Search for a Laundry Basket: What your Environment Tells you About Yourself

I’ve been looking for a laundry basket, two actually, to replace the ones I have currently. The ones I have work, they’re functional in that they hold dirty clothes, but they just don’t sit right with me. I recently bought one of the baskets I’m using and the other is a hand-me-down. But the one I recently bought has since bent in a few places because it’s not the most sturdily designed basket. And the hand-me-down is cracked, dirty and an eye sore.

For a while I was telling myself “they were only laundry baskets, it doesn’t matter what they look like”. But the more I used them, cleaned around them and walked past them, the more I realized they were not only less functional because of how cheaply they were made, but I also feel as though they were saying to me, “are you willing to settle for this? Two cheaply made hampers that you will be looking at for however long it takes for them to break?”

And the answer was a resounding no! So why was I holding on to them when I could replace them with so much ease? The easy answer is, if you’ve read my post on budgeting, you’ll know I’m saving money for an emergency fund. So being frugal was my default, easy out. But the tough answer is that I just didn’t feel like I was worth something better.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me and the sadder it all felt. They were something I looked at everyday and every time I looked at them I felt a little worse that they were there. But I just kept telling myself that they were doing their jobs. Don’t fix what’s not broken. You can make do.

So there they sat. And when I dressed in the morning or evening, I just accepted that I was settling for less. Until I got it in me that they needed replacing. I’m not positive what the final straw was, but by the grace of God, I decided to start searching for new baskets. I’m looking for something sturdy and preferably sustainable, but most importantly, I’m looking for something that makes me feel better about the ways I choose to live my life and what I surround myself with.

As a comparison, one of the first apartments I lived in more resembled a trash heap than a dwelling. I was living in a run down part of town. And I remember one day or maybe it was a week, the trash had piled up so high on the floor that I had to wade through calf high drifts to get to the bathroom. And that’s how I lived my life. Surrounded by piles of garbage.

And my surroundings were definitely a reflection of how I was feeling about myself. Worthless. As though I wasn’t worthy of the time or effort to deserve nicer or more quality things. This was most likely the catalyst for my decision to replace my laundry baskets, but it took a long time to come to that conclusion. It has been 17 years since I lived in that apartment. My house is much cleaner than it used to be and I was still clinging to parts of the past that I no longer needed. So why was I holding on so tight, what was I afraid of?

Well part of the problem was that my experience was a learned one, from my care-givers. Not that either lives in squalor, but they never expressed a sense of inherent self value to, or around me. No doubt they in turn learned from their care-givers as well. So much of their value was based on the things they owned and wore.

So it’s not their fault as they fell into the trap that is perpetuated by the never ending chase to feel accepted and cool. But the message still persisted: I’m not worth the time and effort to take care of myself and my surroundings. I’m willing to settle for less. And it was this mindset that I grew up with, was surrounded by and carried with me into adulthood.

The more we decide to take care of ourselves, replace the broken things in our lives with the things we enjoy, the more we are telling ourselves that we are worth the time, effort and care. We don’t have to just settle for what’s here because it’s working for now and that’s good enough.

And this may seem to run counter to the message of my blog. That buying things will bring you happiness. And in a way, it does. But the act of replacing things that are causing you suffering, or at least some dis-ease with those things that bring joy, seems to me anyway more an act of self-care than setting our values at what we purchase or how we are seen. The more we can enjoy the spaces we dwell in, the greater the ability we have of cultivating a sense of ease, joy and comfort. And these things are important. If they weren’t, places like prisons wouldn’t feel like you were paying a debt to society, it’d be more like a hotel.

This type of settling for less is also another form of self neglect. Settling for less or letting the broken pieces fill up your life until you are surrounded by a life’s time worth of cobbled together pieces of the unuseable is not the way to feel as though you are a whole, dynamic person, worth something or have inherent value.

This is what I am talking about when I say our environment is telling us stories about ourselves. All you need to do is look around the areas of your life where you spend the most amount of time to get a feel for where your self values lay. Are they filled with trinkets that remind you of loved ones or good times? Are they cluttered or disorganized? Do you use or appreciate the things that are in these places or are they just taking up space?

For me, the bedroom, kitchen and living room are the big three where I spend the most amount time. They all have aspects of them I’d like to change and unfortunately I’m not in a position to make the definitive decision on how or when to change them. But regardless, it’s worth the time to take stock of your surroundings and notice, what are the things you’d like to see changed?

As I said, I’m not able to make the changes I’d like to, but I have a list and a few boards on Pinterest where I’ve already planned out what my future living spaces are going to look like. So even if you’re not in a position to make the changes you’d like to, it never hurts to make some some-day plans for when you’re able.

