vulnerability & me.

I’m currently listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability.

She has a wonderful point about being vulnerable around the people that you love most.

Brené points out that when we see our loved ones in moments of vulnerability, we tend to love them more. Some examples of vulnerable moments include displays of negative emotions or anger, or engaging in vice or weakness, or even in letting go and being  completely silly. Brené’s example was watching her daughter do a totally weird and uninhibited dance. However, when we ourselves feel vulnerable in front of others, we often think the opposite–that we are making ourselves less worthy of love–and we wrongly believe that others see our vulnerabilities as inadequacies.

It’s always been difficult for me to be vulnerable in front of my family. I dreaded when I knew my parents would come to my basketball games or choir performances. I would actually lie to them about the date of any event where I would be on display in any way. I couldn’t let them see me be vulnerable. I couldn’t put myself in a position where I might lose their love.

Unfortunately, I did grow up in a highly critical household, which is probably why I felt this way. I found Brené’s words so comforting. I want to commit to being more vulnerable in front of the people in my life. I want to remind myself that anyone who loves me will see my courage and talent rather than my flaws. And even if I flail or fail–I will still have succeeded in being seen. In opening up and letting people in. I know that I myself love my friends and family more when I see them fail. It makes me relate to them. It makes me feel closer to them. It makes them more real and warm and human. It makes me want to give them squishy hugs and giggle about how life is so strange and hard and wonderful.

All my greatest friendships have been equal exchanges of vulnerability. I’m going to commit to letting myself be seen more by my friends and family. It will take a lot of courage, but I know it will help me grow and enrich the relationships in my life.

 

Advertisements

good news.

I met with a woman a few weeks ago who is currently completing a program in positive education. Positive education is a broad field, but much of it seems to focus on teaching people how to BE HAPPY and thrive by identifying their strengths and staying focused on the present.

During our talk, I learned that schools in Australia actually have a Director of Wellbeing and Positive Education. Hearing this news brought me so much joy, particularly because of my recent experience in graduate school among a department of talented, smart, and (mostly) kind individuals who all seemed to struggle with feeling as if they were ever good enough. Some seemed to have come into graduate school with principles of positive education built into their personality, and these students thrived. But so many others struggled. As they advanced through the program, I didn’t really see students become more confident—they just struggled in more advanced and impressive settings.

I definitely count myself among the strugglers. I left for many reasons, but one of the big ones was that I didn’t like the way the process to a degree tugged at my self worth. I never felt like I was good enough. I was never able to finish all of the readings assigned, let alone give my own research the attention I felt it deserved. Even worse, I didn’t have/make time for hobbies or physical fitness, so school was my only real arena for goal achievement and confidence. And I so infrequently felt that YES!! feeling. I feel like I deserve to have that feeling. I like myself a whole lot, and I became dreadfully disappointed that the cost of a PhD would be the loss of my gloriously inflated sense of self-esteem. I guess it turns out that I would much rather think that I’m smart than have the paper that proves it.

(Not that the two are mutually exclusive—I’m just trying to be funny. I think I’m a riot. Did I mention my gloriously inflated sense of self-esteem?)

That is all to say, I think if I had training in positive education before and during gradate school, I might have been more successful, and I might have finished the program.

I’ve started to read some literature in that field to fortify myself for the next challenge that life throws at me, and I want to share some of the insights I’ve found.

Today’s insight is about good news.

Good News is an important component of leading a positive lifestyle. Look for good news. Identify it. Share it as much as possible and with as many people as possible.

More important than sharing good news is how you respond to good news. There’s a big ol’ clinical term for this called “active constructive responding” (ACR), but I’m a touchy-feely person, and personally find ACR a bit robotic. Research has fond that responding positively to good news can have a positive impact on your own happiness and wellbeing. What is responding positively? Acting supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic to the person sharing the news. Allow them to tell, relive, and savor their story. By doing so, you’ll increase your own positivity and the amount of positivity in the world.

