Well, I can’t say that I was thrilled about the election results. Quite the opposite. I was disappointed. Hugely. But, almost immediately after I finished licking my wounds and consoling my sobbing 8-year old, my mindset shifted. I was going to effect change. Continue reading
If you know me, you know the role that running plays in my life. It’s not just a hobby or a social activity, although it is certainly both of those things. For me, running is the deepest form of meditation and reflection. Running is contemplation in action. Continue reading
I couldn’t watch Michelle Obama’s speech. You know, the one that’s all over Facebook and in the news. The one she gave in New Hampshire last week, in which she talked about Trump’s horrible comments about how he relates to women. In which she talks about what it’s like being female in our culture.
You see, I started to watch the video with my husband, but I asked him to stop it. After a few minutes, it struck a nerve. It brought up too many memories of similar circumstances in my own life, of being female and being objectified. It was, honestly, too painful for me to finish watching.
When I was 13, a stranger, a man at least 10 years older than me, led me into a secluded part of a park and forced himself on me. I ran away before anything truly terrible happened, but I was scared and ashamed as if somehow I was responsible for his actions. That was the first time, but sadly not the last time, that a man made unwanted advances at me or that I felt ashamed of what had happened to me.
As an adult, I have been the object of crass comments and lewd stares. Once, while I was running on a Saturday morning, dressed in tights and a t-shirt, a stranger yelled, “Work that pussy!” as I ran by him. Another time, I was called to HR to discuss my job, and the employee questioning me stared at my chest for most of the time I was in his office.
I’m not alone in experiencing this behavior. Every woman, every single woman I’ve spoken to, has a similar story. Or she has many stories. It’s commonplace enough to make you think it’s part of the collective female narrative. This is what to expect if you are a girl or woman. This is a rite of passage for being female. A man is going to try to kiss you or touch you when you haven’t consented to it. A man is going to say something to you that relegates you to body parts for his enjoyment. You will feel shame for being female.
After the uproar over Trump’s horrible words, many said, “Let’s get back to the real issues.” Well, I call bullshit on that.
Treating women like objects that can be manhandled and dominated, acting as if women are only breasts and vaginas that exist for a man’s pleasure, these are real issues. This behavior and thinking affects girls and women in the educational system. It affects women in the workforce. It affects women in domestic relationships. It affects our laws and institutional practices. So, I cannot imagine an issue more important or real.
This kind of behavior and thinking is insidious. It whispers under its breath that, “Girls, you aren’t equal, and you don’t control your own bodies.”
When females are devalued by words and actions, it impacts all of us – men, women – and our society. It doesn’t just influence how men view women. It influences how women view themselves.
So let’s not brush over what Trump said. He spoke his truth. And, unfortunately, that truth is shared by many others. Those in political power. Those working at our offices. Those praying at our churches. Those strangers you run into on the street.
Well, this is my truth. I am not a pussy. I am not tits. I am not your plaything or your property. I am scientist and an educator and a runner and a writer and a parent and a spouse. I work. I raise kids. I volunteer at the school library. I pay taxes. I vote. This is being female. This is who I am.
The other day I was talking with my husband about my job. Like any job, mine can be a source of frustration. There are several cons that keep me wondering if I should stay. Like, I don’t see myself growing professionally in the position I’m currently in or even having the possibility of growing beyond the position I’m currently in. I don’t see myself making more money. I don’t feel like the job feeds my soul or nurtures my passions although it involves writing and science (2 facets of my life that I love).
So I told my husband exactly what I’ve been thinking. “I might start looking for another job next year, because this job doesn’t feed my soul.”
Do You Love What You Do?
This kind of thinking – that you should do what you love and do work that matters – is relatively new in the collective consciousness. It is born of the self-improvement movement that implores us to pursue our passion. It is born of Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” It is born of sites like Live Your Legend, which maintains, “doing work you love is a fundamental human right.”
This kind of thinking has seeped into my own mindset. So I tell my husband, “I might start looking for another job next year, because this job doesn’t feed my soul.”
And my husband turns to me and says, “Keep your job, and feed your soul outside of work time.”
He wasn’t being dismissive of my desire to do meaningful work or love what I do. He was reminding me that my current job, for all it’s not so great parts, is a pretty good gig. It allows me enormous flexibility and freedom. It’s not a full time job, and it doesn’t have regularly scheduled hours. So, in effect, it provides me lots of time, time every single day, to pursue my interests (or run errands or take a nap or do nothing at all).
