Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Date with My Self Worth

This post was supposed to be about a date that Nick and I had last Saturday. But it occurred to me that the date is a small slice of a much bigger change in my life. Our date was ordinary enough, we stayed in and painted really ugly pumpkins. But it was quality time with the person I love the most.  Quality time is not something there used to be much of around here. If you took a snap shot of my life last year at this time and compared it to the present day you'd see two different lifestyles. I think you'd also see two different people. Okay, maybe not two totally different people, but different nonetheless. 

A year ago I was working six to seven days a week. The plan was to keep my agency job while I built up a private practice. The private practice was part of a big picture plan to move my life into a calmer direction. But I was too scared to just take the leap. I wanted some kind of safety net. So I worked most of my waking moments. This unfortunately was a very poor plan. I was exhausted, crabby and reactive both at work and at home. Not awesome. 

In April of this year I finally made the jump full on into my business. Goodbye safety net, income security, colleague support system and a bit of my mind. The change has been hard. I mean really, really hard. Of course there is the financial stuff. It's difficult not knowing how busy I am going to be in a given month, but that was expected and we are managing. The unexpected hardship was that once I stopped working all the time I no longer knew what my worth was. If I was not contributing then what was I?  When I imagined quitting my agency job I thought that I would be bathing in the glory of my free time, soaking up the world and indulging in my interests. But instead I was miserable. Nick and my support system were shocked and saddened for me. But I don't think anyone was more surprised than I was. 

I always thought I knew myself better than most. But my self worth was slipperier than I expected. So, now I'm rebuilding. Dates like the one we had on Saturday are an amazing reminder of some of what I have to offer, my time and my love. I'm working hard at increasing my self care and I push myself to experience things even when all I want to do is hide in my room. Now all of this feels like it is supposed to be part of my journey.

I imagine that my brief crisis of identity is not that uncommon in this day and age. In our economy I see a variety of reasons why one might fall into a similar state of uncertainty. Often now people are changing jobs, are out of work, their socio-economic status fluctuates  and sometimes people move away from their families or friends for work. It seems so easy to loose yourself in a culture where we place so much of our worth on work, especially with such an unstable economy.  We all have worth outside our job or paycheck. Worth is inherent, it's something we are all born with. I want to remind myself of this but also the people around me. I truly value you all so much. 


PS. The picture above  is a photo from that date night. I like how I can see the joy on my own (messy) face. And the two below are a couple of shots of our dogs, just because they make me happy.  

Asa, naughty. Always naughty. 

Alphie, my buddy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Last Little Bit

The past week has been an exhausting one. But exhausting in an I'm fortunate and grateful for the people I love and the moments I experience kind of way.  On Wednesday I took the Amtrak train from Chicago to Kalamazoo, Michigan.  My good friend Nicole picked me up (more about how cool Nicole is here) and we spent the the next three days on the road from Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio and then back to Michigan.  The trip offered us miles and miles of good conversation and laughs. We only stopped talking long enough to eat delicious foods.  And the visit fueled my soul in a way only time with an old friend can. 

The photo above and the rest below are pictures from my trip with Nicole. I'm really enjoying the contrast of the pictures I took in Michigan at Nicole's house and the urban pictures I took in Chicago from the train.  

Train Photos

More Train Photos

Nicole is bombarded with the camera the moment she picks me up from the train.

Nicole and I

Hudson, Nicole's ham bone son. I asked him if I could take his picture. This is the doll face look he gave me in response. 

I love fall in Michigan.

Sipping warm apple cider on the lake.

Just looking at  these photos I can almost smell fall in the air. Fresh air is something I seriously took for granted before moving to Chicago.

XO,   M

PS. I will be posting pictures later this week from Saturday date night in with Nick!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Breath In, Breath Out

Alphie and Asa helping me show Nick my new yoga moves!

