Tag Archives: self help

The Only Gift That Matters

It’s always nice to see old friends and ‘tis the season to play catch up as the clock strikes the holidays, but lately it seems I’m always at a loss for words when tasked with the standard, “So, what’s been going on with you?” I mean, I’m no slacker – my list of accomplishments that I will make on Dec. 31st will prove that – but I curiously draw a blank when asked to fill someone in on my life. I don’t have a spouse or kids to talk about and while I love my nieces and nephew, I really have no desire to tell you how they’re doing. I currently don’t even have a love life to catch you up on (although spousal updates rarely sound like a love life, come on)! To top that off, when you really get down to it my work is satisfying – there’s not much to complain or crow about.

While it could very well be that because I am content I don’t have much to say when asked, I think deep down the reason for my reticence is more likely the fact that I know you don’t really care and I am sadly, most of the time, absolutely 100% OK with that. It takes a lot of energy for me to put into words the things that are important to me. The answer to what’s been up with me can’t be cataloged for easy conversation. So, I’ll just say not much, ask you the dreaded question and let you move on with your business after your short, well-rehearsed answer like I’m sure you’re relieved to do.

But every once in a while a soul shines bright in the darkness of busyness and obligation. Every now and then when someone says, “So what’s been going on with you?” they stop what they’re doing and listen. Their eyes light up with interest and when you say, “nothing much,” they don’t jump in with their own memorized answer – they wait until you are uncomfortable enough that you give voice to the truth. You start to share and then without realizing what has happened you begin to hear your own story. A light bulb floats above your head and you are suddenly filled with the feeling that you do have a life and that it matters to someone.

That’s what holiday (actually all) encounters should be about. This holiday season, vow with me to be a light in the darkness, to avoid the pitfalls of shallow conversation and the trivialities of small talk that keep people entombed in the bubble of their own little worlds. I invite you to ask someone, “So, what’s been going on with you?” and let the light of your soul show through your kind eyes and the gift of your time. In that way, maybe we can all be like the star of Bethlehem that led the wise ones to our savior. Maybe we can all be a gift of illumination, because when we let the genuineness of our spirit break through the barriers that modern society constructs, we are Christ for one another…the only gift that matters.

A New Way of Loving Myself!

I’ve had some hard days recently. I think we all at times over-commit or add new things to our lives without removing the old. When this happens it can lead to depression, anxiety, or in my case a little of both.

Now – I confess that even in good times I have a penchant for self-help books which I really enjoy, but from which I rarely find new insight. When I bought the short and sweet, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depended on It, by Kamal Ravikant (I bought it on Amazon Kindle), I didn’t have high hopes – and in a way I was right. The book’s whole message is you have to love your self. Duh! Heard that all before, but Ravikant has a way with words – a way of explaining the concept so that it’s like hearing it for the first time. The question he posed led me to some very real decisions and very new revelations.

Whenever we think of loving ourselves, it’s presented like a chore. It will be hard, but you must come to “accept” your flaws and love yourself anyway. The focus is usually on finding a way to see ourselves as “worthy” even though we may feel we are not.
But what if we instead focused on the loving?

When I think about the people I have loved over the years, I see them clearly, flaws and all. I also see that I never focused on choosing to love them despite their flaws, I just loved them, and in most cases, did everything in my power to help them get what they needed, desired or deserved. I put them first even though I could clearly see their faults. I put them first because their faults didn’t matter. If we stop spending all this time trying to get over our flaws and just focus on the act of loving, maybe we can go further than we have before.

Ravikant asked what we would do if we truly loved ourselves?

What would I do if I loved myself the way I loved all those people in my past – the people I went to bat for even when I knew I shouldn’t because I loved them, the people who I told to take time for themselves without feeling guilty, the people I found jobs for, and helped get through beauty school and citizenship tests? How would I “love” myself if they were me?

Looking from that perspective was like a lightning bolt to my soul. If I were someone I loved I would be giving myself quite different advice. If I were someone I loved, I’d say “Quit that right now!”, “Take care of yourself!”, “Market your book like you’re the fabulous writer you are!”, “Make that call!”, “Say no and mean it!” If I loved myself like I loved them I would spend hours trying to help and listen and understand instead of saying get over it, move on, you really messed that up, etc…

Instead, I tell myself to put other’s needs first. I tell myself to do what’s necessary to avoid conflict and awkward feelings. But that’s advice I would never give my God-children, my best friend, or one of my students. It’s advice that sacrifices the very things that would bring me happiness and probably success.

I have heard, “Love yourself!” over and over and over! Heck, I’ve even taught it to young women for years…but love isn’t a feeling – it’s an action. I’ve always understood that when it comes to loving others. Why was it so hard to see it about myself?

What about you? Is this revelation just new to me? Have you thought about loving yourself is an active way before – the way you love others? What difference would it make in your life?

