Another holiday season is behind us, and another new year lies ahead. We’re already 4 (almost 5) days in and we still have about 360 days to visualize, plan, incorporate and live the changes we want to see in our lives. Like many others, I have already thought about where I am right now and where I’d like to be by the end of this year. Some of the big transitions I want to see in my life are desires that have carried over from last year and the year before that. On one hand, I continue to remain excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and how the unknown will pan out. But on the other hand, I am working hard not to let into my spirit a sense of anxiety that seems to be lurking.
There’s different factors playing into the feeling of anxiousness. I had two luscious weeks off from work and was able to spend a significant amount of time with my family and loved ones. I always tend to get a feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’m hours away from returning to my job after being off for a long while and having to prepare for the regular 9-5 routine. It was hard to leave my family in NY and come back to DC, but I adjusted. I had a chance to spend quality time with a special someone, but now we are back in our individual spaces and I am having to adjust again.
I am fully aware that life is constantly about adjusting, but there are times when the adjustments challenge me. It is all a part of staying present and remaining focused on the work of detachment. Not living in the past and not worried about what the future will bring. But speaking to the latter point, there is also anxiety about what I have not changed; namely my career. At the end of 2012, I thought for sure I’d be in a different place by the end of 2013. At the end of 2013, I thought the same for 2014. Now here I am at the starting line again. The biggest – and most important – difference though, is that I personally feel different. Stronger. More mindful. Aware of the tools I have developed and am armed with as I grow and encounter and overcome challenges that have come about on my journey towards my most authentic self. Whereas at this time last year I would have been emotionally blindsided by feelings of anxiety, I can now see it coming from a mile away. That means thinking positive thoughts and reciting positive affirmations to myself. Instead of fretting about how quickly my two-week break has come to an end (something I really want to do), I am reminding myself to be grateful for the time I had to myself. The time that allowed me to nurture relationships that are important to me. And while I may not love my job, the work comes in reminding myself to be grateful that I have a job to return to. The transition into 2014 found me kicking and screaming about going back to work. This year I am focused on acceptance and gratitude. As my Yoga teacher and mentor always says: The quickest way to change a situation for the better is to constantly be grateful for it. It is my intention to approach tomorrow morning, and the hundreds of emails that are likely waiting for me, with a most triumphant attitude. Perhaps this will make the biggest difference in me being in a different place career-wise by the end of 2015.
At this time last year, I did not desire to be in a relationship and spent most of my time consciously not dating and making overdue investments in myself. Now I feel like I am ready and more adept at being able to truly coexist with another. I want to know what that will look like and when and how it will happen, and while I have “a feeling” there will be big changes in the romance department for me this year, I know that I have to approach this in the same manner as I am approaching everything else. Acceptance of what isn’t. Living fully in what is. While in the past I may have moaned and groaned about being single, I now know to fully embrace this time I have to solely dedicate to myself and my son. The freedom that comes with not being in a relationship allows me to consider new career options that I otherwise might not be able to if I had a significant other to think about. I have often understood in theory the importance of guarding our thoughts. I can now see the value and benefit of actually applying this theory to real life situations.
It’s funny. As I write this, I think about how I strongly desire change in my life. But my intention when I sat down to write was to channel the anxiety I feel about the changes that are occurring. I guess sometimes you have to talk through your own situation or step outside of it, to see it for what it really is. What I really want more of is the change. What I want less of is the anxiety. That has been the focus of my Yoga, learning meditation practices and grounding myself more in faith and spirituality. I also want to write more and so perhaps it is a good thing that I’ve done so on this 4th day of the new year. Especially since it’s been months since I last wrote.
“They” say the only constant in life is change. That statement is a juxtaposition within itself, but I get it. In the same way that I want to bring about change in my life, but am anxious about it once it happens. Even though change is a constant, it is also a process. And with every process there must come a level of patience. For me, it is having patience with my job, patience with my Yoga practice, patience with relationships and most importantly, patience with myself. I believe I have personally changed for the better over the course of 2014. I look forward to and embrace all that is to come with 2015. We’ll see what I’m writing about in 360 days.
I’m a pretty emotional and sentimental person, but I’ve never gotten too crazy over Valentine’s Day. Well, maybe in my teens and 20s if I was in a relationship at the time. But as I’ve grown and matured, and gotten more in touch with my emotions, I have found that I see Valentine’s Day as a special day, but also just another day.
Perhaps this is a coping mechanism, as I haven’t been in a relationship on Valentine’s Day in quite a while. When I was in one 2 or 3 years back, the person I was with didn’t make a big deal of it either and I just rolled with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive flowers at work and I wouldn’t reject a Valentine’s delivery, but I’m more of a, “I sent you flowers just because it’s Wednesday” kind of girl.
