A good return on investment

6 11 2007

I have been depressed for years. Being depressed, I did not feel like doing anything, and the less I did the less I felt capable of doing. There were days when coming out of bed was daunting, going to the store to buy food would equal climbing Mount Everest. Until I recognized how doing little or nothing had reinforced the state I was in. To get better, I had to do things.
So the years that followed, I was mainly being busy not to do nothing. Most days, I was continuously doing things from the time I got up to the time I went to sleep. On other days, being tired of being so busy, I mindlessly sat in front of the TV or read some boring book. Until I recognized how being busy to be busy left me numb. To feel fulfilled, I had to do things that are important to me.
So these days, next to doing things that just need to be done, I do a little nothing everyday and ideally spend the rest of my time on things that matter to me. It is not easy, sometimes even daunting not to turn on the TV, but I have learned that, even when feeling tired, giving energy to things that fuel me gives me more energy. I don’t know how, but the energy I invest comes back to me morefold. I can honestly say I have never felt so good in my life.

Just do it!

2 11 2007

Have you ever sat at your desk playing office, doing things that did not matter, just because you dreaded a phone call you had to make or a paper you needed to write? Something similar happened to me yesterday. The worst thing was I knew I was just fiddling around to avoid what I had to do. I was feeling awful. Finally, it hit me: I had better felt miserable while doing what had to be done. Then I would have been halfway and finished in the time I had reserved for it. This morning, as a result, I got up early to write this post, so I will have some extra time later to finish what could have been done yesterday.

On letting go

1 11 2007

These last weeks, I have been confronted with traits I don’t particularly value in people I do love dearly. It was eating me. How could I let them see they were on a road to nowhere? How could I let them see the world differently. Basically, I wanted to solve their problems. Until I discovered there is nothing I can do to solve this problem. There is no problem to begin with. Nothing has to be solved. This problem exists only in my mind. I have to let go of a wrong and right way of doing things.  Albeit I see they have so much more potential than they’re showing and would want their lives to be better, I have to let go of how I think people should react to life. I have to remember that even if they don’t see it themselves, they are still great. But most of all, I need to recognize these notions of good and bad exist only in my head.

Easy does it

30 10 2007

How do I do what matters most to me, without letting slide all these not so important things that need to be done? I’m not talking about those chores I do on a daily or weekly basis, they get done. Rather, how do I make time to finish the curtain that I am (or better said ‘was’) making for our kitchen window. Custom make that vinyl tablecloth so my girl can try and eat her own yoghurt? Adjust the leg length of my jeans? Sew the button on a shirt? I see it needs to be done, but I don’t seem to get around to doing it.
All of a sudden, I realize it might have nothing to do with having or making time. It’s about the sewing. What I want usually doesn’t exist or is so expensive I decide to make it myself. But as well as I can sew, I really don’t like it. Now what to do? There are three solutions. One, just buy what is available. Two, pay someone else to make it for me (risking it is not up to my standard). Or three, learn to have fun sewing. For the present projects, I will exercise willpower and try to change my perception. If that doesn’t work however; next time, I’ll consider having it done. And as a last resort, I can always go to the store as normal people would do. 
As obvious as this may seem to you, it’s huge to me. You really have no idea.

What’s the point?

23 10 2007

Yesterday, I was listening to an interview. All I could think was, He’s missing the point. Then it hit me. He was actually making the opposite point, which to me was not a valid point. Our basic paradigm was completely different. My first impulse was to stop listening, but after some deliberation I decided I would keep listening. Not prove him wrong, but to learn from him.
My brain is scanning the world to find proof for my beliefs. As does anyone’s brain. There are as many realities as there are people. This doesn’t mean everyone is right, but it does mean each reality is just as valid as the next. 
I decided I did not want to dismiss what he was offering, solely because his brain is looking for different proof. By validating his reality, I was able to see the point he was making. I was able to learn from his wisdom. His view on life has not changed my core beliefs, but trying to understand his reality has broadened my horizon.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

11 10 2007

I have committed myself to entering one post every day, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Seven posts a week, four of which my own writing. What do I do then when my mind is blank, when I have nothing to write about? Do I search frantically for some subject no matter what or do I renegotiate my commitment and let go? I was busy doing one, almost resorting to the other, when I was reminded there is a lesson in everything, all I have to do is capture it in writing. One lesson, one post, done.

