Saying Uncle

Learning that self-care doesn’t make you superhuman

Did you ever play the game Uncle when you were a kid? The game where you interlace fingers with another kid and then proceed to try to break each other’s hands. You bend the fingers and squeeze them, twist them as much as you can until someone screams, “Uncle!”

It’s a torturous game really, but it’s so much fun when you win. Sometimes I’m a little competitive. I like to win.

Life, sometimes, is a little like that game. It wraps around you, squeezes you, twists you until it almost physically hurts. For me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there, saying uncle isn’t an option.

That, I believe, is a fallacy of yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Or perhaps I misinterpret it through my skewed lens on life. I’m a bit of perfectionist in one sense. I am actually just learning this about myself.

I’m a perfectionist in that I don’t believe I can show weakness. That I have to be strong at all times. That I can get through anything on my own. Without help.

That’s how I view the philosophy of yoga and meditation. It helps you overcome these weaknesses. You don’t get upset. You can face any challenge. You can breathe your way through anything.

But that doesn’t allow us to be human. I am fully human when I allow myself to be.

When I played Uncle as a kid, though, I refused to say it. I refused to give in. To claim defeat. I would squirm and twist and somehow slip my hand out of the grip. Technically, I think the other person won in that case, but I wasn’t going to own it. Allow it in any way. If I didn’t say it, they didn’t win.

Some of that is competitiveness. Some of that is stubbornness. I have a little of both in my blood. But some of it, I’m starting to realize in the middle of my life, may come from trauma. I mentioned a while back that I had been told I was traumatized in childhood. This trauma subconsciously impacts everything I do.

My dad had a temper. I couldn’t make too many “mistakes.” By mistakes, I mean, I couldn’t drop things or spill things or accidentally break things. I couldn’t be too loud. I couldn’t be annoying. If I did, I was yelled at. Not a little yell either. If I argued with my dad, he called me stupid. Once he hit me in the eye.

We all go through stuff, I won’t go into my life story. I loved my dad, but he wasn’t perfect. Of course, neither was I. That way of life, though, formed how I view the world and how I behave. I’m a fighter because I had to stand up for myself. I had to believe in myself when my father didn’t. I actually think he did believe in me, but his flaws didn’t always allow that to come through.

Being the baby and 5 years younger than my brother, who was closest in age, I didn’t get a lot of attention. People were busy. I spent my summer’s alone. No form of communication. We didn’t have a phone and I lived in the middle of nowhere. Both parents worked.

So I was home alone from about the age of 9 on in the afternoons and all day during the summers. My school bus driver bought me a birthday cake once. It had green and yellow flowers on base of white icing. No one had ever bought me a cake. I used to sit by him and talk instead of talking to other kids a lot.

I never understood why he bought me that cake until now. I think he bought it for me because I always got off the bus alone and there wasn’t anyone at home. Even my principal drove me home from school when I was sick. My parents didn’t come pick me up.

So I was alone a lot. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I entertained myself. I fed myself. I took care of myself. I did chores. I learned to be independent and strong. I could do everything on my own. That’s is a good thing. That is positive. And I enjoyed my alone time, so from that perspective, it worked out.

But it also taught me I couldn’t depend on anyone. I had no one around to depend on. It taught me I had to take care of everything myself at all costs. My survival depended on it. My dad’s anger taught me I couldn’t mess up. Be too emotional. Be a kid so to speak.

I am a soft, squishy thing on the inside. Sensitive. Emotional. Kind of a bad combination with the parenting style I grew up with.

So that skews my view of yoga and meditation. Yoga and meditation are a way to help me control those emotions that flare up in me. Helps me work through anything life throws at me. Helps me be perfect on my own.

But I’m not perfect. I’m not superhuman. I think yoga and meditation help me, but they also trick my mind. I forget I’m human sometimes. When I finally lose it, I lose in an explosion of emotion.

Refusing to say uncle. The first time I realized I did this was when my dad was dying of cancer in 2016. My employer let me work from home while I helped take care of my dad. I went home to stay with my parents for a few months.

My dad declined pretty quickly. It started in June and he passed away in September. I was there for the last couple of months. It was tough seeing him in that shape.

He was always outgoing. Talkative. Walked 10 miles a day. A natural salesperson. Made connections easily. Generally a healthy guy, too. No medications or anything.

While he was sick, he couldn’t leave his bed. He couldn’t walk. He had cancer in his bones, mostly around the hips and legs, but it spread throughout. It hurt. He lost weight. By the end, you could see where all the bones connected in his skull. His eyes and cheeks sunken. He was sad. Didn’t talk much. Not at all like himself.

Mostly he was scared. That’s what hurt me the most. He was so scared. My dad hated thunderstorms. He literally acted like a child when one came through. He would curl up and cry.

His dad had left him alone on a hill in the middle of a thunderstorm. He screamed for him to come get him. Cried and cried, he said. He told me that story once. I always remember it.

