I subscribe to daily Buddhist emails from TinyBuddha.com and I will be the first to tell you that more often than not, I get exactly the email I need on any particular day. Today’s email was two fold; it was about being a strong person and accepting who you are. In my communication courses, I always do a segment on self-concept, self-image, self-perception and self-esteem; though these are each separate in entity – they are common in nature. Understanding one-self is something people struggle with from early childhood through late adulthood. Accepting yourself as merely who you are can be the trickiest thing you may ever do. There were several key points in today’s email I feel are worth mentioning and giving my own interpretation/perception on. The blue pieces I am incorporating for this post were written by Jessica Ainscough, but the blog itself is primarily written by Lori Deschene.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t. (Worrying about it won’t change it, so why waste your time spinning your wheels?)
On the issue of control, I won’t lie - I struggle with it on a seemingly daily basis. I find myself often trying to control not only all the elements of my job, but the elements of my home-life, my husband, my daughter, my dogs, my dad, this list is long. But in actuality, I don’t really control any of the elements (even down to my dogs). Every entity in life has an uncontrollable karma, sure I can punish my dog for chewing a hole in my favorite nightgown - but I can not “control” the thoughts or the fact that my dog will probably do it again. (She’s a puppy, puppies chew things.) I like to think that I have control over my work, but in reality my job is done in a highly collaborative environment and when one person fails to do their job, they cause a kink in the project – though I might catch their error, they have successfully slowed down progress. So, knowing I am a control-freak without any control… seems futile. But going back to what I said earlier this is merely self-perception, when I really think about it – I am more passive than I am comfortable with. This past weekend I was told “learn your place” and as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I know my place – but I do need to stop worrying about all the elements of my uncontrollable life. When I finally stop worrying about it, I will make peace with it. I know that, but letting go as I’ve mentioned on other days is the hardest thing one can do (especially when I perceive myself to be a control-freak).
Learn to love yourself. (Death is a part of life for all of us. Coming to terms with your own mortality adds an extra layer of empowerment to your life.)
Learning to love yourself, go back to two different items I mentioned above “loving self-image and self-concept.” As much as I try, (and have tried over the past few months) I can’t find happiness in any image I have of myself. My husband likes to mention I have a problem with vanity shots for my facebook account. I take photos of myself constantly. The other day I gave him the excuse that “I only do that when I spend time on myself and I like my hair or the outfit I’m wearing.” I shutter to think I lied about that on the spot. I really do it because every day I struggle with my own self image; I don’t seem to ever really like a picture of myself. I always find a flaw; I can’t keep my profile photo the same for more than 48 hours because I find a problem with my own image. I do not think this is just a self-image issue; this is a problem with my self-concept as well. I give the impression that I am a professional, strong, intellectual to the world - but when I look at my own self-esteem I feel like I am still that third grader that was taller and wider than everyone else with glasses that I didn’t want to wear (and clothes my mom picked out).
I see myself slowly getting older and I realize my own mortality could be ripped away from me in an instant on a Phoenix highway driving home. Yes, I am that scared. This same feeling of losing my life makes me depressed because I would leave my family, most especially, my daughter without a mother. (And again, my mom’s death enters the picture. It pops up everyday in my own thoughts.) So when will I be empowered to rise above all my self-created negativity, imbalance and fear? I hope someday, it’s a slow process though and as Jessica indicated in her writing it took two strikes with cancer before she finally got it. I have already been in one serious motor vehicle accident that there was a 90% chance I shouldn’t have made it out of. I mean being hit from behind and swung into a 180-degree angle into oncoming traffic going 65mph+, being hit head on and flying another 180-degrees plus… should’ve pretty much sealed my fate. It didn’t and I’m still here – then why am I depressed? I read once somewhere that “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is just a sign that we have been strong for too long.” I’d like to think that is why I’m depressed frequently in my life, but I won’t hide behind a quote this time, the real reason is I need to come to terms with my own mortality and self-image and until I do – I will be stuck on this page of my life.
Spend time with people who make you happy. (This seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often we keep people around just because they are familiar or because we don’t want to rock the boat. Of course, this is a little more difficult if the negative energy belongs to someone you love.)
This one is very hard for me because I do spend time with people who make me happy, but very often those people are stuck in the wheel of depression. My husband has ankylosing spondylitis and it literally rips the joy out of him every day. I watch the person I love fall subject to his illness and there is nothing I can do about it. I can be there and be supportive but I can’t escape the negative energy that pulls at him. My daughter on the other hand, is an amazing gift, she believes in herself unwaveringly and why shouldn’t she? She’s four years old and she believes she can do anything. (Even water bending, thanks Nickelodeon.) The innocence of youth has an amazing way of making you feel amazing. I wish I could go back to my youth and appreciate it more for what it was and less for what it wasn’t. But we can’t change the past; we can only change the perspective of ourselves to make a better future. Bringing me to the next point in Jessica’s article:
Get some perspective. (When it seems as though life has handed you a bad hand, take a moment to think about all the people who are in a far worse position than you.)
