Category Archives: Self-growth

We Make Time for What We Truly Want

Stop it with all your excuses about, “if only I had more time”, “I’ve got too much going on in my life”, “I’m too busy”, “someday I’ll…”, etc.

Kids, relationships, family, education, careers, health, hobbies, happiness… You will always make time for the things you truly want and all the excuses in the world won’t change that.

I’m just as guilty as everyone. But no more.

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I’ve spent the last year strongly focusing on working on myself and on becoming the person I truly want to be. I’ll spend the rest of my life continuing to do so. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I truly love myself and who I am.

I am so happy with my life. Not because it’s perfect, because it definitely isn’t, but because it’s mine. And I’m done making excuses.

I truly want to be happy. It’s not something that just happens, despite all my protests that it does. You have to work at it. You have to make time for it. You have to make time for you and the things that you truly want.

I am.

This, and every year, is my year. I am prioritizing and making time for the things I truly want – My kids. My education. My happiness and all the things that fall under that.

Make the time for what you truly want.

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Empathy

I’ve been reading a wonderful book, “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance”,  by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D.. It’s essentially a written account of a dialogue between the two of them about emotions and finding balance. 

I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say my copy has at least a hundred post-it flags bookmarking every part I have found to be enlightening, inspiring or something I wish to remind myself about.

In my journey of self-growth and my education as a social work student empathy has become a core value in my beliefs and my life. The easiest way to explain empathy is, “put yourself in the shoes of another”, which gives a basic understanding of it but doesn’t fully encompass the entirety of empathy.

In my reading of “Emotional Awareness”, empathy was described in a manner that I feel really clarifies what it means to have empathy for another. Empathy is broken down into four components or levels:

1. Emotional Recognition
Know how another feels

2. Emotional Resonance
A. Resonate with the same emotion as other’s emotion
B. Feel an emotion in response to other’s emotion without feeling the same emotion as other

3. Compassionate Concern
Relieve the suffering of others

4. Altruism
Compassionate concern and some risk to own welfare when relieving suffering of others

As you can see, empathy involves more than just putting yourself in the shoes of another and resonating or feeling an emotion in response  (though it’s a good start). True empathy involves relieving the suffering of others and, ultimately, taking a risk in doing so.

This may sound overwhelming and complex. We all are capable of relieving the suffering of others. The holiday season provides many ways to do so: Give food to those that are hungry. Donate coats to those without them. Donate your time at a local soup kitchen. Spend some time at a nursing home. Help a neighbor shovel their driveway. Offer to help a friend in need. Request donations to organization in lieu (or in addition) to receiving presents.

Taking a risk in helping to relieve the suffering of others doesn’t need to be complex either. Stand up for someone you see being bullied (made fun of, singled out, etc). Invite someone to join you during lunch at work or school who is being excluded. Speak up and ask what you can do to help in your neighborhood, school, work and community. Advocate for those around you.

Don’t allow yourself to think that you cannot possibly do anything to relieve the suffering of others. You can. It starts with taking a step outside of ourselves and practicing empathy.

From: “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance” by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D. 2008. Chapter 5, “The Nature of Compassion,” p. 176-179.

Who I Am

I have spent most of my life running away from myself. Who I thought I was. What I didn’t want to be. What I thought I should be. What I thought I was supposed to be. What I wished I had been. Running away from looking at who I am.

I have spent the last few years beginning to take a good hard look at who I am. Seeing myself for what I am – not what others wanted me to be or expected me to be, not who I wanted myself to be.

I’m surprised by how relatively little most people know about themselves. Or share with others what they know about themselves. Or both.

I’m surprised at how difficult it is to strip away the layers to truly see who I am.

And how surprisingly easy it is to examine who you are once you do so.

Who I am is my foundation.

I had to tear down the house and the driveway and the meticulously planted landscaping and the poorly formed sense of myself to find the foundation.

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I spent a very long time thinking, and believing, that I was a bad person. Because I didn’t fit into the molds that (I had believed) other people had created. Because I hadn’t spent the time and energy to examine the beliefs I grew up with and picked up along the way to determine if they were in sync with what I feel to be true. Because I did not accept the parts of myself I didn’t like.

