Friday’s Focus—Being the Center of Your Own Universe

It’s only natural to want the people you love to be happy. Who doesn’t want to see their family and loved ones content and taken care of? But what if that happiness comes at the expense of your own feelings, to the point where you specifically change the way you do things and go about your own life just to secure someone else’s happiness?

A few days ago, my husband and I had tentatively planned on doing a day trip for the upcoming weekend. I wasn’t really thrilled with going but I said I would because I knew it would make him happy to go to this place. I didn’t know it at the time, but he really wasn’t up to traveling, but was prepared to go because I said I wanted to. We were both willing to make the trip because we thought it was what the other person wanted.

After a bit more discussion, he looked at me and said “Do you really want to go?” I made a face and answered, “No, not really,” to which his shoulders slumped and he smiled and said, “Good, I’m so glad you said that because I’m not up to it but I thought you wanted to go so I was willing to give it a try.” We both felt such relief sharing how we honestly felt. A short while later, I said to him, “I still feel bad about not going. I know you like it there and I wanted you to be happy,” to which he responded, “Don’t worry about it. You’re not in charge of my universe.”

KABONG. Though it hasn’t been often, he’s said this to me before, and each time, when I thought about it, I realized I was doing things to ensure his happiness at the expense of mine. It’s not bad or wrong to want someone you love to be happy—it’s what you do in a healthy relationship, but, when you consistently sacrifice your own happiness and compromise your feelings to make someone else happy, it’s not good or healthy anymore for either one of you. Another person’s happiness does not nor should depend upon your actions for them. Your actions are not the center of their Universe dictating how happy or content they feel. I’ve understood this on a subtle level but this was one of those cartoonish Kabong moments that it finally sunk in.

I think a lot of that had to do with setting my mother up into an Assisted Living facility last week because she couldn’t live alone anymore. The emotions from that decision rocked everyone in my immediate family. Even though we knew it was for the best, there was (and is) still a lot of emotion involved. She is still in the adjustment period and in thinking of ways that I might be able to make it easier for her, I realized that I couldn’t do any more than what I had been. With stunning clarity, it finally became obvious just how much I was making myself the center of her Universe and yet, no matter what I did, I would not be able to solve her problems, resolve her issues, or make her any happier. That’s a role that is hers and hers alone, as it is with each one of us. I will continue to care for and look for ways to make my loved ones happy but this time, from a more decidedly healthier stand.

I’m working on becoming the center of my own Universe instead of or in addition to other people’s. Sometimes, going the distance to make sure someone is happy has roots deeper than feelings of love for the person and wanting their satisfaction. It can come from a need for a sense of approval, acceptance, or even a justification of our own existence. To discover the true underbelly of our motivations as to why we do things is a very personal road and is different for each one of us.

Today’s Focus is about bringing attention to areas in each of your lives where you may be making yourself the center of someones else’s Universe instead of your own. Look beyond the actions you take to make others happy. Don’t take away their lessons; their own path. It is not up to you to ensure someone else’s feelings or contentment no matter how you feel about them. While it’s generous and deeply loving to want to ensure someone else’s happiness, the flip side is it’s a disservice to them in that you’re taking away chances and opportunities for them to learn their lessons and walk down their path. You can hold them in empathy but you can’t use your life and your resources to make someone else happy without perhaps the biggest disservice of all—the sacrifice of your own life and energy.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full? Both!

If you see a glass of water on a table, how would you describe it? Would you say it was half full or half empty? Thinking back, I’ve said it both ways, depending on what my mood was at the time. Some say that how you see the glass determines whether you are a pessimist (half empty) or an optomist (half full), but no matter how you see it, it’s actually both—it just depends on your view.

I got started on this train of thought during one of those up at 2 a.m. sleepless nights, and I looked over toward the nightstand, hoping I has some water within reach. I could see the red light from the numbers of my alarm clock shining its spotlight on a water bottle. At first I was disappointed that it was half empty (note, “half empty”), but as I grabbed it and started to drink, realizing I was thirstier than I thought, I was glad that there was water in it at all and I was happy that it was really half-filled rather than not at all (note, “half full”). The amount of water that was in the bottle was neither good or bad, it was just my view of it that made it half full or half empty.

Just as there are two sides to every story, there’s more than one way to look at something. My nocturnal thoughts reminded me that nothing is set in stone and that, yes the way we see something is undeniably shaped (and sometimes tainted) by our experiences, but they can change (our thoughts and experiences, that is; which also begs the question which creates which—a chicken or the egg kind of thing but that’s for another post). So if you find yourself thinking that your glass is only half empty or half full, maybe look at it instead as simply a glass with water in it—part full and part empty. It all depends on how you view it.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Examining Humility

Autumn is my favorite time of the year and I think a part of that is because I’ve always felt September and October were more like a new year than the actual January 1 New Year’s Day. To me, September is the month of beginnings. Even though I’ve been out of school for many years, I still think of September as the beginning of a new school year and with it new opportunities and adventures. Then there’s the changing of the seasons and temperatures and of course, moving into October, the gorgeous transformation and front row seat to nature’s fashion show.

