Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday Wisdom: In the Meantime...

Since it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, I figured I'd share something my 20-something self knew but didn't take too seriously. Or to be fair, she actually did, but it was easier said than done for her. I know she did her best and I forgive her for not being able to try harder. All the suffering and wisdom learned are worth it, after all. Now 'we' both hope we can at least be heard by someone who needs to hear it...

Friday, February 1, 2019

Tidying Up: Friendship Edition

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Households all over the world, especially here in the United States, have been busy pulling clothes out of their closets and dressers, piling them up on their beds and floors, going through their shelves and pantries to pare down their 'stuff'. This is largely due to best-selling author, and now Netflix star, Marie Kondo. On her show and in her books, Kondo talks about appreciating what we have to the fullest and surrounding ourselves with things that spark joy. If you've not been living under a rock, you're most likely familiar with the tidying up ritual of holding each possession in your hands and feeling if it sparks joy within you, and if not, then thank it and let it go.

Beyond just asking yourself if something sparks joy for you, Kondo further adds another criterion for deciding if you should keep or let go of something. She suggests honestly assessing if it's something you'd want to take with you (or if it's worth taking with you) to the future. 

It's clear to me that Kondo is not about imposing how much you should keep, or that you absolutely need to go through this process. If something isn't bothering you, you have enough space for it, and its presence does not steal your joy, then by all means keep them and don't feel like you need to tidy up in this manner. 

To me, that's an important point. And that is the same reason why I believe I need to apply the KonMari method to my relationships, friendships in particular. 

Recently, I realized how I call too many people my friends when in reality, it's an abuse of the term. I've gotten tired of doing air quotes when I talk to my husband about certain people as my "friends" when in reality, they're just acquaintances, potential friends, work colleagues, social media contact, virtual avatar. 

I also feel that I need to go through this tidying up because it will force me to be clear within myself about my expectations of my relationships. I can't keep feeling consumed by disappointment when people don't live up to my expectations. It's taken a toll on my peace of mind, and frankly, my joy. I'm not in control of others' choices and behaviors, but I'm absolutely the one in control of my expectations and how I relate to others. 

If I define my standards for friendships, I can more accurately assess if someone is able to deliver or is failing. And if they're failing, it doesn't mean I have to cut them off so brutally. (Humans are far more complex and fluid than inanimate possessions that you can discard, unless of course it's a toxic relationship, in which case, thank you and goodbye). 

I would recommend a 3-step process in tidying up your friendships. The first is to ask if the person sparks joy in you. If they don't, the next step is to ask if they're someone you feel is worth taking with you to your future, if you still feel they serve some purpose especially in your growth and evolution. If the answer is no, then let the relationship go. If it's yes and it's someone you decide to keep in your life, then comes the step of organizing. 

Now that you've painstakingly decluttered, here comes the fun part of getting your containers and labeling them. You need brutal honesty as you try to label and categorize the friends you decide to keep. For this process, you will find that you'll end up promoting some friends, and sadly, demoting others. A 'virtual friend' might be a 'good friend' now, and another 'good friend' may now be better suited to be in just plain 'colleague' category. The beauty of this is that nothing is static. Someone who's been demoted today, may be promoted by the end of the year depending on how you both change. Things are fluid, people and circumstances evolve. Allow yourself this process and be at peace with it.

This process of relabeling or demoting requires forgiveness. It's not your 'friend's' fault that circumstances have changed that have made it impossible for them to tend to the friendship to the level you require. Nor should you be faulted for the expectations you uphold. You will still be in each other's lives, just not in the same way. Somehow, the hope is that relaxing your expectations of each other and relabeling each other will allow both of you a guilt-free co-existence and afford you the space to figure out where you want to go from here and what you're realistically capable of giving each other. Perhaps demoting is what can save your friendship, instead of focusing on how you've constantly disappointed and hurt each other. 

It's important that we surround ourselves with friends who bring out the best, not the worst, in us. For me, that's an important standard in deciding who you want to keep in your life and how much value you give to them. I also appreciate friends who are present in the moment, people who put in the effort to make me feel valued and heard, instead of making me feel like a distraction or just an obligation. These are what I value and I try to keep giving the same when I feel mutuality. However, I'm not a perfect friend, not by a long shot. I'm sure I've been promoted and demoted through the years. But how I tidy up is my business, just as how my friends tidy up and label me in their life is their business. 

