31 More Things – 11 – Memory

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day eleven – memory.

(journaling below)

I have very few memories from when I was a child. It’s not that I had a sad childhood or anything, it’s really that I seem to have a really bad memory. I remember the shirt in this picture. I remember how much I loved wearing it. I remember Yona teaching me how to read on mom and dad’s bed. I remember going to Polenezkoy. I remember riding the camel. I remember long car trips and my singing Tembeli Tembeli, Oy so much that Dad had to pull over and ask me to stop. I remember getting carsick, a lot. I remember the fights and the divorce but I also remember the moment my parents told me they were getting back together. I remember going to the wedding. But I don’t remember much else. Not until after fifth grade.

Which is when I started keeping a diary.

I kept diaries for years. All the way through middle and high school. Even a little in college. And then I started a blog back in 1999 when they were first emerging. I’ve always had this need to write things down. My feelings, yes. But not just my feelings, also my thoughts, what happened, what I learned. I like to write it all down.

I think the reason I like writing things down (and taking pictures) is because I know that my memory is not very good. I know that I tend to forget so much of what happens and so I use these tools to help me remember. To help me freeze these otherwise ordinary moments of my life. To help me see that all of the magic of life is in these fleeting moments. So when I preserve these moments, I get to preserve some of that magic.

I know that our memories aren’t perfect. We rewrite history all the time. We are selective with what we remember. And even selective with what we forget. And maybe it’s not important to remember it all, perfectly. Or at all. Maybe we’re not meant to look back. Maybe we’re not meant to relive the moments again and again. Maybe we’re meant to experience them, learn what we learn then and then move on.

I know they say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it but maybe my bad memory is yet another sign that I am supposed to be here, now and live in this moment and soak it in and be present to my life as it happens. And maybe that’s all that matters.

31 More Things – 10 – 11:25

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day ten – 11:25.

(journaling below)

11:25 is different here every day. Some days I’m in a meeting. Other days, I am getting work done. This morning, I was having an early lunch with a friend and asking for advice. I had back to back meetings starting at 6am, with a brief break at 7:30 when I dropped the kids off to their shuttle for school. I came back, had more meetings which ended at 10am. Then I had some emails for the school association where I am president this year. Then some more work, a quick phone call with a friend, and I was on my way to my 11am lunch.

Since I have to wake up so early for work now, I take my “me” time later in the day. Part of this is taking a walk in the neighborhood for almost an hour so I can get all my steps in. I don’t wear workout clothes or shoes. I just walk at a normal pace and slowly make my way to Cafe Borrone which happens to be about a 20-25 minute walk. I then sometimes get coffee and other times, just walk back home. I always listen to my book on the way.

Today, I walked at 10:20 and started to listen to my book, called 14, on the way but my mind kept going back to 5th grade applications and setting up my son’s shadow days and trying to figure out how to navigate all the appointments, visits, etc. A lot of this has been weighing on me in the last few weeks and it’s making it hard for me to focus on pretty much anything. So instead of fighting it, I just turned off my book and let my mind wander and worry and focused on the walking. It’s been exceptionally hot here for the last two weeks and maybe 11am wasn’t the best time to talk my walk.

But I made it there early and got my coffee and salad and sat down to wait for my friend. She showed up on time, gave me some lovely advice and kindly listened to my worries and then I was back on my way home for another work meeting. On the way home, I got a call from one of the schools and didn’t even try to listen to my book even though I only had about 20 minutes left.

That’s how it is some days. I am learning to be kind with myself and give myself permission to be tender with all this. Giving myself permission to worry when I am alone (because I am trying hard not to get my son anxious, too.) In the meantime, I am still walking, I am asking for help from friends, I am trying to get a lot of work done, and I am having faith that things will work out they way they are supposed to. Because, almost always, they do.

Infusing Life with Energy

still having fun with the fashion-y girls. this one is so-so but I still like her more than I liked doing the portraits.

here are all the shiny bits.

the quote says:

everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. if we are frantic, life will be frantic. if we are peaceful, it will be peaceful.

I’d like to believe this is not true because I am one of those “frantic” people. Or maybe it’s not that I am frantic as much as that I am anxious or worried a lot. I don’t want the energy of the things I do to be filled with worry or rushing or stress. I want life to be peaceful. I want to go through the motions of life in a pace and energy that fills me up instead of depleting me and those around me.

The thing with this particular quote is that, deep in my heart, I believe it to be true. But I have no idea how to actually do it. Becoming peaceful instead of frantic isn’t just a switch. Some days, I can go from here to there, but not as often as I would like. I am also learning that I often feel tender now when I realize how worried I am about things and then it feels sad and not peaceful. So the way, for me, is still a little farther than I’d like but I am walking towards it and taking one step at a time.