So seeing him scared made me think of that story. How he seemed like a little kid. I don’t have children but I do have a mothering instinct. So I didn’t want him to be scared. I did everything I could.

My mom couldn’t quite handle the situation. They’d been married for 50-plus years. I can understand why it was hard. My sister as her own challenges, but I’m learning that my entire family does. Myself included. My brother just can’t deal with death.

So that left me. I needed to be the strong one. The dependable one. The one to administer his morphine every 2 hours. My mom helped. I don’t want to say I did everything. But toward, the end, the harder and harder it got, the stronger and stronger I had to be.

One day, I had not really slept for a week. I had not left the house in days. I didn’t go outside because I didn’t want to leave him alone in case he needed anything. I had to watch him too. Sometimes he would try to get out of bed. It’s a form of restlessness that the dying experience.

That day, I decided I was going to go to my home and sleep in my bed for one night and come back the next day. That was the weekend before he died. I didn’t get to sleep at home, but I did leave for a while.

A cousin of mine came to see my dad as I was leaving. He hugged my mother and talked to her for a few minutes and then hugged me as I was walking toward my car. I hadn’t seen him in years. When he hugged me he asked how I was doing.

No one had asked me that. I collapsed. My legs went limp. He had to hold me up. I sobbed like I have never sobbed before. It just came out. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t even know it was in there.

I immediately reeled it back in. Straightened myself up. Wiped my tears, but they wouldn’t stop flowing. He looked at me and said, “It’s alright. It’s OK to cry.”

That’s when I realized that no matter how hard I tried to be superhuman, I wasn’t. No matter how much I thought I could handle. How strong I needed to be. That soft squishy thing that lives inside me needed someone to ask how I was doing.

I stopped crying. I told him it was just difficult seeing my dad that way. Then I left. Perfectly strong as always. But on the inside, I was crumbling.

I’m going through something similar now. This change in my life. Being let go from my job for the first time in my life. Having bills to pay but wanting to change my life at the same time. Struggling to figure things out.

Yet again, I’m trying to face it head-on. I can handle this. I’m changing my life as I said yesterday. But the truth is, I’m scared to death. I have doubts, I’m afraid I’m screwing up. That I’m making all the wrong decisions. I know I want a change, but is this the right time? Am I going about it the right way? Am I going to lose everything?

I’m scared. I’m confused. I don’t know if there is such a thing as the “Dark Night of the Soul.” You read about in certain lines of thought. If there is, I’m going through it. Have been for a year and a half. If not, then I’m just in the middle of a crisis. Doesn’t matter what it’s called I suppose.

I’m single. My friends have their own challenges. My family doesn’t quite understand it. I have no one to talk to about it. I’m not alone, but I feel alone in this.

And that’s part of the fallacy. Yoga and meditation, as great as they are, tell you that you must go through this journey alone. From my perspective, that means, I can’t ask questions. Ask for support. Ask for guidance. The answer is in me.

Well, maybe the answer is in me, but I’m struggling to find it. I’m lost. Blindfolded in the dark just feeling my way around. Trying to find my way out. There are good moments and good things about the process. But there are some really bad ones too. I’m finally admitting it.

I’m finally admitting that I’m scared. That I kind of feel like my world is falling apart. And it’s OK. I’m human. I don’t have to be perfect.

So I’m adding my own rule to the self-care philosophy. Know when to say when. Know it’s OK to reach out to others. They can’t provide the answers for you, but they can support you. Make you feel less alone.

It’s OK to say uncle. So, I’m saying, “Uncle.” I ask that anyone who is reading this blog, if you don’t mind, pray for me if you pray. If you don’t pray, please send good vibes my way. I could use some support getting through this. It will be appreciated more than you will ever know. Because my perfectionistic ass has trouble showing weakness. But not gratitude. I am forever grateful for any kind thoughts someone sends my way.

And if there is anyone out there struggling with anything in life and you feel like you have to be strong. That you can’t be flawed and imperfect. That’s not the way you handle these situations with grace. Grace is knowing your limits. Knowing you’re human and allowing yourself to be human without waiting until you act out.

It’s OK to cry. And it’s OK to say, “Uncle.”

Peace, ya’ll.

Advertisements

A Slow Unveiling

Uncovering the layers of your personality to find the light within

IMG_4833

Who am I? No, I mean, who am I really? Do you ever ask yourself these questions?

I look at myself and break myself apart all of the time. Uncover all my little — and sometimes not so little — idiosyncrasies. I’ve always been that way. With everything. I popped the arms, legs and heads off Barbies to see how they were put together. Took radios apart to see what was inside.

I do the same thing with personalities. Myself included. Myself most of all, actually. For me, it is a form of self-love and self-care. To know yourself. All of it. The dark, the light and that ever expansive twilight.

In fact, sometimes you can’t get to the real light without going through the dark. I’ve sort of been going through that this past year with this blog. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself it is. Going through the dark to find the light. I’m not claiming insanity just yet.

