Walking through Life with Clarity

We all hear that when we get angry at others, it is something in us that is being reflected and that we need to learn from. We all hear that other people are in our lives to teach us a lesson. We all know the saying that if we want to change the world, we must change ourselves first. I have been the one who recited these things to others as much as I recite it to myself. When reciting it to myself it was usually in a “what lesson am I supposed to learn” way. Most of the time I couldn’t see the lesson.

I have heard and repeated all of these “budha-isms” for a long time, possibly more in the last year and a half, but they’ve been with me most of my life. I never truly grasped them though, and they were often more words uttered as a desperate hope that something big will appear in front of me, like a genie perhaps, and show me the lesson. You know when someone gives you a riddle and you know the answer should be obvious, but no matter how hard you try you just can’t get it? When they give you the answer your response is, of course, I should’ve known that! That has been the meaning of these truisms in my life.

Until the last month that is…

A couple of events in my life are changing the course of my life, or let me say, if I am willing to change how I behave, CAN change the course of my life. I’ll talk a bit about each to give context.

I have become more vocal to people that surround me – work and family. More vocal in the things that I am not happy with. These have always been words and thoughts that I kept behind a closed heart in fear that I will upset people and push people away. The first time I verbalised my unhappiness and how I plan on actioning them was a bit of a disaster, I did hurt some people in the process, but received some very valuable feedback that I can learn from. My initial response to the feedback was self-pity and the typical “I’m gonna eat some worms” response, blaming everyone around me. I have known for probably about 3 weeks now that this is my response to difficult situations and this is my numbing mechanism to make the pain go away – courtesy #OLCBreneBrown. I still don’t catch myself the instant I go down this road, but I do catch myself after the first three steps or so down the road. Here is the interesting part about this behaviour. I have a family member who does exactly the same thing, and I get extremely angry with them when they do it. I want to talk open-heartedly to this person (I’m omitting names to keep these people safe), but taking the feedback from my first open hearted talk, I decided to write my message first, and to write it in terms of “what about their behaviour do I feel is not according to my expectation of our relationship and how does it make me feel”. That’s when I realised that a lot of the behaviours they illustrate that I don’t like, are behaviours I have too. We had a family blow out a couple days ago, because one person (call it person A) was carrying negative feedback towards another person (call it person B) since the week before. Instead of talking about it, person A carried this with them and their grudge against person B became bigger and bigger. Person B did something out of the goodness of their heart, and person A blew up against B unexpectedly. Only once these two people started talking could they each do something with the feedback. Again, the person I need to talk to….I’m doing exactly the same, and no matter how hard this person tries, in my eyes they can do nothing right, because I’m bottling all the things about this person that makes me unhappy.

The third case is at the office. I expect my team to support me and my decisions. I am doing the best I know to do with the information I have. Sometimes I am right, sometimes I am wrong. Sometimes I have their support, sometimes people may be implementing something they don’t agree with. In all my time at the JSE I have been pretty much managing myself, and for a short period I had a lead who I highly trusted and we thought the same way, so implementation was easy. I am in a situation right now where I often don’t agree with the way a certain person in my team wants to implement. I have to give this person an opportunity to implement work the best way this person knows to, and to do this I sometimes have to do things I don’t agree with. In effect this is the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to support my leadership, the same way I expect my team to support me. It has been a very bitter pill to swallow, and I’m still chewing very hard on it. But I acknowledge that if I want to learn this life lesson, I need to commit to it with full integrity and commitment, without trying to sabotage it.

So for the first time in my life I am looking through crystal clear lenses at events unfolding around me, and seeing what it is I am walking into. I don’t necessarily know what the end outcome will be, but I know very deep in my gut that the most difficult paths are the ones that will serve me the most. In some instances it isn’t even about a difficult path, but rather seeing behaviours in others that I see in myself and think: “oh my hat, that is exactly why certain things happens the way they do, and I have been contributing to it”. It does sometimes make me feel ashamed of my own behaviour, that is when my self-pity starts, and that doesn’t serve me either. For the first time I can now see what it is I can change in my life.

I have been wondering for a while what in my life has changed that now serves me so well. The truth is that I don’t believe there is one specific event that has brought about this change. But there are two very big specific events I believe has had some input into it. The first is that I have finally started accepting myself for who I am today, seeing my beauty, seeing how powerful I am, acknowledging my own achievements and saying to myself “you know what, that was pretty amazing, not many people are willing to do that”. The second event is one that is directly related to changing the world by starting with yourself. I have started with myself. I have thrown myself in pretty dangerous water at work, but now I am learning how to start smoothing the edges. And the interesting thing is, the universe is giving me plenty opportunities to fine tune it. I have many hard talks lying ahead of me in the very near future, never mind the ones I don’t know about yet. But it seems I have a little bulk of them that needs to happen right now – they’re either there because I’ve been shying away from them all my life, or they’re there to teach me how to do them in a gentle non-destructive way. There is a third one as well. I have called out to the universe, some call it God, some call it Ancestors, I haven’t decided what to call it yet, but I know I can close my eyes and ask for the global consciousness to listen, and it is there. I have connected to this consciousness and believe that answers will come to me and guide me as I go.

