”We Will Emerge From The Cocoon, Spread Our Wings, And Fly”

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‘I am closest to my mother, as she is my rock, my pillar of strength, and my world. Not only has she stood by me through all times – happy, sad, and otherwise – but there have even been moments when I had completely lost hope, and her immense belief in me had lifted me up.”

Devastating heartbreak. Sudden illness. Unexpected departures.

Whether it’s a business challenge or a personal situation, tough times happen for everyone.

Trying to “stay positive” and “keep the faith” can feel almost impossible.

And no matter how strong we think we are, unforeseen change can leave us all feeling quite vulnerable and lost.

That’s why it’s important to remember that even though you may feel helpless — you’re not.

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When things fall apart, we sit still.

When things fall apart, we run fast.

When things fall apart, we hang on.

Marilyn Monroe said, “Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.”

Falling apart is to be expected in the process of life, growth, aging, and death.

What if we stop looking at breakdowns as falling apart, but rather the place between what was and what will be? The time just before things come together in a different way.

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When the caterpillar enters the chrysalis and its metamorphosis begins, we can only imagine that the process of this transformation will be uncomfortable. The cells of the caterpillar literally become what are called “imaginal cells” as the tiny creature grows into something completely different and utterly magical.

Unless the caterpillar undergoes this radical transformation, it will never fly as a beautiful butterfly.

If we don’t break down, we don’t break through.

There isn’t a single successful person out here in the world who hasn’t learned to weather breakdowns and failures.

Pema Chodron said, “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

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Mistakes are painful. Sometimes they are life-threatening, or send us to prison, or cause the loss of those we love. Squirming through the discomfort of perceived failure can be downright humiliating.

But when did we decide that worrying and panicking would make any difference?

When you come up against a situation like this remember that on the other end is a golden nugget of hard-earned truth molded from experience. And stretching yourself in that way will lead to expansion.

You get to become comfortable being uncomfortable. We say this a lot. Amazing things rarely happen in your comfort zone, on the couch eating Doritos. In your comfort zone is where you only dream of amazing things happening.

I will never forget the time I was at one of my early team handball practices.  Things weren’t going the way I wanted, I was pissed off, my legs were burning, and I was far from comfortable.  I was in a bad mood and complaining to myself when something literally life-changing happened for me.

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As I turned around to take a look at the other end of the court we were sharing with another team’s practice, I saw that this wasn’t just any team. It was a team of basketball players in wheelchairs. They were going at it hard, leaving everything on the court. Here I was complaining to myself about my legs burning when I realized in an aha moment that I was beyond blessed to have the feeling of these legs burning at all. What would any one of those players give to feel what I was feeling?

Those players could’ve given up when they lost the use of their legs or never started playing at all. But they dreamed of playing and so they did whatever it took to get on the court. Words can’t express how much they inspired me to see my life differently.

Oftentimes when things fall apart, if we just open our eyes, we will see something immensely beautiful.
We will emerge from the cocoon, spread our wings, and fly.

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”How I Stopped Feeling Trapped in a Life I Didn’t Want”

 

 

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“Happiness is never found in materialistic things; it exists in things that cannot be physically possessed. Therefore, happiness is priceless. It can never be purchased.”

Money can’t buy you love. It can’t buy you happiness either.

Today’s materialistic world often urges us to buy the coolest gadgets, the trendiest clothes, bigger and better things, but research shows that possessions and purchases don’t buy us happiness.

So while we are being pushed towards materialism, it’s for monetary gain by corporations, not for our own happiness. Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape the trap of materialism, and find happiness in other ways than buying stuff online or finding joy in the mall.

But it’s possible. Here’s a guide to finding a materialism-free life and discovering true happiness.

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Escaping Materialism
All around us, there are messages telling us to buy stuff. On the Internet (blogs included), we see continuous advertising trying to get us to purchase a product or service. It’s the main reason for television, and movies are continually made with products placed throughout, so that we aren’t always sure what is advertising and what was put in there by the director.

Flip on the radio or open up a newspaper or magazine, and you’re bombarded my more advertising. Go to a shopping center/mall, and the urge to buy comes from every direction.

This message to continually buy, buy, buy … and that it will somehow make us happpier … is drilled into our heads from the days of Happy Meals and cartoons until the day we die. It’s inescapable.

