May 2016 – Choosing Means – 09

Today’s card says: Just because things aren’t going as planned doesn’t mean you don’t get to choose anymore. At any moment you can choose to self-correct and choose a different path.

This is something I don’t remember often enough. I often think of that quote about man making plans, and God laughing. As a planner, I like to always think that I am in control of my life. That if I plan things, worry about things, be specific about my choices, etc. things will work out as I anticipated. But of course they do sometimes and they don’t other times and it has a lot less to do with me than it might seem. Either way, when things don’t go as planned, it’s so easy to just give up and assume that nothing is now up to you.

This is a reminder to me that I always have moments of choice. Even when one thing happens outside of expectations, I still get to recalibrate in this new moment and make more choices. At a minimum, I can choose to accept this moment. I can choose to be present with it. This is what’s here now and I can step into it.

But I can also still change things. I can decide what I want next and how to get there. I can say “ok this happened, it wasn’t what I wanted but here we are. Now I will do this other thing.” or what would it take me to be ok with this? what would i like to do/feel next. I get to choose how I feel about things. I get to choose what things mean. I get to choose so many things at every moment. When things don’t go just right, it’s easy to forget that I have these moments of choice. But they are always there and always with me.

It’s never too late for it to be what it might have been. It’s never too late to start. It’s never too late to stop. To give in, to keep going, to give up, to push forward, to apologize, to accept an apology, to change course, to pick a new life. To create new values. To find friends, love, kindness, etc. It’s just never too late for anything. And I want to remember that. I want to remember that I have millions of moments of choice all day long.

I am so grateful for those moments.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 08

Today’s card says: Sometimes choosing not to hurt others ends up meaning you have to choose to hurt yourself. At times, that’s okay but it’s not ok to choose to put others first every single time.

I feel like as women we are more often brought up with the expectation to sacrifice ourselves for others. As mothers, even more so. And I personally think there’s nothing wrong with choosing others over me, many many times. I often choose to do things for my kids because seeing my kids makes me happy. So it’s also sort of choosing for myself. Same goes for my husband, parents, friends, etc.

But as I get older, I realize that it’s easy to go overboard with this. To always choose others. To always sacrifice. For work, for kids, for husband. And there are dangers with that, resentment, expectation of reciprocation, losing sense of self. I think all of these are possible outcomes I’ve seen over the years.

I’ve learned to always ask myself whether I am choosing to do this for them or for me and if I can’t find a way to bring it back to me, I try not to do it. I drive my kids to school because I love having conversations in the car on our way. It’s good for them, good for me. I help my husband because his business doing well makes him happier and when he’s happy, I am really happy. I work harder some times because having the tasks done allows me to relax and be more present. I always try to be aware of why I am making the choice I make. Is this something I value? Something that is for a good cause? And if I always make it about me, then there’s no other person to resent. I don’t think “ugh, i sacrificed myself for him and then he wasn’t even thankful.” This way I am accountable to myself, I am aware of my choices and I own how I feel about it.

But sometimes I still need to remember that I need to choose more time just for myself, just to restore and rebuild my own soul/body/heart. So I need to remember that I am also one of those people I need to sacrifice for. One of those people I need to choose not to hurt.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 07

Today’s card saysChoosing means knowing what matters most and being willing to let go of the rest. Even when you wish you could have it all or even both.

Even though I know this is a fact and can intellectually articulate it, I notice that when it comes to my life, I don’t “choose” to remember this.

I often “choose” a path directly or inadvertently and then judge myself on both the path I took and the one I didn’t take. I do this with small things like eating something that’s bad for me and then judging myself on my weight or looks. I do it on big things like choosing to do or say something at work and/or my personal life and then fretting constantly that I said what I said. I choose not to focus on cooking, cleaning, dressing a certain way etc but then I judge myself on how I do those things.

I feel like a lot of my personal values are not always in line with some of the cultural and societal norms I grew up with (and am still in, in some ways) so this double-standard is extra tough for me. I often choose to do things according to my own values (which is good!) but then the conversations and judgements in my head are constantly about the norms I grew up around (bad. mostly because they don’t reflect who i choose to be.) This is a formula for constant frustration and sorrow and self-judgement.

And I want to choose to stop doing it.

I think the first step to this is writing down what I believe in. What I think matters most. And then the next step is writing down what I don’t believe in, what I think matters less. Because choosing is not just about the thing you’re choosing but it’s also about the thousands of things (that you didn’t choose) that choice implies. So I can remind myself that I have actively made this choice not to hold myself accountable for the things I’ve specifically not chosen to focus on.