If you want to increase your own wellbeing, practice being an excellent responder to good news. And don’t forget to share your own good news with other people.

These are all my thoughts for now, and I’d love to hear yours too.

Here is where I got the information that did not come from my own head: https://www.ggs.vic.edu.au/Institute

resolutions

I love the tradition of new year’s resolutions. I love goals. I love starting over and reinventing myself. I love looking at who I am now, recognizing my potential, and saying “I can do better.” I believe real power lies in goal setting. If I commit to a specific goal, write it down, and look at it every day, the chance that I will achieve that goal increases. I’ve experienced this over and over again in my life.

However, there’s an embedded assumption of goal setting that I’ve always had trouble accepting, and that assumption is that we are not currently good enough as we are. Or, to see this idea put more beautifully, check out this meme that my manager at lulu posted on the ‘Book the other day. This little poem reminds us not to throw all of our energy into setting goals, because it takes us away from the present moment. Away from gratitude. Away from the essential realization that we already ARE ourselves; we already are enough.

As I’ve given mindfulness more space in my life, I’ve started to question my former zest for resolutions and goal setting.  Sure, I love setting goals, but only because I love achieving them. I like growing, and achieving goals makes me feel powerful. Feeling satisfied with goal setting is, in a way, a borrowed sort of happiness—I start feeling happy at the thought of achieving my goals at a future date that has not yet occurred. But mindfulness has taught me how important it is to be crazy-blissed-out-happy-and-grateful just as I am in the present moment.

This brings me to one of the many challenges of being thelittlestpinecone and having a front row ticket to the stress show that is my brain. I so often find myself feeling two opposing ways about something, and I struggle to commit to one side of the issue.  Resolutions are no exception—on the one hand, bettering yourself is so beautiful. On the other hand, accepting yourself as you are is EQUALLY beautiful.

Rather than pick a side, I figured out a way to balance these two beliefs by adding an element to the tradition of new year’s resolutions.  Here’s how it works: Before making your regular ol’ new year’s resolutions, you must first do your “reverse resolutions.” Look back at the last year, and write down the many things you’ve achieved (whether or not you intentionally set the goal to achieve them). Maybe you achieved your new year’s resolution from 2016—good! Celebrate that. Maybe you didn’t. What did you achieve? Maybe you tried something totally new. Maybe you got stronger—maybe you got kinder. Maybe you made a new friend, or did something that scared you. Maybe you started a new hobby or mastered a new skill. Or maybe you grew the emotional strength to remove someone or something toxic from your life. List all of the things that you have achieved. Remind yourself of your power, and in the domains in which it lies. Let this guide you as you prepare this year’s resolutions, and let this balance of celebrating accomplishments and setting new goals bring you peace, happiness, and momentum.

Happy New Year! I would love to read about your resolutions—both regular and reverse!

*I chose the picture of my piano for this post because it was one of the accomplishments from 2016 that I included in my own reverse resolution exercise. Last summer, I restored and painted my used, unfinished, (and downright ugly) piano. I’m not usually crafty or project-oriented, so the feeling of pride and accomplishment I felt after transforming my piano was incredibly empowering! Looking at it makes me so happy–not only because I find it so beautiful, but because it reminds me of how smart, powerful, and creative I am when I put my mind to it.

wander.

I haven’t felt inspired to write in a while.

That’s okay.

The purpose of this blog was to share moments of clarity. Moments of truth. Moments where I felt aligned. But honestly, I haven’t felt all that true-northy in the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been under more stress than usual. I’ve accepted a new part time job and left an old part time job when I really would much prefer a full-time something. I’ve been dealing with illness, and I haven’t been making my standing gym, yoga, and meditation appointments. Worst of all–I haven’t been writing.