Well, almost. You could go and live in a cabin in the woods (and that actually sounds nice), or you could still live in our modern society, but find ways to escape materialism.

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Here are some suggestions:

  • Limit television. Do you really enjoy watching TV for hours? Think about which shows you really, really love, and only watch during that time. When the commercials come on, go do something else. Or use Tivo to watch TV. You can even give up cable TV entirely, if you’re brave — I have, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
  • Eschew the news. Journalists will never tell you this, but if they’re completely honest, they’ll confess that the most important part of any news company, from TV or radio news to Internet or print new, is the advertising division. It’s the division that pays the paychecks of the rest of the company. The news is important in driving traffic to the advertising. So when you’re watching or reading news, you’re really being sucked in to advertising. Try this instead: boycott the news for a week. I’ve done it for about two years, and it hasn’t hurt me a bit. In fact, it’s helped me a lot.
  • Limit Internet reading. I’m not saying you should cancel your cable Internet subscription or anything. I love reading blogs. But find just those that you truly love reading, that give you the most value, and limit your reading to those. And just do it once a day, for 30 minutes or so. If you can do that, you’ve gone a long way towards tearing yourself away from advertising.
  • Give up magazines for books. Magazines are also designed with advertising in mind. And they rarely give you much value. Try reading an ad-free book instead. It’s a much better use of your time.
  • Don’t go to the mall or Walmart. The only purpose of these places is for you to spend money. If you just want a place to spend your Saturday afternoon, find a place where you don’t need to spend money to have fun — a park or a beach, for example. If you need to buy something, go to a single store (not the mall) and go in and get what you need. Don’t browse and walk around looking at stuff. You’ll get sucked in.
  • Monitor your urges. When you’re online, or watching TV, or at a store, keep track of the number of times you want to buy something. Keep a little notebook or index card, and just put tally marks. Once you become more aware of your urges to buy things, you can start to control them. If you could control them, limiting your consumption of media (see above tips) isn’t really necessary — although I would argue that it still gives you a better quality of life.
  • Use a 30-day list. If you still really want to buy something, put it on a list, and write down the date you added the item to the list. Now tell yourself you cannot buy that item for 30 days. It might be difficult, but you can do it. When the 30 days have passed, if you still want it, then buy it. But you can’t buy anything (besides essentials like groceries) without putting it on the list for 30 days first. Many times, our urges to buy something will pass during this waiting period.
  • Declutter. I find it pretty amazing to see all the crap I buy over a period of years, when I go through my closets and other possessions and start getting rid of stuff I don’t use or want anymore. It’s a gratifying process, and at the same time, it makes me realize how useless all our consumer shopping is. I don’t need any of the stuff! When you do this, you may be less likely to buy more stuff. Especially if you enjoy the decluttered look of your house as much as I do.
  • Find other forms of entertainment. There are other things to do besides watch TV or movies or read magazines or newspapers or the Internet. Try playing sports or exercising, or playing board games or creating art or writing or reading a book. Try doing fun things with your kids or visiting relatives and other loved ones. Try volunteering with a charity. I’m sure you could come up with 100 free or cheap things to do.
  • Buy used. When you get the urge to buy something, and you’re convinced that it’s needed, try finding it used instead of new. Look in thrift shops or garage sales or flea markets or similar places.

 

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A True Path to Happiness
So, if you’re able to escape materialism, how can you find true happiness? There are many ways, and each of us is different, but here are some things I suggest trying:

  • Grateful list. Make a list of things about which you’re grateful in your life. Give thanks for them daily.
  • Think positive. Try eliminating negative thinking from your life, and thinking positive instead.
  • Small pleasures. Make a list of small things that give you great pleasure. Sprinkle them throughout your day. Notice other small pleasures as you go through your day.
  • Kindness. Practice random acts of kindness and compassion. Do it anonymously. Help those in need. Volunteer. Make someone smile.
  • Love. Make an intimate connection with your loved ones. Develop your friendships. Spend time with them, converse, understand them, make them happy.
  • Health. Exercise and eat healthy — it sounds trite, but it can bring great happiness to your life.
  • Meaning. It’s often useful to find meaning, either through a church or spiritual way, or through those we love in life or through the things we’re passionate about. Give yourself a purpose.
  • Flow. Eliminate distractions, and really pour yourself into whatever you’re doing. If it’s writing an article, like this one, really put yourself into it, until you forget the outside world.
  • Know yourself. Become attuned to what brings you happiness. Study yourself. Learn about what you love, and about your ability to love. Increase your capacity for compassion.