For the first time though, this year feels different to me. I’ve noticed a deeper awareness of events and an acuteness to the days’ wanderings that feel more heightened than ever before. Maybe it has something to do with how much faster time seems to be going.  So many people I know have said the same thing and how, especially this year, time feels as though it’s speeding up and almost out of control.

No one can avoid growing older and the growing pains and warts that come along with it, but how we view this parade of changes is what can make a world of difference in our experiences of them. One way to do that is through our humility, which can lead to a deeper and richer level of wisdom and acceptance. Humility has its own quiet power in its ability to provide strength in the awareness that each one of us is a part of something else. Contrary to what many believe, the universe doesn’t revolve around us or is holding its breath waiting to make its next move based on our decision. It doesn’t work that way no matter who you are, who you know, how much money you have, or businesses you own. The Earth will still turn and the sun will rise and set in accordance to its own laws, without any help from us.

Practicing humility is not about lowering yourself and having feelings of inadequacy. On the contrary, humility is a quiet power that lies in the sublime modesty of one’s own potential and view of oneself. Some people see humility as a weakness, with feelings of unworthiness and lack of pride, but I prefer to think of it is a strength of being able to see ourselves in context and in right perspective with others, and finding that we are not lesser or better than anyone else.

By embracing humility we can we move into life’s moments with wisdom and grace by giving up the need for vanity and self-righteousness. This Autumn has become a season of deeper reds, more vibrant oranges, and fiery yellows of a changing landscape that is within me as well as around me reflected in nature, and I hope that today’s Focus will deepen your own personal Autumn and be a season of change within and without as we learn more about and practice humility.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Pardoning Ourselves

Forgiving others is something we’ve been taught we should do since we were children, but it’s not until much later in life do we come across the concept of forgiving ourselves.

The ability to forgive ourselves is just as important as forgiving others. Admitting fault in ourselves is not easy. It’s acknowledging that we’re not as perfect as we want to be or at least as perfect as we want others to see us. Taking responsibility for our actions and accepting any guilt we feel is a powerful step toward personal growth. Sometimes we may not know or understand why we did or said the things we did, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be held accountable.

When you forgive yourself, be wary about the tendency to beat yourself up about what happened. This defeats the purpose and only serves to strengthen any underlying guilt or shame you may be feeling. True forgiveness is sitting with the action and recognizing your role in the situation. If it was less than stellar, own it.

In hindsight, we can all find a thousand different ways we would have acted differently in situations, but it doesn’t mean that under the circumstances of that moment, you weren’t doing the best that you could. This doesn’t excuse the action by any means, but rather it’s understanding that we respond to situations with the skill set we have at the moment, framed by our values and mindset at that time. Cultivating self-forgiveness allows us to emerge as more loving and compassionate human beings, and by seeing ourselves and our past behaviors, choices, and words for what they were at that time, and learning from them, we can grow.

Forgiving yourself is not a Get of Of Jail Free card and in no way excuses past actions. I hope today’s focus is a reminder to include ourselves when we think about the people in our lives we want to—need to—forgive. By doing so, all of the energy that was invested in feelings of guilt, self-blame, and self-doubt, can instead, be used for more positive growth. Feeling disappointment in yourself and your actions is natural but holding onto it shouldn’t be.

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#takingitdeeper #selflove #selfgrowth #forgiveness

Friday’s Focus—When Not Asking Is Louder Than Asking

Admit it—we don’t want to believe it but it’s true: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I feel pretty confident to say that we’ve all seen this whether it’s with our coworkers or our own families. Sometimes the squeaks from these people are so loud that we tend to overlook those who seem content and quietly go along, not asking anyone for anything as they cruise through their days. BUT. What if they’re not as content as they seem to be? Not everyone asks for help when they need it or when they should. The reasons are as many as the colors in a 64 color Crayola box:

Not wanting to appear weak or helpless;
Not wanting pity;
Shame of not doing something perhaps they used to do;
Fear of ridicule;
A still-held belief in their own strength and abilities;
Feelings of unworthiness;
Fear of being judged.

And these are just the colors in the first row. Whatever an individual’s reason may be, it’s just as important to pay attention to what’s not being said and what’s not being asked as to what is actually articulated. Silence should not be an assumption that all is right with this person’s world. If offering the assistance is still met with hesitance, don’t give up at the first rebuff.

Some people are reticent about asking for help regarding their own needs and you may very well be one of them. If so, think about the reasons why you may not ask. Look back at the list above—do any of those reasons apply to you? If so, learn to be comfortable in your own discomfort and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, whether it’s with a personal problem or with a ride to the grocery store. No one is perfect and believe it or not, no one expects us to be except for the pressure we put on ourselves.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they need help because they’re so used to having to do things by themselves and so oftentimes it becomes more evident to family and friends when help is needed before it does to the individual. Today’s Friday Focus is really something that is an everyday Focus: Become aware of those around you and notice how actions can speak louder than words; how sometimes not asking for help is the same as if they shouted it from the rooftops.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main….
—John Donne, No Man Is An Island
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#takingitdeeper