Or if it’s a shared space, bring everybody together that uses the space and find out how they feel about it. Start a discussion about it. Who knows where it could lead. And you’d also be building better, stronger relationships while doing these projects together and healthier communication skills by understanding and attuning to each other’s needs. Getting to know their likes and dislikes and in turn, know them more wholly as a person.

So if you’ve been holding on to something for far too long just because it still works. A chipped glass, broken mug or a shower caddy that’s seen one too many showers, maybe it’s time to ask yourself, “what am I holding onto this for?” Changing your surroundings may help to bring more ease to your day to day life. And in may help to establish a stronger feeling of self-worth and value. Peace, 🙂 and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Dirty Laundry” by Changhai Travis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Intentions: They’re More Than You Think

Lately I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and how much I couldn’t disagree with it more. I’m pretty sure it’s intended meaning is something along the lines of, actions speak louder than words. But what I feel isn’t being accounted for is the connection between actions, and the reason behind the actions.

Actions are indeed an important part of the equation, but it’s not the only part. More so, I feel that intentions are what actions are born from. I feel that when our intentions are in line with our actions, then we are being motivated from a place of integrity, where our bodies are carrying out the deeds of our ideas. And there’s a lot to be said for acting from a place of wholeness. The ease of your intentions aligning with what you say you will do.

I think one of the reasons I disagree so strongly with this phrase has a lot to do with my yoga practice. If you’ve read my post on “self care” you’ll know that yoga has become a part of my self-care routine. I practice at home now, but when I started my practice, I would go to classes at a studio. The instructor would usually start the class with the phrase, “set an intention for tonight’s practice”, and to be honest, I never did.

I thought it seemed silly at the time. “What do intentions have to do with my body” was how I initially saw them. But as my practice developed, and my relationship to myself became stronger, I realized that intentions are really the base of all actions. Another way to put it, you can have an intention without an action, but not an action without an intention. And the more you repeat your intention, the stronger it gets. Just like working out a muscle, your intentions are the “muscles” behind your characteristics, or what you value.

If your intention is to spend your free time in front of a screen playing games, then you will most likely develop the characteristic of lethargy (this is one I’m very familiar with). But maybe it’s not always our intention to get stuck behind the screen, or what if we get wrapped up in something to avoid the difficult work that may be wound around our intended action. If that’s the case, what’s making it so difficult?

From my experience, if intention is the birth of action, and if we’re unable to follow through with our intended actions, self doubt and fear are usually at the heart of our stalling. So if you have an intention already set, all you need to do is to get over the fear and self doubt. Easier said than done, right. So how do we get over these stumbling blocks that are in the way of reaching our intended goals? I’m not sure that we ever really leave them behind, or get rid of them all together, but we can find some ways of responding to them that makes it easier for them to be in the picture. And it starts with a little kindness.

Fear and self doubt are two feelings that we shouldn’t demonize. Too often we use them as a way to beat ourselves up. A good example is, if you’re trying to mend a relationship, but find the work of going through the difficult emotions that are tied up with the process seem too overwhelming, than you may feel as though the relationship is unsalvageable. Or fear that the same breach of trust may happen all over again.

This is precisely where treating our fear of being hurt again, or the self doubt of not being up to the challenge, with kindness will soften the difficult emotions and make space for confidence and strength to grow. So when we treat difficult emotions with compassion, we are sending the message that, we’re here, we care, to ourselves. Which over time, builds up our resilience to what we find difficult to be with. Working out the “muscle” of our compassion.

A good way to look at it is: good intentions, fostered with gentle and kind compassion, leads to compassionate actions; “An intention is intended to flow through our every word, thought and deed“, Emma Newlyn. What I like about this quote from Emma Newlyn is that it illustrates how our intentions are woven around our deeds, actions and words, and over time makes up the fabric of our character. It also shows how connected everything is, words, thoughts and actions. All just extensions of how we are in the world.

The takeaway? Compassion, and lots of practice. And that’s not to say that we avoid the difficult emotions by covering them over with kind thoughts, but rather to respect the emotions that are arising, while staying strong in who we are, from a place of love and kindness. To be conscious enough to act from these places, and not let the difficult emotions take over.

And of course it’s not easy. But hey, few things worth the effort in life usually are. The good news is, it does get easier with practice. This is where I leave you my friends. I hope you are having a safe and joyful holiday season, considering our collective circumstances. So be well, be safe and until next time, peace :]

Image Credits: “Woven” by arbyreed is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Selling Image, Selling Belonging

There’s a store nearby that sells all things home related; bedding, mugs, kitchen wares and furniture. And, as part of my evening routine I’ve been in the habit of burning candles. I find they set a relaxing tone with their ambient light and they help to ease some of the stress from the day. So off I went, to said local store, in search of some candles.

