Friday’s Focus—Knowing Nothing

They say, in life, you never stop learning. I remember my father even telling me that as a kid. I can’t imagine going through my days in a stagnant haze of knowledge that doesn’t change, and sometimes (it seems) life gives you a crash course on learning where it’s sink or swim, kiddo; let’s see what ya got kind of thing. When that happens, you can run but you can’t hide. There is no amount of distraction/destruction of your choice and, there is no sandbox deep enough to keep your head buried in, to keep up a denial for very long. Lately it seems as if there are problems and glitches everywhere, and it’s not just me feeling this way. So many people I talk to have been having their share of issues, trials, and personal crises.

For many people, dealing with now daily stresses has become one hour at a time instead of one day at a time. My husband and I have a running quip: “What do you know?” “I know nothing.” No one has all the answers though many think they do. When I say, “I know nothing,” I mean it as an open, palms-up approach to things that keeps me spiritually honest and humanly humble. In the grand scheme of things, the things that really matter, I really don’t know anything, but I’ve learned and what I see is a lot:

Flowers will still grow through cracks in a sidewalk.

Nothing lasts forever but plastic bags and roaches.

Reactions and anger are really fueled by fear.

There are good people still around and sometimes in the most unlikeliest places and guises.

Standing up for yourself and what you believe in takes a certain amount of courage that we must each learn to cultivate in ourselves. No one else can do it for you–nor should they.

It still matters to be nice.

Every star in the sky and every drop of water in the oceans yields in own mysteries that will take lifetimes to discover but is fascinating to behold in the meantime.

We have have become dehumanized in taking care of each other.

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to be angry.

We can’t forget that there are actually flesh and blood people with names and personalities behind each set of paperwork on a desk and every screen name.

Sometimes all it takes is one good cup of coffee to hit that re-set button.

Sometimes strangers are kinder than the people we know.

It’s always on the days you’re running late that either (a) you spill your coffee [on you]; (b) your kids tell you (of course mentioning it for the first time) that their school project is due that day; (c) your pet had an “accident” in the house (and you stepped in it); (d) you forgot your password to your computer and now it’s locked you out; (e) all of the above.

What have you learned today?

#takingitdeeper

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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—Our Teachers, Ourselves

Whether we recognize it or not, we have teachers all around us. They are our friends, our enemies, strangers, and our families. Every person we meet is a mirror to something inside of us and how we react to the person is an indicator of something that has a teaching moment. If there’s someone who particularly raises your hackles, that’s a hint that it’s a relationship you need to take a closer look at. Until you do, you will always come across someone with that same personality and issues. I promise.

So what do you do when it’s your own family member? What do you do when it’s your own parent? The relationship between mothers and daughters alone, is the subject of countless social studies and psychology books, and even being in it first-hand, sometimes can lead to more questions than answers on how to best navigate in that relationship!

This past week has been a flurry of phone calls and scheduling appointments looking for alternative care and living arrangements for my mother, who has been suffering from increasing confusion and cognitive impairment. The situation has escalated to a new level of alert and awareness for me and my family and we are beginning our travels down the next road. Just as sometimes it is challenging to see the changes in our own children as they grow up into their individual personalities, I think it is just as difficult for a child to watch their parent become a different person due to disease and illness. It’s the established personality of the elder being broken down into the child again, and which oftentimes is a new personality peppered with confusion, sensitivity, vulnerability, and a lot of frustration.

I think, for most people, regardless of how estranged a relationship may be, there is still some level of a bond they feel with their parents. And as families grow older and the roles shift from parent and child to parenting the parent, there are new experiences that come from parenting parents that are completely different from being a parent to your own children.

As scary as it can be, I have been consciously working at using this opportunity of seeing this new personality, this person who almost seems like a stranger from the person I once knew, as being brought face to face with yet another teacher.

Aside from patience, I’ve asked myself, what could I possibly learn from this situation, except how much I want to change the clock back so that they are their familiar selves again? The focus I’m learning is that the question should not be why is this happening but rather what can I learn from this turn in the relationship? A new teacher has shown herself to me as a different personality disguised as my elderly parent. This may be the toughest mirror yet! My husband keeps telling me to be sure to learn my lessons from this because if I don’t, it will just show up again as someone else in my life and I believe it. I’ve seen it!

This week’s Friday’s Focus is about teachers and how they can come into your life in all shapes and sizes and sometimes from the most unlikeliest places. Take a look at the people around you who are loving and friendly. They are just as much teachers as those who aggravate you, annoy you, and bring up friction. Remember that as much as one person is a teacher to you, you are as much of a teacher to someone else.

#takingitdeeper