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—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

Reflections of My Nightstand

The other night I went to put my water bottle on the nightstand and every time I tried to put it down, it was either on something or I had to move something else to make way for it. Since when did I have so much *stuff* on my nightstand and what is it all? When did I suddenly need those ear plugs, eye mask, and Valerian?

I didn’t have a cold, so where did all those tissues come from? And the dry hands salve? Well, yeah. I need that. Oh and then there’s my nasal spray for allergies. I need that, too.

Then there are those two crystals sitting on top of the book I bought months ago that I’ve been meaning to read but instead has been collecting dust. Becoming instead, an impromptu shelf for the odds and ends I somehow decided needed to be elevated from the rest of the ordinary clutter on my nightstand.

Where did all of this come from and when did I suddenly need these things within reach during the overnight hours of what should be a peaceful and restful sleep? I’m not bedridden. I can get out of bed anytime I want but it’s so much easier to roll over in the dark and reach for that midnight tissue or sip of water, then to hit feet to the floor.

I didn’t have a problem with any of it and to be honest, I didn’t really notice the accumulated collection until I couldn’t set down a simple bottle of water. The invasion of all this STUFF had taken over and now that I really looked, the top of my nightstand looked like my favorite junk drawer threw up.

I’m a firm believer that having too much clutter can create, or, at the very least, contribute to feelings of agitation, indecisiveness, and even claustrophobia. Looking at my bedside clutter made me wonder what kind of energy clutter can convey when it’s next to your own bed—a place that should be a sanctuary of rest and peace and relaxation? Could this be one of the reasons I haven’t been sleeping well? Too much stuff on my nightstand?

The next morning, my intention was to straighten things up a bit and decide what to put away and what to keep out. I took a good look at what exactly was taking up so much space and each item—from the crystals to the book on the Romanov family to a loose pair of earrings, held memories. Taken altogether, they were a snapshot of my life. I decided to put some things away and keep others right where they were. It never occurred to me that the top of my nightstand could possibly be a reflection of me and my life, but why not?

It’s human nature to want to populate the areas in our home where we spend a lot of time with things we want to keep close to us—photographs, keepsakes or tchotchkes and for some people medications or pills that are just handy to have within reach. I think you can tell a lot about someone from what’s on their nightstand or end table. Look at your own and see how many fragments of yourself you see. What do your tabletops say about you?

Am I what’s on my nightstand? On some days, I’d say yes. Most days actually. Now, each night as I get ready for sleep and I reach over to turn out the light, my eyes take in a final sweep of the pieces I’ve chosen to keep in full view on my nightstand, and I smile as I roll over, pulling the blankets up to my chin, at the memories those things have given me and how lucky and loved I feel. And that I have room again for my water!

Castles in My Mind

Inspiration struck early this morning driving me from my sleep and directly to my computer. I had no idea what was buzzing in me to get out but I just knew something was there. I settled down in the peace and quiet of a new day in this New Year and opened to a blank page. Immediately I was a witness to what my fingers typed. Words were dictated through me. It was one of those magical moments when I truly felt like a vessel and I was happy to be at least cognizant to realize that what was happening was because of something bigger than me. It is a haunting reveal that has come from somewhere deep and wide. I wasn’t going to post this but then I changed my mind and so here it is:

I hold the key but you hold the door.
Which gets me the freedom I so long for?

The walls around me are made of stone and brick,
I’ve tried to knock them down but still, they’re too thick.

I plead with you and beg you to release me; let me go,
but I fear that I’ve failed to convince you as your silence tells me so.

We did have our memories, our smiles, and our joys,
but you’ve changed, as have I, and I’m no longer your toy.

I bribe you, I beseech you, I cry out your name
but the walls they still hold me, prisoner in this cell of my pain.

One day it comes when I give up and give in.
As I collapse to the floor,
I wonder how much more can I take; will I ever win?

With one last effort I raise up my head
replacing failure and exhaustion with a prayer in its stead.

I lean on the wall from my weakness and pain,
and as I rise slowly, I see each stone has a name.

The names are Crazy and Lazy and Stupid and Slow.
I remember—all these words—I remember, I know.

I stared at the words finding more with each turn.
Each stone, each piece, their insults sting and they burn.

Slowly, I recognized the writing on the walls.
It was me who wrote them, and thus built this here space, my words lining the halls.

Enough! No more! I shouted, my words echoing back
as my fists I pounded out a full-fledged attack.

I found a crack in the wall and dug my fingers in deep;
I pushed and I pulled now fully awake from my sleep.

First one stone then another, soon the sun shone its way in.
I poked my head through the hole finally seeing from the darkness within.

The stones now fell faster breaking free of their walls,
as I pulled and I tugged, opening a hole in these halls.

At last I stepped through and crawled on my knees,
as the birds sang their songs and the sun shone through the trees.

Still dazed and confused, the sweetest air I now breathed,
I didn’t understand any of it, most of all the why me?

I picked up a stone, its carved words read clearly now,
I finally understood at the whys and the whens and most importantly the how.

The room I was in was a prison of my making,
and when I cried out to you it was really me I was forsaking.

I believed in those words of hate, shame, and fear
and I surrounded myself with them, I see it all now so clear.

There was never a door, I didn’t build one you see,
but what I still had that made the difference was in my holding the key.

I was once my own prisoner with my beliefs as my walls,
but I decided right then I’ll never go back to those halls.

I found in me the freedom to use kinder words,
no longer fearing I’d be looked upon as being absurd.

I picked up each stone from my past years’ abode
and threw them far and away from what used to be my home.

The rubble left behind of my dismemberment,
holds no sadness or shame, instead happiness and content.

Onward I walk now with more freedom than I’ve known,
my past will stay past and only good thoughts will I own.

I know as you read this, you saw your story in me,
so remember dear reader, you too, hold your key.