Are You a People-Pleaser?

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“When you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t saying “no” to yourself.”

If you’re a people pleaser, then you probably tend to put other people’s needs ahead of your own. Maybe you want approval from others or have been taught to always give to others. It’ll take some time to adjust, but start by saying “no” to some things instead of “yes” to everything. Create some boundaries and make your voice heard and your opinion matter. Above all, make time to care for yourself.

Most of us have learned that helping others at certain times is a good thing. Everyone benefits: Someone feels good because of something you did for them, and you feel good because you made them happy. That’s the way it should work. Of course, there are those you care more about, and most likely, you want to do more for them than for others. That makes perfect sense, since those are the people you feel closest to, and you are more invested in their life and what happens to them than the average person you meet and engage with in the course of daily life.

So, if it’s a good thing to do good for others, does it follow that the more you do, the better you feel? Not necessarily. Sometimes, doing good for others gets out of hand, and you find yourself spending too much time trying to please others. How and why does this happen? This post is not intended to be the definitive word on the subject, but hopefully it will give you some things to think about, and perhaps work on, so that if you are a chronic people pleaser, you can take steps to get your life back in balance.

Are you afraid of not living up to other’s expectations?

After years of people pleasing, maybe you believe that people have come to expect it of you—and you’d be right. After years of receiving from you, people may very well expect that you will continue to be available, willing, and able to treat them in the way you always have—a way they believe they deserve. In fact, you may disappoint them if you treat them differently than they’ve become accustomed to. When people are disappointed in you, that may affect your self-esteem.

 What do you get out of people pleasing that keeps you doing it?

This goes beyond why you became a people pleaser; this has to do with identity. Perhaps you’ve come to like the idea that people think of you in a certain way. People pleasing may be tied to being the “go-to” person, the one people can always rely on. Maybe people see you as the “fixer,” someone who gets the job done and makes the situation right. Maybe people see you as someone who can accomplish big things, “the host/hostess with the most/est,” creating pleasing situations designed to make people feel comfortable and good. Forget about what it takes in time and energy to pull this off.

What emotions are raised by people pleasing?

Do you feel happy and gratified by people’s responses to your efforts, or do you feel angry, exhausted, and drained because of the constant pressure to continue this behavior? Do you worry that people will be disappointed in you if you quit this behavior and stop doing for others? Are you afraid that people won’t appreciate you unless you continue pleasing them? Or worse, that they’ll have no use for you if you change your behavior?

There’s a big difference between “doing good” and people pleasing.

There’s nothing wrong with doing good deeds for others. It’s part of being human, and it’s part of what we do for the people we care about and those who need us. Giving our time, energy, and sometimes money is how we contribute to society — how we often give back to our community. Losing perspective about how much and how often one gives of themselves may take you into the territory where the balance of what is healthy giving and what is giving for the wrong reasons is shifted. When you need to people please much of the time (even with people you barely know), you’ve gone too far.

     Here are some things to consider in order to get back on track so that giving to others feels healthy, balanced, and satisfactory:

Take care of yourself and your own needs.

Giving beyond your capacity may exhaust you, leaving you to feel pressured, drained, and overwhelmed. Perhaps you neglect what’s most important to you, because you feel pleasing others is a priority behavior. When you put others’ needs ahead of your own, you’re signaling to yourself that your needs are not as important as theirs, that your needs can wait, that taking the time for yourself feels indulgent and selfish. And by the way, very importantly: What are your needs? Can you identify them? Or have you lost touch with who you are and what is important to you?

Assess your priorities.

Too often with people pleasing, you automatically jump in and say “Yes” before thinking if you really want to do something for someone else. You may feel obligated to say yes, because that response becomes the right thing to do, but for all the wrong reasons. Next time a situation arises, consciously stop to think about it before you commit to doing it. Thinking consciously takes work and practice.

Choose the people that you really want to please.

On an ongoing basis, this might be a very small group — spouse/significant other, children, immediate family, dear friends. Get clear about this in your own mind. Giving to people you really care about will, hopefully, please them. Casual acquaintances, needy people, hangers-on, and wannabe friends — as nice as they may be — should not become top priority. (The exception, of course, is when specific situations arise in life where people may really need your help.)

