I felt myself fidgeting, glancing sideways at the clock, mind wandering, head bobbing, not so much in agreement, but as the slightest indication that I was still somewhat listening. Between moments of tuning out, I picked up a snippet of what was just said that held a great deal of depth and profundity. It made me wonder…
What else had I missed?
Everyone is busy; so much so that it’s hardly an accepted excuse, anymore.
Everyone has places to be, things to do, errands to run and people to meet.
With the demand for multi-task-ability, it’s increasingly difficult to just be present; to slow down; to give undivided attention to the task at hand. But, as long as we’re only partially-attentive to what’s happening, there must be some great things we’re missing as our minds undulate in and out of present consciousness.
I started thinking about how I feel when, as I am speaking to someone, I see their eyes darting side to side, their focus everywhere but on my words, their fidgeting and so-called subtle peeks at their watches.
It feels pretty awful.
Like what I had to say held no importance and that I might as well have consulted a brick wall… or bobble head doll.
(So, time to time I’ll play the let’s-see-if-you’re-really-paying-attention-to-me game and embed a blatantly random statement between my sentences. Perhaps I’ll toss in a fun fact about emusas I’m talking about something great that happened in a Zumba class. Head nodding and “mmhmm-ing” continues without a hitch? You lose!)
My point is this: I do respect the importance of each and every one of our busy lives and packed schedules. There is a time a place to for complete and utter consideration. Sometimes, we just want to simply decompress the stuff in our minds by putting thoughts in to words and we don’t expect undivided attention.
Then, there are times when our minds are clearly scattered elsewhere as we “listen” to someone speak when we should question how importantly pressing the other stuff really is. Is it really imperative we think about it at that moment? Is it worth possibly missing something significant spoken to us?
When I was noticed that I was hearing, not listening to what was being said, I realized my rudeness in assuming my “stuff” held more importance than theirs.
So, I stopped the fidgeting, held my gaze and refocused attention to the moment at hand, reallypaying the same respect I would hope to receive if I were the speaker.
After all, that other stuff I thought was so pressing wasn’t going to spontaneously combust into a chaotic disaster… it would all be there when I was ready to pay attention to it.
Like, really turning our view inwards, seeing what's there, and giving ourselves the care and time we need.
I mean, taking all that energy we put out there, trying to fix, organize and arrange other peoples' lives and redirect it towards ourselves.
Could you imagine?
Even though it's more difficult and, actually, near impossible, to control others' lives, we opt for it because we are afraid to take control of our own. We expend so much energy worrying about things that really don't matter, if we are truly real with ourselves.
We spend so much time living other people's lives for them... but, who's living ours?
Don't get me wrong- It's wonderfully caring and giving to worry about others' wellbeings, making sure to do all we can so that those we care for are happy. But, there's a fine line between being helpful and making yourself a martyr.
Doing so much for others and not doing anything to take care of ourselves isn't doing anyone any favors.
Actually, we're doing them a disservice by not taking care of ourselves.
How can we really provide the best care for others if our wellbeings are not at optimal levels?
I'm not suggesting we neglect everyone in our lives and hole away in a spa to pamper ourselves (although once in a while is actually pretty nice!).
Balance. It's always about balance.
What I AM suggesting is that we inch ourselves up our hierarchical list of priorities.
Maybe we won't put ourselves at the absolute top, yet. But, by realizing how worthy we are of our own care that we selflessly dole out willy-nilly, we can start taking the necessary steps to show ourselves the love we all individually deserve.
There's someone in my life that I care very much about who has been perpertually miserable for quite some time now. For the sake of anonymity, we'll call her "Daisy."
Granted, Daisy hasn't had the easiest of lives, she certainly doesn't have the worst life possible- not even close. She may beg to differ as she's been so immersed in her own negative energy for so long that the half-filled portion of her glass may as well be invisible to her. She believes that the only way her life will be better is if the people and situations that surround her change.
See the problem?
It's what I always say: Change your perspective, change your experience, change your life.
There's only so long we should be allowed to indulge ourselves in self-pity. We can keep our faces long and cry about the cards we've been dealt, but after a while that song gets old and tired. After a certain amount of time, it becomes a matter of personal responsibility to take the situation in our own hands and reshuffle the deck, instead of perpetually staring at the crappy hand.
