Tag Archives: priorities

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.

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.

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.

Hello 2013! New Year, New Choices

2012 seemed like a long, long, long year. (Did I mention LONG?)

Like every year, it was filled with many struggles, lots of work and many choices (both good and not so good). Ups and downs. Overall, for me, it wasn’t the worst year ever. But it certainly wasn’t the best either.

May 2013 be better than 2012. May there be better choices, better outcomes, better acceptance of self & others, better expressions of love, better communication, better goals, better effort, better planning, better empathy, less judgement and better ‘trying’…

May we view 2013 as a new start, as we should everyday. The future is ours to do as we wish. Only we control our destinies – happy or sad, good or bad, progress or stalled, success or failure, hope or dismay – the choice is ours.

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My own personal preference is to not make resolutions but instead focus on my (ever on-going) self-improvement and growth. One of the things I’d really like to accomplish this year is more consistent blogging. As you may have noticed, I haven’t written much in the last few months when the overwhelming time constraints, work and stress of taking five classes, completing a 15 hour/week internship and, you know, still being a mom to two energetic daughters kept me from writing.

I’m currently working on getting a que of blog posts written during my break between semesters and hope to be posting a new blog weekly, preferably on the same day each week. If anyone has any topics they’d like me to write about, suggestions, questions (or even just a hello!) I’d love to hear any and all feedback: ClearComplexityBlog@gmail.com 

So, happy new year! How are YOU going to make 2013 a better year?

Fear, Success & Getting Out of Your Own Way

It’s very easy for me to lose motivation. To lose sight of my goals and aspirations. To over focus on others and false beliefs that I can change them, despite knowing only they can change themselves. To get caught up in negativity. To doubt myself and my abilities. To have many amazing ideas and, instead of focusing on one or two, half-completing or never starting any of them.

I don’t want to lose this moment and the clarity I have.

I’ve been working very hard on my education. Working to bring my GPA up so I can be eligible for Phi Theta Kappa and the potential scholarships it brings. Working to make sure the classes I take at my community college are the correct ones and will transfer to the private, four year college I want to attend after obtaining my (second) associates degree.

I’ve been planning ahead. Making appointments with advisors, program heads, financial aid counselors, transfer counselors and people at both the school I currently attend and the one I wish to transfer to. I’ve been making sure my “ducks are in a row”.

Last week I visited the private four year college I hope to attend. I had never been there before and it’s over an hours drive away. As I exited the freeway my car collided with the car in front of me. I instantly panicked. I instantly cried.

I felt that perhaps this was a “bad omen” that I shouldn’t attend this college. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion that I wanted to just turn around and go home. Thankfully, all parties were uninjured and there were minor damages to the vehicles. As many pointed out to me later, cars can be replaced. People cannot.

If I had let my emotions and fear control me in that moment, I would have gone home despite being five minutes away from the college. Instead, I was able to contain myself and keep my appointment.

I’m glad that I did. I very much liked the campus and the program I would enter. In talking with the program head, it appears that I can even complete my bachelors degree in three semesters instead of four, thanks to my ability to transfer in additional credits to the school.

Today I met with the transfer counselor at my community college and he told me I was well prepared. He stated that I had talked to all the correct people and taken the necessary steps to be set to transfer next fall. I left feeling amazing. Capable. Strong.

am capable and strong. I have been through so much in my life but when I focus I can accomplish so much.

Last night I had a dream. I somehow totaled my car and was unable to drive anywhere, leaving me housebound. This also meant I was unable to attend school. In my dream I did not try to find alternate ways to get to my school. I simply resigned myself to never being able to graduate and achieve my goals.

I woke anxious. As I analyzed my dream I realized what was most terrifying – I had let one obstacle (my car breaking) stand in my way of moving forward. I had lost momentum and became blinded to other possibilities because I only focused on the negative.

I will achieve my goals of education. I will not let anything stand in my way. Not even myself. I so often doubt myself and make myself believe that I am not smart enough or deserving enough or strong enough.

In the past I’ve put up road blocks subconsciously. Perhaps I was afraid to succeed. Perhaps it was easier to believe that I couldn’t do it instead of seeing it through and awaiting the outcome. I often wonder how much of our “failures” we have caused ourselves.

Let’s stop tearing ourselves down and instead build ourselves up. I can do it. And, if somehow I fail, I can view my failure as an opportunity to learn from it and try again. Isn’t that really what it’s all about? Making mistakes, learning and trying a different way instead of doing the same things over and over again (especially if it doesn’t work)?

I say, get out there and achieve your dreams, work towards your goals and live your life! You are, after all, the only one who can do any of these things for you.

The Illusion of Time & Perceived Guarantees

Simplicity.

It’s something I often lose sight of in the everyday chaos. It’s something I entirely forget in moments of added stress and chaos – in the moments when I need to remember it the most.

Often times I find myself moving through chaos. Through stress from school. Through trying to be a good parent. Through keeping up a household. Through dealing with physical and emotional and financial issues.

I lose sight of the “little things”. I lose focus of what’s really important. What really matters.

And then there are the curveballs that, by all accounts, there is no possibility of preparation for.