But it took me a while to notice that I had the activities that I value the most slide to the bottom of my to-do list. And I think I didn’t notice because– strangely enough– I haven’t been unhappy. Not even close. I’ve been having an absolute blast. The stresses that I have been under have been pushing me to seek distractions–to go to more shows, and parties, and events. And being social is such a positive, wonderful activity, especially for an introverted weirdo like me. But sometimes, when it’s all over, I look back and feel as if there’s something lacking about that kind of positivity; about that kind of happiness. It’s great, but it’s not enough.

Deep down, I know what I’m doing. I’m pleasure seeking. I’m reaching for happiness through immediate gratification–loud music, good food and drinks, constant companionship. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things– but there’s something off about the way I’m using them. Maybe this is just an introvert thing, but I feel like I’m drowning out my own inner self, my own inner quiet. And the more I drown out that space, the harder it becomes to find that space again. The more uncomfortable I feel when go to my mat for yoga or my cushion for meditation. I’m wriggly. To be painfully honest–I’m scared.

I’m not mad at myself for letting my yoga practice drop. I think this happens, sometimes. I think growth isn’t linear–there are dips and detours. My hope now is that I can be aware of these detours and use them to learn more about myself: my needs, my desires, my fears, my weaknesses.

While I was through writing this post, I was reading about mindfulness meditation (as I do) in Happiness the Mindful Way: A Practical Guide. I stumbled upon a passage that discusses how the mind will often wander during meditation. The book pointed out that this is not just okay, but an essential part of the process: that “[i]t is important to understand that it is in the nature of the mind to wander, and this can facilitate learning.” The word wander  resonated with me. In my mind, I had been referring to my pleasure-seeking behaviors as “detours,” and I thought I would instead refer to them as “wanders.” This word is gentler, and it seems to better encapsulate the innocence and unintentional nature of it all. To that end, I decided to view my “wanders” from yoga, meditation, and writing in same manner as I view wandering thoughts in meditation practice. In meditation, when your mind wanders, you don’t follow the thought. You don’t ignore the thought. You don’t judge yourself for having the thought. You simply notice the thought. You let it teach you something about yourself.

And then? You let it go.

And go back to the breath.

I’m looking forward to a week of writing, yoga, and peace.

 

 

day one.

It’s day one.

Day one of november.

Day one of anything that you decide.

Day one of a new hobby.

Day one of a new practice.

Day one of joy.

Day one of changing your mind, your city, or your perspective.

Or day one of changing nothing at all, except for adopting the belief that you are the most beautiful manifestation of life that has ever existed.

Just as you are.

No matter what kind of situation I’m in in life, no matter the stress, the first of the month always brings me joy. It’s something about seeing the “1” on my calendar. It’s time to start. Start something new; start growing. It’s a reminder that I—that we—get a blank slate whenever we decide we need one. No matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or who we thought we were, all we have to do is decide that it’s day one, and we can be anything else we want to be. We’re free.

happy day one.

watch the video here:

the rotten pumpkin.

I keep my apartment tidy. I’ve always been vigilant about throwing out old food. I take out my trash almost every other day. And I burn essential oils like tea tree and lemon eucalyptus to keep the air clear and fresh.

So I felt miffed last week when I came home and smelled something rotten. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I smelled it in the living room. I smelled it lying in bed. I smelled it in the kitchen. Whatever it was, the smell had seeped into the vents and permeated my apartment.

On Saturday I set aside five hours to deep clean my apartment. I started in one corner of my bedroom and worked my way through the entire room, vacuuming and Windexing and using all kinds of cleaning chemicals that I usually avoid. I did the same for the bathroom. The kitchen. The living room.

Afterwards, I plopped down on my couch, exhausted. I put my feet up on my coffee table and breathed in deeply.

And I smelled it. Still. I was so perplexed.

I leaned over on the coffee table and touched the stem of a little pumpkin that was making a seasonal cameo as a centerpiece. One morning two weeks ago, I had opened my door  to find this orange little fellow sitting on my stoop. My last boyfriend had left it there for me to find as a surprise. It was so sweet. After our emotional breakup, I thought about throwing it out because it reminded me of him. But instead, I kept it. I kept it to remember how much I had been loved. I kept it because it made me feel, in that crazy way, like I was still loved. I kept it because I wasn’t letting go.

