Ready to Fight

23 Dec

I’ve been reflecting a lot on this year, 2014 was a big one. I’ve had some fairly significantly milestones:
* Got a new job
* Moved to a new apartment & a new neighborhood
* Moved in with my boyfriend (first time living with a man)
* Had a successful series of sessions with a couples therapist
* Starting seeing a therapist regularly, not for the first time but the longest running relationship so far
* Started doing my laundry & dishes more regularly
* Started learning to cook Indian food again
* Made two new friends
* Met the BF’s Fam (first time as a new couple) + he met my extended Fam + our Fams met each other!
* Picked up a new sports/hobby

I’m sure I can think of more if I really put my mind to it, which I will in a few days except that’s not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is short and sweet. It’s that with this past reflection has also come some future goals. I’ve been toying around with what do I want to focus on in 2015 and there is one goal in particular that I feel the need to enunciate at midnight– I want, in my life, to be able to write beautifully, compellingly and articulately. I love writing. I’ve always written growing up– written in diaries, been a compulsive note taker in class or meetings, underlined and annotated everything I’ve ever read. Writing is how I give significance to my emotions and thereby my life. So in 2015 I want to hone those skills further. I want writing to be an important part of my life and use it to give a part of myself to others. I think in the past my fear at falling short has held me back. I keep editing and re-writing and mulling but I wasn’t satisfied with the qualify of the work even when I felt that I was getting better. And so I’d stop again. That happened in 2014, I started off strong but abruptly packed up my bags.

Today, however, I came across this bit of sage advice from Ira Glass on how our taste develops before our abilities which means we’re able to asses that we fall short well before we’re able to actually hit the mark in a meaningful way. The only way around it is to do volumes of work to bridge the gap, he says. But I think there is one step further, which is to fall in love with the editing, re-writing, and mulling itself. The process must energize more than the outcome otherwise I think my mind will live in a constant state of angst and disappointment. Because damn I know my taste is good! So this is me admitting and accepting that writing is more than a past-time but the most effective way I know how to express who I am (both to myself and to others). So even though it will take a while, here is me saying I’m ready to fight.

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The Day We Die

6 May

The day we die
the wind comes down
to take away
our footprints.

The wind makes dust
to cover up
the marks we left
while walking.

For otherwise
the thing would seem
as if we were
still living.

Therefore the wind
is he who comes
to blow away
our footprints.

—- Anonymous poem from the San people of Kalahari in Southern Africa

21 Days- In Reflection

1 Feb

Feb 1st, a full 37 days since my first blog and starting this adventure of enhancing my compassion and gratitude. I wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on how it all went, what I thought of this grand plan to rewire my brain into a more positive outlook.

The short version: The 21 Days of Compassion made me a more positive person.

I still maintain a list (less official) on my phone when I come across a new thought or experience that I’m grateful for. I’m more motivated at work (after the initial back to office slump). I take pictures now! I used to not take pictures, like the John Mayor song 3X5: “didn’t have a camera by my side this time hopping I would see the world with both my eyes.” In reality I think I was missing out by not capturing those happy memories and moments of awe. My disposition, I’ve come to admit, is such that while I have good experiences they get lost in the negative waves of hindsight.

The long version: The 21 Days of Compassion made me a more positive person. And I will continue to have to find ways to maintain this positivity.

There have also been a few lessons along the way about myself:

  • Hard work is mistaken for innate talent: In the past couple months various TED Talks about grit, leadership and happiness have illuminated that I emphasize the need for natural abilities over hard word. And I use this as a crutch and excuse. In the process of celebrating success we turn the story into a myth of the innate. And I do this! Research, for example shows that it’s not charismatic people who become leaders but taking on roles of leadership leads to charisma. I’m not sure why this example resonated so well (maybe because I had so squarely fallen in the former camp) but it did. We all have what it takes.
  • Argue in the Now: I have some not so bueno habits. For example, I’m not good about brushing my teeth at night– my parents never instilled it as a child and now as a grown woman I get lazy. Through my 21 days I realized in the moments when I was dragging my feet, my best argument was one that was bout the now. Not “I’ll regret this tomorrow” or “This will make me happy in the morning” but “I will feel satisfied now, as soon as I finish brushing my teeth.” Translating my long-term desires into short-term gains has been very powerful. And my lessons in gratitude show there is often something nice in the now to focus on. Look at those dots connecting!
  • My Life, Myself, and Others: I’ve decided to expand this project, not so much in the formal blog but in day to day. I’m going to create a board to list things I’m grateful for in my life, in myself and in others (especially my relationship). AND I want to keep writing. These are two things I need to mash together. Writing brings me clarity and keeps me thinking more positive. Lists are the short little versions of my other way long and drawn out thoughts. I

On that note- I’m spending a wonderful weekend in a cabin with some old friends and soon to be new friends! Resolution #2 and #9 (talk to strangers & focus on the moment).

