and decided to get curious instead of judgmental when faced with people different than us? Or maybe if we didn’t even reach this far and we all simply decided to say “please” and “thank you”?

All. Kindness. Counts

Numbing/Nourishing Tips & Ideas

After yesterday’s post, I kept thinking about all this numbing/nourishing stuff. For me, the discovery that so many of my “resting” activities were not at all nourishing and largely learned from my upbringing was hugely eye-opening. And for some time, when I’d find myself plastered to the couch with a chocolate mug cake because I’m tired and stressed, my mind would flicker to the truth that I wasn’t really fixing anything or helping myself, but then I’d ignore it and do my thing. The stress-inducing issues and fatigue were still present but now with the added guilt that I knew I was resisting growth. Pre-empting my nourishment needs has proven to be very helpful for me. Here are some ways I do that.

Tip #1- Make a list of what makes you feel good. These could be anything! Then when you’re feeling whatever it is that drives you to numb, you can refer to your list and choose what fits the moment instead of falling back on your numbing habits. Here are some items on my list:

  • a really great cup of coffee
  • the smell of lavender (I use essential oils or lavender scented candles)
  • a thought-provoking movie
  • short stories I can enjoy over a sitting
  • flipping through my favorite magazine
  • laughing (usually from old faithful movies that always crack me up)
  • face masks
  • oily bubble baths
  • using my face roller
  • walking in nature
  • long drives
  • cat memes
  • dumb jokes
  • good wine
  • icy, cold milk
  • puzzles
  • sudoku
  • candles
  • arts and crafts
  • pinning travel destinations on pinterest
  • baking
  • talking to a real friend

Most of these things are free and fairly quick. I keep my list in my phone notes so it’s always handy. Make a list of what feels good for you!

Tip #2- Plan your recharge time in advance. When you’re planning your week, give yourself a morning, maybe an evening, even just an hour if thats all you can swing. Devote that time to making yourself feel good and recharging. Don’t pencil it in. Its important- permanent marker that date with yourself into your week! Plan what you’ll do, prep what you need in advance, and take that time whether you feel you need it or not. For me, I give myself Friday movie night, all by my glorious lonesome, to watch whatever I want (almost, see next tip).

Tip #3- If TV or music is part of your recharging time, be considerate of what you watch/hear. For example, if watching Keeping up with the Kardashians makes you feel like a fat slob, choose something else. Basically don’t watch or listen to what makes you feel bad. What you feed your mind is part of who and how you are.

Tip #4- If booze, sweets, or other specific food is part of your relax time, don’t binge. And if you’re struggling not to eat the whole carton, take the time and think about why. Satisfying a sweet tooth craving and filling yourself up in response to stress, shame, fears or insecurity are not the same thing.

Tip #5- Embrace your preferences! So what if taking a 10 mile jog is not your preferred method of relaxation? No yoga in there? It’s ok. Don’t overthink this. And if jogging and yoga are a part of your relaxation methods, that’s great too! My point- honor your own preferences without judgement of how they differ from someone else’s or what you think your preferences “should” be.