That’s why this blog is funny to me in some ways. It is so serious. If you met me in person, I’m fairly ridiculous. I crack jokes. They are always a little askew. Dry. Quirky. Fairly sarcastic. I sound a little more like Charles Bukowski in person. Cursing and all.

This blog, though … why so serious? That’s one of my idiosyncrasies. I joke when I talk. It’s how I relate to people. I’m serious when I write. I write to dig down. At least when I write like this … not so much in emails. It’s too bad for you guys. I’m actually pretty funny if I say so myself.

Another idiosyncrasy, I have to go through all of this thinking — the stuff you just read — to figure out what it is I want to say. I wish my mind worked in a straight line, but God help us all, it doesn’t.

I joke to relate to people. I’m one person when you speak to me and another when you read my writing. It’s true. It’s not that I’m being fake. I have to find ways to relate to people. Not that I dislike people. No, I love people. But I’m kind of intense and extremely shy.

It’s all me, just different facets. I learned to bring the relatable facets to the surface when I’m talking, and the non-relatable parts talk to the Universe in my journal. Now, you get to see some of the unrelatable parts here, too. Hopefully, though, someone out there can relate.

In a previous post, I wrote about finding the beauty and the light again. Helping others to do the same. And that, my friends, is what this post is really about. It’s a slow unveiling.

I talked about the phrase “light and love” in that post. How folks who use that phrase are ahead of me in the spiritual journey. It’s true.

There is a vulnerability in saying, “Light and Love” to someone. I share my light with you. I give my love to you. It’s usually said to strangers. It’s unconditional in that sense.

To say it and to really mean it, unconditionally, you shed your armor. You strip down all of those layers of protection. If you say it, you know there’s a good chance someone is going to look at you kind of funny. They may appreciate it, but it may change their perception of you. They may take you a little less seriously.

See, that’s one of my idiosyncrasies, too. I want to be taken seriously … at least intellectually. And softness isn’t considered a part of the intellectual world in many ways.

In fact, very little in this world embraces softness. As I dug down through my layers to get to the point of my post, I discovered something else. I call myself a fighter. I stand up for myself. You have to defend yourself in the corporate world. It’s a dog eat dog kind of place.

So, I lost my softness somewhere between childhood and now.

I put up shields because people hurt me — even if some of it is my own doing. Because people will take advantage of me. Because I am naive and gullible. Has anyone else ever been told that?

When you’re a shy, little thing. One who likes imaginary worlds. Who daydreams about forests filled with fairies and fireflies. Well, this world doesn’t take too kindly to that type of person.

So we build layers. The funny me. The smart me. The serious me. The tough me. The me who doesn’t need anyone or anything.

That last me, the one who doesn’t need anyone, is kind of lie. But that’s what layers do if you build up enough of them. They disconnect us. Or they can. Disconnect us from ourselves and from each other. The real you doesn’t see the light of day. It’s buried behind the wall.

We are all born into this world loving and embracing everything around us. It’s as we grow up and get hurt, get rejected, see our softness as weakness, a vulnerability, that we build up these layers. That chokes off the words, “I give you my love. I share my light with you.”

So this has been a year of unveiling for me. Of stripping off those layers. Letting go of the embarrassment of who I am. Letting go of the shame for things I have done. Some of them anyway. Some of them, I’m still working on.

It’s a slow unveiling. An uncovering of the softness. Inside there is still a soft light of love and kindness. The way I was brought into this world. The way I lived until I learned not to live that way.

I have to admit that it’s hard for me. It’s embarrassing. To show that side of me. To talk about how I care about human beings and nature. How I cry when I think about the oneness of humanity and the universe as a whole. When I think about how we could be. To say that I love you, whoever you are, just because you exist. Because we exist together and we need to love one another.

It was hard for me to realize that I will give myself away to help someone else. That sometimes I value others more than I value myself. It’s unhealthy, but I’m working on that part. It’s part of my unveiling, but it’s me. That’s who I am at the core. This soft, squishy thing. But I’m trying to embrace it again. The healthy parts. For me and for the world. As ridiculous as that may sound, it’s true.

We all still have that within us. The softness. We just have to strip off the layers. Yoga, meditation, gratitude journals, self-love, self-care. Those things can help you get there.

I invite you to take a look at yourself. Start to peel off your layers. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” And when you answer, say to yourself, “No, I mean, who am I really?”

If you want to love yourself, know yourself. Accept yourself for who you are. But find that softness in the center. The love you were born with. Uncover it. Don’t be afraid of what others will think. Or how you’ll be perceived. Don’t fear being hurt. Just join me in the unveiling. It may be hard, but the world could use a little light and love about now.

Peace, ya’ll.

The Black Sands of My Past

Rediscovering parts of yourself through meditation and yoga

starlings

Unlearning what you’ve learned. Forgetting who thought you were. That is what yoga and meditation have been about for me lately. Each time I unwind from an eagle pose or detoxifying twist, I’m wringing something out that no longer belongs.

