I believe we are all here to live our life story, but so many of us, fall prey to living the life that we think others want us to live, or a life far from the “truth” that lies inside of us. This was beautifully articulated by American theologian Howard Thurman when he said: “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the end of strings that somebody else pulls.”
None of us pops out of the womb with the idea, I want to grow up to be rich, famous, and beautiful; oh yah, and by the way, I’m going to lie, cheat, and steal my way to that place. If that’s true, why are so many of us not happy about where we are in life; or why do we feel so uncomfortable in our skin? I think deep inside, we are fortified with a resiliency that we rarely tap into. It’s also pretty clear that we tend to suppress that voice in us that is the real us because we are governed by the need to please, fit in, and get along. Don’t believe me? Have you ever been in your car singing away, flying your freak-flag, when another driver pulls up beside you at a light? I know…. cringe moment.
We write our story, not with our actions, but with our thoughts. The first time in elementary school someone makes fun of us, or bullies us, we begin to put down the pen on writing our life story, and we start to live the story that someone else writes for us. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a strong well of “resiliency of self”, then you eventually pick that pen back up and continue to write your authentic life story. Just think about all the memorable people in history who have inspired, created, and revolutionized by their imprint on humanity. What they all have in common is that they are freaks, outliers, forecasters, and world shakers; they are not living someone else’s life story. One of my favorite anecdotes about Bill Gates took place when he was an awkward computer geek in high school. One summer his school contracted Gates to write and implement a scheduling program for the students’ timetables and class assignments for September. Bill secretly preregistered himself in an English class with the most beautiful girls in his year and assigned no other boys to the class. If that’s not writing your own life story, I don’t know what is!
I now realize that significant trauma I experienced in my childhood meant closing the book on writing my life story. Instead of being comfortable in my own skin, I started to filter everything through fear. Shame told me “my story” should be buried, and from that point forward, I went through my life numbing every feeling inside me. Emotions were a land-mine field I couldn’t risk traversing, so I dulled every feeling from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Five months ago when I disclosed that I had been sexually abused as a child, I began to regain that “voice” in me that is now allowing me to start writing my life story again. So….What does that look like?
For one, it’s scary as hell and exciting all at the same time! I have no idea how all the pieces in my life are going to fit back together, but as Joseph Campbell said: “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” I feel liberated to explore parts of me that I was terrified to entertain before. Through the healing and self-forgiving process, I am able to shift my energies from encasing myself in layer upon layer of emotional protection to a new place of opening myself to connection with others based on authenticity and vulnerability. I can’t overstate the significant reverberations this is having in my life. After 26 years of marriage, my wife and I are discovering passion and growth we never knew possible. I’m actively filling my mind with books, films, and podcasts that nourish positivity in my life, while avoiding reading newspapers, watching television news and programs that feed on negativity and anxiety. I also am aware that choosing to write my authentic life story, for me, involves literally sitting at my computer and writing. I have no idea where the next few months, or years will take me, but I do know that for the first time in 35 years, no one else is “pulling my strings”. I guess that’s why people say, “If you find yourself falling, dive.”
With Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, I’ve been a little more conscious of what I feel thankful for and ways that gratitude have entered my life. I came across a fantastic quotation this morning by Adela Rogers St. John about the distinction between joy and happiness. “Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.” After reading that, I was dumbstruck at the realization that maybe I’d been going about this all wrong.
Like most people I know, I’m a happiness chaser. I often define my mood by how happy I am. I’m also guilty of happiness forecasting when I say things like: “I’ll be so happy when I get the latest iPhone.” or “If I can just make it to the weekend, I’ll be so happy.” The irony is that, as a society, we are terrible at predicting future happiness. I’m sure many of you have thought how much money you’ll need to retire, and what you’ll need to live happily. If you’re anything like me, when I finally get to that projected date, I rarely achieve the happiness that I’d built up in my mind, and I’m just as likely to be bloody miserable. Before coming across that quotation this morning, I’d never really asked myself why?
If we define happiness as reliant on external things, be they money, free time, consumer goods, or even status, we lay ourselves open to equating our general sense of well being to fluctuating circumstances and unsustainable satiation. Instead of chasing happiness all my life, I should be nurturing the much more sustainable feeling of joy. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown cites the Methodist pastor Anne Robertson’s definitions of “joy” and “happiness”. “The Greek word for “happiness” is makarious, which was used to describe the freedom of the rich from normal cares and worries… Robertson compares this to the Greek word for “joy” which is chairo… the culmination of being and the good mood of the soul.”