Day 21: The End

17 Jan

Day 21! The last day of the challenge. I’m going to do one more post, reflecting on the experience. But here is the last day 🙂

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Surprises: I LOVE surprises. Not just the big ones– like a surprise birthday party (though hint hint fwends, nobody has ever thrown me a surprise b-day party!)– but the little ones. An e-mail from someone unexpected, a sunny day during a week of rain, and mail. Well today I got a package from my mom. Now I know I should have seen it coming (she asked me and my sis for our mailing address two days ago) but I didn’t. So too my delight I came home to priority mail box full of on of my most favorite Indian sweet snacks EVER! It’s so yummy that I’m not even going to say what it is lest you come banging on my door wanting some. My roomie got a piece each because for some weird reason I was feeling generous. I shan’t make that mistake twice. Surprises are the best.
  • Other People’s Patience: I’ve been working on my own patience and while I am grateful when it kicks in, the reality is that part of the reason I can be patience at times is because I remember a moment were the roles were reversed and someone was kind to me.  Like when you’re driving in a new part of town and going super slow because you have no clue if the next street is the one you’re supposed to turn on and the buddy behind you doesn’t get ruffled by it. In the past year especially both strangers and loved ones have put up with my blumbering fool of self. So thank you all for your kind patience (at least to my face!). FYI
  • Votes of Confidence: I am extremely, extremely extremely, extremely grateful to every single person who read even one of my blogs kind of, half-way through. Some of you, for unknown reasons, chose to read multiple blogs AND THEN even message me saying how much you enjoyed it! I’m honored enough to tuck my mild skepticism deep into the closet and just smile in gratitude. I was very shocked and pleased when I started to receive kind words and even inspire a few people to do their own 21 Days of Compassion. The messages really helped keep me going on those sleepy days when I just wanted to be lazy! So thanks for the votes of confidence peeps.

Meditation AND Exercise: I tried something different today– Kundalini Yoga. It was part exercise and part meditation, with a focus on awareness and healing. And i have to say I did feel very calm and present almost the entire time were were there. The “instructor” was more of a guru-like figure and was so very joyful. And what point he told us to shake out our hips and then proceeded to tell us a story about watching a YouTube video on meditation by shaking. That’s it, just shake your body. So he encouraged us all to be silly and just shake. It works; you can’t be upset or thinking about anything but the moment when you’re shaking like a little weirdo.  I want to keep going, maybe once a week, as a way to recenter myself and also continuing to work myself into more structured, focused forms of meditation.

One Positive Experience: Today a co-worker sent me the nicest message! I’m going to relay it for you, Mad Libs style.

Super nice co-workers says: Me and [insert your best friend’s name] told [insert very important alive human’s name] how awesome you were to work with this [insert word or phrase for the end of the word]. [insert capitalized gendered pronoun of very important alive human’s name] said  [repeat gendered pronoun of very important alive human’s name]  knows you’re awesome.

For revised rendition of the complement: “Me and Irene told President Obama how awesome you were to work with this Zombie Apocolypse. He said he knows you’re awesome.”

Conscious Act of Kindness: Mrs. B was my elementary school Librarian. From 2nd through 5th grade, my sis and I would volunteer at the school library once a week. It was the best. I still remember learning the Dewey Decimal to file books away, climbing up into the reading loft to striaghten out the pillows, and my favorite was when I’d graduated enough to be able to use the letter presses and make signs and wall decor for upcomming library events. As a kid I remember the library was this giant vast land of aisles and aisles of books. There were tables to read at, a stage for story time, and even a rocking chair. I have some of the most vivid memories in that library. I loved Tuesdays and hanging with Mrs. B. She was so kind, every Christmas giving us the most wonderful goody bags full of treats. I have yet to track down her contact info, but once I do there is a lovely letter waiting.