Letting go, though, isn’t easy. When it’s something inside of you, that has been there for years, it’s difficult to let go. Even those things that you know aren’t good for you.

It’s funny, but those things — the not so good things — are the ones sometimes we cling to the most. We refuse to let go even if they limit our happiness. We don’t let them go because it means we have to change or become vulnerable in some way. Sometimes it’s just easier to hold on … but it usually isn’t better.

As we grow up, we start to develop an idea of who we are. Our place in the world. Sometimes, though, we don’t always develop a clear sense of ourselves. The image gets twisted somehow or part of it is left behind.

Now, I’ve always been a responsible, practical, dependable adult. Those are perfectly good qualities, but I have molded my life into those characteristics. Made choices based on those characteristics. Part of me has suffered because of that.

Today, I did a yoga practice about “emptying the breath, emptying our old stories and wringing out old waste in body, thoughts, and actions.” It did exactly that. I really focused on thoughts I have about myself and realized I needed to let some things go.

The way I define myself limits my perspective on life … and how I live my life. I always make practical choices. Responsible choices. I’m not free like I want to be — like the child I was at 5. I’m wrapped up tight.

During my meditation afterward, I began to let some things go that came up during yoga. I also embraced some parts of me that had become nearly extinct. I asked myself what I wanted to be as if I were an adult talking to a child.

So, here comes the wild part. In my meditative state, with all limitations eliminated and anything is possible, what is it that I want to be?

Well, of course, I want to be a witch. To be honest, at the very core of me, I have always wanted to be a witch.

Yes, I realize how that sounds. I’ll just say it for you. Crazy as batshit. That’s exactly the reason I have to say it. Here’s why.

For my entire life, in the back of my mind, I have always had this fantasy of being a witch. Always and forever. But, I have never once voiced that out loud. Never. Not even as a kid. Is there a deeper story there? Probably so. Still, when I realized that I had never uttered the words, it upset me.

Growing up, I had so many witchcraft books (only good, natural magic, mind you). I studied magic. I tried practicing it. I kind of thought I had some powers sometimes. I bought weird clothes. I was excited every time a new Pyramid Collection catalog came to my house. I even collected them. Poured over them for days.

Why those came to my house, I do not know. No one else in my family was into that stuff, and this is before the internets arrived.

The truth is that I wanted to be natural, free. I wanted to work with nature and develop potions to help people. I wanted to heal trees and save injured squirrels. I wanted to be magical. I wanted to be a witch.

Truth is, in a limitless world, I still do.

When I realized that I never said that to anyone, though, I cried. As an adult, OK, maybe I understand not blurting that out. But as a 5-year-old or even a 10-year-old, yeah, I should have been able to do that. I should have screamed it at the top of my lungs. But I never did. Not once.

Such an insignificant piece of information, but even that I kept locked away.

It was silly. Ridiculous. I was embarrassed to say it. Honestly, I still am, and I shouldn’t be. I have denied part of myself, part of my personality, my entire life because of who I told myself I am. Practical. Responsible. This image I have of myself — that I present to the world.

Unlearning what you’ve learned.

Truth be told, there is nothing wrong with that thought — with wanting to be a witch, not even at my age. But, I feel conflicted about saying it. I feel ashamed … or I did when I first started writing this. I should never feel ashamed of being who I am or having the thoughts that I have. But I am.

It breaks my heart, honestly, that the wild child, nature lover part of me was never fully ingrained into my being. It’s probably the best part of me, to be honest. But it has been a part of me without being a part of me. It lives in my journal and never sees the light of day.

That was my entire being when I was a kid. She’s tucked away and forgotten.

So, that’s what I’m letting go now. That’s what yoga and meditation helped me do today … or at least helped me recognize and begin to do. I’m releasing the negative feelings I have about my ideas, my dreams, my personality. I’m releasing the embarrassment around things that don’t fit the picture of who I think I am and who I’m supposed to be.

I’m releasing the shame of being me. My weird, witch-dreaming self.

On the other hand, I want to bring that little wild child of me out of the dark some. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that just yet, but she has a lifetime to catch up on. I’m going to start making a list of things I love, no matter how crazy they may sound, and find ways to incorporate them back into my life. And I’m not going to be ashamed of it anymore.

I’m going to unlearn what I’ve learned and remember who I am. I hope you can do the same.

Peace, ya’ll.

Meditation Moment

This is a new idea I’m going to test out here from time to time. I’m going to add a Meditation Moment or some Gratitude To Go from my own practice. I’m hoping it will simply serve as a springboard for your own meditations or a little gratitude pick-me-up if you’re feeling down. It’s nothing more than that.

Today, I asked myself to meditate on things that I wanted to let go and ways to reconnect with who I am. Here’s what my mind’s eye shared with me:

I face the sun set, the sky deep orange and gold. My green velvet dress reflects the richness of the field around me. A vibrant world wraps me in warmth and comfort.