This was an eye-popping distinction for me because it means that I don’t have to be happy all the time to live a joyful life. As a matter of fact, unlike happiness, which waxes and wanes, joy can be a constant in my life if I make a conscious practice of tending to my soul. I’ve been witnessing this over the past few months as I am trying to incorporate gratitude, trust, vulnerability, and authenticity into my interactions with others and in my own self-evaluation. As an example of this, I could mention last evening when my wife and I were facilitating a Partners’ Group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their partners. Sitting around the discussion group hearing 18 people share their pain in the rawest, most authentic way possible, I was definitely not feeling happiness, but I was filled with joy. Simply being present and connecting through compassion brought something to my heart that happiness chasing would never come close to touching. Realizing how honored I am to make authentic connections with people has made me intensely grateful all day. When I sit down to my Thanksgiving meal this weekend surrounded by the people I love most in this world, I will truly be “thankful” for a new-found awakening that my goal in life is no longer a desire to be happy, but rather to invite joyfulness into my life by embracing sufficiency not desire, and vulnerability not fear.
I wish you all a most “joyous” Thanksgiving, and the hope that one day we will all believe that each one of us is worthy of love.
Along my journey to practice a more wholehearted way of living, one thing has become glaringly obvious--I am terrible at setting boundaries. I don’t want to beat myself up over this, but there is definitely room for improvement. You may be wondering if you too, have a problem establishing boundaries. It wasn’t until I started to take stock of the symptoms associated with this issue that I realized I indeed had a problem. Lately, I’ve been feeling emotionally drained, and I noticed that because I’m so quick to say “yes” to everything, I usually spend a lot of energy trying to make excuses to get out of something I’ve committed to, or I feel resentful that I have to actually “do” what I said I would do.
If setting boundaries in my relationships is so integral to my emotional health and happiness, why do I have such an aversion to establishing them in the first place? For me, avoidance results from two factors: self-imposed guilt and an unwillingness to engage in having a difficult dialogue. How do people know what we want if we don’t tell them what we need? As an example of how this plays out in my life I need look no further than my daily interactions at work. As a teacher, I’m constantly strapped for time in the classroom. My students have lots to contend with, and they inevitably want some of my one-on-one attention to help them work through their problems/questions. As a result of this, I often spend a healthy chunk of my break time and an additional 45 minutes after class talking to students. I end up feeling resentful, and take it out on my class by being terse, or at times, rude with them. I’ve been teaching adults for 22 years now, and I’ve never been able to figure out how to address this issue that leaves me feeling drained and stretched for "me time" to recharge my batteries to get back in front of the class. Now that I’m thinking about boundaries in my life, I thought I should put some of this theory into practice, so earlier this week, I had that awkward conversation with my students. I explained to them that I was starting to feel burnt-out, and that I needed to wrap-up my teaching day on time. I also explained to them that I would start allotting time each week for students to come up to my desk with their questions. It’s never easy to feel like you’re letting someone down or that you’re not able to do everything. Ultimately by doing this, I will be a better, less resentful teacher, and the communication between us will become more authentic.
Before asking for what you need in a boundary, it’s helpful to think about the following questions: (1) What is my “line in the sand”? What will I not allow someone to do? (2) Do I want a relationship based on authenticity or one based on people-pleasing? (3) What do I need to ask for in order to protect my time and energy? Once you have answers to these basic questions, be careful before you initiate conversations with people about your new-found boundaries. I’ve found it helpful to work through the conversation in my head before saying it aloud to the intended recipient. Another strategy I’m starting to rely on to avoid taking on too many commitments (that I inevitably try to back out of later) is to ask for some “time” before getting back to the person. This allows me the space to react after careful thought and the chance to weigh whether or not I really want to take on other commitment. If you’ve been a people pleaser for years, this may initially cause you some anxiety, and I’m sure the person you’re speaking to might be uncomfortable with your newly-displayed reticence. I think that’s OK because it’s much better than building resentments or weaseling out of a commitment.