Day 20: Unfinished Business

17 Jan

Three Sources of Gratitude AND Exercise:

  • The Moon: I like the moon because I always forget about it. It’s not like the sun, which takes over the sky. The moon is more subtle; gently illuminating  but often hidden from sight due to clouds or birds or air-o-planes. But every time I do lay eyes on it, I’m struck by its beauty and mysticism. The moon gets me thinking about the nether and the great big universe out there. It makes me feel small, in a humble comforting way.
  • Unfinished Business: Today I went climbing for the first time and I think I’m hooked! It was so much fun, both harder and less stressful than I imagined. Things I love: (a) you have to let go of your fear, (b) the course is designed to force you to stretch yourself when you feel like you can’t do it (I have a mindset where I like to feel prepared for success going into a situation which holds me back sometimes), (c) you get used to falling, (d) you can climb with people of all skill sets– unlike many other sports a novice never has to fear that they’re holding back an expert, (e) it’s more than the physical, it’s also a puzzle, and (d) there is always unfinished business. Mine was a yellow course that I just, despite multiple attempts, wasn’t able to conquer….THIS time. But oh I shall be back and it’s going to be glorious!
  • Flexibility: I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule to move things around, arrive late or early to work, and accommodate for the general happenings of life. I love this; I’m fortunate to have this. It is was allows me to stay sane and balanced.

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One Positive Experience: My coworker’s corgi was especially cute today. Full of energy, sticking her tongue out, running away like a rug-rat. Really helped bring some joy to your heart.

Meditation/Reflection: I don’t want to go to much at lengths but I have some big decisions to make and my friend E really helped me think through my thoughts. Sometimes you’re uncomfortable with an idea and can’t really pinpoint why exactly but I think, in the next few weeks, more clarity will come. Just talked it out with a good listener already has made my jumbled up head slightly more organized. I also ended the day by reading some of the Bhagavd-Gita in bed. And this excerpt stuck out

Arming himself with discipline,
seeing everything with an equal eye,he sees the self in all creatures
and all creatures in the self.

He who sees me everywhere
and sees everything in me
will not be lost to me,
and I will not be lost to him.

Conscious Act of Kindness: S was my first real friend when I moved out to this corner of the country. She was kind and open when I most needed it. I owe a lot of my current happiness to the generosity she showed 2.25 years ago.

Day 17 & 18 & 19: A Sentence(ish) Each

15 Jan

I’m a little behind in my blogging. I was out of town over the weekend and while I was checking off my tasks, I wasn’t blogging about them primarily because I knew that as important as this project is for me, I only had 2 days with my partner and I needed to prioritize that quality time. But I’m getting back on the bandwagon now, only considering how much content there is, I’m going to try and write only one sentence(ish) to capture each of the different items!

Day 17:

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Being American: Originally I intended to dedicate an entire blog just to to this topic, but, in the name of brevity, I have instead a story from my book, which highlights not the usual reasons being American is generally great (standard of living, access to opportunities, long lifespan etc) but the privilege of being American: in the global spectrum, Americans (even as individuals) often have more weight, more power, are taken more seriously.

Dr. Kayode explained that Ramatou probably had eclampsia, a pregnancy complication that kills about fifty thousand women a year in the developing world. So she needed a cesarean section; one the baby was out, the convulsions would end as well. Ramatou was a mother of six, thirty-seven years old, and her life was ebbing away in the little hospital waiting room…

The Zinder clinic, it turned out, was part of a pilot program in Niger arranged by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and AMDD to fight maternal mortality. As a result, all the materials needed for a C-section were kept in sealed plastic bags and available if the family paid $42. That was a great improvement over the previous approach of having the families run all over town, spending far more to buy bandages here, guaze there, scalpels somewhere else. But what if Ramatou’s family didn’t have $42?