My perspective on this day is personally interesting. I am reflecting on how for so long, and I mean years, I strongly desired to be in a relationship and almost felt undefined without one. And now, here I am, homebound with my 6 year-old son for a second day due to a snowstorm. Outside of work, I don’t have any plans for this day. I have no expectations for a delivery to come to my door. I know that when I check my social media outlets later, they will be flooded with “look at what I got!” pictures. And yet, I’m content. Instead of being sad or forlorn about the relationship I don’t have, I’m grateful for what I do have. And that is a day at home with my son. Another day I was given not to make the hour-long, traffic-filled drive to and from work. Another day to save money. Another day to not have to rush. And to top it off, Monday is a holiday, so there is more time to look forward to. The hottest date I have planned for this weekend is taking my son to see the new Lego movie he’s been asking me about. And I’m okay with that.
This is not an anti-Valentine’s Day manifesto, nor am I writing out of bitterness from not being in a relationship. I absolutely love love and I’m sure if I were in a relationship, I’d be making some kind of plan for the night or weekend. I just felt the urge to write “Happy Valentine’s Day” to my readers and as I started typing, more words came to mind. That’s how this writing process is for me at times.
I do still desire to have and share true companionship and a partnership one day. But one of the most valuable lessons I have learned along this journey of mine, is not to fight against the current and instead, do my best to go with the flow. After my last relationship, I fell into a space where I became my top priority and I feel I am very much still a work in progress. We always are in a way, but it’s more about feeling a sense of peace deep within. I believe that when I feel completely at ease with who I am and what my purpose is, everything else will fall into place. Some days are certainly harder than others, but I do my best to remind myself of honoring the current space I’m in. I know it’s the relationship with my self that needs the most nurturing right now.
If you do feel a little down today, know that it’s okay. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Each and every day is different and sometimes, you just don’t know how you’ll handle it. But try not to get stuck. Focus on changing your thinking and reflecting on something positive. The smallest shift can make the biggest difference. I am making baby steps with this, but everyday, I learn a little more about the importance of controlling our thoughts. They are the roots of what manifests in our life.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Loves. Namaste.
When I first came to my Yoga mat, I came under the impression that Yoga was simply the physical movements that many of us are used to seeing. Enrolling in a Yoga teacher training program years after practicing with my first at-home DVD, I have quickly learned that the poses are just part of a larger path. There are actually 8 limbs of Yoga, of which asanas (the poses) are one.
Two of those limbs are the Yamas and Niyamas. “Yamas” are moral observances; our guiding principles for how we deal with others. “Niyamas” are our personal observances; the principles of how we deal with ourselves. There are 5 principles both for Yamas and Niyamas. For the purpose of this particular blog post, I am going to focus on one of the Yamas: Ahimsa. Ahimsa is Sanskrit for compassion – showing kindness and non-violence to all living things.
I am by no means a perfect person, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was already incorporating some of the Yamas and Niyamas in my life before I ever knew or even heard of them. Compassion has always been one of my guiding principles. And when my son was born almost 6 years ago, I knew without a doubt that of all the things I could teach him, what would be most important is showing him how to be kind to others.
When I was pregnant and found out I was having a boy, I admittedly cried for a day or so. I am the baby sister of 5 older brothers (between both of my parents’ first marriages) and I really, really, really wanted a girl so that I could complete the trifecta of my mother, me and my baby girl (yes, I actually did think this). Although my brothers had mostly girls between them and the family was actually lacking for boys, I wanted to add my girl to the bunch.
I always had to tag along for my one brother’s high school and college football games. Every Sunday, I had to sacrifice my cartoons or a show I was watching for whatever seasonal sporting event was on. While I had grown up surrounded by testosterone, I didn’t think I’d have a clue of how to raise a boy. Sure, my then-husband would help, but by time baby boy was born, I knew our marriage was on its last leg. I became a single mother before my son turned 2 years-old and as the primary parent, most of what he would learn would come from me. Like many parents of little boys, I want my son to be strong, confident and have some athletic prowess. I long ago accepted that I would not be able to teach him how to be a man, but I certainly could teach him how to be a kind and decent human being. And that has been my mission.