I slip my right hand gently into my chest and retrieve a handful of black sand. These things that have darkened my heart, I raise to my lips and blow them to the wind. I watch their strange path — like starlings in flight. Drifting, beautiful and graceful, until they gradually disappear on the horizon.

The sun warms my face. My spirit is lighter. Now I am the magic I was meant to be.

2018 (or Today): New Dawn, New Day

Use every day & every second to begin the life you want. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s.

New Life

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do believe in new beginnings. 2018 is just around the corner. It’s an opportunity for all of us to start a new year with a new attitude and new goals.

I suggest not thinking of January 1 as the day you start a resolution for the year but rather a new beginning of a new life. And if things go right, well maybe we’ll have a better year and a better world to show for it.

In fact, you’ve heard it before, every day is a new day. We don’t have to wait until Monday to start fresh. We can start today. This minute. This very second. Where do you want to go? What do you want to see happen?

Write it down. Start moving toward it at this very moment.

Lesson 1: Don’t wait until New Year’s. Move toward a new life every minute of every day.

Not to sound too sappy, but let’s face it, we’re all sappy sometimes. Let’s make 2018 the year we begin to love ourselves and spread that love to everyone we meet. This past year had its ups and downs. But, for me at least, I feel like I’ve made progress on myself. Yoga, meditation, journaling, eating right, exercising regularly.

Putting effort toward myself, as I mentioned a few posts back, has set me on a new path. It made me realize that I want to give back to the world more in some way. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter. Who really does in the long run?

Now, I look to take my journey out into the world. Involve others. Find ways to give back. Love back. Make the world beautiful and caring again. Connect to nature. Connect to others. Connect to the universe.

Lesson 2: Taking care of yourself connects you to your purpose and to others. Make the most of it.

I will share the thing that I think has had the most impact on me this year. Hopefully it will help you move toward a new, freer and happier future. Adding just 20 minutes of yoga to my morning routine has made a huge difference in my life.

If you’re like me and you’re not very flexible and you hadn’t done yoga in a while, it can be a challenge. You may not be so sure about going to a class. I wasn’t. So, I started at home. I joined Gaia. I did the basic plan to get me started. It’s cheaper than a single yoga class, and I got more routines that I can complete — and for all levels. It gets you started in yoga at your own pace in your own home, so you don’t mind looking like a fool when you tip over.

But if you don’t want to spend money, look on YouTube. There’s all kind of free content out there. Find an instructor you like and follow them.

Why yoga? I’m not sure I can even answer that question. For me, it just had a huge impact. I feel more connected to my body. I focus more on what I want in life and what I want to let go. Perhaps it’s because many of the practices start off with that question — what do you want to bring into your life and what do you want to let go?

You don’t have to ask yourself the question. Someone else does it for you.

Lesson 3: Yoga connects you to yourself and your goals. If you can, add it to your self-care toolkit.

Plus, as an added benefit, it has sculpted my body more than any resistance training or cardio that I do. I didn’t think it was possible, but it is.

I hope to expand my yoga routine. Become more flexible. Stronger. More open. And I want to use that strength and power to create a new life for myself. And a better world for all of us.

Let’s make 2018 a year to remember. Hell, let’s make today a day to remember.

Happy New Year, everyone. Happy day, as well. Peace, ya’ll.

The Importance of Authenticity — The Cornerstone of Everything

Caring for yourself means staying true to yourself

True self image

Authenticity has been on my mind and what it means to self-care and loving yourself. There is no greater self love than being true to yourself. It’s difficult sometimes in this world of uber personalities and striving for a million viewers. But it is very necessary. Perhaps, if the world is to be a better place, more necessary than ever.

I came across this little article on Inc. regarding authenticity. It’s simply a list of quotes about being authentic, but they are meaningful. Powerful.

Authenticity has been part of my struggle with writing this blog. To be honest, I have felt a little like a sham. I feel like I’m writing as if I know more than my readers. The truth is that I don’t. I tried to portray that a bit in my post “No one knows anything about anything.”

I don’t feel that I quite made the point I was trying to make. But now I am. With this blog, I am going to take the role of humble teacher. I am humble because I am learning with you. We’re on the same journey together. I am open to others’ ideas and opinions. I plan to share some things that I enjoy and work for me, but I encourage you to comment and do the same. We will learn from one another.

Not saying this — that I’m not the highest authority of self-care — has been holding me back from posting. I wasn’t being authentic with myself. Sure, I realize that I may never get a huge book deal or be a successful blogger for owning up to this, but being authentic is more important to me.

I want to make being authentic more important to you, as well. It is critical to loving yourself and caring for yourself. It’s the cornerstone of everything.

Lesson 1: Authenticity is the cornerstone to self-care and loving yourself.

When we aren’t authentic, we lose ourselves. We become a shell of who we really are or a ghost of our true selves. There but not truly there. That’s not good for anyone.