The sudden death of a loved one. The realization that your child has a disability. The breakdown of communication and relationships. A life-altering accident.

In the past month or so, my close friend’s (now) fiance was in a near-death accident. He thankfully survived and is currently at a rehab facility with a spinal injury that has left him partially paralyzed.

Weeks after this happened, my brother’s friend who grew up in the same town as me, was also in an accident. He also thankfully survived and is currently at the same rehab facility as my first friend. He too has a similar spinal injury.

It’s not an easy task to make sense of two healthy, active young men from adjacent towns being in similar accidents, with similar injuries, in such a short span of time.

It’s easy to get lost in the flood of emotions, to be gripped with such sadness and the feeling of helplessness. To focus only on the negatives.

However, they both survived. From all accounts, they are in good spirits. Friends, family and the entire community have come together in support. There is an overwhelming amount of people coming together to be there for these people.

It also brings me back to my original point.

It’s so easy to get lost in the stress and chaos, in all the negatives. It’s easy to ignore the amazing things that exist everyday around us. To pinpoint what is important and to savor and place focus on those things.

Thinking about situations like the accidents mentioned above makes me wonder how we can possibly waste so much of our lives not really even living them. We focus on material items. We worry about money. We get upset and dwell on things we have no control over or ability to change. We live in the past and the future, without taking the time to live in the present – the only place in time we can actually live. We don’t take the time to tell the people who mean the most to us what they really mean to us. We don’t say I love you. We don’t say what we mean.

We take forgranted the very nature of life – that life is a finite thing. We act like we have all the answers but fail to acknowledge that often times much of what happens is unpredictable, unfathomable and not “according to plan.”

We live our lives as if we are immortal, as if we are immune from death and will live forever.

We need to live in the present and appreciate all that we have right now.  Time is an illusion in that we assume forever, when nothing is ever guaranteed. Life is fragile. So much more so than we like to admit.

The Myth of the Perfect Holiday

Life has a way of building up, of stacking situations, events, emotions, needs and tasks on top of each other. Until it gets difficult to clearly see what is a priority and what is really important.

The holidays are especially a time like that. Making sure presents are gotten and wrapped. That the decorations go up. That the tree goes up and gets decorated. That you can find where the menorah is. (We celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice). There’s excitement in the air and the kids can’t contain it (often the adults can’t either).

There’s traveling or guests coming to your house. Is your house clean? I better put away the empty bottles from the kitchen. And dust everything. And did I vacuum the floor in the basement where no one will go and that no one will see?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the things we need to do and all the details that we fail to pay attention to the “other” things. Like driving. I’m not certain why, but once it hits the week before the holidays it seems that many people forget how to drive. Blinkers? I know where I’m going! Stop signs and speed limits? I need to get there 10 minutes ago.

And the inattention continues in the stores. People rushing and carelessly bumping into others. Failing to hold the door for the person behind you. Huffing at the long lines at the check out. Even fighting over the last of an item.

How is this beneficial to anyone? We’re all stressed out. Rushed. Anxious.

Everyone would like to have the “perfect” holiday. The perfectly decorated house. The perfect holiday meal. The perfect gifts, for loved ones and ourselves. But not at the expense of others and ourselves.

How about some goodwill towards others? Hold the door for the person behind you. Donate to those less fortunate, with monetary donations, donations of a gift or food, or volunteering your time. Say thank you to those helping you at the stores. Retail is brutal this time of year (and year round!) and a simple gesture such as thank you goes a long way.

Even if your house isn’t perfect. Or your meal doesn’t turn out as planned. Or the presents you give/receive aren’t exactly what was wanted. Be grateful of what you do have. And slow down.

Be kind to those around you in your daily travels. Be thankful of the food you consume. Be present in the moment and enjoy the time you’ve been blessed to spend with those you love.

It isn’t about the food. Or the presents. Or the decorations. Or what you receive. Or what you didn’t receive.

It’s about the moment.

So slow down, take a deep breath and just be here.

Wishing you all happy holidays, whatever you choose to celebrate.

Taking Care of Yourself

I had my afternoon planned. I was going to find a frame for a picture of my dad from upstairs in my house, I was going to get some schoolwork completed ahead of schedule and I was going to write a blog post here about Triggers. As I was upstairs, looking through a box of frames, one of my cats suddenly screeched, jumped and ran like a bat out of hell over the box of frames and my hand.

My initial feeling was confusion. I didn’t see any reason why she was so suddenly spooked. As I looked down I saw that not only had she scratched my hand to the point of bleeding, but she had scratched the picture of my dad. Three deep scratches entirely through the picture.

You may be thinking, so what?, and not knowing the significance, I wouldn’t blame you. The picture of my dad was actually part of his memorial program from his funeral. I had wanted to frame it so I could look at it daily. As the cuts on my hand began to sting and bleed, I felt angry. And sad. I wanted to scream and yell at my cat. I wanted to throw things. I just didn’t want to feel this way.