Letting go of the rest, of the choices I didn’t make starts with choosing to not choose them. Choosing to actively let them go. Choosing to fully step into who I am and step out of who I am not.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 06

Today’s card saysYou get to choose the way you interpret the “truth”. The definition of truth changes more often than it might seem because rarely is the truth not infused with your story. Choose what works.

This is something I think about often. As I get older, I notice it even more. How  people’s “truth” is rarely just the facts. Most of us have preconceived ideas of who we are, who others are, and we have conversations in our head. We process all of the world’s information through these conversations in our mind. And we make them mean things. Things that might or might not be true.

I’ve learned that it’s impossible to know the “truth” especially when it involves other people. As someone who’s often had worries around being worthy, being loved, liked, etc, I’ve learned that it’s impossible to know what others really think of you. It’s impossible to do the “right” things so they like you more. These things are not possible because people spend a lot more time thinking about themselves than they spend thinking about you. And making everyone or even any one person like you forever is nonstop work. It’s not worthwhile work.  Because here’s the thing, if I don’t change what I think of myself (the conversations in my head) it doesn’t matter what others do or say. It’s constantly going through the filter I have in my head. The filter that colors every conversation, every action, every event with “I’m not worthy” so things happen in the real world, and I interpret them to support the story I already believe about myself.

This is true for all of us, for both the good and the bad. When you think you’re great, it’s often your story. When you think you suck, the same thing. Of course, there are exceptions. Real facts that happen in the real world. But the meaning that those facts have are fully attributed by us. We decide what they mean and we choose what we do next, depending on what decision we made. How we chose to see the “truth.”

So this is what I want to remember today. That I get to choose how I perceive the truth. I get to choose what meaning to attribute to events, to people, to words, to life. I get to choose. And I want to choose the meaning that makes me the best version of myself. So that what I do next comes from that place. So that I can keep being the best version of me.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 05

Today’s card says: Some days things choose you and you just have to let go and lean into the things that chose you. It makes it easier when you swim with the current than against it.

There’s a book that came out a bunch of years ago called Now Discover Your Strengths and it was all about how instead of focusing your weaknesses and trying to constantly make them better, maybe we’d do better by focusing on our strengths where we have the potential for much more quick improvement (and we can use our support systems and delegation to fill in some of the holes – weaknesses. ) There’s a lot more to the book of course but this was one of my take aways. I remember there’s a scene about how when your kids comes to you with their report card and when they have 4As and 1C we focus so much on the class where she or he got a C instead of focusing on the As. Here are things the kid is amazing at.

As someone who always looks at the “things to improve” section of her peer feedback way before she spends time on “here’s what she does well,” it’s easy for me to focus on the bad. Focus on what I should be doing more or better.

And yet.

It’s so much easier to go with the flow. To do more of what comes naturally. To do more of what is joyful. More of what’s something I love to do. More of something that I inherently like spending my time on. Or something I value.

I had a meeting at the school a few months ago, where we were discussing things about Nathaniel and the teacher made some suggestions on what we could do. We nodded and thanked them. We intended to do them but week passed and then we got another call to meet again and check in. At first, I felt really guilty about all the things I didn’t do but then I took some time to really look into my soul. And I realized that instead of saying I will do things that would be incredibly hard for me as a person, what I needed was to find things that I could do that come naturally to me and still support my son. I can swim against the current for a while, do all the uphill work, but it will leave me tired and I will give up much more quickly. Whereas if I find something that allows me to do this in a way that works for me, I can sustain it and make my son happy without completely wearing myself down in the process.

The trick I am learning is not to feel guilty for all I am not. It’s to really focus on what I am, to know myself well and to choose fully own who I am. Choose to step into myself and my life. That’s when the magic happens.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 04

Today’s card says: Sometimes choosing means doing nothing. Nothing that others might do. Doing nothing all day. Choosing to just rest and be obligated to no one. Choosing to do what would let you rest.

Can you tell I wrote this one when I was sick? After I returned from Zurich, I felt my regular discombobulation and haziness for a week and then I woke up in the middle of the night on Thursday shivering and coughing. I took my temperature and it was 101. I continued to get sicker and sicker for the next week. This, in the middle of the Tech Challenge finals, Nathaniel’s birthday, and several other commitments I could not get out of.