At least I know where I’d like to end up.

31 More Things – 9 – Laugh

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day nine – laugh.

(journaling below)

I don’t laugh that much. As my husband often says, I don’t really have a sense of humor. At least not in the typical sense. I don’t find most humor funny. And I tend to take life on the serious side. If you need things done, I’m your gal. If you want to talk, I’m your gal. If you want to talk about books, life, frustrations, or even celebrations, I’m your gal.

But I’m not the gal to have superfluous conversations with. I am not the gal to go shopping with. (unless we’re shopping for book.) I am not the gal to drink with. I am not the gal you go out with if you need a night of laughter.

I used to think this meant something was missing inside me. That I was somehow less than. Why can’t I be fun when so many others are? Why can’t I laugh and be silly with the best of them? What’s wrong with me?

But as I get older, I am realizing that this is just who I am. I take things seriously. I care about people deeply. I care about things deeply. And this is what makes me a good friend, a kind wife, a reliable employee and a loving mother. This is what makes me, me. It’s not good or bad, it’s just who I am.

And I’ve also learned that I do laugh. There are times I will laugh so hard that I can’t control the laughter. There are times I am laughing with pure, unbounded joy. There are times when I tickle my kids or laugh at their silly jokes. These are my moments. Most of my laughter comes from joy. From gratitude. From moments of letting go and being right here, with the people I love and letting them love me in return.

They don’t happen often but when they do, I am so grateful for these moments. For these reminders of how special life is, how lucky I am and how there’s so much treasure hidden in the tiny moments of ordinary life.

Maybe I am not the silly type. And maybe I don’t laugh as much as I should. But I am
learning to be okay with that because, for me, it’s a part of learning to be okay with who I am and there’s so much joy and contentment in embracing all of myself. In the meantime, here’s to the rare people who can make me laugh anyway.

A Book a Week – the other typist

I read The Other Typist because amazon recommended it. I resisted this one for a while, too, but I found myself coming back to it again and again. It seemed to call to me.

And once I started reading it, it was really interesting. I was interested in the characters, and especially the narrator, even when it was clear she was an unreliable narrator. I still wanted to keep going.

But then there was the ending.

It felt like the author came to the end and just didn’t know what to do. So she did some really weird, unclear stuff and ended the book.

The ending is very up in the air and not clear. I read all over amazon to see if anyone got it, and there are opinions every which way. In my opinion, that’s not a success. If the ending was clear but some liked it and some hated it, that’s good. people react to it. but if it’s so unclear we’re not even sure what happened, well that’s just bad writing.

31 More Things – 8 – Makeup

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day eight – makeup

(journaling below)

When I saw this prompt, my first instinct was to skip it. I don’t wear makeup so there’s no story there. But then I decided to go deeper. Most stories are interesting if I’m willing to go deeper.

I used to wear makeup. Just like I used to wear 6-inch heels and dye my hair blonde. Even though my looks were never the most important thing in my life, there was a time I did spend considerably more time thinking about how I looked and spending energy and money on makeup. This is not to say those things are not worth the money or the energy and there might very well be a time in the future when I do it all over again.

But not now.

At this moment, my time, efforts, and money go to other things. They go to keeping my body healthy, they go to colorful dresses that make me happy, they go to my kids’ education, they go to books. And art supplies. And many other things that are not makeup.

Looking at this photo, I am reminded that we go through different stages in life. And each of those stages feels eternal. As if they are forever and they are the new “truth” of my life. But they do end. The stages come and go. Some change slowly and some drastically but if there’s one guarantee, it’s that my life won’t look like this five years from now. I will have different priorities (however slight) and different hopes and wishes and worries. I will spend
my money and time and energy on different things than I do now. If I am lucky, none of it will be terrible. If I am lucky, we will still all be healthy and happy.

But, it will be different. And I will look back on these days and wonder why I worried so much all the things in my head today. And, in ten years, I will remember these days fondly, but also like they are a part of a distant past, just the way those makeup days feel to me now. In ten years, these days now will be a part of my history.

That’s the thing about life; it passes quickly. And this little prompt today ended up being a reminder that I would like to make sure I cherish these days while they are here. I nurture the person I am now. I give thanks for what we have. Amazing what a little prompt can do.

Must Take the Stairs

After I did the four faces and found myself uninspired, I decided to try something slightly different. So I went back to being inspired by paperfashion. Since this is about getting back into doing something, anything, I figure whatever gets me there is what I should be doing. This makes me happier for now. Her work is always so awe inspiring to me.

and it’s super shiny too

The quote says:

There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.