As I was looking through the candles on the shelf, opening them up to see if their scent was something I’d enjoy, I came to one that had “Namaste” written in playful cursive across the front. I enjoyed the scent so I picked it up and walked to the check-out line. I was feeling a little off buying the candle for some reason but couldn’t place why. The message seemed to be in line with my meditation practice and my yoga practice, so it wasn’t the phrase. If anything the word should have brought me some peace of mind.

I bought the candle, brought it home, unwrapped it, and left it on my shelf next to some plants. I looked at it again and still found I had some aversion to the lettering and the word. It vaguely reminded me of something my sister would purchase. It was white, floral scented, then I understood what was bothering me about it.

The candle itself was fine, it was what it was trying to sell me that bothered me so much. The image of what it feels like to have the divine in me, recognize the divine in you, that had me feeling a bit off. I was being sold a gender specific version of how the world should be viewed according to the ethos of the company that made the candle. I was buying into the image the store that was selling the candle, and the group of people by supporting that message with my purchase.

If you’ve read my post on toxic masculinity, you’ll also know that buying into gender specific roles, like self care as being a woman’s job, were the teachings I received from my early caregivers, something I’ve been reparenting myself around. Knowing that feelings and emotions are not gender specific, but part of being human, and self care is just part of the human experience, has not been easy.

And the feeling that this candle’s branding seemed to embody is that emotional peace and well-being are only available for a specific demographic. Most likely active, young and fresh smelling women who were probably successful. Tan, wear a lot of white, and burned the types of candles I just purchased. Probably in an immaculate house, next to a freshly washed and folded stack of white linens. This all seemed absurd to me. Or at very least I needed someone who filled that description to provide for me the care I could not give myself. Which seemed equally as absurd.

I recognize that I have a biased view considering my upbringing. And if someone finds peace of mind by burning that candle, I’m happy for them. But I feel there is a large gap in the yoga community where men aren’t represented. This too can be a loaded topic. I’m sure women have found yoga, as I have, to be a healing outlet to get intouch with their bodies in a healthy way. Especially after experiencing trauma or abuse. Most likely at the hands of men. But this still leaves men in my situation of not knowing whether or not they belong.

If we believe the gender specific ideas we are being sold by companies like the one who made the candle I bought, then yoga and that form of stress reduction belongs squarely in the realm of the feminine.

And I don’t mean to argue that the yoga community is gender bias. I’ve always felt welcome at every class I’ve attended and have had excellent instructors both male and female. But the idea that I somehow got a gender specific correlation with the candle, in the way that I did was unsettling. That I was sold a gender specific sense of belonging to a community where, according to the candle company’s sales team, I don’t belong, .

I could be reading into this a bit. I have a minor in communications so the critical side of me comes to the forefront whenever I see advertising involving something I’m interested in. But I feel like this candle is part of a larger problem. If we hear time and again that something we’re interested in is exclusive to a certain demographic, we may begin to feel like an outsider.

The term “yoga pants” comes to mind as I’ve never heard them in reference to men, always how a woman looks in them. And if some of the joy we derive from our interests involves being a part of a community, then we could be missing out on the quality of our experiencing what brings us joy.

And having a constant reminder on display is a good way to let a message settle in and get comfortable. Not to mention the advertising that we are inundated with day in and day out while companies vy for our resources at the expense of excluding large groups. Which is usually at the core of their message. The message being that you don’t belong, you’re not welcome here unless you fit our standards.

I could have just left the candle on the shelf. I could just chalk it up to not being in line with my personal taste. But it doesn’t feel right just to let it stand. The way I’m sure it doesn’t feel right the way some women may feel uncomfortable when they decide to put on a pair of yoga pants for fear of being ogled on there way to a yoga class or a coffee shop. The coercion of being corralled into thinking that you don’t belong to what you find enjoyable, feelings manipulated to unease around what usually sparks joy.

And I did like the candle, it was simple, white and had black lettering, just not the implied image it was selling. So what’s the solution? How do we undo what advertisers and large corporations have successfully accomplished, using an impressive amount of resources to brand their products to a target demographic? How do we shed our targets and live a little truer to our authenticity? Let’s look at some of the ways we may be taken advantage of to understand better how to recognize and sidestep the trappings we often find ourselves in.

Trends can be fun. It can feel nice to be part of something that is just for enjoyment. For instance, liking a new band for their hit song can be a pleasant way to remember a time and place. And the people you connected with at the time without going to deep. But there are a lot of ways that our wanting to belong can be taken advantage of, for someone else’s profit.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I was kind of obsessed with Pottery Barn. I liked the clean lines and muted tones they used while still feeling rustic. It was how I pictured my future home to look, filled with a clean, conservative aesthetic. At the time I was planning to go to school for journalism, so I imagined I’d have a serious and important role to fill. Informing the masses of misdeeds and lapses in morality from those who held positions of power. And of course I needed a desk that would look as important as how I felt my duty would be.