My life, my choice

8 10 2007

I used to be a notorious people pleaser. I believed pleasing people was a quality.  Until, one day, I recognized that I had made some of my poorest choices simply to please others. It was my weakness. People pleasing was my addiction. It was not about the rush, it was about soothing the fear people would love me less. I craved their approval so much, I would do anything to get it. It had left me feeling numb. I did not feel alive. Then and there, I decided I would make a conscious effort to be honest about what I wanted in life. I understood it would not be easy, certainly not in the beginning. It meant confronting my fear and confronting people with my own choices. This was difficult, because I did not want to hurt their feelings. I slowly learned that as much as I am responsible for my own happiness, so are they for theirs. This is my life. In the end, only I am held accountable.

I’ll be all I can be

4 10 2007

A man who lost both his legs in an near-death accident, climbed the Kilimanjaro. A woman who was overweight for her entire life, lost over 300 pounds. A boy who was born without legs, ran the marathon. These people can break our limited perceptions of what is possible. Their accomplishments awed me, but I didn’t understand, and therefore dismissed these  stories to the realm of the amazing. It never occurred to me they were showing me I could do great things too.
All my life I’ve limited myself by thinking ‘I can’t do that’ or  ‘I would never be able to do that.’ Yesterday, I shifted gears. I changed my obsolete mantras for a brand new one: I can do this, I just have to figure out how.’ However impossible it might seem at the moment, I’ll be all I can be. I don’t know how I’ll get there, but I will. I believe that when I’ll keep the end in mind, keep believing in myself and just keep going, I, too, will accomplish great things.  

Spirit like water

2 10 2007

From crying profusely when a cake collapsed to being apathetic when my boyfriend was five minutes late. From cleaning my house, basement to attic, when my mother-in-law would come to not calling the dentist when I needed to. Most of the time I did not react appropriately to what was happening in my life. Over the years, things have gotten better, but my reactions are still off. I have high hopes for the future, though.
Alone by getting aware of this imbalance, I attained more balance already. It feels so good, I want more. I want to reach a state called mizu no kokoro. I want to have ‘a spirit like water’, be a perfectly still pond, mirroring the amount of energy that comes to me. If someone throws a pebble, I want to ripple accordingly and then return to calm. I want to go with the flow, be a current, following the path of least resistance. If I meet a rock, be it big or small, I want to simply follow its shape and keep flowing toward the sea. Which reminds me: I really do need to call that dentist.

How I got my act together

1 10 2007

Understanding I’m responsible for my life and claiming that responsibility has been a cathartic experience for me. I remember being very reluctant at first, as it meant I was responsible for the mess in my life. I had been an expert in blaming it on outside circumstances. Every job interview that did not lead to a job was because they wouldn’t look beyond my resume and because there were always people with more experience. It took some time for me to be able to admit I had created that mess. It had not been my intention. I had not been aware of what I had been doing.  But I had created it nonetheless. It took courage to admit that I had not gotten the job, because I had believed upfront I would not get the job anyway and therefore had not been able to convince them that I would be a great asset to their company. It took strength not to grieve over all those lost years and blame it on my past, but to forgive myself and move forward on this new road. I have learned that being fully responsible for my life not only gives a sense of control, but most importantly it expands my life by creating opportunities that weren’t there before.