So how do you become more authentic? Well, there are many ways. Each centers primarily on knowing yourself, asking yourself questions and acknowledging when you don’t live up to your true self.

Writing this blog, for example. I sat down recently and I asked myself a few questions. Why was I struggling with generating more content? Is it out of alignment with my core values or is something else holding me back?

I went through a litany of questions. I journaled because I journal about everything. I pondered this question during meditation.

Through questioning myself and identifying exactly how this blog is aligned with my true self, I realized that I am on the path I want to be on. So, then, what was holding me back?

I asked myself more questions. Read back through some posts. Finally, I realized the issue came in my presentation, not in the content or the message. The presentation felt as if I am an authority. I’m not an authority. I don’t pretend to be.

Lesson 2: Question yourself when you struggle with anything. Any struggle will likely lie in a misalignment with your true self.

I have a goal of improving the world one person at a time by helping them practice self-care and mindfulness. Am I the be all and end all of self-care, self-love, mindfulness knowledge? Absolutely not. I’m learning with you. And I simply needed to state that. Not stating it made me feel inauthentic. I was me, but not me.

I won’t go over this in each post moving forward. But it was important for me to state it. To be truthful with you, my reader. Otherwise, I felt inauthentic. And being inauthentic is a roadblock for me. And in reality, it should be for all of us.

It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, however. Sometimes getting back in line with your authentic self means acknowledging a small aspect — that little pebble in your shoe — and removing it. Sometimes, it’s as simple as making a statement.

So I have made my peace. I removed the pebble from my shoe. I can walk forward with greater ease now. I probably will add a statement to my About page. That way I will feel that I have put it out there for everyone to see without having to dig through the site to find this one post.

Lesson 3: Sometimes authenticity simply requires you to state your peace before moving forward. Don’t over-complicate it if it’s not necessary.

If you are looking for more authenticity in your life, here are a few ways I question myself to better align with my true self.

  • Meditate. Meditation is more than quietening your mind. Sometimes it is focusing your mind or diving deeper into the mind. At least once a week, while you meditate, get in touch with your values and beliefs. Consider how you have lived up to these values (or not) over the past several days. What is required to readjust?
  • Journal. Journaling is one of the easiest ways to get answers — at least for me it is. You can ask the same questions as the meditation above. What are your values? Do you live these values each day? If not, how can you incorporate these values more fully into your day-to-day activities?
  • Post your core values. Keep your core values close by and on hand. Post them somewhere that you can see them on a regular basis. Whether you print them out and put them in your cubicle, put a note on your phone, make it a screensaver on your computer. It will serve as a reminder when you least expect it or you can use it to focus yourself when you are struggling with something in your life. Look at it and ask yourself how the situation is not aligning with your core values.
  • Forget perfection. None of us are perfect. We never will be, no matter how hard we try. And some of us try very, very hard. Humans aren’t perfect. To be authentic, remember this. Remind yourself of it when you’re trying to do something perfectly or beating yourself up because you didn’t.
  • Be honest. It seems like a no brainer, but sometimes we forget this simple step. Of course, we’re all going to tell a white lie here and there to spare someone’s feelings or to ease ourselves out of a difficult situation. That doesn’t mean we can’t be honest most of the time, especially if not being honest starts to cause you anxiety. Breath, take a moment, and think of a diplomatic way of saying what bothers you without being offensive. There is usually always a way to do it.
  • Be yourself. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that there is no better way to connect with people and find peace than simply being comfortable with who you are and let that shine. Don’t feel the need to soften your post or make your life look perfect on Facebook or Instagram. If you feel uncomfortable being honest on public forums, don’t share on public forums. It’s not a requirement although sometimes it feels like it is.
  • Don’t worry about what others think. I struggle with this one a bit, although I hate to admit that to myself. I sometimes feel that I’m letting others down if I am my true self — by saying no or disagreeing with them on key issues. Not my close friends, but acquaintances. I care too much sometimes what others think of me, especially those I don’t know very well. But worrying about others’ opinions is one of the quickest ways to lose authenticity. Don’t let it happen.

These are just a few tactics that I use. There are others. I would love to hear how you stay true to yourself. What advice do you have on being authentic?

 

 

Black Hole of Self Discovery

night swimming

So my journey is taking another turn. Not a whiplash-inducing turn, but a turn nonetheless. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken a leave of absence from this blog for a little while. See, I went into this black hole of self-discovery. I wasn’t sucked into it. No, I jumped headlong into the abyss.

I’ve been trying to find myself for years. I’ve struggled with my purpose, where my career should go – those kind of things. I have dipped my toes or waded into my waist just to turn around when I couldn’t find answers.

This time, I’m not giving up. This time, I dove into the darkness and, I have to say, I’ve been lost there for a few months now. Searching, floating, but still lost. I’m starting to the see the light. I’m starting to come out the other end of the wormhole. Finding my way to the surface.  The yoga and meditation that I started at the beginning of this year, this journey, helped significantly.