My biggest change has been to change myself. What is fascinating to see is how everything around me is now also changing. I can say I really deeply grasp now that the first step in changing the world, is to start with yourself.

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Be Gentle

When Steve said it today he hit the nail on the head – I am one of the boys, and I love being one of the boys. Ever since I can remember I have always related better and easier to boys. Let’s say we were a group of friends at a dam, girls and boys pretty much in even numbers, I would be the girl sliding down the foefie slide with the boys while the rest of the girls talk girl talk. I don’t do girl talk very well, not only the shoes and shopping and hair and make-up stuff, but also the feeling stuff. At Harlequin Andrew also said that we are business women in a man’s world, and he was looking at me when he said it. At the time I knew I’ve worked hard in the business world, but at the tine I didn’t think that I am one of those business woman who lost the softer empathetic nurturing part of me. Hindsight is beautiful, but fortunately this is a hindsight where there aren’t detrimental consequences for only realising it today. He was talking ABOUT me, TO me.

I am extremely hard on myself, I expect a lot of myself. More than I would ever expect of anybody else. At work I am a machine, I can put my head down and slog away for hours without taking so much as a 5 minute break other than when nature calls. In my sport I can focus myself on a goal and stick to the most rigid training programme in aim of the goal, sacrificing sleep to put in the hours, cutting short me time to put in the hours, pushing my body past boundaries and beyond perceived limits. At home I will put in lots of planning to ensure the people around me and myself have healthy meals that are interesting and taste good, boring dull meals aren’t an option. I have always considered these awesome qualities in me – I still do, but I have forgot the balance. As said in one of my first posts, I’m a fixer. Generally I only notice the things around me that need fixing, and then I’m busy planning how to fix them. The good things I do goes unnoticed, unapproved.

After Harlequin I got sick – to be expected – and I took it pretty well, not trying to force the illness to go away, not putting myself on a guilt trip for not training. But Friday I had a bit of a breakdown, still feeling crappy and still feeling sick, expecting to see at least a little improvement after 4 days. The majority of my support are men, and all of them had the same advice – take it easy on yourself. My body needs to adapt to the sudden emotional growth, and it is asking for a bit of a break. They all gave me awesome advice, and all of them made perfect sense. But most of them are fixers, like me. For me to feel I’m dealing with stuff I need an action list, a plan, stuff to do – all of this my boy [space] friends gave me, which is awesome! I had a plan to change my situation!

John spoke to his girlfriend Lizette who said that maybe the fixers need to back off a bit. We spoke on the phone for a long time, and she is one of only a handful woman who I’ve gained support from in the past couple of months. I realise now that all of them have the same message, take it easy, but with a softer message. Their message is one of just accepting, sleeping in, not doing anything but just doing things that bring me peace – read a book, close my eyes and breathe, stopping for a moment.

Both of these are good strategies, and both have their place. I have been spending my life in strategy A, do stuff, all the time. Worry about the fact that I’m not getting to stuff, trying to make stuff work. It is time to apply some of strategy B – sitting back and taking a break, a breather, reflecting on what I’ve accomplished, what has worked, what I’m happy with, the things I appreciate in life. And also finding what didn’t work. But instead of jumping straight onto it, I need to take a breather, regroup myself, explore options and then take small steps forward. I tend to bulldoze, and looking back now, bulldozers generally do more harm than good, not necessarily so much to other people, but more to me because I get angry that the mountains aren’t shifting overnight – I get impatient.

Is backing off easy for me to do, hell no – the blinding headache I woke up with this morning is evidence of that! Will this lesson come up again, hell yes. But what I do appreciate is the female view I have gained in my life, that will probably push me back into my seat some days and tell me to just sit down and breathe. Go for a massage, get my nails done, tan, sit, lie, just be. Thank You ladies!

Reflecting on January

At the end of each month I will post a reflection of my journey for the month.