The beam in my own eye

27 09 2007

I could get so frustrated by people’s behaviour. Why was he always late? Why did she never return my phone calls? Why was the person in front of me driving slowly? Their perceived lack of consideration could make me so angry. On some level, it even made me feel as if I didn’t matter. Until I learned that I was late on some occasions, I did not always return phone calls, I drove slowly when I was relaxed. Apparently, what irritated me with others were my own unrecognized (bad) habits. I was baffled. From then on, whenever I got frustrated or cross with someone, I realized that I must be culpable of the same ‘crime’, so I investigated how, when and why I did or had done the same. What I have discovered is shocking. The evidence I have uncovered is rather discriminatory. So for now, all I am willing to say is that I have become very, very, very tolerant toward other people.

gratitude attracts gratefulness

25 09 2007

Most of my life, my glass has been half empty. I was not happy with my life. I focused on the things that I didn’t have, that weren’t going the way I wanted. I wasn’t grateful for all the things I did have. You cannot see your glass as half full and half empty at the same time. At one point, I started a gratitude journal. Each day, writing down 5 things I was grateful for. At first, it was so hard. I just didn’t know where to look for it. But slowly, I learned to find gratitude in everything. In the smile of the woman passing by, in the bird singing his song, in the green of grass, in the way raindrops tick on my window, even in the way my tummy looks after giving birth and the extra pounds I have gained. Nowadays, my glass is half full on a bad day, but full on most days. I have learned that gratitude attracts gratefulness. What are you grateful for?

No wild-goose chase

21 09 2007

I believe it makes a huge difference if you’re being called a ‘stupid cow’ or a ‘genius’ on a daily basis.  How can you not believe these words if you hear them over and over again. It becomes a part of you, literally marks your personality. Knowing this, I made a conscious choice to speak to my baby in positive phrases only, from birth on. I thought I was doing rather well…Only, I had forgotten one little detail. As it seems my method was not fool proof, there was a loop hole I had not thought of. Nor did I see it, until it was pointed out to me. What I had completely overlooked, was one very crucial point: I lead by example. And there I wasn’t doing too well. Whenever I was making a sandwich and took the butter out of the fridge, but forgot the cheese, getting dressed and came downstairs realising I didn’t put on my shoes, sitting in my car and noticed my sunglasses weren’t in my bag, I would call myself ‘goose’. I said this over a zillion times a day. I said it so often, I didn’t notice it anymore. It had become a bad habit. A potentially dangerous habit, that is. Had I not caught it early on, it would have raised my daughter instead of me. It would have taught my daughter it is ok to belittle yourself, despite al my efforts. And that is not ok with me. Ever since, I’m on a goose chase. Every moment of the day, I try to lovingly eliminate geese from my vocabulary.

Reality is superceded by our limited perceptions

15 09 2007

‘Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvres in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battlship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”
“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.
Lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you to change course 20 degrees.”
Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”
The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”
“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees”
By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”
Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”
We changed course. ”

Frank Koch – Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute
as cited in The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey

Smiles instead of hairdos

14 09 2007

While I was riding my bike, I saw this woman walking behind a stroller. She smiled at me. She looked happy. I smiled back somewhat automatically, because all I could think of was her hairdo. So eighties!
As I had passed her it struck me that because I had been passing a judgement on her, I had not been able to reciprocate her kindness. This holier-than-thou attitude blocked my vision. I didn’t  see her as she really was, because I was focussed on what I thought she should be like. It blocked my empathy, as this experience was all about me. Being judgmental impedes humanity. From now on I’ll focus people’s forte. I’ll concentrate on  smiles instead of hairdos.

Breaking the spell

13 09 2007

This week, a friend came by my house unexpectedly. It was a mess. He walked through my living room a few times, sighing with relief. He was so happy my house could be a pigsty too. I felt horrible. As my friend was celebrating the mess in my living room, I was doing my utter best to convince him this was not normal. Everything would be normal within an hour, clean and tidy. Although he clearly felt more at ease with me now he knew I was only human, I was trying hard to uphold this image he had had of me. I was under the spell of perfection.