No, the job itself may not feed my soul, but it provides the opportunity for me to feed my soul. My soul gets fed from 5 to 9 rather than from 9 to 5. And that’s okay.
Your Job Can Have Meaning Without Feeding Your Soul.
What Steve Jobs and Live Your Legend and a million other sources fail to recognize is that every job is meaningful, whether you love it or not. (By the way, I’m not knocking Live Your Legend. I’m actually a fan and subscribe to their newsletter.)
Doing what you’re passionate about doesn’t have to pay you a salary. Doing what you’re passionate about simply means you do it, because you want to or need to in order to stay sane, be happy, and move through life.
Unless you’re a weapons dealer or a warlord, your work has real meaning. No matter what you do. Cleaning toilets is meaningful if it helps feed your family. Bookkeeping is meaningful if you find it fulfilling. Processing and copyediting manuscripts (my “day” job) is meaningful. It’s meaningful, because it affords me the luxury of being home every day with hours to write or run or take a nap (all of which I am passionate about).
Maybe promoting the idea that we all ought to follow our passion in our professional lives is a little short sighted. Honestly, isn’t it enough simply to find time every day to do what you love? If you can do that in your work, then great. But, if you can’t, then that’s okay, too.
Keep doing what you love. Keep feeding your soul, even if it’s from 5 to 9 and not 9 to 5..
Bond is a funny word. The first definition is ‘something shared between people, that connects them.’ Like a marriage bond. The second definition is ‘a chain that is used to prevent someone from acting freely.’ Like a marriage bond.
What I mean is that in marriage, you are emotionally, financially, and physically connected to someone else. Of course you can’t act freely. Marriage isn’t all about you. It’s all about TWO of you and the partnership you’ve created.
I’ve been in my second marriage for 14 years. Having screwed up my first marriage beyond repair, I like to think that I am a bit more invested in making this new one work. (Oh, the generous thoughts I have). I want to believe that I am actively forging the marriage bond I’ve made, doing my part to stay connected.
But, let’s face it. It’s easy to get complacent in a marriage. Sometimes, when you have a job and a child and/or a long list of obligations and responsibilities, you neglect your marriage. That’s just life. Working on your relationship becomes less of a priority when you have a deadline to meet, a child to take to a lesson, bills to pay, laundry to do, etc. You take for granted that the marriage will coast by with minimal effort, that it can sustain neglect.
Then reality slaps you in the face. You come to your senses and realize that this line of thinking is totally false. Neglect never sustains anything. If you stop watering a plant, it dies. If you stop exercising, you gain weight. If you stop attending to your marriage, it suffers. It’s that simple.
This realization happened to me recently. I discovered my marriage on the back burner, where I had let it languish for a few months. I got busy with life then noticed that I was saying and doing things, and not saying and not doing things, that were self-serving and not relationship-serving.
Both my actions – an unkind word here, a negative tone there – and my inactions – thoughtlessness, carelessness, inattention – were creating break points in my marriage bond. As a result, I wasn’t forging the marriage bond. I was chiseling away at it.
Like anything worth anything, marriage is work. It’s hard work, committed work, life long (or as long as you want the marriage to last) work. You have to constantly shape it and work at it to forge a sustainable marriage bond and stay connected. Otherwise, the bond gets stressed and breaks.
Life lesson #3127. Invest in the relationship you’ve chosen. Take your marriage off the back burner. Stop letting the relationship coast. Work it. Pay attention. Stay connected. Forge the marriage bond you want.
If you haven’t learned a few things from Donald Trump, you haven’t been paying attention this election season. If nothing else, this man has been a stellar example of how not to relate to others and how not to behave.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has been reckless, over-reactive, and quick-tempered. In my opinion, he has exhibited an impressive lack of forethought, good judgment, and calmness – qualities most people admire and strive to have.
So, it’s the honest truth when I say that I have learned a lot from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has taught me 4 crucial lessons on how to be a better human.
- An immediate reaction is not always warranted. Sometimes the best response is no response at all. We all feel slighted or wronged from time to time. When this happens, it’s hard not to tap out a quick email and tell that jerk who offended you what an a**hole he is. But, in the end, what purpose does that hot tempered reaction serve? Sure, it might make you feel better in the moment, but does it actually change the situation for you? Does it bring you a sense of peace, a feeling of happiness, or resolution to a sticky situation? Unlikely.