I reached out to pick up the little pumpkin. But rather than grasping it, my fingers sunk in sickeningly, leaving grotesque holes in its orange flesh.

And I found the source of the smell.

I turned over the pumpkin, and saw that that the bottom was moist and clammy. I was horrified. The rot had left a putrid black circle in the center of my coffee table.  The deteriorated skin was giving out, and as I turned it back over, brown, orange, white, and bluish pumpkin meat fell in chunks fell onto my arms and my lap. Dry seeds scattered onto the floor and rotted fibers became lodged under my finger nails as I tried to hold the pumpkin together. As the pumpkin hit the surface of the table it exploded, covering the books on the table and wedging into the groves of the buttons on my remote.

In a matter of seconds, I had gone from chemical clean to sickeningly filthy. The smell made me want to vomit. I was still holding the pumpkin in the air, by the stem. The top part was still. . . sort of. . . in tact. And that’s when it happened. I had the craziest thought:

I can’t throw this out. He gave this to me. 

Yes. I seriously sat there, covered in rotting pumpkin filth, thinking, yeah, I can work with this.

I laughed out loud and how ridiculous that was. Of course I had to let the pumpkin go. It was a no-brainer. No negotiations. An easy choice.

But my instinctual attachment to the pumpkin was telling. It was demonstrative of the wrong view that I had been holding of the relationship I had with the man who had given it to me. Basically, I was attached to an idea of a thing–a pumpkin, or a boyfriend– more than I was attached to the lived experience of the thing. Let me illustrate.

I had falsely begun to associate the pumpkin with being loved, and developed instincts of attachment that sometimes flew in the face of logic. Thus, despite the fact that keeping a rotten pumpkin in my apartment would be bad for my health and my environment, I had a unhealthy instinct to keep it.

Similarly, I had falsely associated the idea of being in a relationship with happiness or success, and developed an attachment to this idea that had left me blind to the many ways that our actual relationship was unhealthy for the both of us. We had become very different people who were focused on very different values. We fought all the time. Our individual goals were pulling us in different directions — good directions, positive directions–but different directions. I think, despite the fact that we loved and liked each other a lot, most of the time we were making each other less happy rather than more happy. In the beginning, it had been different. But relationships, like pumpkins, are more than just a static decorations. They are life forms that grow, and change, and more often than not, decay.

I thought of our breakup as a failure, but I don’t think so any more. The only failure would have been to cling to a false idea over an actual, experienced reality. It took a rotten pumpkin all over my arms  and carpet for me to really understand this idea. Throwing out the rotten pumpkin was a good thing, and it didn’t mean that the pumpkin had been bad for me the whole time. And ending my relationship was a good thing that in no way means that our time together was a failure or a mistake. It was a positive experience that came to a natural end.

So, I got a plastic bag and scooped the pumpkin mess into it. I picked up the seeds with my bare hands. I wiped down the table with a paper towel and Dr. Bronner’s. I cleaned the remote, using a toothpick to extract the rotted brown filth from between the buttons. I threw the bag and cleaning supplies out into the dumpster, and came back in and showered. It was a lot of work, and I didn’t want to do it, but I slowly and carefully extracted the rot from my environment and from myself.

Because when it’s a rotten pumpkin, it’s a really easy choice to begin the physical work of letting it go.

If only it were so easy when it came to the emotional work of letting go of a relationship.

I won’t sugarcoat it (although “sugarcoated pumpkin” does sound kind of good). It was a messy, messy job throwing out that rotten pumpkin. And it’s a messy job ending friendships that are bringing you down, or a career path where you don’t feel like your values are being nurtured, or a relationship where you don’t feel happy.

