September 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
Last week, my younger cousin Molly and I sat across the table from each other at a Thai restaurant. After recapping our week, I questioned her about my book and my blog. “Be honest,” I began, “do you have any critiques on my writing?”
I knew she would truthfully respond. Molly is family, and my family has never refrained from letting me know when I’m doing something wrong, being annoying, or acting stupid. Molly also has the gift of conveying exactly what she’s thinking, even if it makes the other person slightly uncomfortable. I value this trait because I have a hard time speaking my mind if I know it may cause conflict.
“Actually, yes, I do have some ideas on your blog,” Molly started, gazing up at the ceiling as she slowly chewed her pad thai. “I really like it when you share your own thought processes and describe your whole train of thought.”
“Mmmhmm…continue,” I pressed.
She shoved another forkful of pad thai in her mouth. “No offense, but I don’t like it when you do a lot of analysis on the situation and start to quote other philosophers. I don’t believe that you actually know what you’re talking about when you analyze, so just sharing your own thoughts is better.”
“Hmm . . . ok, that makes sense?” I responded, lingering on the phrase “you have no idea what you’re talking about,” but ultimately agreeing with the comment. I took out my most faithful companion, my notebook, and jotted down “no idea what I’m talking about.”
“And definitely lay off the descriptive sentences about scenery. They bore me.”
“Interesting,” I stated, which is my go-to word when I have no idea how else to respond. “This is hard though because I’m receiving conflicting messages from people,” I countered. “Someone just read some of my work and told me that I needed way more analysis and more sensory imagery.”
Molly looked at me for a few moments, just blinking. “Yeah, I mean, it’s totally up to you what you want to do. I’m just saying what I think.”
“Yeah, I know,” I mumbled. I mindlessly played with my food, which I do when I’m nervous, and mentally weighed which writing style I should pursue.
I know it’s up to me. I have received countless suggestions to “just be me” when I write, but that’s the hard part, figuring out what my truest voice sounds like. I think I know what it sounds like, but just when I get in to a groove, I start to question it.
I’m not saying this is bad per se. I think it’s healthy to be open to our own malleability and explore different styles. That being said, on a larger scale, I’m still figuring out not only how to write like me, but how to be me wherever I am.
It sounds like an easy concept, but it can be hard being myself–my most authentic self–in every social situation. I often find myself catering my discussions to whom I’m talking. For example, I’ll talk politics with my friends from college, but rarely religion; I’ll talk religion with my religious friends , but never politics; I’ll talk about my interest in certain legal issues with other lawyers, but won’t talk about my book writing; I’ll express my discomfort at a racist or homophobic comment to some, and completely ignore such comments to avoid confrontation with others; I’ll put on my happy-go-lucky side in a social situation, when really I’m feeling quiet and introverted.
While this could be considered, in some form, emotional intelligence or social etiquette, when I choose my conversations based on the comfort level of others, I’m actually catering myself to who other people are. I’m creating a social construct of self and choosing whether to share my “public” or “private” persona depending on who I’m with.
Back to Molly. A few months ago, we were sitting around a party and someone shared an inappropriate joke. I pretended I didn’t catch the punch line and avoided eye contact with the joke-teller. Molly, on the other hand, nicely, but firmly, asked, “I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what’s funny about that.” It was awkward, I’m not going to lie. But Molly did it in such a way where she was honoring herself and her beliefs and not shying away from speaking her mind, though it shifted the mood of the environment. I really respected her for that. She said what she meant.
I’m currently practicing this new thing called “only saying what I mean.” For example, if I run into an acquaintance on the street and I know that we won’t get together, I don’t say “let’s get together sometime and catch up.” If someone asks me how I am, and I’m feeling tired, I don’t respond, “I feel great!” If someone asks me where I want to eat, and I have an opinion on it, I tell them where I want to eat. If someone asks me for advice and I know it could be hard to hear, I’m trying to just share what I really think.
I am slowly learning that I can’t successfully be my truest self if I’m constantly catering my opinions, thoughts, advice, or vocabulary to other people. As Shakespeare said (sorry Mol-I’m quoting someone), “to thine own self be true.” One of the reasons I write is because it clears away all my facades and personas that I may put up during the day and sheds light on my deeper, more authentic Self. I’m trying to own my own voice, regardless of what others may prefer. It’s part of my experiment to be me wherever I may be.
(also shared on kerryseeks.blogspot.com)
July 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
June 2, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’ve been reflecting a lot about the word happy. What does it mean? Who or what causes it? Why do we feel it sometimes but not other times? Why do some of us rarely experience it? It is wrong to desire happiness? Is it wrong to fully experience and live in the moments when we’re happy. Is is wrong when we go through long periods of time without feeling happy?
I recently read that “the secret of life is be happy and help others be happy too.”
It made me happy to read that. It was stated by a deeply spiritual person who often guides others in their spiritual journeys. It resonated with me. It made sense to me.
I don’t believe he was saying that we have to be happy all the time. I don’t think he was stating a need for everyone to always be chipper, energetic and optimistic. I think it was much more simple than that. In fact I believe he was implying, that when you’re happy and you know it, feel it, show it, love it, be in it. When we are happy and we show it, we are free. When we share our happiness, we inevitably help others do the same.
In light of my musings about happiness, let’s try this experiment. Simply notice when you’re happy and when you truly let yourself feel happy. No matter what causes that happiness, try to live in that moment of happiness. Keep it simple, don’t over analyze it, just feel it.
And then, also notice when you’re happy and when you don’t let yourself feel it. What causes you to stifle it? Don’t over-complicate this either, just notice it.