Please yourself first.

This may be a new behavior for you. Imagine what it would be like to do what makes you feel good, what pleases you, without worrying about taking care of others, fulfilling others’ demands, worrying what others think of you, or feeling guilty, because you’re not doing enough for those around you. Imagine what it would be like to say no, instead of the automatic, obligatory yes, so that you have the time and the energy to do for yourself. When you truly value yourself, you will know how to help others in a way that honors and respects both of you.

”Things I Learned From My Mother – Be Yourself”

“Pain changes your life forever. But so does healing from it.” 

The hell of watching someone die isn’t just the actual dying part. It’s the years, months, weeks and days leading up to it.

It’s the pain of watching day by day the most important person in your life slip further and further away from you while there is nothing you can do to stop it.

You don’t lose this person in one moment. You lose them gradually throughout the whole time they are sick. As time goes on, they become less and less the person that they were before this illness took over.

I don’t know how to find even slightly pleasant words to describe what watching a parent die feels like. I don’t know how to even try to explain it without curse words and screaming.

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It’s absolutely terrifying. It’s gut-wrenching. It sends you through a whirlwind of feelings and emotions. You don’t even know who you are anymore. It takes over your life.

 

When You Grieve the Loss of Your Mom …

What I learned was my mom taught me everything by example. I became the confident, independent man I am from watching my mom. She set the precedent.

My mom taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. She wanted me to succeed in everything I tried. She made it known that things were different when she was a young girl. She didn’t have all of the opportunities I had. It was important to her that I took full advantage of all that life had to offer me.

I learned so much from my mom. But the greatest things she ever taught me was to live. To follow my dreams. To be happy. And I am all of these things today because of her.

My mom’s most valuable life lessons were taught to me when she was dying. When you’re saying goodbye to your mom, it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, or how much money you have. It just sucks. But even through death, my mom continues to teach me new things.

Having to say goodbye to my mom was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. There are no words, yet you have to say something. I don’t even remember what I said. And now, it just doesn’t matter. Because now I realize that nothing had to be said.

My mom was diagnosed with kidney failure when she was forty-one years old. Now that I am twenty-six, I realize how young forty-one is. Every day I think, a little over fifteen years from now and I’ll be the age my mom was when she was given a death sentence. It scares the hell out of me.

I am also haunted by the fact of how hard it must have been on my mom. She knew she was going to die. She knew she was leaving the love of her life behind and abandoning her three kids.  I know that has to be what it feels like to say goodbye to your kids. No matter how old they are.

I remember going to the hospital and the nurse pulling us aside to tell us our mom was crying all night. I was shocked. I don’t know why. I just never stopped to think that my mom was scared. She was always my rock. She took care of all of us, always. She never felt sorry for herself and she was always so strong.

Knowing my mom had kidney-failure was one thing. Knowing my mom was scared was quite another.

My mom lingered on for many months. She was seen by many specialists at many hospitals. For a while there, we had hope. But then a last-ditch-effort trip to another world renown hospital would end all the hope and speculation. Now the goal would be to make her comfortable. To pray for peace.

Hospice came and set up shop in our family room. This was our new reality. We had visitors in and out every single day. Our lives were shattering, yet the outside world kept spinning.

Thankfully my mom didn’t suffer long. The end came fast. So fast we couldn’t all be there.  My cousins woke me up and said to come home by next flight. A nurse was taking my mom’s pulse and said it would be soon. Sometime in the next few hours, was her guess.

My mom died an hour later. With just my dad and my brother there. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what was happening. I sat next to her for a while after she was gone. Staring at her. Willing for her to wake up. She didn’t.

A few minutes later, her friends arrived. My dad met them on the front porch as I stayed with my mom. I could hear them wailing. It was unbearable. They came inside and said their goodbyes.

My uncle and brothers made it home soon thereafter. My brothers were heartbroken that they were not there when our mom died. I was haunted that I had been there. It turns out our final good-byes did not matter. It was the life we had all shared together that did. And that could never be taken away from us.

 

Now we had to face the cruel reality that life, does indeed, go on. Without our mom. Like it or not. But we had each other and everything that our mom had instilled in us. And that’s how life went on. And continues to go on. Every damn day.

Saying goodbye is never easy. But it’s impossible to say goodbye to someone who is always going to be part of you.