So naturally I spent a large sum of money on a desk that held little more than a decanter of whiskey or scotch, and a matching chess table which sat next to it. As though my desk was so important that it needed an assistant. I was just barely scraping by working as a social worker of sorts, and had probably just enough money for groceries. Let alone buying an expensive desk from Pottery Barn that I barely used. But there I was, with an expensive desk in an empty room. How did this happen? How was I so manipulated into feeling that this desk would not only help me to achieve my goals, but help conjure them into fruition? It starts with what we find value in.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the desk I purchased, played to my perceived values. I thought that buying something that embodied those values would then thrust me into the mindset/mentality of the value that I wished to embody. Along with underlying currents of confusing taste, style and tendencies with what I valued.

For example, I was a hippy in my late teenage years. Something I haven’t really shed. Mostly because of the feelings of when I was first introduced to the culture and aesthetic were so positive. Along with many of the values that most modern day hippies embody are still in line with my current values. I.e. recycling, organic farming and living sustainably, fostering open and caring community. All aspects of the culture I value and wish to embody in my day to day life, including the clothing and style.

There is also a serious side to me that very much likes order and to bring structure to chaos. So the rustic feel of the desk, looking as though it were made from reclaimed barn wood, blended with the clean polished lines of the industrial, flat black, minimalist metal frame and its mirror finish, appealed to both sides of me simultaneously. My enjoyment of a caring, natural community, represented by the look of reclaimed barn wood, mixed with the clean metal and highly glossed wood finish that filled my need for order, both lead me to believe that this desk represented my values.

But it was not substitute for them. This is the trap that most people fall into when purchasing things they feel are in line with their values. The same ways I did with the desk. The wood was not reclaimed. In fact it was most likely harvested in a way that was environmentally unsound and not in line with my values. Reclaimed barnwood being a form of recycling where as unsustainable wood harvesting for the benefit of a furniture company has grave environmental ramifications.

So it was no surprise that after buying the piece of furniture, I was left with my manipulated values sitting at my desk wondering why I felt a bit restless. Like something just didn’t add up. This was the other message that was being sold. That you could buy your values. Values from my experience are something that you work to embody, something practiced. Not something bought. In order to feel fulfilled from your values, you must first put the hours in.

But that takes work. Something I was not inclined to do. And if I could buy a desk that looked the part while allowing me to avoid the work I should have been putting in, then that’s what my younger self would do. Of course at the time I was unaware of this dynamic at play. I was just trying to fill a part. The one that looked most appealing at the time. Lucky for me there were plenty of stores that were willing to aid me in my effort to avoid work.

So therein lies the danger. Being told that buying something that seems to embody your desired values, is just as good as putting the work in to practice your values. And companies spend a lot of resources in order to sell you an image of what it feels like and looks like to embody that value by using their product.

I’m not stating anything new here. And I hope I’m not blowing any minds. But I’m often surprised at how it feels like every generation finds another way of buying into this system of buying values by purchasing goods. I feel a large part of this cycle is perpetuated by the feeling of a lack of belonging. If we’re trying to fill our sense of self worth with the values we hold closest but only have a desk or pair of shoes or whatever we choose to represent our values, without the embodied presence of the practiced value we’re left, as I was, behind my desk feeling confused and a little lonely.

Lonely for me, because I was perched behind a desk that I thought would lend me the street cred I was looking for. Not feeling the part left me confused and a little like a fraud. I felt slightly guarded. Not wanting people to see that I wasn’t confident in myself and the values I was trying to represent. The vulnerability of knowing that the things I buy, don’t guaranty my belonging but also of not knowing what would if I couldn’t buy it.

These lessons are deeply entrenched in our society. I know I’ve learned this not only from companies looking to sell me something with assistance from large advertising firms, but also from my family. I mentioned this in my Search for a Blog page. When you question your own belonging to the people who are supposed to accept and love you no matter what, that’s when the fear sets in.

Who will or could love me now, may take the place of the love and belonging we once felt. And it will dominate our thoughts and actions in relationship with those closest to us. This is where I believe Brene Brown’s frase, “hustling for worthiness” may take up residency in our mind and heart. If we feel we’ve been rejected by the people we love most, than the most important goal becomes, how do I get back what I lost.

That’s when we turn to whatever feels good at the time. Or what Tara Brach refers to as the false refuges. This could be anything from alcohol to shopping (as were the cases with me and my family). Drugs or even using other people are also false refuges. But they aren’t sustainable. Or they cause great harm to ourselves and others which is why they’re false refuges.