In between all the events, I basically lay on the couch and moved as little as possible. I felt nauseous and tired 24/7. Last week, I finally went to the doctor because my chest started hurting and apparently I have bruised things due to excessive coughing. So that was fun. I am finally, finally recovering a bit and remembering how it feels to be okay again. It took much longer than I had hoped and, of course, it came at a very inopportune time.

Had I written these words yesterday, I would have felt okay whining about all this but I visited a good friend this morning who has had a terrible skiing accident and has had to be off her feet for months now and her whole life has been turned upside down. Sort of puts things in perspective of course.

My life is often full to the brim. I work a lot, I spend a lot of time at my kids’ school, I do life coaching, I do art, I read. I spend my minutes. Even though I do sleep a lot each night, I still don’t rest enough. It’s been so long since I took vacation that I get emails from work that I should “take vacation soon!” which means I’ve accumulated all the vacation I can.

Resting is one of the things I don’t do well. I feel obligations all day long, to my work, to my kids, to Jake, to the school, I can go on and on. But lately, I’ve basically dropped all of it on the floor. I do what must absolutely be done and I rest the rest of the time. Sometimes the universe forces me to remember that I need to make the choice to rest.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 03

Today’s card saysChoose to work on the yelling. It is so hard on everyone. Choose to calm down. Choose to remember that almost nothing matters as much as being kind.

This is one of the issues I struggle with the most. When I grew up, there was a lot of yelling in my family. In fact, in my twenties, I asked my mom if she would like to get tested because she yelled almost all the time. As it turns out she was somewhat deaf in both ears. Possibly born that way. Maybe that’s why she yelled a lot. Or maybe she was nervous like I am. I don’t know. What I do know is that she never hit me, she never hurt me, but she did yell a lot.

I don’t remember being upset about it as a kid. It was just the reality in my home. I grew up with friends whose parents were mean but my parents were always incredibly kind so I never thought much about the yelling. It was mostly a communication style in my family.

But I can tell that it’s not the same thing for my kids. My kids get really upset when I yell. They get even more upset when Jake yells because it’s very rare for him to yell. But it’s not rare for me. I yell often and almost always about inconsequential stuff. Being late to the school shuttle, not putting the dishes away, horsing around, talking when they should be taking a bath. These are the reasons I yell. When I am nervous, scared, in a rush, stressed, or tired. These are the times when I yell. When something is seriously wrong, I rarely yell. But when it’s inconsequential, day to day life stuff, I yell. And that stuff happens a lot more often. So I yell often.

I want to remember that people never forget how you make them feel. And yes I spend a lot of time hugging and kissing my kids. A lot of time talking to them. A lot of time telling them how much I love them. A lot of time listening to them. A lot of time apologizing. A lot of time sitting and working with them. And I know that they know that I love them. I know that they know I don’t mean to ever hurt their feelings. But I still don’t want to yell. I don’t want them to remember all the yelling when they think of me. I only want them them to remember how much I love them.

And yet this is such a struggle. I think about it every day and I do it anyway. It’s almost instinctive. I do it without thinking. When I am yelling, I don’t notice the moment of choice that the word choose is all about. So that’s what this word is about for me. Remembering that I do have a moment of choice, even with something like this. Especially with something like this.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 02

Today’s card says: Sometimes choosing means being brave. Sometimes it means listening to your soul even when it is not what would be nice. Even when you feel conflicted doing what feels right deep down in your soul.

I struggle with this all the time. What I feel in my core and what I feel is right to do, clash often. Or at least enough times that it makes it a struggle. I’ve spent a lot of the last two years really trying to connect with who I am and being at peace with that. Really embracing my soul. I’ve been trying to look deeper and try to differentiate between things that require bravery and things that my soul whispers me not to do. I work hard on who I am and always try to improve. Always try to challenge myself and see if I can become a better version of myself.

But I also want to embrace who I am. It’s much easier to improve yourself when you’re 100% at peace with who you are. And I’m in my 40s now, I want to be done doubting myself nonstop. I want to be able to the whispers of my soul and do what feels deeply right to me. Deeply authentic to who I am. Even if it’s not the “right” thing to do. Even if it might not always mean that I put the people I love first. Sometimes choosing means putting me first. Doing what feels right to me.