I have been taking introduction to yoga at a local studio. Introduction is the place I must begin. I have always known that I am not flexible. I could never touch my toes in high school gym, or at least it hurt pretty badly when I tried.  Many months ago I attempted to go to a higher level class with two dancer friends. They made yoga look like a beautiful flowing art. I tumbled, strained and wobbled my way through the class. As much as my body hurt during the class, it was nothing compared to the pain I experienced the week following.

So anyway, I'm trying again. I'm not giving up just yet! Last night in class the instructor was helping us work on our breathing. When she described breathing in; she said "breathing in is like accepting what we need from the world". Breathing out she said was "like letting go of things we no longer need".  Ka-boom, these simple statements struck me hard. Acceptance and letting go are things in my personal life I have been working very hard at doing.  So I decided to come home and contemplate what I consciously wanted to accept into my life and what needed to be let go.   Below my yoga pics is the list, in all of its glory.

We've got the moves.
(Not the best pics, but so cute.)

Asa checking out my pug leggings. He's suspicious.

Alphie being the good guy he is and standing aside. 

Breathing in; accepting what I need from the world:

1. Compliments. I will not diminish myself by turning down a compliment. I will graciously accept any positivity sent my way.

2. Help. As difficult as it is to accept help it's even harder to ask for help.

3. Loving messages. I will be present and notice when my dogs greet me with love, my neighbor says hello and my partner reaches for my hand. I have a tendency to be about twenty steps ahead in my mind. I miss things.

Breathing out; letting go of what I no longer need:

1. Clutter. Specifically getting rid of clutter and not accumulating more. I saw a picture on Pinterest recently that said "Have Less, Do More".  I'd like to do more.

2. Negativity. Specifically negativity I absorb due to everyday less than positive interactions. Examples might be Asa pee's the floor, someone bumps into me on the sidewalk or I miss my train. The negative feelings associated with these events I really, truly do not need.  It would be so freeing if in the moment I was able to see that holding onto negativity for even a minute is a waste of time

3. Being self-righteous about comfort. I am still blown away by this concept. Check out my thoughts in the previous post "Part Beauty and Part Discomfort". I think part of my continued fascination can be contributed to readers comments, which have only intrigued me further.

Phew, that was a hefty list. What would your list look like?



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Part Beauty and Part Discomfort

“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.” -Dalai Lama

Recently someone said to me that he realized he does not have a right to not be uncomfortable.  I have read some Buddhist books which discuss the idea of suffering being a normal part of life. This makes sense to me, but the "right" to not suffer, I had never thought of that. I am definitely guilty of feeling righteous about being comfortable.  I miss the train and now I have to be uncomfortable waiting for the next train because it's cold/hot/windy/humid. Now I may be later than I wanted and will have to hurry through my tasks. I am upset, the idea of my right to be comfortable being taken from me is distressing. 

Tolerating discomfort is not a new idea. Obviously people have been identifying tolerance as an important skill for hundreds of years.  But this "right" to being comfortable. That seems generational, specifically generations X and Y. I see it as a possible significant contributing factor to the unhappiness I see around me (and sometimes in myself). We have incredibly high expectations for just about everything. Our careers should be inspiring and challenging, our relationships with significant others should be fun/romantic/easy, our homes should be comfortable and full of comfort giving things, our appearance, our families, our finances, children all follow suit. 

This is not a rant about generations X and Y being lazy. We are NOT lazy. We work and if we are not working we want to be working. A large part of our identity is wrapped up in our work. But often our work does not make us happy and we feel like failures as a result. I think the problem is idealism. We are idealist and dreamers. We have big dreams, hopes and ideas. When our relationships are difficult, our work joyless, our days mundane, every inconvenience is a harsh reminder of how we are not living as we imagined.  More proof the universe is unfair.  It is not that most people do not deserve to live out their dreams, hopes and ideas. It's just that the universe is actually unfair. 

Acceptance and tolerance, these are important tools for coping with discomfort. Can you imagine how our lives would look to us if we could accept we have no right to be comfortable, and learn to tolerate discomfort? Maybe we could appreciate our lives as they are, part beauty and part discomfort. Our expectations could match reality.  We could have a shot at happiness.