It’s been painful. I’m not going to lie. I’ve had to come to some realizations about myself that quite honestly I wasn’t happy about in the beginning.

See, I decided to see a therapist since I’ve struggled so much with this over the years. Beat myself up because I couldn’t figure it out. Part of that process was taking personality tests. I’ve taken them before many times. I got similar responses. I’m creative. I’m an artistic type. A good writer.

So, that’s how I’ve seen myself over the years. This creative type in a non-creative job. Or semi-creative job, but not the job I wanted. I’ve started writing a million books. I’ve started several screenplays. I’ve written bad poetry. Songs. Taken music lessons. Considered taking dance lessons. Bought paints and charcoals and pastels. Watercolor paper and sketchpads. Year after year. Looking for something that I felt passionate about. Something that stuck with me. Something I felt like I had to do … if I could just find it.

Then came my therapist’s question, “Do you try to be unique and cut options off?” No, of course I don’t do that. How do I present myself as unique? I’m a communications professional. Manager level, not even an executive. I get up and go to the same job like everyone else. I wear clothes from discount stores. I don’t try to be an artist. I don’t try to be special and unique.

Then today it hit me. Today I broke through. Today I cried like a baby. See, in my head, I did see myself as unique. In my head, I was an artist or a writer or a poet. But I’m not. That’s why those things didn’t stick for me. That’s why I started so many things but never finished them. They weren’t my calling.

In my head I thought I had this gift somewhere in me waiting to come out. I just couldn’t find it. And maybe that’s what was meant by a struggling artist. But no. I’m not an artist. Or a poet. Or musician.

I’m just me. I’m average. And when I realized that I cried. A deep, heavy cry. I have put pressure on myself to be this thing. To be some version of creative and it’s not me.

What I am is a doer. I move. I like physical activity. That’s why yoga has been so beneficial for me. Art is doing. Writing is doing. Poetry is doing. But it’s not what I do. It’s not my coping mechanism. That’s what I’ve learned. My way of expressing or getting the angst out of my system isn’t producing art, or writing or poeting … shouldn’t poet be verb? I feel that it should be a verb.

I realized today that I inherited my father’s innate sense of restlessness. I kept talking about feeling trapped to my therapist. To my friends. All my life. Trapped. I felt trapped in jobs. I felt trapped in hobbies. I felt trapped by home ownership. By responsibility. Trapped. Caged. Burdened and restricted.

Why? Because I’m restless. I need to do. I need move. I need to go places. I need to take action. At least some of the time.

So this journey is changing a bit. I’m still focused on getting in touch with oneself and taking care of yourself, but I’m focusing more on yoga and meditation specifically. These things not only get you in touch with your body, push it to do things, make you aware of your body, but they prepare me, at least, for the other “doing” that I must do in life.

I think at the beginning of this blog I mentioned having another blog. A blog about politics. I’m cause oriented. That I’ve always known. I tried to work that aspect into my creative endeavors unsuccessfully. That’s how I struggled. I tried to write with this subtext of politics. I tried to change the world through a poem. And that is all entirely possible. It is. Just not for me.

Writing is the same as talking for me. I’m not much of a talker. I like results. I like to see things happen. I’ve been a writer all my life and that’s why I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. Because it’s not action. Not my action.

Yes, I think I just said it. I’m a woman of action.

So I’m seeing a new life for myself right now. A new direction. Something that ties my need to voice an opinion and protect things I care about to my restlessness. I don’t know where it’s heading to be honest. I’m seeing travel opportunities that incorporate yoga and mindfulness with conservation efforts. Retreats where groups can go and wake each morning to do yoga and meditate, to connect to themselves and then connect to the world around them. Planting trees, taking care of animals, protecting habitats. And it’s part of a vacation. Vacations with meaning. Evenings my include enjoying local cuisines or local arts. Because all of these things are important. I need to feel them. Be a part of them. Experience them. I need to do.

I worked for a nonprofit once. I truly cared about the cause. But I sat in an office and did communications all day. I was still unsatisfied. Because I was still trapped. I wasn’t moving and doing and achieving.

So look for this blog to change a bit. Look for more focus on yoga and meditation. Look for discussion on how getting in touch with ourselves can help bring more meaningful change to our world. Look for discussion on conservation and activism because right now those are the things that I’m focused on. Look for thoughts or opportunities on combining these things. I still want to make the world a better place. I still think we do that one person at a time and it does start from within.

Peace ya’ll.

A Pretty Good Start

Using self-care to help you find your purpose in life

yoga at home

Do you struggle with finding your purpose or is that just me? I know I’m not the only one, but I don’t know how many struggle with it and for how long. I have always struggled with it. I’m one of those people who try so hard to figure it out that it depresses me. That’s why self-care, for me at least, may be the best thing I could do for myself in terms of finding my purpose.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still looking for my purpose. I have looked for it my entire life. I grew up feeling like I was meant to be doing something … I just haven’t quite figured out what it is.