I emphasize notice because noticing is all this experiment is about. I want to start noticing these things in myself, and through noticing I think I’ll figure out how to unlearn some of my habits, and then sooner or later I’ll begin the process of healing. So for today…just notice. Notice your happiness, notice where you feel your happiness, notice what you do with your happiness.
And, of course, a quote for you.
“I notice this in myself, I see it in other people: the happiness muffle. We feel the sparkle, really we do. We feel rich with gratitude, we’re keenly aware of a true smile curled in our cells. We tend to live on the light side of things. But we don’t pronounce it. As a new friend just put it, “We butt back the joy because…happiness is a form of power.”
Is that any way to treat happiness?
Happiness is power. Happiness is carbonated consciousness. It wants to spill out and radiate and be articulated. And every time we downplay our joy we confuse our synapses. Our brain is firing smiley neurons and our mouth is short-circuiting them. Repeated happiness muffling numbs our senses. If you keep it under the surface too long, it just might stay there – a light under a bushel.
So do us all a favour. No matter what the weather, the odds, the circumstances, the company, if you’re happy and you know it, by all means, say so!” Danielle LaPorte (www.whitehottruth.com)
March 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
This weekend, I took a long walk by the river in the morning. While the sun was shining, it was cold and windy, and there weren’t as many people out and about as usual. Despite the cold, I walked a little longer that day, and when I got to the end of the path, I saw an old woman by herself swinging on a swing set. Completely uninhibited and playful, I watched her swing back and forth, realizing that I had forgotten the feeling of what it’s like to swing. It’s been so long that I was on a swing that I can’t even remember the correct verbage to use when describing swinging. Do you push your legs? Pedal your legs? Extend your legs?
Regardless, at that moment, the woman embodied playfulness and freedom. I tried to take a picture of her on my iphone, but it didn’t turn out as I wanted and I didn’t want to distract her with my poor photography attempts.
So today, in honor of her, I will do something playful. My friend Laura bought a coloring book a few weeks ago to color at her office in between patients; my other friend plays cards at night with her boyfriend. While playing hide and seek in my apartment is probably a little far fetched (considering it only has 1.5 rooms) I’m going to find someway to play today (even if it’s talking to an imaginary friend). And, if the day passes without me doing anything, I’ll at least have to build a fort in my bedroom before I go to sleep.
March 15, 2011 § 2 Comments
Who am I? What am I? I find conversations around these two questions come up more often than not, since as human beings, understanding our place in the world is the ever present quest of our souls. Let’s be honest, whether you want to admit it or not, this question is present in our thought life as we go through the motions of every day tasks, in our hearts as we compare ourselves to others and in our conversations as we state how we feel from one moment to the next. This doesn’t mean we are vain, self absorbed or inherently flawed as human beings. It is natural. The question, “Who am I?” needs to be asked often, it needs to be asked kindly and it needs to be entertained by our thoughts, intentions and conversations.
However,even more important, are the answers we declare to these questions.
“You will experience whatever you think after the words ‘I am…’” Chalanda Sai Ma.
How often today did you say “Oh I’m such an idiot!”, after a small mistake was made? Or did you look at yourself in the mirror this morning and pick apart each detail of your appearance you don’t like? Maybe even just one thing you don’t like? Are you holding onto a regret from years ago that you still define yourself with? When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said “I am beautiful” or as a guy you might say “Damn I’m good looking!”? When was the last time you gave yourself some grace over a mistake made or a dumb comment uttered? Or perhaps you are believing something someone else told you, that you aren’t good enough, aren’t smart enough, aren’t pretty enough.
I read the quote above recently in Marianne Williamson’s book, The Gift of Change. It struck me so deeply that I have not stopped wondering what I have created with simple declarations about myself. Both destructive and life giving thoughts create our experiences. Sadly I think that more often than not, my declarations about myself are unloving, even cruel. And rarely are they very kind. I tend to be my own biggest critic, quick to point out my mistakes and flaws.
I am attempting to intentionally change what I believe about me. I am re-writing my inner dialogue so that it is life giving and full of love.
For some reason, over the years I created an inner dialogue that is unkind, ungenerous and fearful. Scared to believe in myself for fear of becoming “arrogant” or of not living up to my own expectations. And now, after years of trying to “change”, “become confident”, and be who “I believe God created me to be”, I am finally realizing that what needs to change is actually quite simple. I need to re-write my personal “mantra”. And so, each morning I have written a new and very kind belief statement to myself over and over. I fill at least one journal page with “I am” statements that are positive and kind. “I am strong, smart and beautiful. Today will be an amazing day.” It’s simple and it’s the same each day. I want it to sink into my psyche.
So I’ve committed to myself to keep us this new practice – and we’ll see what happens. I admit, this may sound insignificant to some, and silly to others. But for those who are willing to try it, I think you’ll notice a shift, even if only a subtle change, in how you treat both yourself and others.
“Belief is powerful, and whatsoever we believe, we will subconsciously make manifest.” Marianne Williamson, The Gift of Change.
March 9, 2011 § 3 Comments
More often than not, I make phone calls when I’m walking to or from a particular place–it’s the ultimate “kill two birds with one stone.” I reach my sought location and get to catch up with a friend or family member (hi mom!). The only problem with this is that as I walk, I’m missing out on the subtle moments that surround me on the street.
So, just for today, when I walk, I will only walk. Therefore, I will not talk on my cell phone as I walk (or text or check my inbox).
An experiment in mindfulness.