Part of growing up, to me, is embracing who I am. Being ok with the fact that sometimes my choices aren’t what others want. Sometimes I will disappoint people. Sometimes I will even disappoint people I love. But part of growing up, part of choosing is being clear with myself about when I am disappointing myself. When I am choosing not to listen to part of myself that I know to be true.

And I think knowing that I do in fact have a choice is a crucial first step in being able to make a choice. I did this recently. It was hard. I chose myself over others. I chose what felt deeply right to me. It hurt some people. It made me really sad to hurt them. But it still felt right. I know that given the option, I would do it again, even when I know it felt terrible to hurt people I love.

I can’t be true to myself if I won’t even let myself listen to myself. I can’t make choices that I am not aware of. So part of choosing is learning to listen to my soul. Learning to differentiate what my own true wishes are in a situation. Being aware that there is a choice. And making my choice with that awareness.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.

May 2016 – Choosing Means – 01

As I finished my April project, I had no idea what I was going to do for May. I feel like each year, there’s a culmination of events that somehow make it so I fall off my schedule. And then once I get off the schedule, I just can’t ever get back on. Days accumulate and I fall more and more behind and then I just feel like there’s no more point. Eventually the drive comes back but I can never catch back up on my projects. This point usually comes around June when the kids are out on summer break, I go home, and then come back to a lot of jetlag and just don’t feel like being on schedule anymore.

This year, the breaking point came much much earlier. (I hope this is not an indication of the new normal). On mid-March, we got David’s middle school results (which were wonderful) and then I just never blogged again. There was a flurry of activity right after and then I went to Zurich for work and I came back and I’ve been really sick for the last few weeks. I am still not back to 100% and there are around 3,478 things I am now behind on, not to mention an event at the kids’ school just about every other day now that school is almost over.

Sooo…. None of this is actually about my prompt. Let me get to that. When I was in Zurich, Ali’s April prompt for One Little Word, came out. For April, she had something around putting reminders to connect with your word and to answer a question around “what does it mean to …” so I decided that it would be my prompt for May. I made up 20 cards, all of which said “choose” on them and then filled out a card throughout the month. I will do my best to share them with some words and maybe that can help me get back into blogging this month, too.

There are not in order. But here’s the first one:

The card says: you get to choose how to use your time. Choosing to do one thing also means choosing not to something else. Be conscious of what you are not choosing by making the choice to spend your time this way.

This is something I remind myself again and again. It’s something that I think we all sort of know to be true but it’s one of those things like eating well, exercising, or flossing that we know but don’t do as often as we should.

In the last few months, I haven’t been so good at thinking about where my time is going and how well I am spending it. Especially in the last few weeks as I’ve been sick and spending a lot of time on the couch. It’s one thing to rest and sleep when I am sick but it’s another to watch TV and just make the time pass. I understand that sometimes it’s an necessary evil and my body was telling me I need to rest. But one of the things I know is that when I use my time unwisely, I often regret so very much when I look back. This is one of the main reasons I try so hard to organize my day and why I work so well when I’ve scheduled my tasks for the week.

I also know that the minutes I spend not being with my kids, not being with my family, not being with my husband, are all minutes that will not come back. Minutes I spend not taking care of my body will also not come back. Each of these decisions are small and inconsequential on their own, but they add up. Just like eating one piece of chocolate is not a big deal but eating 1,000 little pieces of chocolate adds up.

[As a side note, I was listening to Gretchen Rubin’s Habits book this weekend. I’ve only managed to get through the intro but one of the things she said struck me. She said that something becomes a habit when we do it without thinking. Like brushing my teeth or putting my seatbelt on when I get in the car. I don’t think about these acts at all. And if I am going to do things without thinking, I’d like them to be healthier choices. I’d like to know that the time I spend unconsciously is spent on things that are good for me. ]

When I think of what choosing means, this is one of the top ones that comes up for me. Years ago, I taught a class on spending your time called Reclaiming My Time and it was all about paying attention to where your time is going. Figuring out where you want it to go, tracking where it does go, and reconciling the two. It is one of the most powerful exercises one can do. Especially if you’re one of those people who always claims to have no free time. We all have so much more free time than we think we do.

Choosing means remembering to be specific and purposeful with my time.  It’s time for me to reclaim my time and to be specific about what I want to do and, just as importantly, what I don’t want to do. It’s time to pick up the pieces I’ve been dropping on the floor for a few months.

Choosing Means is a Monthly Project for May 2016. You can read more about my projects for 2016 here.