This is something I seem to have figured out early in my life and I feel that, for the most part, I am very good at taking the stairs. I work hard and hard and hard. When i want something, I never assume it will be easy. Most things aren’t for me. Most things require showing up, doing the work, being tired, resting, showing up, doing the work, feeling like you’ve made no progress but knowing it takes a lot longer, being tired all over again, and resting only to repeat it all over the next day.

Getting thing done is hard. Getting things done well is even harder. And all of the steps in between here and there (where there is somewhere you want to end up, some definition of success for you) are all hard. They are showing up and hating what you’ve done (like i have for this project till today), they are adjusting things, making it different, working at it, getting frustrated, feeling lost, trying more, feeling lost, trying more, coming back, trying even more. It’s about showing up every single day and taking that next step. Having faith that it will eventually get you to the top. And trying to enjoy (or at least appreciate) the process in the meantime.

I feel that most of us are not taught this early on enough. Most of us don’t realize that people work extremely hard to be where they are. Even for those cases where it looks easy, there’s often much more under the surface that you don’t know about. Sometimes the work is physical, sometimes it’s emotional, and sometimes it’s mental. But it’s always there.

So, every time I feel like giving up or complain about why it has to be so hard, I will remember this quote and remind myself that the stairs take time to climb but I will reach the top eventually.

31 More Things – 7 – Dream

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day seven – dream

(journaling below)

When I was little, I had a lot of dreams for my life. I wanted to study Computer Science. I wanted to do art. I wanted to move to the United States. I wanted to work from home and raise my children. I had big, audacious dreams for what my life was going to look like.

Here we are, some thirty years later, and all of those dreams have come true. I did move to America. I did study computers and art. I get to do both every day of my life. I get to work at a big, wonderful company with products I love and people I admire. I even get to work from home and raise the two boys I love and adore. I also have things in my life that I didn’t even think to dream about: a kind, generous, loving husband. A home in a safe and beautiful neighborhood in a state where the sun shines almost every single day. Intelligent, interesting, generous friends. Good health. Incredible luck.

And so much more.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a cafe near my house and listening to an assignment for one of my classes where I had to write down some things I was grateful for. As I made a list of small and big gratitudes in my life, it struck me that my life had turned out so much better than I’d ever dreamt of even though my wishes and dreams had been wildly audacious considering I was this little girl from Istanbul. My life is so magical, so wonderful, and so mind blowing that I don’t think the little girl I was could have ever imagined it.

So here I am at forty and all my dreams have already come true. Sure I have other dreams for my kids, for my husband, and for other people in my life. I dream of schools my kids can go to, people they can meet, lives they can create for themselves. Lives filled with contentment, joy, curiosity, and luck. I dream of success and fulfillment my husband can have with his career. I dream of wonderful times we can spend as a family, celebrating our good fortune and good health. I dream of a long and steady old age for my parents.

But, for me, I am all set. I feel like I’ve received more than my fair share of magic in this world and I am grateful for every single moment I get from here onward. Instead of making more dreams, I would like to bask in the light of all the wonderfulness I have and appreciate its splendor. I am so deeply grateful.

31 More Things – 6 – The Most Important Thing

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day six – the most important thing.

(journaling below)

The most important thing has such an ominous sound to it. I feel like I get this one wrong, everything else will collapse, too. After all, if you can’t get “the most important thing” right, what hope do you have of getting anything else right, isn’t that so?

My first instinct, of course, was to say my family. They are definitely the most important thing in my life. But I’ve already written about them. Several times. So I wanted to think about something creative and different, but still true.

And then it hit me. The most important thing is me. I am the most important thing.

I know it might sound narcissistic at first but it’s not. As I grow older, I’m learning that how well I take care of myself and how I feel has a direct impact on those I love. If I am patient and loving with myself, I am able to be more patient and loving with my kids. If I can offer myself grace when I make a mistake, I can extend the same courtesy to my husband. The more I have, the more I can give.

A few years ago, I’d read that you cannot love others more than you love yourself. I violently dismissed this as soon as I read it. It couldn’t be true because I knew that, for me, it wasn’t true. I definitely loved my kids and my husband much, much more than I love myself. I’ve always had a contentious relationship with myself but I knew that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for my family. So it made no sense that my love for them couldn’t be greater than the small amount I felt for myself.

But then I realized the depth of the sentence. The fact is, when I am not kind to myself, when I don’t love myself, when I am not taking care of myself, I am not my best self. If I don’t foster these things in myself, I am failing those I love. At first look, I am setting a really bad example. I know that what I do matters much more than what I say. How can I expect my kids to love themselves when I don’t? And when we go deeper, it’s even worse. How can I give what I don’t have. If I don’t fill myself up with love, I cannot authentically give it to my family. I want them to see what it looks like and feel what it feels like to deeply love someone. It’s not enough to say it; I have to live it.