Because I didn’t love myself.

I have analyzed every aspect of myself – why I do anything, what I feel, why I act and react the ways I do, what triggers me, what I value… I continue to do so. Now that I have discovered the foundation, I am beginning to build upon it.

I have accepted that there are parts of myself I cannot change. And I have begun to work on changing the things I can change about myself.

I am learning to love myself. For who I am.

I’m not perfect. I sometimes take steps backwards but, even on my worst days, I can examine and plan for better days using what I know and continue to learn about myself.  I am whoever I want to be and, if I am not, only I can make changes to get myself there.

Perspective

I know I’ve written about this before. Maybe several times. And I’m pretty sure I’ll write about it a million more times. Because it’s incredibly easy to get lost in my own life, my own problems, my own family, my own relationships, etc., etc., etc.

It’s too easy to lose perspective.

Maybe I need to constantly remind myself of this in order to keep my new-found clarity. Maybe this is how I allow myself to be happy.

By stepping outside of myself and becoming connected to the rest of the world.

By simply just appreciating what is.

By not getting caught up in everything else.

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Yes, it’s extremely easy to say. It’s extremely easy to even believe I’m doing it. But I’m usually not. And there are several moments today that have made that very clear to me how important it is for me to be here and not anywhere else…

This morning a friend of mine accidentally ran over his dog as he was leaving his driveway. They rushed the dog to the vet and were told that he has a broken femur. And that the cost of surgery (which would need to take place an hour+ away) would cost 3-4 thousand dollars. I immediately paused what I was doing and just… cried. I can’t imagine having my beloved pet in critical condition and dealing with what I’m sure are immense emotions knowing that I was the one who accidentally ran him over.

The dog is in surgery now. They are trying to raise money to pay for his surgery. But it’s not about the money. There will always be more money. And more money to owe. My heart breaks for them and I have hope that their precious dog will make a full recovery.

Just a few moments ago I looked at facebook and saw this blog post: I Decided to Give my Paycheck to a Facebook Friend with Breast Cancer.

This women lives in my area. Her daughter is a year older than my oldest daughter. Again, as I read this I just cried.

Then there is Humans of New York (HONY). If you haven’t seen any of this, it’s beautiful. Brandon, a photographer, walks around NYC and takes portraits of people he comes across. He also adds quotes and short stories from the people he meets. I honestly can’t even put into words the emotion and depth that these portraits and stories capture. I follow HONY on facebook as well, and daily I find myself crying when his posts come up in my feed.

I cry a lot actually.

I used to view it as weakness and I hated crying but now I embrace it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m sad.

If anything, it means that I’m alive. And that my capacity to feel empathy and compassion for others is not something I should stifle.

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I could spend every day for the rest of my life wishing my life was different, complaining about how unfair it is, being miserable. I know there are changes that I could make that might very well lead to happiness for me. I also know change is scary as hell.

I’m not ready to make those changes. But I don’t have to allow myself to wallow in things I’ve chosen not to do anything about.

I’ll continue to put myself out there emotionally. I’ll continue to have empathy and compassion for everyone – including myself. I’ll continue to do everything within my capabilities to help those around me. And to help myself as much as I am capable to.

Life is tough. For me. For everyone.

If I can stay outside of my own head and look around me, I can see that. And, in seeing that, I can gain some perspective and acceptance.

There are no guarantees. There are no promises. As much as we want them.

All we have is now.

And, if I really look, now is pretty great.

What is Happening Now?

How did I get here?

is something that comes to me out of the blue. It calls me to examine the past.

Where am I going?

is something that I ask myself frequently. It calls me to plan for the future.

What is happening now?

is the question I should be asking. It calls me to be in the present.

We can spend our whole lives looking to the past and the future. It’s good to occasionally reflect on our choices, our actions, our experiences in the past. It’s also good to plan for our future choices, actions and experiences.

But we can’t live there.

It can be difficult not to get lost in what could have been or what could be. It’s even more difficult for most of us to be present in what is.

I dare you to try.