My message of compassion seems to be paying off. My son genuinely shows concern when someone is hurt or crying. When I have my own life moments that I am unable to hide from him, he always comes to me with his favorite toy or stuffed animal and tells me they can sleep with me in my bed so I’ll feel better. There is a little girl in his school who is visually impaired, and while it may take a little nudging from me, because he notices something “different” about her, he makes a point to speak to her and play with her when the other kids stay away. I see the kindness in him, as have friends of mine. While he is a little boy, I am always conscious of the fact that I am raising a man. One day, he will go into the world with the values I’ve instilled in him and learn how to balance that with the values he develops on his own.
Today I came across a Huffington Post article about the things every mother should do for their sons. The article was written in light of a sexual assault of a teenage girl that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio last August. The author suggests that we, as society and parents, help to create a culture of such violent acts, especially by pushing our boys to be “tough guys.” We praise athletes and athleticism, while encouraging our girls to be demure and supportive. It is the author’s belief that certain measures can be taken to avoid another Steubenville. The first of her suggestions is to teach our boys to be kind and to teach them this as early as possible. Being that kindness is something I’ve been working to instill in my son since birth, I wholeheartedly agree.
I continued to think about the article long after I read it. I thought about how some parents and people are of the belief that boys shouldn’t be showered with hugs and kisses because it will make them “soft,” while doing so for girls is acceptable. We tend to focus on the fact that our daughters need to see and receive love at a young age, so they will know what it should look and feel like when they begin to engage in relationships. And it’s not to say that we shouldn’t focus on this, but what about our boys? I don’t necessarily want my son to be a “mama’s boy,” but I have no shame in hugging him, kissing him and telling him I love him multiple times a day. I may make him wipe his tears right away when he falls, but I want him to be comfortable with love. I have had enough of my own relationships with emotionally limited men to know and believe that, for the most part, they did not receive enough affection while growing up. I can admit there was also likely something within me that attracted these types of men, but reading the Huffington Post article confirmed my personal conviction. We teach our daughters how to give love and be dutiful partners, while we teach our sons to be the protectors. I am not against this, but I think we should also teach our sons how to receive love. Sure, some of the discomfort with love may be a nature thing for boys and men, but I believe nurturing plays a big part as well. I say show them the beauty of love to the best of our abilities, so they will be better aware of treating love as a gift that should not be abused or taken for granted.
Being that the Yoga teacher training is a huge aspect of my life right now and being that I am a single mother, my son pretty much doesn’t have a choice but to take this journey with me. He doesn’t attend classes with me, but he is impacted by the time I invest in the training program. It can be hard at times, because my particular program is a weekend-based one. I work a full-time job during the week and then for 2 full weekends out of a month, for the next 6 months, I am in training. Add on to that a job that requires travel and our time together can really be limited. But I know I must see this through and I try to include him by doing Yoga with him at home and teaching him a few asanas he can do on his own. In the end though, I know the most important thing is to continue teaching him about Ahimsa. He is already practicing this Yama in his life. And just like his mother, he doesn’t even know it. Yet.
I have been hearing a recurring message of “letting go” lately. Whether expressing frustrations to friends, calling my mother with emotional meltdowns or talking about life challenges during a monthly meeting of the women’s social group I’m involved with, the advice given has been the same: “You have to just let it all go, Rachel.” While I understand “letting go” in theory and believe I have been working on that for the past few years, especially through therapy, I find myself wondering: what does letting go actually look and feel like? One response I recently received was quite simple. Forgive others for any hurt they may have caused me. And most importantly, forgive myself.
These past five years have been somewhat emotionally tumultuous for me. I chose to walk away from a marriage and as a result, went through a pretty sticky divorce. I became a single mother (or “co-parent,” which I try to use more often) in a state that is 4 hours away from any of my family members. A year after my divorce, my house caught fire, causing my then 3 year-old son and I to live in temporary housing for 9 months while our home was repaired. I lost a very dear and close first cousin to breast cancer at a relatively young age during that same year. And while I did find love again, that relationship came to an abrupt end last year shortly before I was in a car accident that kept me out of work for two months. I don’t state these things as a means to say that I have been through anything worse or more difficult than anyone else. In fact, when I hear stories of other people’s life challenges, or a news story such as the tragedies that took place in Newtown, CT., I use that as a perspective for my situation and I remind myself that things could always be worse. Yet, in working on letting go, I’ve had to ask myself if I’ve really worked through these challenges or did I just put them down somewhere and get into survival mode?