So how do we find our way out of these trappings of the false refuges or hustling for worthiness? One way is through acts of self-care. If you’ve read my post on why self-care is so important, you’ll know that it’s a way of dialoguing with our emotions and getting to know who we are. As my dad likes to say, “be yourself, everyone else is already taken” -Oscar Wilde. Showing yourself that you care, you’re a priority, gives you the courage to find what your values are. The you without the “hustle”, or the false refuges.

Other ways to avoid the hustle, is after you know what your true values are and embody those feelings by dialoguing with yourself, check in with how something makes you feel. Is it the excitement of something new supporting your values, or is it just novelty?

More often than not, the things that you do to bring joy to you practicing your value, won’t cost much money. For instance, if you value spending time with friends, cooking a meal together can be more intimate and enjoyable than eating out. But going to see a concert together can be a joyful experience as well. So it’s important to take a deeper look as to why you’re doing something, and ultimately it’s you that will know the answer. AKA, trust yourself.

And sometimes we’ll make mistakes. After all, advertising is a large industry designed to make you spend your money. So be forgiving when you do stumble. Just because you’ve been fleeced, doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to feel unwanted or unloved. Stay true to and trust your values, they’ll guide the way.

I hope you’ve found this helpful in some way. It isn’t always easy, but don’t worry, the work becomes easier the more you do it :] Good luck and Peace.

Image Credits: “1960s Advertising – Magazine Ad – Campbell’s Soup (USA)” by ChowKaiDeng is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Self-Care Sundays! Coming to Terms with your Fear and Neglect of Self by Creating Healthy, New, and Self-Sustaining Habits.

Self-care. This used to be a term I knew almost nothing about. For a long time, I didn’t know I had needs that weren’t food, clothes, shelter or water (more like beer actually). Anything beyond the realm of survival was definitely not on my radar. A younger me would most likely scoff at the idea. Self-care in my mind equated to something like getting a mani-pedi. If you’ve read my post on toxic masculinity, you’ll know I had a deeply entrenched belief about the nature of men having to be tough and unfeeling while women were “afforded the luxury” of being pampered and taken care of.

If that was tough to read, then I’m on the right path because it definitely
did not feel okay to write. The strong sexist overtones were literally and metaphorically beaten into me from the time I was a small child. This is no exaggeration. My family ran from their emotions using so many different modalities that I’m not surprised that I literally did not know what it was like to experience them. I’m surprised that I found my way out of the maze they dumped me in at all.

I would spend my days watching my mother drink coffee all morning long while driving to multiple locations to shop for clothing or house wares that she called running errands. She would then meet her mother and they would gossip and complain about the people closest to them in their lives. In the early evening she would switch to drinking vodka tonics, cooking dinner and paying bills or budgeting at the kitchen table. She would finish the night by watching hours of television. She was in perpetual motion or at very least she filled her time with distractions that would keep her from sitting with her internal life.

I love my mother but from her is where I learned to avoid my emotions with either chemicals or distractions. The men in my life weren’t much more emotionally intelligent either. Using mostly anger and aggression to hammer their points home. I don’t remember many teachable moments in my childhood. Where an authority would sit me down and explain to me why what I just did wasn’t the safest or best way to react to a situation. But there was a lot of yelling and beatings for not following the rules. 

So it was here that I was left. The maze between my mother’s teachings of neglecting my emotional body and the fear I learned from the male role models in my life. Fear and neglect were emotional states I knew well growing up in my family. I now know that it wasn’t their fault. They were “faced with something that could consume you completely”, to quote a song lyric from Grimes’ “Skin“.

In the case of my family, what could consume them were all the unattended emotions that were wildly in need of some kind, structured attention. But when you’re a child just learning how to communicate with your loved ones and learning the languages they’re modeling for you with their spoken and implied rules, it’s difficult to understand that it’s not you. It isn’t personal.

As children we are often the centers of our own worlds. When we sit at the kitchen table listening to our parents cutting up others for their perceived shortcomings often enough, it can be tough to suss out when they turn their disdain towards us in a moment of frustration and the child becomes the target, that the children have not fallen into the category of “other”. Not belonging with and to their parents. Showing the child that the love the parents once gave so freely is conditional and unstable.

This can be a lonely place. One filled with fear for not belonging and self-doubt, as to what the child could have done that made their parents turn on them so quickly. I know for myself, that this was how I was feeling and it is something that I’ve carried with me through the years. If our foundation of how we view ourselves is built on these criticisms then we are left with a very unstable vision of how we see ourselves. This is where a nourishing self-care routine came to help me overcome some of the self-doubt and fear that had been instilled in me from very early on.

