I haven’t written in a while and it’s not as if I’ve forgotten, leaning on the all-consuming holidays and life’s busyness as an excuse. It’s more that I simply can’t seem to extract a coherent train of thought from end to end with which I can then tie into a pretty bow of a satisfying new realization.
There’s something about welcoming the New Year that tends to accompany a preparedness to embark upon new endeavors with a refreshed energy and perspective. Except, in all reality, I’m not there. I’m not at a clean break point, closing one chapter and opening another. Instead, I’m mid-transition with a lot still to be figured out.
Apparently I’m in good company as many friends I talk to are more than ready to bid a merry f*#king adieu to 2019 (I guess it wasn’t all puppies and rainbows) but can’t quite shake it, like gum stuck to a shoe.
Have you felt any of this? My husband is recovering from a surgery late last year and unfortunately suffered an accident that has extended an already frustratingly long healing period. A good friend is looking at her 5th buyer for her home listed in the fall, having seen the previous 4 prospects fall out or fail to qualify. Another friend is dealing with a compensation fluke from last year that continues to be unresolved. Yet another with a doctorate thesis that is long past ready to be done and dusted. Sometimes simply closing out the old lingering crap sounds a whole lot better than ringing in the new.
For those who have been following me for a little while now, you’re likely hip to the personal journey I’ve been sharing. As my children become increasingly independent, I now get to plot and plan my next steps but with more awareness than I ever did previously. As a mom, I really want to handle this change with care.
In more esoteric terms, I left my ego in the long term airport parking lot while I embarked on this motherhood trip and am now working through how to re-bond ego and spirit in a mindful and authentic way. Specifically to my fellow moms, I know I am in good company here. Still, I feel like a kid stuck on a family road trip wondering, Are We There Yet???
I believe that especially in motherhood we recognize a dual nature. “We name these dual temperaments in ourselves in order to marry- ego to spirit. This naming and marrying is called, in human words, self-love. When it occurs between two individual persons, it is called loving another.” Women Who Run With The Wolves
Motherhood or not, aren’t we all usually in some sort of transition? How often are we really not in a state of change or evolution? If self-love is the antidote in order to weather the moving plates with grace, by all means I am all ears.
What jumped out was the application of self-love, which is very different from working harder and setting new goals. Self-love is also different from self-care, which it may include but is also so much more. According to Dr. Andrea Brandt “Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.
Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate these so-called shortcomings as something that makes you who you are. When you love yourself you have compassion for yourself.”
While in a yoga class this last week with one of my favorite teachers she said “A teacher once told me that life becomes a lot more fulfilling and interesting when all those love songs you hear on the radio, instead of singing them to someone else, sing them to yourself.” Do you give yourself as much consideration, thought, care and kindness as you do those you love?
Coincidentally, in my daily practice of writing in The 5 Minute Journal, my prescriptive challenge this week is to write and send a love letter to myself.
Today I went on one of my favorite short hikes by myself, with my precious limited me-time. These days I’m almost never alone and rarely have free time, always rushing to and fro. Ironically enough, I used to think I was a busy person before having kids.
I pushed and climbed up the mountain, working my thoughts out with the same intensity that I worked my body. I chewed on this ever present topic. Am I doing the right thing, taking the right steps? What am I doing? By planning for and cultivating my next moves am I compromising being present? Am I aligned with my passions? What are my passions?
At the top of this hike is a nestled meadow, the stopping point for all my previous visits. This time I thought, what if I just went a little farther? Is there something beyond the meadow? Of course there was, connectors to other trails, making sense on how to map the topography.
There was also a person there and we shared our appreciation for the surrounding beauty and the blessings we were fortunate to experience. I recognized a little voice in my head that told me to pay attention. This kind stranger expressed how important it was that we were out living our passions, how nourishing it is for the soul and incredibly important so that we may offer the best versions of ourselves to life. Can I get a hallelujah?
There was that word again, passion. Wasn’t I doing something I was passionate about in that very moment? I was connecting with nature, getting in physical movement and soaking in some precious, centering alone-time. When I step back to think about it, my time is the most precious currency I have.
I can honestly say that I am spending my coin intentionally and prudently: taking care of myself, my family and doing the work to learn and grow as a being. If I am doing all the things, what more can I really ask of myself? How often do you say to yourself, YOU ARE DOING ENOUGH SO LIGHTEN UP!
With that, I felt my heart rest. No more pushing, no more chewing on thoughts, just peace. I noticed the sunlight through the trees, the gurgling water trickling down the canyon, the flowers in bloom. I slowed my pace and allowed myself to simply enjoy the moment. And then I put on a playlist of timeless love songs and dedicated them all to myself.
NYTimes.com has a great article, 8 Ways To Be Kinder To Yourself in 2020. I recommend you read the whole thing, but here are the bullet points:
- “Take more time for yourself – Choosing to spend time alone can benefit your social relationships, improve your creativity and confidence, and help you regulate your emotions so that you can better deal with adverse situations, according to experts.
- Take time to do nothing at all – One way out of this madness? Doing nothing. Counterintuitively, idleness can be a great productivity tool because “if our energy is totally shot, our productivity is not going to be good because we’re not going to have fuel to burn with which to be productive,” said Chris Bailey, a productivity expert and author of the blog “A Life of Productivity.”
- Cultivate more casual, low-stakes friendships – A 2014 study found that the more weak ties a person has (neighbors, a barista at the neighborhood coffee shop or fellow members in a spin class), the happier they feel. Maintaining this network of acquaintances also contributes to one’s sense of belonging to a community, researchers found.
- Learn to enjoy things when they’re good – Worrying about when “the other shoe will drop” will only steal your current joy.
- Lean into your ‘guilty’ pleasures – The TV shows and movies we love, even though we just know they’re bad. The trashy books we simply can’t put down. The awful earworms we hate to love… And as it turns out, these so-called “guilty” pleasures can actually be good for us, so long as they’re enjoyed in moderation. Taking a mental break and enjoying something that doesn’t require intense intellectual focus gets us out of problem-solving mode, and it can also improve our ability to productively deal with stressors and help us engage more positively with other people, according to experts.
- Learn to accept a compliment, even if it’s from yourself – Pumping yourself up after a big win can feel a little awkward. You want to acknowledge good work, but you don’t want to feel arrogant. It’s that tricky balance of quietly reveling in a job well done without coming off as … well, a jerk. Despite that awkwardness, getting credit for your work gives your brain good feelings and helps you accomplish more. Companies use praise to try to boost productivity and even revenue, and experts say that the psychological impact of keeping a positive view of your accomplishments can decrease stress and encourage better habits.
- Embrace the unexpected joy of repeat experiences – Novelty is so overrated, and research has shown that you’re far more likely to enjoy something the second time around than you think… “Doing something once may engender an inflated sense that one has now seen ‘it,’ leaving people naïve to the missed nuances remaining to enjoy,” according to Ed O’Brien, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
- Turn your regrets into self improvement – “Regret can be a problem, but one benefit of regret is that it signals improvement is possible,” said Neal Roese, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University who focuses on the psychology of judgment and decision-making. “The trick is to avoid obsessing and pull out a lesson that can be applied in future situations.”