The greatest obstacle to setting boundaries is the ugly face of guilt. By articulating your need for boundaries, you are admitting that you need to look out for “you”. We live in a society that from the perspective of consumerism, tells us that we should buy, eat, or own everything we want that makes us feel “good”. At the same time, we’re are fueled by the desire to be everything to everybody. I’m sure you’re familiar with that little voice in your head chanting: “You need to be a better parent.” “You need to be a more dedicated worker.” You need to be a better spouse/partner.” “You need to be skinnier, smarter, funnier…” By making the decision to set boundaries in your life, you are making self care the priority in your life. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown discusses that in her research on worthiness and wholehearted living, she discovered that “compassionate people are boundaried people. It’s difficult to accept people when they are hurting us or taking advantage of us or walking all over us. This research has taught me that if we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior.” If the concept is so simple, why am I having such a difficult time adopting it? I guess it's a good thing life is "a journey" not "a destination".
As a teacher, I’m acutely aware of a huge void in our education system. From preschool all the way through post secondary education, we teach our students the skills needed to read, write, and speak, but nowhere along the way do we teach people how to listen. We assume that the ability to listen will be mysteriously honed as a byproduct of sitting in a classroom. I think we’re starting to brush up against the fallacy of that educational approach today, with the appearance of more and more avenues to express ourselves be it through social media, blogs, or chat forums. We are left with a cacophony of noise reverberating around us, but is anyone really listening? This problem becomes even more acute in that much of this noise is our expression of pain, trauma, and loneliness. In an era of 24/7 connectivity, it’s as if we’ve never been less connected to one another than we are today.
All my life I thought being a good listener meant making eye contact with someone, anticipating what someone was going to say, and being able finish someone’s thoughts or add my own quick repartee. It’s only recently, since I started reading more about trauma and working through childhood sexual abuse, that I have begun to understand how difficult it is to really listen to someone. By trying to anticipate what you are going to say, I block any possibility of truly hearing what is coming from your heart and soul.
I lived with the shame of childhood sexual abuse for 35 years, and I permitted what happened to me as a child to define me as an adult. When I decided to disclose the abuse five months ago, two important truths quickly became apparent. The first being that shame can only live in secrecy. The moment you decide to shine a light on your shame, it begins to lose the self-loathing it feeds on; it no longer metastasizes. I also learned that sharing my story involves an intimate dialogue, and more importantly, finding people who are compassionate listeners. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy based on my own experience with my wife. We have been married for 26 years, and even though I love her dearly, I still struggle with being an authentic listener when my wife shares her pain and difficulties with me. My default position is to offer advice, suggestions, or misdirections, but that is not what most of us are looking for when we share our vulnerabilities with someone. What we really need is for people to “be there with us” not “be there for us”.
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown identifies six common listening responses that appear to be preprogrammed reactions, which in effect, not only impede connection but also leave the person sharing with more baggage to deal with. Reading these six patterns, I felt heart-struck knowing that on various occasions throughout my life, I’d delivered every one of these harmful listening responses. (1) “The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you.” This is the person who recoils in horror and says: “Oh, you must feel terrible.” So much for finding someone to listen to your pain, because now you're the one doing the consoling. (2) “The friend who responds with sympathy rather than empathy.” That’s when you adopt that maternal tone and say: “There, there. Everything will be OK.” No strength or understanding can come from that type of response. (3) “The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity.” This is the friend who feels let down by your inability to manage your problems. There’s nothing like having other people pile-on to your shame party to make you feel like dirt. (4) “The friend is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that he/she scolds you: How did you let that happen?” For me, this is the most devastating response because it reinforces the belief that I should never open up to people, and as I said earlier, not being able to talk about your shame and fears allows them the secrecy to metastasize. (5) “The friend who is all about making it better.” This is the response I’m most guilty of when I say: “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.” “You know everybody loves you...respects you.” (6) “The friend who confuses connection with the opportunity to one-up you.” I’m horrified writing about this response because if I’m honest, I do this every day at work, or with acquaintances and neighbors. It usually plays out something like this: A colleague says: “I feel so terrible. I forgot to send my daughter to school with money for the charity raffle at lunch today.” And that’s when I say: “You think that’s bad, one time I forgot to send my son to school with a Christmas present for his teacher. He was the only kid in class who didn’t have a present for the teacher. When I picked him up that day, he was a sobbing mess and didn’t speak to me all evening.”