From my experience, when we practice self-care, we are sending the opposite message to ourselves. One of being important, being valuable. The more often we send ourselves these positive messages that we care enough about ourselves to nurture ourselves, the less we are to believe the messages of neglect and abuse we received from our caretakers in our youth. As an old co-worker of mine used to say, it’s as though you are saying to yourself, “I’m here, I care”.

And a little bit of care goes a long way. Especially since we have everyday stressors to deal with, and if you add neglect on top of that, it can feel insurmountable at times! But what helps to embody these messages of care we take for ourselves is repetition and consistency. We need to make showing up for ourselves a habit.

Which brings us to self-care Sundays! I know for me, I needed to set some time aside each week, so I could just relax. And even learning to relax was a challenge! So it started with finding the time to begin to learn, which for me is Sunday night. Since I work in the food industry, my Sunday is my Friday, and I thought, “what better way to start my weekend than with a little down time for myself”.

The consistency of my routine being once a week gives me the sense that I’m valuing myself, and my time. I know that no matter how stressful the day gets or how many tasks pile up at work, I have some time to myself where I can do something special for myself. Or just be without worrying about what to do next.

And this is where consistency is important. I needed the set structure of having a specific day, with a set time, to be able to learn that I could count on myself to show up. To focus on myself with a kindness and attention that I hadn’t received before from those who were supposed to show me how it’s done. And as I’ve stated above, it’s even more difficult for men because societally, self-care has historically fallen in the realm of the feminine.

Which was another obstacle I found myself navigating around. I felt a mix of guilt, shame and a little bit of fear for showing kindness to myself. As though this was not my job. I was swimming against the current of my family’s unspoken rule of showing kindness at all. It was not only seen as a sign of weakness for a man, but also feminine in nature. I had to teach myself that kindness was not a feminine emotion, but a human one.

The following paragraph sums up the types of role modeling my family members exemplified in my childhood. The man of the house made a living and had a career. He was the unquestioned authority and head of the household. He used violence and aggression to keep his family in line and protected. The woman was caretaker of the man, cooked, cleaned and soothed him using whatever means necessary. She was submissive and navigated her world with a childlike naivety. Alcohol and denial were the two tools most often used to keep this model “working”.

Under this model I was taught that I needed a woman to be kind to me because that was the work of women. I was unable to feel kindness being a man, so I needed a woman to feel it for me. Asides from this being an extremely unhealthy dynamic and possibly co-dependant, it taught me the lesson that I couldn’t be kind to myself or others.

As a child I was given a considerable amount of mixed messages. Kindness being the woman’s job or even having emotions being feminine, being a few of them. But to my younger self it made sense because all the men in my life were terrifying and the source of most of my abuse. While the women were neglectful and spiteful. So fitting into the roles I had laid out for me meant I needed to be hard and unfeeling. In control of myself and others. But it was these roles that were causing me a considerable amount of fear and anxiety.

Little did I realize that this was my family’s way of trying to control their external experiences to feel more in control of their internal worlds. If everybody acts the part that’s pre-approved, then everybody knows where they stand with one another. But asides from being unhealthy, this also takes the spontaneity out of life. Trying to predict everybody else’s emotional states and reactions in order to feel safe in a relationship is more like surviving than being in a conscious loving relationship. And not allowing for people to change is just as bleak an outlook.

What I feel was the missing piece to my family’s way of being in relationship was, they were relying on someone else to take care of themselves while they took care of another. And if your source of care is on the line and you are unable to provide that care for yourself, then I imagine we would go to great lengths to try to control our sources of care. How we’re loved, seen and belong.

This is why self-care is so much more important than just taking ourselves out to dinner once in a while. It’s a way to show ourselves that even if we don’t have someone who is willing to take care of us in certain ways, we are still capable of giving ourselves the care we need. We are still worthy of love and we still belong. We’re not only willing, but perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and it can be enjoyable too.

Now that I’ve gone over some of the ways we may find resistance in attempting a little self care, next week I’ll go over some of my routines and how I made them stick. Because it’s not always easy starting a new routine. Especially one that is at the very core of how we picture ourselves and how we imagine the rest of the world sees us. Till next time, bring an open mind. Peace 🙂

Image Credits: “2015-03-18c What do I do for self-care — index card #self-care #happiness #comfort” by sachac is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reparenting: Money, What’s its Real Purpose and How do we Avoid Collecting it Just to Feel Safe?

Money, another big topic (I guess I like the bigger issues). Amassing money is one of the most ubiquitous goals we have as humans, and is connected to a lot of different emotional states. Safety is a big one, and not without some wisdom. For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on how we relate to money from a perspective of how it may make us feel safe. There are numerous reasons to want large sums of money to be sure, but if I don’t narrow it down, we’d be here for a while!