The Serenity Prayer comes to mind...
"...grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference..."
There are things we have no control over and sometimes that's unfortunate. Daisy can't change the fact that her family members deal with addiction. She can't magically double her income to alleviate her financial woes. She can't take away her parents' pains associated with old age.
But, she can change her attitude. She can change how she sees things. She can shift her focus on to what she does have to be grateful for, like a home, a steady job that challenges her ample abilities and family that loves her regardless of her grumpiness, instead of honing in on what's not so perfect. She can stop scoffing at me when I suggest she try these things and realize there is no harm in trying something new that would only do her a world of good.
Today is actually Daisy's birthday. I gave her a hug, wishing her a good day, and she coldly responded to my open arms with what could hardly pass as a hug. She said, "thanks," as if we were passing strangers.
Later in the day, I got a call from Daisy's family member ooking for gift suggestions, asking if I knew of anything Daisy needed.
Statistics show that magazine covers highlighting weight loss articles or features like "best and worst bodies" sell more copies. Although men aren't exempt, female targeted magazines are littered with these your-body-isn't-good-enough messages and we, as women, snatch them off the shelves with the hopes that this issue holds the magical answer to the ever-elusive body-happiness we are constantly in search for.
We thumb through the pages, read the article, see the same diets of weighed and measured out bits of boring foods, see pictures of smiling women who have found bliss after losing such and such amount of weight and wonder what the heck is wrong with us that after one week, the scale hasn't budged, much less shown a decrease of 20 pounds.
It won't be our smiling faces in those perfectly sculpted "after" pictures. Nope. We're perpetually stuck in the "before" frame. But, clearly, we're at fault here.
I call shenanigans!
How can we possibly begin to start feeling good about ourselves as long as the media tells us we are in need of change in order to be whole?
It's unfortunate that because of the numbers, the sales driven media will continue to plaster their glossy pages with the same negatively charged message hidden as secrets to happiness over and over. After all, they are businesses and need to give their readers what they want.
Unfortunately, "Lose 20lbs By Friday" sells more copies than "Don't Change, You're Perfect."
Only when the mind is healed, the negative self-talk stops, and external messages are filtered out can real change begin. Otherwise, any attempted work is superficial, literally and figuratively, and it won't last.
In my practice, I always preach self-love and self-acceptance.
Because we are all whole, complete and perfect, just as we are.
And no amount of weight gained or lost will ever change that.
There's no doubt that certain foods are more emotionally charged than others. The tastes, smells, textures bring back memories and conjure up feelings specific to when you had that dish for the first time. Even though "cozy" is not a spice in the cupboard, certain meals definitely have an extra dash of coziness in them.
Mama's chicken soup.
As I finished off a big bowl for lunch, I thought, "What is it that makes this soup so darn amazing??"
Sure, the nutritionist in me thinks of all the nutrient dense vegetables and healing properties of the bone broth. Mom even throws in whole knobs of ginseng for an added stress-busting boost.
But, there's something more to this magical soup that just makes me feel oh-so-wonderful.
Putting my nutritionist hat aside, I begin to realize why "Mom's chicken soup" is always the go-to comfort food for so many people. Yes, we can discuss the benefits of the added fluids, sodium, vitamins, protein, blah blah blah, but I think it would be doing the great soups of moms everywhere a great disservice if we overlook the most healing ingredient of them all: LOVE
::Roll eyes, scoff, "yeah, yeah, yeah"::
Ok, maybe this is a bit on the crunchy-holistic side, but hear me out!
When the weather is cold and rainy or if I'm just not quite feeling physically up to par, chicken soup off the supermarket shelf just won't do the trick. Something about the processed, uniform bits floating in a tin can doesn't make me feel like eating it will make me feel any better.
But, sit me down in front of a steamy serving of the day-long, homemade, rustic stuff and relief is only a spoonful away!
The difference, here, is knowing Mom had been in the kitchen chopping the vegetables, trimming the chicken, layering the flavors and tending to the pot. The amount of detail that goes in to even the simplest of soups is bolstered by the sentiment that time was put in to peeling every carrot, slicing each celery stalk and tasting every step of the way to ensure it comes out just-so. That is the love I was referring to. That is the love that completes every bowl.