I think we are all programmed to respond to someone else’s pain in one of two ways, either going into fix-it mode or retreating into self-protection mode. If we look at Brene Brown’s six problematic listening responses, it becomes apparent that either of those polar responses to someone else’s pain is an impediment to our ability to be an authentic listener. The American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron has written a lot about awakening wisdom and compassion in ourselves as an means to be buoyant in these turbulent times. In her book The Places That Scare You, Chodron writes: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.”
If I’m to be a better listener, I need to be mindful and present. By opening my heart to you and being with you as an equal in vulnerability, I have an opportunity to hear what you say in a space of authenticity. I’d like to leave you with the insightful words of Winston Churchill: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
As I’ve gotten older, my relationship with my mother hasn’t so much “evolved”, as “dissolved”, and I would even go as far as to say that there is no relationship whatsoever today. It’s almost heresy to admit that my feelings towards my mother have gone from mistrust, detachment, apathy, loathing, to where they are today, benign neglect. There is no denying that we are all genetically programmed to “love our mummy”, and from our first days in preschool, we are bombarded with images of caring, protective, and loving mothers. But what if this is not a realistic portrayal of your relationship? I feel a huge dread in writing about this topic because I know that so many women who are reading this blog might internalize what I’m about to say and “heap it on” to the incredible maternal guilt they may already have as mothers themselves. Believe me when I tell you that this is not my intent, nor do I want to write a scathing monologue about how my mother “has done me wrong”. Instead, I’d like to delve into the issues many of us have with our parents, and in so doing, possibly create a dialogue about what we can do differently as parents ourselves.
As a jumping off point, I decided to adapt some of the questions used by psychologists in assessing “adult attachment issues”. Question One: Write down 5 adjectives used to describe your relationship with your mother (parent). Question Two: If both parents were present during your upbringing, with which parent did you feel safest. Question Three: Why do you think your parent behaved the way he/she did when you were a child? Question Four: Were there any changes in your relationship with this parent from childhood to you entering adulthood?
It really is remarkable how much insight can be gleaned from four simple questions, and I would encourage you to take a minute to sit quietly and jot down your answers to these questions. For me, this is a very healthy and constructive way to put my relationship with my mother into perspective because the questionnaire is free of blame, and the questions themselves speak more to feelings than to specific events.
Another place I turned to as a way I coming to terms with my dysfunctional relationship with my mother was to a book by Terri Apter entitled, Difficult Mothers: Understanding and Overcoming Their Power. In her research, Terri Apter identifies five maternal archetypes that may leave their children with a life-long legacy of pain, anger, and low self-esteem as these children enter adulthood. The four types identified were: angry mother, controlling mother, narcissistic mother, envious mother, and emotionally unavailable mother. Again, I’m not intending to malign mothers here, so these archetypes could easily be applied to fathers as well.
In the case of my relationship with my mother, we haven’t spoken to each other in over two years. As I mentioned earlier, there was a time, not too long ago, when I loathed my mother with every sinew in my being. I blamed her for walking out on us when I was 9, and I wrongly found her culpable for not protecting me, and subsequently leaving me open to the childhood sexual abuse that entered my life after she had left. In Terri Apter’s terms, my mother met the criteria of the “emotionally unavailable mother”. However, when I look at my relationship through the lens of the four questions in the adult attachment questionnaire, I begin to see my mother’s perspective and the rationale for her making the decisions she did. It’s very humbling to admit that “it’s not all about me”, and that although we, as children, are important in our parents’ lives, we are not, and never could, be the center of their universe. My mom was raising me in the 1960s, while she was in a bad marriage to a man she no longer loved. Her options were limited; she felt trapped, and it was the time when your family doctor prescribed Valium like it was candy. No matter how difficult it may be for me to accept this, I have to believe that my mother did the best she could do, being the person she was in the situation in which she found herself.
Part of my healing journey has meant that I can no longer hold on to anger and resentment because they are both toxic and are insurmountable obstacles to my growth. My relationship with my mother no longer tethers me to my unhappy past because I have made a conscious decision not to feed that relationship with my anger. I’m learning to accept that some things in life just can’t be changed, can’t be improved, and can’t be fixed. I now think of my mother with what Buddhists call benign neglect. I simply let me relationship with my mother be “what it is”, and for me, that means not seeing her right now because I don’t feel “healthy” when I’m engaged with her.
The last time I spoke to my mother, a little over 2 years ago, I ended the conversation by saying “Mom, I may not like you right now, but I’ll always love you. You are my mother and nothing will ever change that.” So, where does that leave me now that I’ve come to this realization? For one, I am conscious of my relationship with my son, and I am doing everything I can, not to repeat the family cycle. What’s more, I will never close the door on my relationship with my mother because by being “open to love”, gratitude and grace have space to enter my life.W
I don’t profess to have any idea of an overall “theme” for my blog posts, but there is an underlying message, or currency, that I’m very conscious of. My impetus for starting this writing project was born out of trauma and my attempt to make sense of that trauma in my life. There has been much written and recorded about the devastating effects of childhood sexual abuse, and you can find accounts of people who have managed to build a life after the trauma, but there is void of information about personal accounts of people processing the trauma and the period of transformation itself. My blog entries are the manifestation of that process of transformation, in real time, delivered with an intense honesty.
Childhood sexual abuse is so devastating because it rips apart the core of what we all need to feel “human”, a sense of connection with those around us. It’s this need for connection that lies at the heart of every life story, in every single one of us. A significant aspect of my transformation involves me trying to “own my story”. For most of my life, I buried my story because it wasn’t the script I wanted to live. So many times I envied what I thought others had, a happy childhood, an infinite well of self-confidence, and a clear idea of where their life was headed. Of course, this is just a fallacy because we all harbor pain and secrets that don’t jive with the storybook ending. I’m trying to remind myself that owning my story will involve accepting all the drama that comes with my life. It’s the scars, imperfections, and bumps that make us all unique and lovable. I find it helpful to remember that a smooth life, a safe life, may in fact be a boring life. As the poet William Archer said: “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” So, if you’d like to keep reading, I’d be honored to share some of this “uncertainty” that’s been present in my life recently.
I was talking to my wife after dinner last night and I mentioned to her how important I feel it is to share in blog not only the good things but also the struggles I’m going through. Have you ever thought about the idea that what we don’t share, is lost forever? That gorgeous sunrise you saw sitting alone on the dock does stay in your memory, but once you are gone, the memory is lost forever unless you share it with someone else. It’s through this sharing of what happens to us, or what we witness, that these events acquire meaning or come to life. By sharing about the abuse that I experienced as a child, I give meaning to what occurred, and it’s this connection with one, or many of you, that gives "my story" a purpose.
This brings me to what’s been happening in my story lately. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been plagued by the onset of night terrors, as I wake up screaming and flushed with the images of the sexual assault I lived through as a child playing in my mind like an old newsreel. I’m not really sure what to make of this new development because up until recently, I had never dreamt about the childhood sexual abuse before. My therapist assures me that this is a natural process that the brain experiences as I delve deeper into the abuse in my childhood and my mind attempts to reconnect to the traumatic memories that lay parceled away for so many years to keep me safe. It’s just another example of how sometimes things need to fall apart so that we can put them back together in a better way.
I greatly appreciate all of the emails and comments that you’ve sent me encouraging me along this journey, and how you often remark on the beauty of this transformational process. I feel that my gratitude to you can only be wholeheartedly expressed if I am honest with you. Setbacks are inevitable, and progress may take the form of regress at times. The tools I’m learning to incorporate as a means to “breathe through” the setbacks are: First, to acknowledge that something is neither “good” nor “bad”, it “just is.” Second, to eliminate blame from the equation because personal growth can’t thrive in an environment of negativity. Third, to seek the answer inside myself by using spiritual means such as yoga, meditation, and gratitude. Finally, to give myself the gift of time and believe that I’m worthy of the time and effort this journey will take.
I’d like to end this post with a little story of serendipity. As you can probably tell, I was on quite a low today, and to my surprise, the universe gave me just the tonic I needed. When I got home and collected the mail, I opened a letter from someone I knew in high school and with whom I’ve kept in sporadic contact on Facebook. She sent me a little note, and inside the card was an old black-and-white photo of me as an infant that she had found amongst her mother’s things when the family was cleaning out the house after her mother’s death. When I look into the eyes of that younger “me” in that photo, all I see is hope and trust in his eyes. Finding that child again has now become my “life story”. The picture you see above, is that boy.