Right here, right now… is beautiful. If you truly look, you can see it.

You may not be exactly where you want to be right now. You may not even be close. But all you have is this moment in time. And if you don’t let yourself be present in it, you will lose it.

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Find what matters to you. And hold on to it with all that you have.

I lived in the past and the future for too long. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, my daughters were five and nine.

It goes too fast. The time we are given is too short. Before I know it my daughters will be fifteen and nineteen. If I close my eyes to the present, I will miss it. And I will never be able to get it back.

So what if the dishes don’t always get washed? So what if my yard doesn’t look perfect? So what? 

There will always be more that I could have done. It will still be there when I get to it. Right now, in the present, are my daughter’s childhoods.

So the questions I will be asking myself is, what is happening now?

My eyes are open. And it’s beautiful.

Clarity

I apologize for my lack of blogging in the past few months. I’m sure I could come up with many believable excuses but I don’t want to be dishonest. I’ve been writing more in my personal paper journal. It seems to help calm my anxiety and confusion when I put pen to paper, more so than the clacking of keys does.

The much needed hiatus from Clear Complexity gave me some time to truly put into working on myself.

I am so different than I used to be. This year (2013) I have worked so hard to make my life better – for me. I am not ashamed to admit that I have stopped smoking weed, something that at one point I had believed to help me. I have severely cut back my drinking of beer to one or two a week, versus the unhealthy 3-4 a night I had been at. I have given up coffee. I have been reading books about forgiveness and emotions and compassion and self-identity [“Emotional Awareness: A Conversation Between The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, PH.D.” is my most current read and wonderful.]

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I have purposely become a person who is a lot less numb, which was very painful at first. But over time I feel clearer, I feel better able to see the world and to accept the things I cannot change and to focus on the things I can change. I have slowly begun to work through healing myself, making myself a better person, not tying my emotions or reactions or happiness to any person or event or things.

I have clarity.

I have not had any real tangible sense of clarity for as long as I can remember.

But now that I have it, I don’t want to give it back. I refuse to.

I will continue to work on myself, to work towards my goals for myself, to work on being the best parent I can be, the best student I can be. I will continue to modify my thoughts, my actions, my reactions… I will continue to practice acceptance, forgiveness, compassion.

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And I will accept that not everyone in my life or everyone that I meet is at this same place as me.

And I will treat them with compassion.

And I will forgive them for their actions that may hurt me. I will forgive them, for myself, for me. So that I can continue to work towards all I hope for.

Maybe they will be inspired to work on themselves.

Maybe they won’t.

But I can not let the choices of others continue to block the pathways I need to go down.

Now that I have clarity, I see that they truly never could.

The Asteroids Club

As I believe I mentioned, I’ve been reading, “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt for a philosophy class I’m currently taking. Now, we were only assigned the first 6 chapters, but I will be completing the book because I find the subject matter fascinating and, perhaps, even enlightening.

Recently, Haidt spoke at a TED Talks about how common threats can make common ground. He starts by briefly discussing morality and how, “…one of the most important principles of morality is that morality binds and blinds. It binds us into teams that circle around sacred values but thereby makes us go blind to objective reality.” (On a side note, you can learn about your own morality, ethics, and/or values at YourMorals.org).

So if everybody thinks they’re right, how can we possibly make any progress? Haidt suggests that, “…we don’t start by looking for common ground. Common ground is often very hard to find. No, we start by looking for common threats because common threats make common ground.” This idea, of finding common threats, led to the creation of The Asteroids Club.

The Asteroids Club is, “an opportunity for members of a community to explain what matters to them most deeply (their asteroid) and for others to try to understand why it’s so important. The magic is that folks with different moral and political beliefs each get to share what matters to them. The key is that you’ve got to listen, with empathy, to the “other side” in order to have the right to explain your side and be heard.”

If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the minds worst disease.
– Sent ts’an, c. 700 C. E.

I think it’s a really wonderful idea. It’s not a debate but a mutual, civil discussion. As Haidt states, “this is possible. We can do it. Let us therefore go to battle stations, not to fight each other, but to begin deflecting these incoming asteroids.”