Tag Archives: self awareness

Duality of Self

5 Aug

SAM_2481

You are a garden. You are the soil. You choose what to plant in your garden. When you nurture yourself with nutrients, good energy, and love your garden flourishes. You grow, you are happy.

A month or so ago I had the opportunity catch-up over lunch with a good friend. It was lighthearted and heavy at the same time. We shared the latest in our daily lives since it had been months since we had a chance to really connect. I shared with her my recent loss since I know she had been through a similar experience several years ago. She shared with me one piece of advice – don’t underestimate the importance of self-care. I didn’t fully understand what she meant by this and it lingered with me for a while. I kept coming back to it wondering and then leaving the thought when I resisted it. What is self-care? At some moment I realized that I didn’t even know what it meant or how it translated in my life. I’ve been so disconnected from caring for myself for so long that I didn’t know what self-care even looked like in my life.

Over the years I’ve grown to embrace what I thought I understood as selflessness. I’ve tried to live to my capacity guided by the ideology that it is more blessed to give than receive. All these years I had been interpreting that literally, and thinking that giving is only relevant when giving to others. I never thought for one second that giving to oneself is part of the whole equation. This has been one of my greatest challenges thus far. How on Earth could I justify giving to myself physically or spiritually? When there are is so much suffering in the world? It has been incomprehensible to me for far too long. I’ve always projected my giving energy out into the world, be it in my work, volunteering, or in giving to friends and family in different ways. I fully believe that giving to others is essential in building a better world. But what I have perilously neglected to understand is that giving to oneself is fundamentally essential. What I’ve learned is that you cannot sustain a life of giving to others in an effort to build a better world, without routinely, and I mean daily, giving to oneself.

Only recently did I start to take self-care seriously, and accept it. I am not talking about the type of self-care where you get your hair done, get a message, or things like that. Yes, that type of self-care is important too and I neglected it as well. I am talking about a far more basic and essential form of self-care. Simply taking the time to check-in with yourself, time for introspection, time to meditate and connect with yourself. Over the past several years, and in particular the past year, I’ve increasingly neglected setting aside time and space to connect with myself. The past year and a half, I allowed myself to become so consumed and obligated with other people’s needs that I neglected my own. As if being a Mom, wife, boss, and having an aspiring full-time career is not enough. Add on top of that a myriad of other people’s’ lives and needs – and no wonder I found myself completely depleted. My garden was scorched. The soil had no nutrients. It was close to dead.

I have a tendency to lead with my head, 80% of the time. I look first and foremost at patterns and logic. I look for numbers and evidence. I develop and execute logical and clever strategies in all aspects of my life. That is how my brain is wired. At the same time, I am highly creative. I used to paint, draw, and do sculpture. When I was in my 3rd year of undergraduate college I abandoned my niche in creative arts to focus my pursuit in science and math. I found it extremely difficult to switch on and off the two sides of my brain on a daily basis, although I still attribute a great deal of my success in science and math to my creative powers. Why is this relevant to self-care? The logical side of me had asserted that happiness is attained by giving to others. The heart side of me feels deep empathy for the suffering of others. The end result is a person focused almost entirely on the care and feeding of others, with nothing left over to keep them going.

When I look back on the last year of my life alone, I realize now that I nearly starved myself spiritually. I was so focused on caring for others, some that asked for my help and others that didn’t. Sure, I took an hour or so a week to do something for myself like go for a run or take a walk. But those rare moments merely helped me to figure out my next strategy. They were not moments of self-reflection and spiritual connection. I also felt guilty taking those moments, that thing called Mom guilt kicked-in every time. I was constantly running out of time. I found myself physically and spiritually exhausted on a daily basis, to the extent that I was frequently sick with one cold or stomach bug after another. Here I was in paradise, drained and exhausted day-in and day-out.

So there you have it, the duality of self-care and selflessness. The two are so deeply interdependent, true sustainable selflessness cannot exist without the right amount of self-care. So here I am today, bringing my garden back to life day by day.