In that case, she would probably die. “If the family says they have no money, then you have a problem,” Dr. Kayode acknowledged. “Sometimes you help, with the expectation that you will be paid back. At the beginning, I helped a lot, but then afterward people didn’t pay me back.” He shruged, and aded: “It depends on the mood. If the staff feel they can’t pay out again, then you just wait and watch. And sometimes she dies.” Still the hopspital staff didn’t want Ramatou to die with us watching. The nurse wheeled her into the operating room…

Excerpt From Half The Sky

  • Women’s Organizations: There are a slew of organizations listed in Half the Sky all doing incredible work to help some of the worlds more marginalized and disenfranchised souls.
  • The Appreciation for Art: Investing in art is often controversial, but to me the biggest argument is for the creator. Creating art is a healthy form of expression (my art is my writing but for other’s is maybe more abstract, more tactile, more visual). I’m grateful art exists, and even more grateful that people (like those who have read my blog) are around to appreciate and thereby reinforce its existence.

Exercise: My friend L and I caught up and lifted our spirits by attending a very warm Vinyasa Flow class followed by a trek for smoothies!

One Positive Experience: Walking down Broadway we asked a man for directions, and while he didn’t know where the smoothie shop we were looking for was located, he did stop and chat and even gave us some free samples of Sabon Soap, some of the sweetest smelling bath products I’ve ever come across! Ingredient list included gum drops, bubbles, and fairy dust.

Meditation/Reflection: How do you tell the difference between the lack of interest and the fear of failure? I haven’t settled on the answer yet…

Conscious Act of Kindness: The most important things to know about S: she looks at the world differently, she is passionate about human injustices, and she is brave enough to do something about it.

Day 18:

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • “Small Word” Moments: I like expanding my bubbles, but sometimes it’s nice to know that all the bubbles in the world aren’t as expansive as you think they are.
  • Meeting your Friend’s Friends: It’s nice meeting people you’ve heard a lot about but never met, and then you see your mutual friend in their company, relaxed and pleased: sheds a new light on an old friendship.
  • A Sense of History: It’s a little bit meta but what if our sense of history, our relationship with time was so short that we didn’t recall anything beyond our individual lifespan? Or what if it was even less than that? I think history helps with perspective, and happiness (as this project explores) is very much about perspective.

Exercise: Yoga with a first-timer, twas special.

One Positive Experience: Cuddles and laughter and watching West Wing with your partner. One day I might get used to these things and fail to appreciate them, but at this point in time, they are rare gifts. So I try to focus on how special the moments become instead of how infrequently they come by.

Meditation/Reflection: At the end of my yoga class I tried to practice stillness for just a few minutes— it was hard, I didn’t do a good job, but I’ll try again next class.

Conscious Act of Kindness: I met some new friends today (friends of friends actually) and had such a wonderful time. So I just sent a little note saying exactly that!

Day 19:

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Rest: I take rest for granted by not appreciating how important it is to my focus, my health, and my happiness; so for the rest of the week I’m going to reverse that (go to bed earlier
  • Feeling Dumb: To be frank, I hate the feeling of being dumb. BUT I’m trying to reframe this word…the moments where you feel the lowest, especially dumb, are also the greatest opportunity to rise up and show some grit. Recover, pummel through anyway, just keep going. Let’s see if the reframing works!
  • Hands: Inspired by Kodi Azari’s The Perfect Human Hand from The Moth radio

Exercise: Confession! I didn’t actually exercise today! A friend was feeling down so I skipped the gym and cooked us dinner instead and then fell asleep before doing nightcap yoga. My first “non-travel” day of missing exercise. I’m pretty bummed and am brainstorming what to do to compensate….

One Positive Experience: Ran into a friend on the bus! Blissful little moments.

Meditation/Reflection: I always though if you really wanted something it would crystal clear sans doubt, but I’m learning to accept that it’s not so; the forces of inertia and the sub-conscious can still tug at you (your ropes).

Conscious Act of Kindness: A has been a good friend to me for years– loyal, honest, and generous. Recently we’ve not been talking as much, which is all the more reason to send a little reminder note.

And In Conclusion:

I fail about being concise.

