Monday, December 30, 2013

Everything isn't for you: honing in on your own energy

I started this blog a couple of years ago because so many people seemed unhappy, stressed, nervous, and generally out of sorts. There's a lot of discontent these days, and there's also a sense of not knowing where to begin to make things better, different, more palatable. Not saying that I've got all my ducks in a row, but the thing about living a reflective life is that I'm always making adjustments to get grounded, back on track, calmer, etc.

So since this is the season of New Year's resolutions, I was reflecting on why stating resolutions seems to be merely a tradition that often falls by the wayside in a few days. These declarations don't ultimately address the underlying tension, stress, and anxiety that make pharmaceutical companies one of the most prosperous industries of our time. I believe this is because we get so much external input that we forget that we should be living from the inside out. I think we have to find ways to manage the amount of input that effects how we live our lives.

  • Just spend an hour on the Internet and it is unquestionably clear that there are unlimited options available to us.
  • If we're not tuned in to who we are at the core, way too many things seem like good ideas for us. This applies to everything from fashion to spiritual beliefs to diets to how we spend our down time.
  • All those options can be major stressors because they are really just pulling us in various directions all day, everyday. Being bombarded with ads and images about what to wear, where to go, what to eat, how to look, can throw us into overload without realizing it. I read an article that referred to an Eastern European model who came to the U.S. and was taken to a superstore. She was so overwhelmed by all the choices that she passed out.
  • Going in a number of random directions on a regular basis-- even if it's online, in stores, or in your mind, is wasting your energy and time. It also contributes to the feeling of dissatisfaction because we haven't used our time to do the things that are meaningful to us. 
  • One of the strange things about the prevalence of social media is witnessing what others are doing in their lives. If a person isn't grounded in his or her own energy, it can lead to wishing, coveting, envying, comparing and a host of other counterproductive emotional responses. 
I bring all this up because this year I used my energy in some very concrete ways that made a positive difference. I identified the things that enhance my lifestyle and my way of being in the world. I accomplished more than I have in long time. Here's what I learned:

- Buying fancy and elegant things for anything other than occasional special events is a waste of my money. I am most comfortable in cotton, corduroy and flannel. The rest mostly hangs in my closet until it goes out of style.
- I'm not a traveler. I'm quite happy exploring and vacationing in familiar and short distance territory. No need to try and wrap my mind around "If I had the money, I'd go to....." cause really I wouldn't. And if I did, I'd be counting the days till I could go home.
- I'm low brow. There's no getting around it. I don't judge anybody for dropping a few hundred bucks at a five-star restaurant. But the truth is, I'm thrilled with a plate of wings and a glass of cab. Thrilled! And sometimes I get a second order of wings because the first batch was that good.
- A lot of entertainment isn't that entertaining for me. I'm not into plays and the opera, cruises, or elaborate celebrations to commemorate milestones. I'm happiest when I have the option of keeping it simple.
- I need quiet time. If things have been hectic-- whether with work, readings, or family activities, I must choose to stay home alone and regroup.

Acknowledging these things as my sort of baseline for living empowered me. It took a bunch of options off the table. So I offer this as a strategy for starting the new year: Until we figure out our true likes, dislikes, values and preferences, we spend a lot of time desiring things that wouldn't be that satisfying if we had them. Knowing this helps in how we choose our mates, how we spend our money, how we make small and large decisions.
At some point we can stop trying on options and accept some basic facts about ourselves. We can stop chasing fantasies and focus on living according to our truths. In so doing, we find ourselves with more resources and power for engaging in the pursuit of meaningful goals and activities.  

This is entertainment for me!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Who's family, who's the enemy, and how can I tell the difference?

The holidays are a time for family. I spend a lot of time reflecting on family dynamics-- namely what's a "truth", what's an issue, and how I can be the healthiest I can be-- in spite of. I was raised in a pretty liberal fashion, in a rather communal setting. There were lots of complicated relationships. Although my parents' relationship ended when I was very young, my mother remained friends with his siblings and nieces. Because of this, I always had positive feelings about both sides of my family- even though I didn't know the vast majority of my paternal relations.  My favorite uncle is an ex in-law who, in spite of separation from my aunt, always visits us when we are in town; and likewise, we will drop by to see him if time is tight.

My own generation now has its share of complex relationships-- with exes and dramatic pasts and episodes. The kinds of situations where bad blood spills, and lines are drawn, and allegiances are formed. Until recently, I got a muddled, headachy feeling when I tried to sort things out logically. How close can I be to an ex-in law? What's betrayal? Who's off limits? But this year-- after so much introspection and the book talks, and sharing insights with a community of strangers, I have a new level of honesty working within myself. Insights assail me like shooting stars. They are beautiful and unexpected, and they have brought me peace. 

So these are the personal truths that now resonate with me when negotiating the complex family relationships that are so commonplace during these times. They are not for everyone, but they feel like a good fit for me and the culture in which I was raised.
  • Marriage does actually make someone a family member. Just because a divorce happens doesn't mean that all the relationships are severed. I have fallen in love with many of my in-laws, and I have been thrown for a loop when things didn't work out. Likewise, many of my relatives love my husband, and if I had issues with him, that wouldn't mean they don't love him any more.
  • Little children never know who is the blood relative and who is the relative by marriage. They have to be told who's who-- which says it all. 
  • Hearts can open wide enough to include everyone. Over time, I've seen that the happiest families are those that don't adhere to too many rules. My coworker recently went to the wedding of her brother's "baby mama" who was marrying a different man. At the wedding was the bride and her relatives, her new husband and his relatives, the "baby", the baby's father and his relatives.  My coworker travelled 500 miles to be there, and she said it was wonderful, and there was such a sense of family and happiness because the "baby" is surrounded by everybody who loves her. 
  • My heart does actually snap shut to exclude those who have been mean-spirited, violent, or harmful to the well-being of others. It's like an intuitive default mechanism. There are deal breakers.
  • My mother (I'm amazed by how often I mention her!!!?????) has always modeled acceptance and goodwill. She has only spoken of my father in complimentary terms. She has never exhibited any bitterness of any kind, and she sleeps better than anybody I know.
So when there are difficult family choices to make-- especially during the holiday season, take a minute to find the personal truths that really do rest in your own soul. Don't believe the hype. Don't let the emotions of others guide your thinking, and sit yourself in multiple seats and see life from different perspectives. That's the only way to live an authentic life. And it is only in living an authentic life that we bring peace to our hearts.

"This book will leave you wanting more! 
Tara  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement