We Are Who We Are, Aren’t We?

we are who we are

For as long as I can remember I have experienced a range of feelings that made me feel  like I was missing out on life. Social anxiety, self-doubt and criticism, anger, fatigue, fear of failure and, at times, self-imposed social withdrawal. I had so much to be grateful for, but I never seemed content for very long.  I felt that this was my lot in life.

After all, we are who we are, right?

I think that so many of us feel that it’s impossible to make big changes and we just hunker down and “armor up,” as Brene´ Brown would say. Rather than focus inward, which is too painful and overwhelming, and wade through the heavy fog of emotions that never really seem to lift, we distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, social media, work, over scheduling, and by accumulating, organizing and maintaining more and more stuff!

There are some bright spots along the way, but the years pass and we never seem to be able to lift ourselves completely out of the fog.

After all, we are who we are.

Well, I disagree!

Change is possible! But in most cases, things just don’t get better. We have to make an effort to work through what we’re not satisfied with in our lives.  We have to get to the point of being so sick and tired of hearing ourselves complain about the same things over and over again in order to take action.  Or, as was the case with me, we get a major wake up call. A big life change (or many smaller ones) or trauma can cause a shift in our thinking, feeling, what we choose to let into our lives and what we choose to eliminate.

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I’ve been on this journey for two years now and I have discovered so many things that have helped me be who I WANT to be. There are books, blogs, and e-courses that have inspired me whose authors range from everyday people, like Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker, to research psychologists like Brene´ Brown and Kristin Neff  (ALL superheroes in my opinion!). I’ve shared some of my favorite reads below.

Other things that have helped me greatly and which have become part of who I am are yoga, meditation, writing, nature and outdoor activities (especially hiking), minimalism and nutrition. These things help me focus on being present and positive and make me feel so alive! I am extremely lucky to have a supportive group of family and friends who love me unconditionally and who I can rely on for encouragement. I am so grateful for them!

It’s been a slow, DELIBERATE process of trial and error. It literally started with going outside on a daily basis and gardening- planting, repotting or even just weeding. I’ve tried many different activities and if I enjoyed them, they felt good and they fit into my lifestyle, they became part of my routine. If not, I moved onto something else. I’ve read things that have been extremely helpful and even life changing, and other things that have not really worked for me.

I realized that things weren’t going to change unless I put down the armor and started to move forward and pull MYSELF up out of the fog.

I want to encourage you not to give up! If you are not happy or satisfied and you feel it in your bones that there has to be a better way, then take action! Big changes can come from small steps you take on a consistent basis.

Try something different today. Take a walk, read a helpful book or blog, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, do yoga, go for a hike or run, paint, write or draw, eat better, or just sit in the garden and put your hands in the dirt. Start small. Baby steps. Slow and steady. If it doesn’t feel helpful, try something different. If it resonates with you and makes you feel good, keep doing it, until it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. Once it becomes habit, experiment with something else.

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You might even try something called, “habit stacking.” Courtney Carver explains this as the pairing of two new habits each for brief periods of time, like a few minutes. Over time, you can extend the amount of time spent on each of these. I started with a short meditation (3-6 minutes) followed by a journal entry where I wrote 2 brief statements: a gratitude statement and an intention for the day.

Before you know it, you’ll have several things in your self-care arsenal! You can pick and choose which will be helpful to you on any given day rather than fall back on old habits that were more numbing than healing.

Reach out to positive, encouraging people who will support you. Embrace change!

I used to think that there was some secret to peace and happiness, but what I’ve discovered is that these things are well within our reach. We just have to make an effort to move in a different direction. Just like the lotus, we may have to go through some mud before we can rise above it.

My journey, with its twists and turns, achievements and setbacks is what life is all about and I’m glad to finally be in the game!

Here are some inspiring reads that have helped me along the way:

The Gifts of Imperfection-Brene´  Brown

Daring Greatly –Brene´  Brown

Rising Strong-Brene´  Brown

The Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz

The More of Less-Joshua Becker

Buddhist Boot Camp-Timber Hawkeye

Faithfully Religionless-Timber Hawkeye

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself– Kristin Neff

http://bemorewithless.com/

http://www.rowdykittens.com/

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

http://www.timberhawkeye.com/

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Life Imitates Nature

I really enjoy being outdoors-hiking, walking, gardening and just observing. So often I’m able to make sense of things that I’m thinking and feeling when I take a cue from nature.

I think we all strive to be the best we can be. We all have room for growth and it makes us feel good to learn new things about ourselves. When we know better, we do better, and when we do better, we feel better.

Perhaps you are working on simplifying your life, focusing more on a healthy lifestyle, improving your relationships, having more patience or compassion, sticking to a self-care routine or stepping out of your comfort zone.

Let’s face it, growth and change is work, and we all have our days, and even weeks, when we just don’t have the energy to move forward. There are some days when, rather than meditate, go for a walk, prepare a healthy meal or catch up on some reading for a great e-course on how we can be more self-aware, we may just opt to eat a bag of chips and take a long nap. Sound familiar?

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I think we all need a restorative break from time to time. Maybe we had a particularly difficult day or it has just been one of those weeks (or months)! Although we may feel as if we had a minor setback in reaching our personal goals, it doesn’t mean that we are any less committed, courageous or enlightened.

We can move on and pick up where we left off when we’re ready and continue on our path.

It’s been a rough Spring for my majestic Magnolia tree. Its sweet-smelling, pink flowers just started to open up when we had a hard frost. The buds never fully opened, they just shriveled up and turned brown.

I reflected on how I’d been feeling the past few weeks as I looked at the brown leaves. My tree wasn’t at its best and I didn’t feel I was either. I felt like I didn’t have much energy or motivation, and I wasn’t making the most healthy choices. I hadn’t meditated in weeks and just couldn’t get moving. Whatever I was experiencing had thrown off my momentum, just like the hard frost had done to the tree.

After a few weeks of observing the shriveled up brown leaves, I noticed a change in my tree! The beautiful, bright green leaves had started to sprout and open up to the warmth and sunshine!

And just like that, the journey continues. I think I’ll go for a walk.

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Stay In Your Own Lane

Stay in your own lane. I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately. To me it means to nurture and take care of ourselves, pay attention only to opinions that matter and to focus on things that bring us happiness and joy. I try to stay in my own lane.

But what happens when we get sideswiped?

I was cruising along this week when a few insensitive comments, loss of sleep, and thoughts of loved ones that I miss knocked me out of my lane.

I have been able to deal with each of these things in the recent past with a level head and a light heart (or at least I’m trying), but cumulatively they really knocked me off-center.

So how do we get back in our lanes?

As I watched the April snow fall on my beautiful, partially bloomed, very confused Magnolia tree, nature, once again, revealed the answer.

We stay the course and do our best. We deal with each thing that has knocked us out of our desired path the best way we can. And we eventually get back in our lanes.

Each experience makes us uniquely who we are and moves us closer to our authentic selves. Our imperfections are what makes us human, more alike than different, and I think this is the bigger picture.

The flowers on my Magnolia tree may look less than perfect this Spring, but the tree is much more than something beautiful to look at. As I peered into the tree, I smiled at what I saw through the wind-swept branches.

On this cold, snowy Spring morning, my Magnolia tree is the sturdy home which gently cradles a mother dove in her nest. Can you see her?

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Realty Check

realty check

Today was the first day of a week long break from work. Ahhh, finally some much-needed time off! Except I felt more like a snake in a can than someone about to have a relaxing, rejuvenating week. I’ve always done better with structure, so I can’t say that I was surprised.

I started to think of everything I wanted to accomplish, both short term and long range. I wanted to continue exercising and meditating, get some more minimizing done, get together with friends and family, catch up on work, my e-course and my writing, schedule the medical visits I’ve been putting off and plan for my next move and my next career!

I didn’t know where to begin and instead withdrew with one of my common default behaviors: I went back to bed. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Sleeping had always been one of my coping mechanisms and I usually felt better after a nap. But, even after pulling my flannel sheets over my head to block out the daylight, I couldn’t fall asleep.

So I grabbed my phone and started scanning various social media sites to take my mind off things. I knew this wouldn’t bring me any closer to managing my “to do” list, but at least it would give me a break from this “free fall” feeling.

I know social media is a big time waster for me and I was feeling pretty crappy when I saw a picture of a distant friend’s smiling face. I had heard she was struggling with an illness, which was evidenced by her covered head.

Tears came to my eyes and my pity party abruptly ended as I instantly realized how utterly ridiculous I was being. What would she think of how I was squandering my time?

Instead of continuing to reach out to old habits like sleep or a technology binge to withdraw from life, I decided to lean into what I was feeling and draw on some new things I’ve learned.

I did some yoga, meditated, ate a healthy lunch and made a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish this week and what I wanted to include in my daily routine, like something active. I felt much more focused, grounded and alive!

I’m grateful for this realty check while deeply saddened that others have to endure such pain and suffering. I will honor them by emulating their strength and courage as best I can, and by leaning into life.

 

 

 

A New Year’s Pause

Happy New Year

Sometimes things aren’t as clear as we’d like them to be. They aren’t always neatly defined and life can be downright confusing. Rather than reacting to the discomfort of the unknown by making New Year’s Resolutions to try to change things, maybe we should just hit the pause button.

Maybe we’re right where we need to be.

The weather has been unseasonably and gloriously mild and I recently noticed that the bright green summer grass was poking through an early dusting of snow. I even saw remnants of autumn as a few leaves blew around.

Yet I don’t think the deer that ran through this area was confused or uncomfortable at all. She was right where she needed to be as she made her way through to her favorite apples on the ground in my yard.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place that may seem confusing, or we may feel like we’re not moving forward fast enough on our journey of self growth. Perhaps we’ve worked really hard and just need to catch our breath. Or maybe we’re unsure of our next move. We may even know what our next move needs to be but we’re trying to conjure up the courage or put together the means to move forward.

I’ve often found that it’s in this space that some of my best self-work happens, for it’s in the pause that I’m able to hear and really listen to the quiet revelations that may have otherwise been lost in all the doing.

So as uncomfortable as we might be with not knowing our next move, I think this space is an important part of our journey. Just like the deer making her way through some confusing weather to get to her favorite apples, I think we need to find meaning and comfort in the uncomfortable parts of our journey, since it’s in this space and beyond that we may find the tastiest fruits of our labor.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
-Neale Donald Walsch

Rather than the typical New Year’s Resolutions this year,  we might just need A New Year’s Pause. Let’s start a new tradition!

Happy New Year!  Wishing you Peace, Love, Presence and Pause in 2016!

 

 

 

 

Grateful Longing

Can we feel gratitude and longing at the same time?

I had a mix of emotions this morning. As I walked through my home I was feeling extremely grateful. I’ve paired down what I have so that my most favorite things are clearly on display. Pictures of people I cherish, cards from loved ones, items that represent past family vacations and several things that belonged to past generations. These things bring me such joy!

I’m so grateful for the deep love that I share with family and friends and the meaningful life that I have.

I carried this feeling outside with me as I walked my dog (SO grateful that he’s healthy at 17 1/2) into the crisp autumn air. Thinking about my intention this winter to get outside more despite really disliking the cold, even the cold didn’t deter my grateful feelings.

Funny how a simple sound could bring on a wave of sadness. As a dove fluttered from branch to branch I instantly thought of my dad and my mom. I really miss them.

My dad raised homing pigeons and I was around the sights, sounds (and smells) of them my entire life. Doves are white pigeons and so hearing them squeak as they flew from branch to branch brought back a wave of memories and emotions.

I looked up into the trees so grateful for all the years I had with my parents, yet longed to spend time with them this Thanksgiving. As the tears rolled down my cheeks and I glanced down at my dog, I noticed a tiny feather floating down from above. As I caught it in my hand, I smiled, grateful once again. Thanks dad!

Grateful Longing

May you all feel grateful even as you long for your loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

Love, Light and Positivity (Mostly)

How do you know that being all there is actually working and having a positive impact on your life?

Personally, I’ve noticed that I’m less anxious and more plugged into life and people, in general. I’m more patient and I feel that I’m able to focus more on people’s good intentions rather than get frustrated by some of their behaviors. A few days ago I was checking out in a craft store and before I knew it the cashier rang me up, my husband swiped his card to pay, and the transaction was over. It was actually TOO FAST for me!

Not too long ago the world was moving way too slow for me. Cashiers, drivers, the internet, the workday, etc. just weren’t fast enough.  I was so taken with this realization that  I didn’t even mind that I didn’t have time to present my teacher ID to receive a discount. I’ll be prepared next time!

I’ve noticed that I have some periods of time when  I’m able to focus on the present, incorporate my self-care routine regularly, and I feel pretty positive. But there are also times when I have to work extra hard to stay on track and not get dragged into the past or carried away by the future, especially when there are several different factors present that can potentially impact me negatively.

Beginning of Fall

I went back to work recently, had to say goodbye to my summer vacation and all of the time spent socializing that I cherish so much. The weather will be getting colder soon, the days shorter, and I’ll feel less inclined to spend time outside. I’ve noticed that I’m dwelling more on personal relationships and hurt feelings (yes, I’m still sensitive). Rather than surrender to these feelings, I’m choosing to do the best that I can to continue to use what I’ve come to realize are my coping skills.

I can really identify with this quote from an article I read recently by Bhava Ram:

“Negative emotions are like splinters. They pierce your consciousness, inflame your mind, and consume your thoughts.” – See more at: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/how-to-cultivate-positive-thoughts-in-negative-situations#sthash.85NkWkx6.dpuf

 

I felt pretty overwhelmed and emotional yesterday, but instead of sleeping all day, I lit a candle, did some yoga, went for a run (and then took a nap). I was really tired! Even though  I’m finding it more difficult to be present, I’m still meditating, journaling, reaching out to others, practicing forgiveness (and asking for forgiveness, when necessary) and eating nutritiously, because I know  from experience that these things will help me feel the best that I can.

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Even though I’m not full of love and light lately, I’m mostly positive, and that’s good enough for me!