For most of my life, I’ve been under it’s magic charm. I was led to believe that if people got to know the real me, they would not love me. So I desperately tried to live up to this self-created picture perfect image. Up to the point where I could not separate myself from the image I had created. I was all tangled up. I had to learn I could not please every one, had to learn I did not want to live up to everyone’s expectations. The best I could do was doing my best at being me. In doing so, I somehow have broken the spell and slowly have got to be me again. But sometimes I stumble upon a part of me that is still living under that vicious spell called perfection. When I spot it, I look my demon in the eye and murmur my counter spell over and over again: perfection is boring, perfection is boring, perfection is boring, perfection is…

Declare war on self-terrorism

10 09 2007

As someone paid me a compliment on this weblog, I felt this deep kind of relief. Although, I loved what I was doing, sometimes was even amazed at what I had written, I had been anxious on some level. Deep inside, I apparently needed someone else to affirm my worth. Why do I still hunger someone else’s approval? Why can I not validate in my own feelings of worth? Why do I find it so hard to have confidence in me?  I blame it on my inner-critic, that mean little voice in the back of my head that always makes snide remarks. Over the years, she’s taken so much power, it doesn’t leave any room for inner-praise. Of course, I’m the main culprit here. I somehow tend to believe my inner-critic and be suspicious of inner-praise. But then I wondered: don’t we all?
Our inner-critic seems to be nothing more than the sum of negative voices we’ve been exposed to when growing up: criticizing comments of our parents, teachers and even of that bullying classmate. But I am not that kid anymore. I’ve grown up. I have learned criticism is rooted in fear.  So why do I still listen to that frightened little voice? Why do I give any credit to some out-dated coward?  Honest? I wouldn’t know.
In my life, I have no room for nagging friends or draining relationships. Life is too short. Why would I allow the most important relationship I have (with myself) to be ruined by such a tyrant. I won’t. Anymore. Today, I’ve declared war on self-terrorism. I have given my inner-terrorist an ultimatum: Either she is with me or against me. Friend or foe. If she’ll keep terrorising me, I’ll hunt her down and smoke her out.

The sun can shine as bright as it did back then

7 09 2007

I was this investigative, independent toddler, the happiest kid you can imagine. I can still vividly remember playing in the sand pit making mud pies, riding my bike, walking to school. In those memories colours are bright and it seems as if the sun is always shining, even on rainy days, as they too were special. At the age of 6, we moved from one side of the country to the other. I was eager with anticipation, but no one had prepared me for the changes life was about to bring. As the new school year started, I literally felt dislocated. All of a sudden, I deeply missed my former life. I did not learn how to cope well. I had a hard time making new friends. My self-esteem and everything else went spiralling down.

It took me more than 20 years to realize the sun could shine as bright again as it did in my memories, that I could be happy again, that I could be me again. I had been reliving on a daily basis what had happened to me between age 7 and 11. I learned that I didn’t have the right coping skills back than. As sad as it was, I couldn’t change that. What I could change, however, was the way I coped with my past in the present. This was a turning point in my life.

Everyone responds differently to life’s challenges. Some have learned to cope better than others. But every day offers new opportunities to sharpen those skills, to see the bright side of life, to be happy, to be you.

This is… whose mind… IT IS!

6 09 2007

Yesterday, I cleared up my inner basement. It was a dump. I couldn’t even move around.  Without realizing, I had held on to a lot of beliefs I just didn’t need any more. I keep yearly spring cleanings, so I was under the impression my mind was not too cluttered. But in stead of tossing old beliefs, I had apparently been storing them in the basement, because I found heaps and heaps of them. Newer beliefs on top of older ones. I couldn’t belief I had been holding on to so much broken records. What had I been thinking?!
So, I lined up everything I found on the driveway. I walked by all these beliefs, looked at each belief and decided in a split second if it was still useful or not. I guess about 95% went to the local dump. The other 5% I organized neatly on some shelves.
All mess is distracting. A cluttered mind as much as a cluttered house. Energy can’t flow freely there. You may say: what you can’t see, isn’t there. But you know, the point is: you know it’s there! You may say:  it doesn’t bother me. Then I’ll say: O yes it does, you just don’t know it, because you have never consciously lived a clutter free life. Clutter holds you back. So, just clear up one area of your mind and you’ll be amazed at the how good it feels to move freely through your thoughts, to clearly see what you’re thinking and to simply enjoy being there. You decide who’s in charge: some bunch of old beliefs and habits or YOU. It’s your mind, you claim it!