I was filling out an online form today, and I had to select my birth year from a drop-down menu. There’s nothing like scrolling through all those years to make you realize how much of your life has already passed you by. Having spent so much of my life being governed by fear, I’m now hyper-conscious of living in the moment and stepping away from regret.
I came across a brilliant quotation by Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection that really struck a chord with me yesterday. “The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.” This is a perfect analogy of the way I have lived most of life. Periodically, I’m jolted by some event or circumstance, and I intuitively know what I’m supposed to do, or how I should react, but my default reaction is always to “hit the snooze button" and hope the problem or the feeling magically goes away on its own. This reminds me of that joke where a man prays to God as asks: “Please God, let me win the lottery this week.” The week goes by, and the man doesn’t win. Next week, the man looks up to the heavens and says: “Please God, I am a good man. I deserve to win the lottery.” The lottery passes again, and the man still doesn’t win. On the third week, the man drops to his knees and says: “God, I implore you, please bestow your blessings on me by allowing me to win this week’s lottery.” At which point, the heaven’s open up and a the booming voice of God declares: “Yes, I heard you, but first you have to buy a lottery ticket.”
Instead of waiting for the next “wake-up call" from the universe, I’ve decided to become an active participant in shaping the life I want to live. So, here’s my list of Five Things I Don’t Want To Regret In Life:
1. Don’t spend a lifetime amassing wealth and possessions instead of forging friendships and love. I find it so difficult not to get wrapped up in the pursuit of consumerism and the desire to have more of everything. I have to actively learn to turn off what my yoga instructor refers to as my “monkey mind”, and learn to really listen and be present with my friends and family. I once heard someone say that when we die, if we can have a handful of really close friends and family surrounding us, we have lived a rich life. When I think about that image, I’m terrified that I’ve been accumulating lots of acquaintances, but only a few people who I’ve allowed in to really get to know me. The path for me to change that now is through being authentic with people and relying less on self-sufficiency and more upon trust and vulnerability.
2. Cast out that voice in my head that says: “I’m not good enough.” Life has a way of beating us down and throwing what appear to be insurmountable obstacles in front of us. For years, I’ve been governed by my own self worth that I didn’t hold in high regard. Coming to terms with the physical and sexual abuse experienced in my childhood is showing me that I am “good enough” and I am “worthy of love.” Another common trap for me is to be handcuffed by perfectionism. I tell myself that if I can’t do something perfectly, then I shouldn’t do it all. My wife has adopted a great strategy to deal with this problem: “Stop trying to be perfect, and start trying to be whole.” Beautiful!
3. Stop numbing pain and discomfort and learn to “lean into the discomfort.” I’m an addict, so whenever things get too uncomfortable, my first reaction is to numb myself and construct a wall around that pain. Over the years, this numbing has come in the form of drugs, alcohol, food, and physical exercise. I now realize that before I react, I need to step back, pause, and slowly lean into the discomfort. It’s learning to accept discomfort as a natural part of my life that will enable me to grow and be present to witness the joy and happiness that follow uncomfortable personal growth. It’s impossible to only numb out the “bad”, without also numbing out the “good”.
4. Realize that having a passion is sexy! The people I’m most attracted to are those who have a passion that seems to ignite their entire being. From now on, I not going to be embarrassed about diving wholeheartedly into my latest passion. I’ve witnessed first hand what my passion for running has let into my life, so now it’s time to open the floodgates on other ways to ignite my soul.
5. I can’t give what I don’t have. There is a big difference between self-care and selfishness. Part and parcel of practicing mindfulness is identifying what I need to feel grounded, nourished, and whole. If you’re the type of person who needs a bit of “alone time” each day, then denying yourself this doesn’t do you or anyone else around you much good. If you’re like me, and you need structure in your day, then denying that basic need is bound to leach out into negativity in other parts of your life. I realized quite some time ago that I need to burn off some physical activity at the start of each day. If I don’t do it, I’m miserable to be around. As Brene Brown says: “We cannot give our children what we don’t have.” If I want my son to learn patience, trust, and courage, I need to nurture those in me and model those qualities for him.
So, the next time adversity stares me in the face, or life careens me in a different direction, I’ll try not to reach for the “snooze button” and instead, remember my list of regrets I don’t want to take to the grave.