Day 16: Splinter Moments

9 Jan

 Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Birthdays! Today is my Pop’s birthday. Don’t tell anyone but the old foggy is 60 year’s old! Apparently his co-workers think he’s in his late 40s. Considering that my sister is a doctor, they must think he got married straight out of high school or something. But I digress…birthdays are awesome. Birthdays are awesome because they are completely arbitrary reasons for you and everyone in your life to explicity love yourself. On my birthday I feel like a King! I can do no wrong. Actually I listened to this fabulous Ted Talk by Alain de Botton entitled Atheism 2.0, where he highlights some of the best parts of religion, one of which is a calendar. Sometimes, we need reminders to appreciate the small things, to look at the moon, to cherish our family, to simply celebrate. Birthdays are that reminder (just in case we’ve forgotten) that our life is a precious and remarkable gift, worth celebrating. Our story thus far is worth celebrating. Hence in my book a birthday is always something worth rallying, whether the birthday friend is new or old.
  • Friends You Can Learn From: I love learning something new from friends. Especially old friends, whom you assume you’ve already tapped out; they always surprise you! For example, my friend E has been on the job hunt and has started blogging a mini Job Search Guide to share her learnings and advice. I found it so accessible and full of little tricks that could probably help anyone whose just trying to network better . I highly recommend the read. I also am reminded of my friend J who shared with me this community project he’s working on, stemming from his interest in the Suzuki Physical Theater, which I believe has been created by Japanese theater director Tadashi Suziki. J showed me the below video which I found very interesting. I still don’t know a lot about this form of physical theater but at least I know it exists and maybe one day will get the chance to try it out myself! So many fun things in the world.
  • Access to Transportation: Most days I bus to work. On nice days I bike. And on days when I’m running late I drive. I’ve got options. All of these options enable to get from Point A to Point B in an efficient manner. But this isn’t true for everyone. In fact, even after adding this to my list of gratitude I still made an ignorant comment forgetting this simple fact. It was a splinter moment. A splinter moment is what I call those tiny little actions you take, small decisions, that bring on sharp pains of shame. Last year I was biking and there was an overly aggressive driver being very rude and I flicked him off as I turned on my street. A small burst of anger just swelled up inside me and I made a poor decision. I immediately regretted it. I felt like I represented bikers poorly, I represented my charity organization, whose jersey I was wearing, poorly. I mean what if there was a child in the car and they saw? I still recall this moment and the pangs of shame keep me in line. No matter how far I’ve come, and how hard I’ve worked, there is still further to go. Today’s splinter moment was me laughing over a co-worker’s choice to live in the burbs (he truly does live in the burbs- that’s not the splinter moment!). When I found out where he was moving, I recounted how I’d been chatting with a girl at the checkout counter in Target when I’d first moved here. It was quite apparent I had moved (nobody buys that much kitchen gear in one go) and I mentioned which neighborhood I was living in. She seemed confused and so I used some key landmarks to describe where it’s located. Realizing that I lived in the city, she responded that she’d never been to the city before. I was shocked! I retold that story today to describe how people in the burbs stay in the burbs but almost immediately afterwards I realized I was looking at the world from my perspective of privilege. In my bubble if you don’t go somewhere it’s because you don’t want to. But in the reality many people don’t have access. That 16 year old girl may come from a family that doesn’t have a lot of time or extra income to be taking their car (if they have one) in and out of the city. In jokingly accusing her of living in a bubble, I actually pointed out my own bubble. In this bubble I have easy access to transportation, which I must do a better job appreciating. I’m curious what other people’s splinter moments might be. If you’d like to share please do!

Meditation/Reflection: My friend sent me this post on 3 Minute Meditations. I’d like to test them over the next five days. So for today I chose “The Full Body Scan.” It wasn’t what I expected. I actually got a little claustrophobic feeling when I did it. I think being congested and tired didn’t help. Or perhaps it’s like when you go to a new yoga class for the first time and you feel awful at first. So maybe I just need practice?

One Positive Experience: Up until now most of my positive experiences have involved sometime of interaction with a person. But one of the best things I did today, for myself, was to spend time cleaning up my room. I did my laundry, washed my sheets, vacuumed and tidied. It felt great! I don’t always prioritize keeping a clean space but I do love that sensation of coming home to just a war, clutter free room. I’m glad I knocked it out today.

Random Act of Kindness: I have a relatively new friend J (actually a friend of a friend) who I had some wonderful conversation with last weekend. And I’m going to tell him so. That’s all 🙂

Exercise: My roommate’s friend finished yoga teacher training last month and sent her a really nice pre-bed yoga series. In her words they’ll help relax your muscles, lower your heartbeat and stimulate your digestive system. I think it’s exactly what the doctor ordered!