If you were the author of your life story…

If you were the author of your own life story what would it say? I have heard this question before and have played around with it some, but I recently watched a TED talk where Amy Purdy, a snowboarder who lost both legs to bacterial meningitis, subtly shifted the words around. As she began her talk she asked, “If you were the author of your own life story, where would it go from here?”

It was an aha moment, if you will. Rephrasing the question to focus on the rest of the story instead of the story from beginning to end was liberating and exactly what I needed to hear. From previous posts you may remember my belief in letting the past be the past, but in meditating on my story I frequently still get stuck trying to force the past to flow into the future.

I have been stuck thinking that all the background information needed to be clearly laid out and have meaning. I have been stuck trying to vision my life as a whole instead of a play in numerous acts. Some plays are chronological and the acts build upon one another, some move backwards instead of forward, and still some are festivals of one acts. Being able to vision my character in a new act, maybe even a whole new play without having to integrate past scenes in order to move forward was liberating to my imagination.

When I dream the woman I want to be in this string of one acts that may one day form a whole, or may just end up as a festival of different tales, I realize that she may have similarities with the women in the other acts but she can also be exactly who she wants to be in this moment. So, humor me as I describe this woman who wants to make the next act in my play come to life.

She believes in the dignity of the human person. The dignity of every human person from birth until death. The dignity of the small child, the disabled teen, the gay young man, the middle-aged woman of color, the aged white republican…we are all part of fabric of the universe. Every part of every one of us has been in existence since the beginning of time and is sacred.

She believes in love and forgiveness. Absolute love and forgiveness available to all – even those who don’t seek it. She believes each person has a right to love and be loved and that our societies and governments become agents of oppression when anything rooted in love or compassion is denied or villainized.

She believes in a force greater than us that we all are a part of and have access to through our intuition. She believes that every person has inside of them a compass that leads to true north. It gets buried and broken by trying to mold ourselves to the wishes of others or to the expectations of society, but it is there in our core. She believes that if we follow that compass we will end up on the path to synchronicity, where we are exactly who we need to be, in the place we need to be, at the right time we need to be there.

She believes magic exists in the world. Not the type of magic that entails writing spells or cursing people, but the kind of magic that comes from the ultimate act of creation. From bringing something out of nothing. The magic of a story being told, or a great work of art, a friendship being formed or the path of a destiny being laid.

She is a creator.

If the next act of my story starts today, I am creating. I am writing. I am making art. I am collaborating to find ways to let what I have to share influence and be a part of the universal experience of others.

If the next act of my story starts today, I am no longer placing limits on what I can and can’t do out of fear or complacency. If the next act of my story starts today I am no longer limiting my love and life according to the fear of what people think or say. I am supporting and loving the people who deserve love – all people – even the people who choose not to love back.

If my story begins today, I’m not worrying about what would happen if I became successful and I am open to embracing change. Why should I fear success? Success means living a life I choose rather than trading authenticity for security and comfort.

If I started my life today, I would still be loved and supported by every single person who is important to me. None of them base their love, support, or connection to me upon what I do or how financially successful I am. I am loved by these people for the compass that spins inside of me, for my actions and beliefs that flow from my true north. I am loved because I love, and starting my life today means choosing to love on an even greater level.

If you were the author of the book of your life, where would the story go from here?

Are we really chained to our past?

There is a me that used to exist.  I can access her thoughts and feelings.  I can remember things she said and did.  What I can’t do is feel her influence in my choices any longer.  I’ve been mulling this post since June 2012, when over dinner with a friend, I proclaimed that I was not affected by the things that happened to me in my past.  What I meant? I have experienced some things that perhaps others would use to define themselves throughout their lifetime, but that I no longer think about, or consider relative to my present day identity.

The years I spent claiming her as my identity were many.  Viewing each new thing that happened to me through the lens of her experience was common. However, with the passing  years I used her lens less. 

Today I can explain to you why I saw things the way I did.  I can show you how my past self influenced many of my choices for good and for bad, but what I can’t do is say any of my current life decisions manifest from those actual events. They may manifest from values formed or personality traits honed in the years following said experiences, but not from the actual experiences in anyway.

 I understand when people say we are shaped by our past. The experiences of my 15 year-old self and the struggles for me to find meaning in what I went through and how I moved on and learned from them have changed me, but I am who I am in this present existence.  My body is made from completely new cells than the cells that made her body.  She only exists in the synaptic connections forged in my brain. 

I am no longer that person, nor do I wish to be. I can look at her objectively.  I can see her fears. I can feel compassion for her pain and understanding for all of her rash choices and mistakes, but I am done owning her mistakes.  There is no part of me beyond a memory that would think, act, or feel the same way that I did at that age or the years following. 

Some would say it’s delusional to think that I am a different person, but I wholeheartedly  believe people change everyday and choose who they are. I no longer look at her story and use it to explain why I do things or how I feel in the present.  It can explain some of my past, but the story stopped resonating for me long ago. I choose to be the woman I am today knowing that the woman I will be tomorrow may or may not use the lens of my current self in the future. And I feel free and really good with that.