SAM_2520

 

Event + Response = Outcomes

27 Jul

This whole formula of event + response = outcomes is so not a novel concept, and until recently I didn’t fully realize the secrets it holds. It’s one I have understood for a while now in my professional work, but I’ve not been fully conscientious of its meaning on a personal level. I’ve been doing some soul-searching recently, and it mostly centers around expectations. Why? This is something that we all deal with in different situations or circumstances throughout our lives, and are often challenged by. I also believe there are ways that I, and you, can better manage our expectations of ourselves and of others. I certainly have not cracked the code on this, but it is something I am trying to better understand and improve in my life.

I don’t deal with disappointment well. I am fairly certain that I share this sentiment with many others. And well, my time has come again to be up at the batting cages of life. When life throws us a curve ball the only control we have is on our reaction and ourselves. This is something I’ve had to face in a few back-to-back innings recently, and it has not been easy. It’s also forced me to ask some tough questions, how can I influence the outcomes in my life for today and the future? How can I improve myself and how I respond to events? So that I am a better role model to my son, but also so that I can enjoy healthier and more fulfilling relationships with myself and others? Unfortunately for me there has been too much cacophony recently that I’ve not been able to clearly and conscientiously consider my reactions to recent events, or curve balls, and react gently and deliberately. At some point the thunderstorms pass and we are left with fresh air to breath that guide us to clarity, thank goodness.

So its brought me to think more about expectations, and the great expectations I have had for life. As I turn another page in my book of life, I am actually seeking not to have so many great expectations but rather to have realistic expectations and less of them.

I dream big. I’ve always believed that if a dream is not bigger than one’s lifetime then it is not big enough. The challenge lies in that I am extremely practical, and have a knack for turning ideas into reality, except for when my mind runs away from me and I wind up with unrealistic, and frankly unfair, expectations. Lets start with a simple case that many of us can share… We plan a summer vacation to the beach, rent a house, invite our friends. For months we daydream about how wonderful and fun this vacation will be, and we even dream about how relaxing it will be. We create this expectation in our mind for the picture perfect beach vacation. Reality sets in, we arrive and one of the kids has gotten car sick and the other is way over tired. We clean the mess only to find more mess. Meanwhile our spouse is complaining that they are hungry but don’t do anything to start preparing dinner. Next thing you know the kids are fighting over who threw sand first. By bedtime you go to the kitchen to pour a glass of wine and are reminded that there is a sink full of dishes to do. So much for that blissful, fun, and relaxing family vacation! We come home tired and disappointed in ourself, our spouse, possibly our kids, and the overall outcome. It’s a tough spot to be.

It can also take the form of smaller more day-to-day trials and tribulations in life. Perhaps you plan a special home cooked dinner that you went out to get special ingredients for. You confirm with your significant other what time they will be home and dinner will be on. Dinner is on the table, and there you find yourself eating alone. Your significant other got caught-up with work and couldn’t make it.

Unrealistic expectations also permeate our professional lives. You may have a business idea or an invention that can help change the world. You dream-up how this business will run, you see an intrinsic need for it and expect that everyone else will too, and you have set a high expecation for immediate success and prosperity. Only to find yourself disappointed when you can’t raise the captial to get it off the ground or to find there isn’t much of a demand for your invention or idea. This can quickly lead to frustration, disappointment in yourself, and at times financial hardships.

Unrealistic and unfair expectations always lead to disappointment, and most often outcomes that are characterized by some level of hurt. Our expectations of others also greatly impacts the way we perceive them and hence the way they behave, their reactions. Well how about if we instead watch our minds more cautiously, and deliberately set realistic expectations. We can still dream, but we don’t let our minds run away with the daydreams that lead to unrealistic and unfair expecations. We would still come back from vacation tired but we’d probably at least have a smile on our face, and be at a happy place with others. This is precisely what I am working on.

The whole notion of big houses, keeping up with the Jones, dreamy picture perfect families, successful and easy small businesses – breeds a culture that normalizes false expectations that lead to disappointment, and often times destruction. For me, I am committed to changing that in my life and the first step is to watch my mind. By watching my mind, I can ensure that my reactions are more gentle and peaceful. That my dreams and expectations don’t run away from me. I will watch my mind throughout the daily rhythms of life, so that it becomes ingrained in me, and not only when my time comes to be up at the batting cages of life. I will deliberately seek to react more gently with myself and with others.

Expectation is the root of all heartache.
– William Shakespeare

 

 

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