Yes, it is important to eat whole foods that are nutrient dense, take a multivitamin, etc and so on, but there are more things that feed us other than food, itself. The magical ability for Mom's Chicken Soup to lift my spirits and give me a hug from the inside is proof that food is not the only place we seek nourishment.
Feeling protected from danger or harm is something important in life- otherwise, we'd live our lives in constant fear of being robbed or injured at any waking moment.
It's a known fact: "Safety" is a necessity for happy living.
But, knowing we are safe from physical danger, though important, is not enough. What we also need, that is highly overlooked and under-appreciated, is a safe space to just... talk.
No, I don't mean finding some secret hideaway on a private island where you share deep dark secrets with a friend at (although, that would be pretty cool!).
I'm talking about having someone in our lives that we feel we can talk to openly, candidly, honestly and freely without being judged.
It may sound silly. Everyone has friends and family, right?
It is possible to have several friends, many acquaintances and a huge family... but, not feel safe enough to open up to any of them. Chalk it up to a personal inability to trust another person or being shot down before when we did allow ourselves to be vulnerable, sometimes we can have so many people in our lives.... but, still feel lonely.
So, what happens when these things we want to talk about... insecurities, personal problems, conflicting thoughts... have no outlet from our minds?
They build up. And they grow. And they fester. And the negative energy recycles through the body. And they seep outwards as negativity and stress. And then, eventually, you crack under the built up pressure and you find yourself depressed, angry, and on a psychiatrist's couch, walking out with a new prescription for a pill that's supposed to fix it all.
Many times we find ourselves afraid that the response to our words will leave us ridiculed, lectured, punished... anything but heard, which is all we really need in the first place.
I'm going to cut myself short here, because I could go on for a while on this subject because it's something I'm passionate about, which is why I incorporate in to my health coaching practice in a big way.
Bottom line, here, is that some people have a close group of friends that they feel safe talking to. Others have just one or two. Some are fortunate enough to even have these people as family members! To those that do have these people in your lives, I hope you understand how valuable they are.
I drove my car to the auto-parts store, parked in the lot at 6:30, estimating I'd be in and out of there in under 20 minutes for a very simple routine replacement. I'd already paid for the part online and the technicians there allegedly switched car batteries out several times per day, so I was sure I'd drive off in no time.
I watched as the technicians poked and prodded under my car's hood, pulling out WD-40, popping off bolts and making use of plastic zip-ties.
At 8:30, I stood in the lot, waiting for AAA to come tow my car home.
Mysteriously, after the new battery was installed, my car refused to turn on.
I smiled through the whole process, knowing anger and blame would do nothing to help the situation. I was also lucky enough that a great friend came to keep me company (after I realized I was running a tad late for grabbing a bite to eat with him). We cracked jokes and laughed, making light of the situation.
It's good to have a friend that shares the same everything-is-fixed-by-laughter-and-dancing mentality.
The AAA agent came within 20 minutes of calling for him. At this point, I was already thankful enough. I called home to explain the situation. My heart started to sink as Dad reminded me of the ensuing costs that were piling up in front of me in order to repair my car. I told him to expect me towed home in a bit.
But, this night wasn't really an as-expected type of night.
Enter, the most amazing AAA agent there ever was.
Not only did he spend an hour diagnosing and making adjustments to my car, he fixed the problem, followed me home in case my car broke down again, pointed out more work my car definitely needed and offered to help fix them himself for an unbeatable price! I trusted his words and sensed absolutely no ulterior motive to his kindness which, unfortunately, is a rarity, these days.
He double checked to see if the problem was truly fixed (it was) and gave me his information so I could call him for the other repairs. He drove away and I was filled with the purest of gratitude for having been sent such a pure-hearted savior that night.
As I ate a late dinner, I couldn't shake the overwhelming thankfulness I had for both my friend that kept a smile on my face as I waited for help and for the amazing AAA agent.
Later, I heard my mother on the phone with Grandma, wishing her a happy Korean Thanksgiving.
Today, I am absolutely more grateful than usual for the wonderful people that are cross my path and for all the things I have.
Not only is life not that bad... it's actually pretty amazing.