My views on money are not entirely in the camp of, the root of all evil. For example, without money, or some form of interchangeable, fluid asset, I more than likely wouldn’t be wearing clothes, because I don’t know how to create a bolt of cloth on a loom, or really know how to grow cotton. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be cautiously skeptical of the accumulation of wealth and the power and influence that it may yield.

There’s a lot of area we could cover to be sure. But let’s look at how it’s correlated with our feeling fearful if we aren’t on our desired financial track, and is more always better? In the way we have society set up now, you reach a certain age after working a specific amount of years, and then hopefully you’ll have saved enough funds to comfortably live out your plans for retirement. If we don’t have enough, we could become destitute, living hand to mouth and relying on government subsidies in low income housing. Or so I imagine many of us who fear not having enough feel our future will look if we don’t save as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

I had a wake up call not to long ago, when I went through a divorce. I found myself with no savings, no assets and a daunting amount of debt. Mostly in the form of student loans and credit cards at the tender age of 34. I was pretty normal, as Dave Ramsey likes to put it, and yeah, I was scared for sure. I had images of being homeless, begging for handouts because I felt like I had no resources to change my future for the better. With nobody to guide me along the way I felt lost. Luckily I have a father and stepmother who have been with me every step of the way since I woke up. Without them, I don’t like to think where I’d be.

That’s when I started to aggressively pay down my debt and set up an emergency fund for six months. So that I would be taken care of should I be unemployed for a long stretch of time or any other unexpected financial troubles. After I reach those goals, I will revisit what my retirement goals will look like. But I had no idea where to even begin. And speaking of no idea, if you read my post on being a part of someones solution without solving their problems, you’ll know that I had absolutely no parental guidance as to how to eat properly, let alone balance a budget and how to diversify my retirement portfolio (which I’m still a little fuzzy on :)! So at 34, I was close to 100k in debt, nowhere to live because the woman I left my wife for just kicked me out of the apartment we were sharing with three other people, with no real job prospects or stability.

That’s when I found Dave Ramsey, and his baby steps to getting out of debt. I’ll begin by saying, he’s not for everybody. He can be a bit overbearing. But for someone like me who was given nothing in the way of personal boundaries, he was just what I needed. What I like about the steps and the ways he lays them out is: when you are so used to debt being an abstract number so big that you can’t possibly see your way out of it in your lifetime, you need the small wins of completing a step. Or even paying down a smaller bill. That way you begin to understand that you are the one who is in charge of getting you out of your current situation. Not only that, but it’s obtainable!

And for a long time, I felt as though I were a passenger in the journey of my life. Not the one who was behind the wheel. When you’re the passenger, it’s easy to get into debt, because the numbers don’t really mean anything. It’s not until you know your agency, know your power and the effect you have on your life, that you are able to take control of your situation. And are able to make the decisions and choices that keep you on the right track. Be them financial, or healthy eating and exercise habits. Every choice you make in regards to your goals are what either drives you forward or sets you back. So if you decide to stop eating out to save money on your food budget, that’s a commitment you make to yourself and a choice to stay on the right path.

And of course, it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be financially stable. But you need to show up everyday. Even when and especially when you don’t want to. The phrase fake it till you make it exemplifies this mindset well. Because it focuses on the need to cultivate discipline in order to make the transition from achieving lesser goals to larger ones. The reason I like the saying so much is that, obviously it shows us that we can make mistakes and learn how to, while we do, but more so for the perseverance element. You keep trying, keep “faking it” no matter if it looks like you know what you’re doing. The point is to keep doing.

And it’s this motivational aspect that will keep you rooted in achieving your goals. You need to find your why of course, or as we say in the yoga community, find your drishti. Your drishti is your focus. And it usually refers to a point of reference to focus your gaze while you attempt a difficult balancing pose. For me, it was a combination of fear of being destitute, mixed with a longing, almost a romantic idea, that my life could be the most interesting and gratifying endeavour I could undertake. But this motivation, this drishti, if left unchecked, could perpetuate the fear of not having enough rather than satiating it. Once we’ve reached our financial goals, we could take this motivation and desire for more and more, all under the guise of feeling safe, for ourselves and others.

This type of accumulating wealth under the pretense of safety, is akin to hoarding. If you already have enough, then no matter how much more you feel you need to collect, it’s still extra, too much. If you already have enough, and you keep collecting, the questions you need to be asking yourself are, why are you still collecting? Is it out of fear based thinking that you are collecting? Are you feeling you need to take care of those you love? Why are or aren’t you giving your money to charities, or helping the greater good in some way with your resources? Be they time or monetary?

It’s the answer to these questions that will help you to understand your relationship with money, and whether you own it, or it owns you. Because there’s nothing wrong with earning high wages, or even amassing a large sum of wealth. The issue is when it becomes your drishti and correlated with your safety.