Acknowledging our expectations and boundaries is nothing to apologize for. We all need to do what's necessary in order to focus on what sparks joy in our lives, instead of holding on to emotional clutter and things that have obviously run their course and just weigh us down. As Marie Kondo advises, The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”

Monday, January 28, 2019

Motivation Monday: M-O-N-D-A-Y

Mondays are hardly ever easy for most of us. But procrastinating does more harm because we simply  end up delaying the momentum we need to get things done and feel good about ourselves. Just tackle your to-do list head-on, one task at at time, and find the joy of crossing out those items off your list as the day or week progresses.

May your week be kind, 
while you spare kindness for yourself as well.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Having Regrets and Our Humanity


Why are people so afraid to admit they have regrets in their lives? The word has always had a very bad rap, with people saying it's wasted time and effort. 'I don't have time for regrets; they're counterproductive', is what is commonly declared.

But really, if we're all being honest with ourselves, is there anyone on this planet without a single regret? More importantly, is regretting really all that bad? Some of you are probably thinking that this is odd timing on my part, given that this is a new year and it's all about a clean slate, a fresh start, and leaving the past behind. But this is also precisely why I thought about 'regrets'. I think you can't really go forward without intelligently looking back. And I say intelligently because looking back without much consciousness is worthless. 

To regret is to feel negatively about something from the past; to feel sorry that something happened, to wish it never did. It requires the capacity to perceive time and possess memory, the capacity for self-reflection, remorse, and the desire for self-actualization.

To have regrets is to acknowledge mistakes made and to allow yourself to feel bad about them. It is our recognition of dreams or hopes unfulfilled, ideals unrealized. 

In other words, having regrets makes us wholly human.

Regrets are useful because they highlight for me certain tendencies I have, behavioral and psychological inclinations I possess, that I can still CHOOSE to change. Looking back at painful things and wishing they turned out differently is normal and acceptable, as long as you don't go through self-flagellation and turn your experience of pain into suffering. You can have regrets and still believe that even painful things happen for a reason and that there are blessings to be found behind failures.

I regret making certain decisions. I recognize that there were times I decided in haste even if everything in my being told me to step back and take my time.

I regret NOT making certain decisions. These were times when I simply surrendered my power to someone else, letting them make choices that would bring a tsunami of consequences on my life. Or worse, letting 'fate' decide for me, stripping myself willingly of all agency, as I simultaneously lied to myself by saying that what I did or wanted did not matter because 'Life' has its own plans for me. Trust me when I say that this is the kind of regret that cuts most deeply.

The decisions themselves cannot be undone, but how I live the consequences of those decisions is still completely up to me, and so are future countless decisions I am yet to make. 

Everyone is allowed to look back, as you should! Feel good about it, feel bad about, it does not matter. What matters is you know that the present is the only space where you have power, and that NOW is when you can try to make sure that tomorrow will not be filled with too many regrets. And if you realize that you do have many regrets, you need to know that the only way to move forward is to be kind to yourself. Only with kindness can you forgive, and a regretful self is one that is always begging for your forgiveness. 

Recognizing my mistakes and paying attention to the echoes of my regrets help me choose more wisely and more consciously. As such, instead of my regrets becoming prison walls meant to torture, they actually become gifts for transformation. When we begin to see our regrets as teachers—rather than a final verdict—then they become spaces for reflection, redirection, forgiveness, and gratitude. 

*This post was originally published in 2012, and was updated for today's publication.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday Motivation: Shifts


It's a word that can trigger much discomfort and one most of us would shy away from. But the more I stare at this word, the more I'm fascinated by it. It implies both a graceful subtlety and mysterious potential that I find it quite poetic. It's certainly not as daunting as 'upheaval', or as blunt as 'change'. And because it's such a gentle word, one that might even allude to imperceptibility, I think it's something that's easier for us to embrace and be open to.

I feel shifts all around me these days, more so than before. Some of these are self-initiated, while others are birthed by events forced upon me. Whatever their origins, any shifting occurring outside of me have necessitated a corresponding internal shift as well. It is a basic law of motion after all, isn't it? Everything stays in a uniform state or motion until acted upon by a force that compels it to change that state. 

We're always shifting. 

From one too naive, believing that the value she gave to relationships endows them with permanence, to one wiser and more humble, accepting that nothing is permanent.

From one who thought being nice appeases everyone, to one who now realizes being honest offers a more genuine peace. 

From one who valued tenacity at all cost, to one who's learned that sometimes there is value in giving up, and that there is honor in letting go. 

From one who believed shifts are to be feared, to one who is reminded that the breathtaking mountains we see on earth all came to be because of endless shifts and violent changes. Beauty takes time and it will happen, but only if we allow the shifts to unfold.