- Pause and think before you say or do something. Sometimes a little time out from whatever is making you crazy is all you need in order to regroup. Rather than immediately reacting to something when you feel aggrieved (see point 1 above), create some time and space between the stimulus and your response. Pause. Breathe. Walk around the block. Write that email (but do not put anyone’s name in the “To” line for god’s sake!), then hit delete. The desire to react will subside. You won’t have reacted, and you’ll feel better for it.
- Listen deeply to others. People you know, respect, and trust can have good advice to give. Often, that advice is coming from a point of view that may be more objective than yours. So, listen to what other people have to say. Don’t be so committed to your own way of thinking, and your own ideas about how things ought to be, that you can’t consider the counsel of others. Also, don’t close yourself off because you’ve been offended by what someone has said. Consider where that person is coming from. They may be speaking from their own wounds.
- Put your big girl panties on and say you’re sorry. We all screw up. We all say and do things we wish we could take back. But, we can’t take these things back (hence the importance of points 1 and 2 above). We can’t undo the wrongheaded things we’ve done, but we can recognize the error of our ways and be adult about it. Yes, it’s hard to get past our ego (admitting we were wrong) and our embarrassment (because we did something stupid), and admit our mistakes, but that’s what you have to do when you screw up. Apologize and make things right.
You all know that I’m all about learning from whatever experience in which you find yourself – good or bad. So, instead of rolling my eyes when I witness atrocious behavior from others, I’m turning the tables and getting something out of it. I’m letting Trump teach me. And he’s teaching me a lot.
One thing I know for sure is that you can’t change other people just by telling them what to do. The Ten Commandments are the perfect example of this. If God Almighty can’t even get those who claim to love and serve him to abide by what he says is right, then what hope is there for us mere mortals to do the same with each other? Not much. So, while I believe you can (and should) write your own life story, stick to that story, please. Don’t try to ghostwrite someone else’s story, too.
In practical terms, this means fixing and changing ourselves and not putting our energy and attention on trying to fix and change someone else. Of course, we know that we’re right and the other person is wrong, but that’s beside the point. The point is you can only write your own life story. You can’t write someone else’s. At least not if you want to be successful.
When you write your own life story, the bestselling version, you behave toward others how you wish they would behave toward you. You give to others what you wish you could receive back. When you write your own life story, you live your own life, and you are responsible for your actions and words.
Ghostwriting someone else’s story means you tell them what to do and how to live. You offer (mostly unsolicited) advice about what is the right course of action. You (mostly ineffectually) cajole, nag, eye roll, and repeat yourself to get the other person to change his or her behavior.
I speak from years and years of experience, so trust me on this. You can’t dictate how other people behave. You cannot ghostwrite someone else’s story. It just doesn’t work. The plot fails. The book isn’t a bestseller. It’s a flop.
Of course, getting past this conditioned response (to change someone else because he’s wrong and I’m right!) requires enormous patience and compassion. It’s not easy turn the other cheek when you’d like to smack someone across the face (because they’re not doing what you tell them to do).
In situations like this, ask yourself these questions. Is it better to be right or is it better to be at peace? Do I want to create more tension (asserting that my way is the better way) or do I want to create harmony? That’s really the bottom line.
Sometimes you have to shut up and get over yourself. Your way isn’t the one, right way. It’s just one way. And writing your life story is YOUR practice. About you and for you. It’s about trying every day, every hour, every minute, to manifest the person you want to be, to make a small step toward the goals you want to realize, to be more attuned to your best self.
If you want peace in your relationships, write your own life story. Be the author and creator of your life and no one else’s.
Get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable. That’s what the Universe is trying to get through my thick skull these days. Feel stressed? Embrace it. Feel overwhelmed? Accept it. Feel like your head is going to explode? Make the best of it.
Ommmmmmm. I’m trying to get comfortable what’s uncomfortable in my life. Which is everything.
You’d think I’d be jumping up and down with excitement as the reality of moving back to the States approaches. And I am, believe me. I’ve wanted to go back for at least the last 3 years. In my (irrational) mind, being here and not there is part of the reason why I’ve been so unhappy for so long. So, I’m ecstatic to go home. In theory.
In reality, the day-to-day orchestrating of an international move is making me crazier than I already was to begin with. I am under enormous stress. We still don’t know where we’ll end up. We have lots of furniture to sell. We have foreign contracts to break and accounts to close. On top of this, I’m still working 30 hours a week on my main job and on my new side gig (blogging for HealthyPlace.com). Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I slept through an entire night, because I wake up every night. Every. Single. Night. I wake up anxious about everything that has to happen, everything that hasn’t happened, everything that might happen.