A dark circle still stains the table in the spot where the pumpkin rotted (pictured above in the the featured image for this post). If you put your nose right up against it, you can still smell it–the stench has seeped into the wood a little. But I scrubbed as long as I could, and will expose it to fresh air and, in time, I have faith that it will start to fade. In short, my table is marked, for the indefinite future, by the rotten pumpkin.

And me? I’m sure as hell marked by my relationship. I’m marked by all  my relationships. It’s okay. Experiences leave marks. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s not a good thing. And it is a bad thing, and it is a good thing. It’s just is.

My apartment, at the moment, is pumpkinless. It doesn’t bother me. I might get a new pumpkin. I might not.

But my apartment doesn’t smell like rot anymore. It smells pretty nice.

Have a very Happy Halloween.

can’t.

Lately, I’ve been fed up with some of the things I’ve been thinking about myself and my life.

I’m overwhelmed with all of the restrictions that I put on myself with my inner monologue–the constant stream of what Thich Nhat Hahn calls Radio NST (Non-Stop Thinking). If you could tune into my personal frequency lately, you’d hear something a little like this:

can’t leave Columbus unless I get someone to take over my lease. I can’t apply for teaching jobs out of state until I get my certification in Ohio. I can’t apply for that position; they’re asking for 2 years of experience that I don’t have. I can’t move to a new city until I first get a job there. I can’t stop myself from texting and calling my ex. I can’t afford to go with my friends to that concert. I can’t get hired at a university with just a master’s degree. I can’t go back to Mysore until I memorize the Astanga sequence. I can’t write a novel until I have a good story arc in mind. I can’t publish that blog post until I give it a better proofreading. I can’t do this or I can’t do that with the experience, qualifications, and attitude I carry at the present time.

Last night my mind was so full of can’ts that I became outraged at myself, rattling against the constricting cage that I build with my own limiting thoughts. I’ve always resentfully challenged any artificial restriction placed on me by another person–my parents, my professors, and my partners can all attest to my fiery refusal to play by their rules. So why would I ever sit idly by and accept these many restrictions that I place on myself? Each can’t is another shackle around my ankles, holding me back from the kind of growth that I know I’m capable of.

Am I right? Am I really so incapable? Or am I not being completely truthful with myself?

No. I’m not really so incapable. I can do all those things. They’re possible.

So I challenged myself to be more truthful and precise with my thoughts. Instead of thinking I can’t, I’ve started trying to think I am uncomfortable . . ., or it is a risk to. . ., or it would challenge me to. . . . Suddenly my inner monologue sounded a bit different:

If I left Columbus before getting someone to take over my lease, I would have to pay rent at my old place until the apartment is filled. This would be a problem I would have to tackle.

If I apply for teaching jobs out of state, I should be prepared to undergo state-specific certification and be aware of the reciprocity offered in that state.

If I apply for the position that wants 2 years of experience that I don’t have, I should be prepared to explain why I think some of the experience that I do have has prepared me to succeed at that job in a comparable way.

It would be financial challenging to a new city before I get a job at the new city.

It takes a lot of emotional effort to stop myself from texting and calling my ex.

It would make me uncomfortable to spend my income on concert tickets when I don’t have a lot of money; if I do so, I should be prepared to cut back expenses in another area of my life.

It would be challenging to get hired at a university with just a master’s degree if there are candidates who have a PhD.

It would make me uncomfortable to go back to Mysore until I memorize the Astanga sequence.

And so on and so forth.

I’m not telling you that it suddenly makes all of these things a good idea for me to do, but I am telling you that by consciously focusing on being more truthful with my inner dialogue, I feel more empowered. It becomes a choice, not a restriction. Language is so important. It boggles my mind how by changing my wording –even the wording that happens in my own mind– I can tighten or loosen shackles, cake on or shave off anxiety, lock out or welcome in happiness.

So the next time you think or say the phrase I can’t, stop and ask yourself if there’s a more truthful explanation. You are a miracle. You are powerful. You are life, and you are possibility. I don’t know you, but I’m pretty confident that you can do any number of challenging things.

Have a very happy Friday.