Still, self-care is helping me. I haven’t given up this time around as I’ve done in the past. I take breaks, like I have the last few weeks from this blog, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. But the breaks are part of my self care — allowing myself some room to breath for a little while. It’s important to do that if you need it.

You see, my workout instructors (all of them — I take several different classes) keep telling me I’m intense when I exercise. I suppose I’m the same way with finding my purpose. When I look back, in reality, I’m that way about most things once I set my mind to it.

When I don’t see the level of progress I want in the time frame I want, I kick up the effort a bit. And I keep ratcheting it up until eventually I snap. Or more accurately, crash. That’s when the depression sets in.

Intensity. It has good points. It’s great for research. It’s great for focus. It’s not so great with nebulous things that may take some time to work out. Honestly, finding your purpose may, in all reality, be a lifelong process. I keep telling myself that to re-frame my thinking. It may always be evolving. I think perhaps it is — at least to some degree.

Needless to say, the last few weeks I have really struggled. Work has been difficult. My job was “restructured,” meaning I have a different job now than I did three weeks ago. It’s more stressful. Job security is not great. The company is going through many, many changes. I could go on.

As a result, I’ve been extremely focused on finding my purpose. You know how it is. Things get rough at work, suddenly your purpose is the most important thing in your life. That’s where I am.

I don’t want to keep hopping from one job to another, which has been the case in my recent past. I’ve decided to hold on for a while and hope I can at the very least figure out the next step in reaching my purpose.

I want to change my life. I want to have meaning. I’m sure there are others out there who feel the same way. I’ve come to realize it’s time to do something else. It’s figuring out the something else that’s the struggle.

The last few years, when I get to this point, I have changed jobs. Then I settle into the new job honeymoon for a few months. Followed by the, “Well, I need to stay here for a little while” phase. Then I start the whole process over again. And I never truly focus on my purpose — not the way I should.

Self care has helped me put a stop to this vicious cycle. Exercising every day helps me set aside any issues at work. I workout on my lunch break, so it’s a good way to break up my day and give me a good push to make it through the rest of the day.

I meditate in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings. I’ve added in yoga a few times a week. All of this helps me focus on what’s important (my purpose) and not on my daily challenges.

I journal, which helps in two ways. One, I try to do some gratitude journaling to help me hone in on the good things in my life. I forget those very quickly when I’m stressed about work. Making this a daily practice (or near daily — I’m not perfect) really helps re-set your frame of mind about things.

In fact, my most recent gratitude entry was about being thankful for my ability to change. Thank God for that, right? I wrote about fear of change being the root of many ills of the world right now. That same fear can wreak havoc in your personal life too. So I am extremely grateful I can change.

So keeping a gratitude journal is helpful. If you want tips on gratitude journaling, here’s a good article from Greater Good Magazine.

The second way journaling helps me in this process is by allowing me to really dig down and discover some things about myself. This helps in both trying to find my purpose and in just understanding myself and some of the things that trigger me or give me a sense of purpose.

I don’t actually write about my day-to-day activities. I really try to figure something out about myself. I try to take a real objective look at myself and my ways of thinking. Eh, intense self care … it’s what I do. But it works for me.

Journaling has also led me to try several new things in my life because I repeatedly expressed an interest in it. Or I rediscover some old things I enjoyed and want to try again. Some of those may become part of my overall purpose and some may not, but it keeps me on my toes and my life more active. That’s always a good thing.

But finding yourself and finding your purpose can take a toll on you. Some people are lucky. Some know what they are supposed to do from the time they come out of the womb or close to it. I’m not one of those people, unfortunately. And if you’re not either, then I highly recommend incorporating some self care techniques into your life. It keeps you on the right path toward discovery, and it reminds you to take a break when you need it.

By taking breaks and trying new things — even if they don’t seem to lead anywhere — help you stay more fluid. You don’t get as bogged down.

Remember my lesson from the very beginning of this blog? My first post was about going with the flow. I’ve forgotten do that myself … as I often do. Try to remember to let things happen, be in the present moment. Whatever road you’re on appeared for a reason.

I went from starting one kind of blog to another and then starting a novel in the process. As you change and you change paths toward your purpose, you realize you couldn’t have gotten to point b without starting from point a. Or, you may realize that all the points along the way will add up to a very unique purpose specific to you.

For me, what I’m discovering is that helping others learn self care is part of my purpose. I’ve started down the road of becoming certified in some fitness programs and looking at certifications in other areas.

Plus, I hope by sharing some of my own experiences in this blog, you can relate to my struggles — which are very real and, I believe, very common. Hopefully, you will also see how self care can help you deal with similar problems in your own life.

Still, my ultimate goal is to make the world a better place, but if we’re all living a purposeful life and loving ourselves, then that’s a pretty good start.