So how do we keep ourselves focused and humble, while dealing with something that can be hazardous if handled without regard for the power it is capable of yielding? I should probably mention here that I don’t make boatloads of money, so I may not be the best qualified to answer this question. But I can draw on some parallels to how we react in moments of crisis or panic.

When I first heard about Covid, and how potentially deadly it could be, I was not one of the many who ran to the grocery store to stock up on toilet paper and bottles of water or bags of flour. As I’ve said before, I’m a baker by trade so I get enough baking in while I’m at work. And that’s not to say that I wasn’t frightened at times. Pandemics, no matter how you package them, awakens a primal fear that few are exempt from. So if I was afraid, what allowed me to focused on the calm in the face of fear based reaction?

I owe a lot of my steadiness to my meditation practice. I know that if I react to the unknown with fear, I will more than likely make poor choices. If I take the time to sit with the fear, and ask myself, “how do you want me to be with you?” Then I will usually make healthier decisions. And again, I’d like to reinforce that this is not easy to do. Our fear is driven by millenia of evolution, telling us to protect ourselves in the face of danger. And rightly so! But when our decisions are made from fear based thinking, panic sets in and that’s when we are prone to use violence or make choices that exclude others for our own benefit.

In the case of a pandemic, if we’re lucky, this type of fear based thinking may lead us to purchase large amounts of pantry staples and toilet paper we may not need. But if we are scared and focused on money, a six month emergency fund may not seem like enough, which then turns into a year or more. But then that may seem too little, and now your focus becomes broader. How much can I get, who do I have to take care of and for how long? These are valid questions, but if you already have, or on track to have enough, the more you have won’t make you feel any safer. And what’s more, this constant growth state isn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, whether we realize it or not, no matter how much we have, safety is not intrinsic to money.

So how do we feel safe, safe enough to not collect what we may not need because we’re reacting from a place of fear based decision making? From my experience, this happens when we face our fears. And this is as individual as each person is unique. But there are some resources that we may all be able to rely on.

First is community. Friends and family, a group of trusted people experiencing something similar to what we’re going through. People to ask advice from and to lend a hand when we’ve gone through something another is struggling with. For me, while paying off my debt I had close friends I could ask advice from, and share resources with, such as Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. The Ramsey community is also a great resource, providing feedback on a number of budget related questions and also moral support and enthusiasm. Which is definitely needed when you’re in the midst of such a tremendous task.

Second, finding a mentor, someone who’s forged a path and knows some of the road you are about to travel. How you may get stuck along the way and resources to get you back on the right path. Again, this is something I learned from the Ramsey community. I didn’t know how to put a budget together before I was 35. Which is embarrassing to admit, but no one ever showed me, and you don’t know what you don’t know. I learned how to use an envelope system which, in brief, is as it sounds. A variety of envelopes with cash allocated for each category of your budget for the month in them. And when you run out of money, that’s it until you refill the envelope next month. This can be a bit of a wake up call if you’re not used to budgeting cash this way so be forewarned and be vigilant! You don’t want to run out of grocery money in the first week of the month!

Third, trusting your own truly good nature. To be the person you envision as being your best self. The person who can deal with and handle unseen situations as they arise. Follow through with your plans that are in your own best interests and be trusted to know what those are.

The more often you make these decisions that affect you for the better, the greater the trust you build with yourself. And really, that’s the goal. To build a trusting relationship with yourself. To know that you are able to rely on yourself when the important decisions need to be made.

If we’ve spent a lifetime making questionable decisions about our future or present, then we may have some work to do to regain the trust we once had. Not every decision is going to be without uncertainty. But the more we show up for ourselves and forgive ourselves for not knowing the way, the greater the trust we cultivate in our core. And trust is definitely correlated with safety. The greater the trust we have in our actions from the day to day, the ease of knowing we have our best intentions at heart will give us the cussionning we need to feel safe if we do stumble and fall along the way.

Working to build trust with yourself is priority for a sense of safety. And we build it by making sound decisions from a calm, non-fear based, mindset. Dealing with the fears and insecurities we have, as they come up by talking them through with trusted friends and family. Or a community of like minded people who are experiencing similar situations, will help to calm these worries, and reset our focus on what’s important. The sense of wellbeing we gain from setting an intention to complete our goals, by following through in a calm, consistent manner. Not by grasping fearfully onto what we feel will solve the “problem of our fear”. I.e. lack of money and the more is better mindset.

So friends, it is with this that I leave you. Do not fret, the path is difficult at times, but we are here for one another. You are strong, you are wise. Everything you need, you have in you already. All you need do is call upon it. I’m here if you need a moral boost, but just know, you got this :] Be well, and peace.

Image Credits: “Money” by aresauburn™ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0