Taking a moment to calm down, I took deep breaths and tried to focus. I knew that getting angry and acting on it wouldn’t help the situation. My picture would still be scratched. So would my hand. My cat would still be scared. I decided in that moment to move on. Holding onto any anger would only make things worse. Instead I took another deep breath, sighed heavily out, and went to check on my cat.  She was still quite scared. I still don’t know what scared her but, as my pet, it was my job to calm her down and comfort her.

Coming back down the stairs, still quite a bit frazzled from what happened, I decided to try and see what positive I could find in the situation. I had been running around all morning, doing errands, and was really running on empty. I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch. Sure, I was getting things done and being productive, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I fall into this trap quite often, the trap of taking care of everyone around me and never quite getting to the part where I take care of myself.

So instead of doing all the (very productive) things I had planned for the afternoon, I’m going to make myself some lunch, sit down and eat it, and maybe watch some Sons of Anarchy (such a guilty pleasure!). I can do the other things later on. And I’m not going to feel bad about it. Of course there needs to be a balance in our priorities and what we do, but taking care of ourselves needs to be included in that.

I once heard an analogy that has been labeled the “Oxygen Mask Theory”. It boils down to this:

When you’re on an airplane you’re instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others in putting on theirs. If you don’t put your own mask on first, you’d likely pass out from lack of oxygen before being able to assist anyone else (your child, your family members, your friends, the guy sitting next to you who can’t figure it out, etc). It makes sense it that context. In day to day life how often to we put the needs of others before the needs of our own?

Yes, everyone matters. And, if you’re like me, you want to help everyone. In anyway you can. But don’t you count as part of “everyone”? Don’t you matter too? On an airplane, putting on your oxygen mask allows you to better help everyone around you. In life, taking time to take care of yourself also allows you to better help everyone around you. This is so important as a parent. Or a social worker. It also serves as an example of what we wish for others to strive to do.

Slow Down, Start Over

Yesterday morning I was already running late. Wednesdays are my busiest, craziest day of the week and I somehow always manage to fall behind. I went upstairs to wake my daughters, only to find E, my 3 year old, standing in the bathroom with an exploded pull-up. An exploded poopy pull-up. Now, if you haven’t ever had to deal with this (and I truly hope you’ve been spared!) let me tell you, it’s…disgusting. Not only did the pull-up explode but there was poop all over her pajamas, her legs and the floor. E needed a shower (which is what you get when you live in a house with no bathtub, but that’s a different story). I got Z, my 7 year old, downstairs to get dressed and ready (not an easy solo task for an easily distracted little girl) and went back upstairs to give E a shower. Of course, E didn’t want to take a shower. After much pressuring, she got in the shower and, 20 minutes later than expected, we all made it (somewhat) ready to the dining room table.

At this point we weren’t just a little late anymore, we were really late. And I still needed to feed them breakfast, put dinner in the crockpot and finish getting ready. I gave them breakfast and started on dinner. When I looked back a moment later, the girls were fooling around and not even at the table. I’m not going to sugar coat it. At this point my patience snapped and I raised my voice to tell them to, “sit at the table, be quiet and eat your breakfast.” One of them started to say something and I cut her off saying, “if it isn’t an emergency, I cannot hear it now.” They sat. They were quiet. And they ate their breakfast. But I felt like shit over how I had handled it.

As I began putting the chicken in the crockpot, piling ingredients on top, I took the moment to slow down and really process what had just happened. Was it worth damaging my relationship with my children to avoid being late? We were going to be late either way. Did it really matter (why I was upset)? Or could I let it go?

I thought it over and, quickly, decided that my relationship with them was of #1 importance. I sat down at the table with my daughters and apologized for raising my voice and being snappy. In doing so I owned up to my mistakes and modeled an appropriate method of resolving them. I asked them if we could all start the morning over, because I didn’t like how I acted and how it went (again, taking responsibility). Unprompted, they both apologized for not listening to instructions and said they would also like to start over and try again.

I work very hard not to raise my voice with my children, as I realize what they must feel when I do so. I don’t like it when someone raises their voice to me. It makes me feel horrible. And small. On the occasion that I slip up and do raise my voice (and, who are we kidding here, it does occasionally happen as stressed out parents) I like to use the Slow Down, Start Over model. It acts as a reset button. And you can use it anytime you wish.

Slow Down, Start Over

  • Slow down. Take a moment by yourself (go to the bathroom if you have to!) and take a few breaths to calm down. Then, process what just happened. Reflect on your own actions. Determine what your priority in the situation is (for me, it was my relationship with my daughters).
  • Own up to your mistakes/behaviors. Take responsibility for your actions. And then apologize.
  • Ask to start over (try again, reset, etc).
  • Let it go. This is important. You really need to let it go and move on. Holding on to feeling of guilt and the like will only cloud the rest of your day. Which you are starting over.
  • Start again, being cognizant to behave as you originally wished you had.

The process of doing this shows kids how to take responsibility for their actions, that mistakes are ok (AND that moms make them too!), to apologize/make ammends, and to let it go so you can try again. It frames mistakes as a method of learning and growth. It can be parent or child initiated. And, many times, it works. After our morning start over the remainder of yesterday went quite well. Yes, we were late, but my children were able to see me as human (instead of the supermom I try to be) and we were able to use it as an opportunity to learn.