Does my anxiety make anything better? Hell no. In fact, it makes me suffer. It makes my relationships suffer. It makes everything ten times worse.
So I have to learn to get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable. And this means letting go of my need to control the outcome. It means being okay with uncertainty, and it means trusting that everything will work out. Maybe not exactly how I want, maybe not on my time line, but it will work out.
How do I get to that mental space where I’m comfortable with what’s uncomfortable? I create some spaciousness around the anxiety. I remind myself that this experience is bigger than me. This is not just about me and what I want and when I want it. It’s also about my husband and his job and what he wants. It’s about the laws and regulations of our host country. It’s about putting the contents of our lives into a 20-foot container to be shipped across the world (and the enormous amount of money involved in that). Oh. My. Goddess. There’s a lot of uncomfortable to get comfortable with right now.
Creating space around this chaos means gaining some perspective. When I zoom the lens out, I’m able to see that while this event is currently the focal point of my life, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the focal point of my life at all. It’s one, brief episode in the overall arc. Several weeks in a lifetime of decades. Several weeks of challenges that will eventually end and then I’ll be in the next episode (where I’m sipping a glass of something yummy, sitting on a beach reading a book. Or maybe just working at my same job but in the US. Whatever.).
The current episode is tough, but I’m going to get through it. And, to do so I’ve got to create some space and perspective and keep it together. In other words, I’ve got to get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable.
When I was suffering in the darkest days of my depression, I was utterly hopeless. Despondent and helpless, I honestly felt that I was powerless to manifest any meaningful change in my life.
Hopelessness was my filter, the lens through which I interpreted everything that happened to me and about me. Life sucked. I sucked. And nothing was ever going to get better.
But as I move out of this darkness, I’m learning hope; it’s my new filter, the lens that is helping me become and see myself as emotionally competent.
Learning hope does not mean having blind optimism. I am not 100% confident that everything will work out the way I want. Nor do I think that I’m immune from sadness, heartache, or loss. Those emotions and experiences are simply part of living. They don’t just happen to me. They happen to everyone.
Learning hope means developing emotional flexibility, being able to bounce back from difficulty rather than allowing it to overwhelm me. It means knowing that although I’ll experience tough times, I won’t generalize about them. I won’t say things like, “This [shit] always happens to me,” when something goes awry.
Learning hope means embodying the adage that, ‘This too shall pass.’ I have to remember that the journey of life is a marathon, not a sprint. Circumstances change. Emotions change. People change. I have to be able to adjust my outlook and behavior. I have to course correct to make the long haul.
This is the essence of learning hope. It’s not an attitude. It’s a practice and a life skill.
Image courtesy of flickr user pol sifter
From the moment we are born, we are exposed. Thrust from our dark, warm, watery bubble into the bright, cold, air-filled world, our life begins with being vulnerable.
But we learn rather quickly that, in this world, being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. So, we cover up the parts of our bodies that seem less than perfect. We put up defenses to shield ourselves from feeling disappointment or heartache. We behave in ways that won’t draw attention to our vulnerabilities, our perceived weaknesses.
If there is one thing that writing this blog has taught me it’s that being vulnerable is not something to be ashamed of or hide from. Quite the opposite. Being vulnerable is being authentic, liberated, and human. It is something to aspire to.
Being Vulnerable is Being Authentic.
When being vulnerable, you honor your truth. You live your story. You don’t rewrite the story when talking to others, in order to project a certain image. You don’t edit out parts of your story to fit in. You admit your victories as well as your failures, your joys and your miseries. That is your life story. There is no shame in it.
Being Vulnerable is Being Liberated.
When being vulnerable, you liberate yourself from the constraints of others. What they think about you and how they might judge you becomes irrelevant. It’s not that you don’t care about the opinions of others. It’s that you consider your words and actions in light of your own values and not in light of how others might perceive you. You trust yourself, so you let yourself be exactly who you are.
Being Vulnerable is Being Human.
Being vulnerable means embracing your imperfections and your struggles, the very things that you may think of as limiting. In fact, they are not. They are opportunities for growth and self actualization. They are being human. As Brené Brown wrote, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” That pretty much sums up the human experience.
Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is empowering. Try it out for a day, a week, or a lifetime. Honor your truth. Liberate yourself. Be human.