I don’t harbor any animosity towards my ex-husband or the man who I was most recently in a relationship with. I am not angry at the Creator for having to lay my cousin to rest. Although frightened, I was not angry that my house caught fire or that I now have a car note as a result of my paid-off car being totaled in the accident. I believe I have made a conscious effort to look positively at the lessons learned from all of these experiences. Admittedly though, there are days when something will trigger a memory and I find myself hitting an emotional wall. For example, my ex-husband and I have to work together in the best interest of our son. Married or not, co-parenting is no easy thing, and there are days when we just do not see eye to eye on something. When those moments flare up, I find myself going back to the moments in our marriage when I was most unhappy. I have tendencies of reacting to something in the past, even though I am dealing with my ex-husband in the present. I also find that I tend to blame myself for making the choice to get married, for if I hadn’t done so, then I would not have been faced with the choice of leaving that marriage and ultimately subjecting my son to a one-parent household (that caught on fire). I have no regrets whatsoever about bringing my son into this world and as I have continued to work on myself, I have allowed myself to better understand that without my ex-husband, my son would not be the exact person he is. I just have these moments where I am very hard on myself about the choices I made for my happiness and the impact they have had on my son, even though I know in my heart that my happiness is the best thing I can give my son at this point in our lives. So why do I still feel frustration at times? Why do I have moments where the hurt from a past situation will be as vivid today as it was when the moment happened? Haven’t I forgiven my ex-husband and my now ex-boyfriend? I don’t wish them ill will and in fact, I still want the best for each of them. I think this is where forgiveness of self comes in.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I can be my own worst critic. Whether I am always consciously aware of it or not, I tend to place very high expectations on myself and when I feel I’ve fallen short of those expectations, I can be extremely hard on myself. While there was a point in time where I solely blamed my ex-husband for the demise of our marriage, that turned into me blaming myself for getting into the marriage in the first place. But as I continue to reflect on the notion of letting go, I am beginning to better understand that without these life experiences, I would not be the woman I am today and the woman I continue to become for tomorrow. I wouldn’t know all the things to consider when making the decision to join your life with someone else’s through marriage. Without the fire, I wouldn’t have gotten all the repairs I desired for my house (but couldn’t afford) before the fire happened. Although the car that was totaled was paid off, it was also coming to the point of being on its last leg. Without the accident, I don’t know that I would have received the same value for that car had I continued to drive it and then tried to sell it or turn it in on my own. I also would not have gotten two much-needed months off of work as a result of injuries caused by the accident. I am not sure that I have a reasoning for losing my cousin to breast cancer, but I will be forever moved by the grace and dignity she exuded during what she knew to be her final days. That is something I will always carry with me. I just have to remember to forgive myself. To let go of the person I was when I made some not-so-great decisions, while accepting the person I am as a result of those decisions. My therapist most recently reminded me that some of these life experiences will never really go away from my memory. They are a part of who I am and it is only human if I have a moment or even a day of reflecting on them and further allowing myself to feel the emotions of those experiences. The important thing is not to get stuck; in the past, in being angry at the person or situation that hurt me and in being hard on and unforgiving towards myself. In her words, she simply said: “It will all be okay.”
So I am learning to “let go” through the art of forgiveness. And like love, forgiveness must start within our own individual selves before we can extend it to another. I know that I have to go easy on myself and not be my own worst critic and friend. I understand that sometimes, I will have to learn to say “no” as a means of saying “yes” to me and honoring my needs. Before sitting down to write this blog, I did a quick Internet search of quotes on self-forgiveness and I came across one that stood out to me the most. The author is unknown, but the words are quite powerful: “You can’t undo anything you’ve already done, but you can face up to it. You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And let God do the rest.”
“Let God do the rest.” My beloved mother’s mother, my Grandmother Ruby, who transitioned just a few months before my son was born in 2007, used to say something quite similar: “Do your best and let God do the rest.” Perhaps this is why I was so drawn to the quote I found through my Internet search. I cannot undo my past, but I’ve been doing all that I can to learn from it, and I try to be honest and truthful in sharing my experiences with others through conversation and this very blog. I am working on better forgiving myself. I suppose that is all I can do as I continue to put one foot in front of the other on my life’s journey. And the rest…well, according to the unknown author and my Grandmother, is up to God.
“You are yourself, and as you are, you are perfectly good. Accept yourself.” (Osho) Love your self. Honor your self. And always…forgive your self.
Until next time…
Growing up, I believed in a fairy tale love just like many of my female counterparts. In my 20s I believed it was about what a man could do for me. Now that I’m in my 30s, I am learning that “real” love is not any of those things. Of course it’s great if the person you are with treats you like a princess, but we shouldn’t expect such things. Love is about mutual respect, trust, communication, patience…amongst many other traits. Most importantly, it’s about not losing our individual selves while in the process of sharing our “selves” with another. Love should complement. Not complete.
Check out the article for some great insight into this thing called “Love.”