Laziness is in the eye of the beholder

5 09 2007

Yesterday, I had a great day. I did some research for this website, took some photographs, read a book for a while and took my daughter for a walk in the sun. In addition, I folded the laundry, reorganized the bathroom, cooked, cleaned the kitchen, and took care of my nine month old girl, but I didn’t do enough. Or so I felt, because I didn’t clean the bathroom or clear the basement. As I said, I had a great day, except for those feelings of guilt, hanging over me like dark clouds. And somehow, they managed to cloud my whole day.
Why do my days have to be packed with activities I don’t like? Even as I am writing these words, I’m feeling the urge to add some things to make you believe I actually had a very busy day. Why am I afraid people might think I’m lazy? Why do I have such difficulty accepting that part of me would like nothing better than curl up in the corner of the couch and read a book all day or take my little girl for long strolls in the autumn sun.
My so called laziness allows me to engage in activities that are close to my heart, like painting, writing, singing, photographing and playing with my little girl. I should know better than to feel guilt when enjoying life. I guess laziness is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe the real question is why I see the activities I love as mere pastime, not real activities. So today, I’ll  be clearing the basement.  My inner basement.

Your intention creates your reality

29 08 2007

Yesterday, while watching a conversation between Oprah and Gary Zukav, I finally grasped the true power of intention. I’ll try to recapture the essence of what they said.

Spirituality is about  fixing yourself.  Part of your spiritual growth is to understand that all your experiences are self-created. You have to accept that you are responsible for those parts of your life that are not working. You create your experiences by your intentions. How can your intentions create your experiences? An intention is the underlying motivation, conscious or unconscious, of every choice you make. Why do you want what you want? It is the first act of creation. Intentions can be based in fear or in love. This determines the outcome of what you create. Fear creates painful experiences (the ultimate fear is not being good enough), while love creates constructively. In order to grow, you have to heal those parts of your life that don’t work by becoming aware of  the intentions that created those painful experiences. Being aware of your emotions allows you to identify the parts of your personality that need to be fixed. You need to focus on the emotions you are experiencing when your buttons are pushed and work through them.

You need to be aware that every choice, however small and seemingly unimportant, has an underlying intention/motivation which determines the consequences. Your intention creates your reality. To create constructively, your intentions must be based in love. Therefore, you need to clairify your intentions before you make a choice. For you to create constructively, your intentions need to be based in love.  To live a life of meaning and purpose, you need to know the intention for your life, so you can align your choices accordingly. Ask yourself why you are on this earth, what is your dream for your life and what is your gift you want to give to the world?

Wealth comes from within

28 08 2007

 Slowly, I’m learning that preconceptions are usually misconceptions. For instance, in my mind, living a meaningful life and creating wealth have always been incompatible notions. Today, I’ve decided I’m letting go of that old and self-limiting belief. I understand that wealth is not about money. Wealth comes from within. It is determined by a mentality of abundance rather than by money in the bank. It is about living to the fullest of my potential. It also means reconciling the two notions, accepting that living my best life could generate monetary wealth.

Life is perfect as it is!

26 08 2007

I’m almost 35 and the career I dreamed of just hasn’t happened. For years, I felt like I had failed, I felt miserable and most of all: very careerless … During those years, I got to know myself profoundly, I built a lasting and loving relationship, and most importantly I learned to love myself. Just  now, I realize that all those years everything was ok, except for this one thing: I didn’t achieve careerwise.  Today, I know my ship hasn’t sailed yet, my time will come… Something great is just around the corner, all I have to do is turn that corner when I get there…