I remember all the times I used to complain when I was little, my mom would always see “You have it so much better than so many other children, next time you think about complaining – think about everyone else who is worse off than you.” (She was truly wise beyond her years.) After hearing those words (which I heard quite frequently) I would sit and reflect. My idea of reflecting was to sit and think of all the things I had - rather than all the things I didn’t. Believe it or not, I think those times of reflection is what has helped me have such a wonderful memory today. I can recall moments from my early childhood where I felt extemporary freedom, honesty, trust, value and beauty. I remember a moment where I stood on top of a large rock (that marked the edge of our property) and I had my eyes closed but my head was facing the sunshine and I felt warmth throughout my body and was truly feeling “on top of the world.” I remember that moment as often as I can; it usually puts me in a good mood. It was a mere moment where I was one with the universe and I could only see blind light and warmth. I recommend everyone searches deep within themselves and looks for these types of moments frequently.
Pay it forward. (Being charitable, doing your bit for humanity, going out of your way to do something for someone else—it all helps to make you feel good, as well. Not only will it help others and attract good karma in the long run, in the short term it will give you a great feeling of self-worth.)
Ever since the movie Pay It Forward (which I cried like a baby through) – I have tried as a professor to offer moments to my students that shed light on the fact that anyone can make a difference, small or large. I often tell my students about a time in my life where I could only find darkness and with the help of one single person, I was able to overcome a great deal of obstacles. This person was more than just a mentor, she was a friend. She didn’t just care if I graduated; she wanted me to graduate with honor. It’s really true that if you help someone you feel warm and cozy inside, but in this economy it makes it hard to help anyone with anything other than words. Not just any words of course, words from the heart. I started writing again for three reasons, one because I hoped that someone who needed it would stumble upon it one day; two because I needed it and three because if I do end up one day with my life cut short, the people I love (Zach, Nina, my dogs, my dad, my aunts, my uncle, my cousins & my in-laws) would know how much I cared about them and they each were true inspirations in my life whether they knew it or not.
Today, I want to mention one particular cousin who I don’t think she knows it is an inspiration to me. Her story wasn’t really this short (but for the purposes of the longevity of this blog, I will abbreviate it). I won’t mention her name because she doesn’t know I am writing about her, but perhaps some day she will come across it and feel happy to know this is how I felt.
She got pregnant when she was fifteen, my family and extended family was not nearly as supportive as they should have been. We are the same age (only separated by a couple of months) and as family’s do we were often compared to each other: I was looked at as the “good” cousin and she was the “bad” cousin. But for the record, I think it probably was the other way around. She stayed in school until she was very close to having the baby, often walking to and from school pregnant (and the distance was more than a mile). The people we went to school with were generally shitty people; but adolescents are mean – and they were mean as children, so why expect otherwise. Either way, she had it pretty rough for quite some time. She wasn’t given the same opportunities that I and my other cousins were because she had a baby. At the time, I noticed, but what could another 16 year old do to make a difference. But the part of her that was so inspirational to me was: she took care of her son, kept him and finished high school despite the odds of not. I was adopted and everyone in my family knew, but I don’t think she ever realized how much I respected her for not putting her son up for adoption – at no point in her pregnancy nor in his life did she see that as an option. I respected that decision more than I think she ever realized. She now has four children and is a great mom. She is happily married and in general is a lot happier than I remember her to be, at least compared to her adolescent years. Even though she may not have a college degree or some highly respected job, I think she has much more than she even realizes. In fact, I know several executives who would trade their high class worlds for simple “meaningful” lives like she has.
Get your OM on. (The absolute best way to re-connect your mind with your body is to meditate.)
Finally, the last portion of my blog for the day: (I know you were probably wondering if this rambling would lead somewhere.) I just finished watching the cartoon series Avatar: the Last Airbender and not to sound like Kyle on South Park but “I learned something today.” The avatar series was based on Buddhist and Dali concepts and ironically enough, every time the lead character would come to a difficult trial - he would do as the monks taught him. Meditate. I don’t know if I have ever really meditated in a formal way, but I do “zone out” frequently. I call these moments “Lost in Reflection” usually I remember some happy moment from my childhood, or a moment with one of my dogs (past and present), my mom, my daughter, or some weird event that happened to me which makes me laugh out loud. These moments can be brought on by something someone says, does or even music which makes me reflect to the moment I first heard the song. For some reason my brain processes these moments and shuts down to the world around me and all I can do is live in this reflected moment. These moments are the moments I live for; they are a stop of the watch, a moment plucked out of time for my review. Unfortunately, as I’ve grown older these moments are not always happy, sometimes they make me cry. The problem is they are so real when I have them; I am reminded of the emotions that I had while they were happening. I do actively try to only reflect on happy times but as balance would dictate, some moments must also be sad. Just as the yin is to the yang, I can not always reflect happy without bringing out the sad. But reflecting on sad moments of my life doesn’t mean I always feel sad, actually when I think of sad moments – I try to fix the emotion I may have had. When my mom first died, I was devastated, then shortly after I was emotionless, then disappointed, but now I just feel sad. I think my evolution of feelings on this particular moment has been for the better. Perhaps that’s the point to meditating, reflecting as you should have to moments when you might not have. Either way, reflection is good and incorporating meditation into your life can only make your actions better with enlightened wisdom.
This image is a painting by Jim Thompson. More information on his art can be acquired at this web address: http://www.art-mind-soul.com/003-Yin-Yang.enlarge.html