As with most things, it starts with me. The most important thing is for me to love me.

31 More Things – 5 – Drink

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day five – drink.

(journaling below)

During August, I finally started my walking practice again. With that, came the efforts to eat well and take better care of my health in general. Every day, I took a long walk in the morning, once my early meetings are done. I also started the tradition of walking to Cafe Borrone on the weekend mornings and taking a little time for myself.

Both on Saturdays and Sundays, I wake up relatively early and walk the 25 minutes to the Cafe. I then get myself a 16oz double shot, non-fat, no foam latte and a warmed up croissant and I sit down with my notebook and ipad. I listen to a book on tape on the way so, sometimes the story so interesting that I don’t want to stop listening to it. During those times, I might eat, drink, and play games while I listen. If I am really productive, I might sketch as well. Other times, I will journal. I’ve been known to sit there and write down my thoughts for a solid hour. On Sundays, I often plan my week and figure out work and personal todos for the week to come. I try to highlight the most important tasks so I feel more prepared. After a little while, I will save half of my croissant, finish my coffee and start the walk back home.

I’ve come to cherish these quiet mornings more than any other ritual I have. Even though I love my family so so much, I also need quiet time. It’s how I replenish my soul. These little walks, the solitude, and the reflection do just that. They fill me up so that I can come back full and give everything I have to the people I love and be grateful for them all over again.

I am so lucky to live near such a delightful cafe. I am lucky to have the time and freedom to do this each weekend day. And I am lucky to have the people I love waiting for me at home when I return. Grateful for this little ritual of mine.

31 More Things – 4 – She Says

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day four – she says.

(journaling below)

My first instinct with this post was to write all the things I say all day long. Then I was thinking I can write about what I want to say but I don’t. And then I thought that I already say most of what I want to. So I was back to square one and unsure what I should write about when I realized that all I really want to write about is saying the most important thing I want to make sure to remember to say (and, no, it’s not “i love you.” I say that a lot and I mean it each time. So that’s an easy one for me.)

The one that’s harder and the one I want to make sure to remember is to say: nothing.

It’s so easy for me to speak without thinking when I am angry or hurt. It’s so easy for me to yell. It’s so easy for me to say things that I regret soon after. Sometimes it’s not even something horrible but I still say words I’d rather not say. Words that I am not proud of. Words that I remember later and feel sad I said. I always apologize. And I am getting better at apologizing even when I feel like it’s not my fault. I don’t make things a matter of pride. I have learned to let go over the years and I know that what matters most is for us to move forward and let go of anger, resentment, hurt, etc. So I apologize. Every single time, if that’s what it takes.

Even though I apologize every time and the people who love me do forgive me, I still want to do better. I want to stop myself before I get to the point where I have said things that need an apology. I want to be better at responding and not reacting. Not always jumping the gun. Not always answering right away. There are times when I react to what’s happening too quickly and if I can just wait a beat or two, I would say something totally different. Or say anything at all.

This one is for me. It’s not so others can like me more or so I can apologize less. It’s because I want the words that come out of my mouth to be aligned with who I want to be in the world. I want to be kind. I want the people in my life to know that what matters most to me is for them to see how much I love them and how they mean the world to me. I want my words to be kind, generous, and loving. Sure there will be tough moments, but I want to walk through them with grace. I want to remember the big picture. And in moments of weakness, I want to choose silence over unkindness.

Becoming Wise

I like this girl more than the others. But I still realized that I am just not enjoying drawing these girls. Maybe it’s because I feel I am not good at it. Maybe it just feels bland. I am not sure but either way, I’ve decided to change course a bit so that the project makes me happier. We’ll see if it works.

The quote here says:

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

When I saw this quote, I smiled. Isn’t that the truth?

About ten years ago, I took this class and one of the most profound experiences from the class was the deep realization that I have no ability to change others so if I want my relationship with someone to change, I have to either change myself or I have to walk away from the relationship. This is not to say that the other person will never change. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. But I am not the one who gets to control this.

All I get to do is change myself. And that’s hard enough as is. Actually, this is exactly why I used to find myself wishing for the other person to change. Because it’s so hard to change myself. Because it’s uncomfortable. Because it feels wrong. It’s easy to think that there’s nothing wrong with me and that the fault lies with the other person. Why should I have to change?

But here’s what I learned: if I want to be in a friendship with that person, then it’s on me to make the effort to create the kind of relationship I want. I don’t get to choose to be friends with her and then also want her to completely change who she is to fit my needs. The part where I have choice is whether I want her in my life. And I get to have choice around how I behave, how I feel, what I do.

And that’s about it.

These rules apply to husbands, children, parents, siblings, too. All I get to change is me.

And that’s plenty of work right there.