For those who don’t want to read my big story, a short summary of insights for me this month:

1. I love the pain I put myself through in competitive cycling because that is when it is the easiest for me to turn my focus inside to my physical sensations.
2. Physical pain or distress in my body is always linked to events around me. It is never just because there is a bug doing the rounds.
3. Fights or hard talks don’t end all relationships. It makes those relationships that are worthwhile stronger.
4. Society has moved us further and further away from our true selves by countless distractions – malls, TV, sales, restaurants, social media, bling, name it!

I meant to post this blog ON the 31st, the last day of January, but I’ve been questioning my intention for blogging. When I committed to blogging my journey, it was because writing helps me think, and I am curious to see what feedback I would get. I am surprised at the number of people that read my blog, but that got me swept up in the numbers game. For three days in a row I had more than 15 reads. So if the number of reads was below 10 I would write another blog and get excited to see the number go up. WordPress had a thing on where you must write a creative blog and you could stand a chance of your blog being featured. I took on the challenge, and it was the blog with the least reads to date. With the always online era we find ourselves in, it seems that everything is about numbers, how many friends, how many likes, how many referrals. How am I being true to myself if I’m writing to watch the stats? Don’t get me wrong, I love each follower and every new follower I look up to see what I can learn from them. But number of followers should be a by-product of the true intention. I also found that a new thought or experience will pop in my head, and the first thing I start thinking of is what I can blog about it. Instead I should be moving my focus internally and understand how it makes me feel, physically, mentally and emotionally and what thoughts arise with it. So I will now blog once a week, and anything extra will be because I have something burning to share.

Start of Jan I wrote about the in control runaway train, because that is how it felt at the time. I felt as though I was changing at the speed of light but knew exactly where I was growing to. I have learned in the meanwhile that actually, it is more like a stop and go. Some weeks things happen very fast in a clear direction, other weeks it feels like I’m stomping through mud going backwards not knowing what’s behind me. I know from what I’ve learned through cycling that the hard weeks are when you should push through, because those are the weeks you grow the most. In hard weeks I find myself battling to remain focused on how I’m feeling in my body, and within minutes my mind is off somewhere else again, and emotions are few and far. These weeks I feel like pushing all this getting in touch with myself stuff aside and going on with life. Easy weeks I can focus on physical sensations and I get glimmers of emotion. I have found that when I share events with someone and tell them about it, the emotions seem to flow a bit easier. Thinking about it now, that’s what I hoped blogging will bring me, maybe I should talk more instead.

One of the exercises I did was to visualise myself in the various roles I play, business woman, companion, athlete, friend, and felt physically what sensations I experience in my body. I enjoy my job, but when I did this for the business woman role, I could feel my heart beating loudly and uncomfortably in my chest and my diaphragm get tight. One thought came up – maybe I’m blocking finding my passion because I may fear that I don’t really enjoy what I do, and then I wouldn’t be happy.

Beginning of the year I said I am not a thinker. Without trying, this journey has changed me to think about things a lot more. I have also become aware of small things, but this is not because I think more, rather because I take ownership of my emotions. Leon has also helped in this realisation with his studies, thank you! Small things are for example events that happen that irritates me immensely, I realise now that this irritation is because it points to some hot spot within me. I can’t say that I have found the hot spot, but I do already react differently when I feel this. I also think faster on my feet, where usually I had more hindsights and realised too late what I should have done or said or not done.

Leon and I also had a fight, and for the first time I wasn’t afraid of blowing off steam and worrying that it may end our relationship. It was the first time I actually just let my anger go, not holding back. Usually I would feel bruised for days after a fight we had. But this time within 20 minutes after thinking things through I could apologise for my wrongs, and within the hour all the painful emotions were gone! HUGE achievement for me. I have also noticed that I am more direct, and don’t fluff around things to say it diplomatically correct. I do think things through better to make sure I understand what I feel, and then I am honest and transparent.

And then lastly – Leon and I are starting studies in lie and deceit detection. I have been interested in it since the first episode of Lie to Me. One thing we have to start practicing is looking at people’s faces. Usually I look at their shoes, clothes, hair, make-up. Since starting to do this, I have found that I truly see people for who they are. As an example, instead of seeing a woman with four sons as someone who probably has a hard time keeping them in line, I saw a woman with an open inviting face, conversing and laughing and all of her sons loving interacting with her. Instead of seeing the mom and daughter Sandton poppies strutting impatiently into a restaurant, I see a beautiful girl struggling to find her identity but trying very hard to remain confident.

And then really lastly – I get cabin fever very easily, and staying in the house for more than 10 hours at a time is physical torture for me. Suddenly I can’t wait to get out of the mall and back to my haven with its garden, my cats, my home cooked food, my love. A haven where it is easier to experience me and grow and learn more about me.

I think I have found the word I want as a tattoo: “Be Curious”. But I’ll hold up a little longer before committing to that!