Day 79

When in Doubt

I spent most of the day questioning my motivation wondering why I would think about changing my career questioning my sanity. I asked myself the hard questions digging deep to get to the heart of the matter. What I found out surprised me.

I realized that the fear of failure and humiliation was no longer big enough to hold me back and keep me from trying. I want to grow and expand and experience things I have never experienced. I want to know what it would be like to write and publish a book, and go after my dreams and do the things until now I’ve only allowed myself to dream about. Despite the very real possibility of rejection and failure, I want to at least try.

I want more in my life than just the familiar. I don’t want to go through motions anymore. I used to think that my motivation was fame and the recognition and adoration that comes with that, but that is just fantasy and I really have no control over whether my ideas are accepted. However, I do have control over what I get out of the experience; I have control over whether or not I write the book and publish it, and I have control over what I get out of the experience. There is so much opportunity for growth in leaving Japan and trying something completely different and out of my comfort zone.

That’s why I am doing what I am doing, and when in doubt that is what I am going to tell myself. Just by making the decision to change, and giving myself permission to follow my heart I have succeeded and no matter what I am guaranteed to gain something awesome from this experience, win or lose, sink or swim, I get to finally live, and isn’t that what were here to do?

 

Day 77

Green

My family and I spent the day in the country side. The International Club that we belong to had a family event. It was the first event we attended since becoming members. It was really fun. The place where the event was held was so lush and green. The drive on the way there was quiet and peaceful. It was great to look out the window and see all the rice fields, and the longed necked grey and white cranes gracing several fields. The landscape was idyllic. The traditional Japanese houses with grey tiled roofs nestled against beautiful green mountains.

The park at which the event was held was a patch of land next to a river and a small wood. You had to walk across a bridge to get to the picnic area. The water was so cool and clear with soft, flat stones on the river bed. Several children were playing in the shallow river, and my daughter, who loves the water, was soon playing along side them. In no time, she had acquired a fishing net from some older children who had welcomed her in their quest for life, and she had a blast dipping her net in the water in an attempt to catch a frog or small fish. Her new found friends had caught a frog and were keeping it in a blue plastic bucket. I watched as my daughter excitedly took the frog in her hands squealing as it jumped free from her grip.

As my daughter disappeared around the bend to return the frog, I watched as a group of toddlers clad in bathing suits waded through the water. One in particularly made eye contact with me, and instead of the usual deer-in-the-headlights reaction I get from children his age, he smiled and reached out his hand to me. I returned his smile and lightly touched his palm to mine in a gentle high five. It was an instant connection, and I was taken aback by the encounter.

Everyone at the park, including the large group of about fifty people from the club were so open and friendly. The little boy’s mother came to check on her little son and stopped to chat with me for a bit. Surrounded by the lush green of the Japanese country side, I felt as if my soul were being recharged. I dipped my hands in the cool water and found the refreshing waters invigorating. It was like being in a dream.

It was a lovely day. The sky was thick with clouds which promised rain, but luckily for us, that rain did not come until the end of the day. It came down in a sprinkling as we made our way to our car, and by the time we got home it was pouring. As I clutched my little son in my arms, covering him with a towel against the rain, I thought of how much I loved the Japanese country side. It was so green. The mountains are at least three or four different shades of green. I could gaze at them all day.

I will miss the green the most when I leave Japan. I will carry it with me in my memory for the rest of my life. Today couldn’t have gone better. It reminded me of what I love about Japan. Today, I realized that it will be hard to let go of the place I’ve called home for more than ten years of my life. Today leaving Japan felt like more than a notion; it felt very real. I can feel myself pulling away, saying my goodbyes and preparing for the day my family and I will leave this island country, return to my husband’s and my home country, and start a new chapter in our lives.

Bright is the way ahead. It is full of possibilities and wonders I am eager to experience. There are also so many more unknowns than I have ever faced in my life thus far. By committing to following my calling, I am surrendering completely to my path letting my intuition take me where it will and letting go of the how concentrating only on the what and the why. We are venturing into uncharted territory although we will be returning to familiar ground. Yellow is the color I see ahead of me, but now I see green, the color of life and abundance. If I had not lived in Japan, I don’t think I would have had this life affirming color in my pallet. There is nothing like it in Colorado where I grew up.

I am filled with gratitude for all that Japan and my time here has taught me. It has brought me to my life’s purpose and it has prepared me for what lies ahead. Two years ago when I was desperate to flee Japan, the color I saw was a washed out shade of grey, but now I will remember Japan as green, deep and lush and teeming with life. Japan is ever green. It is the place of my awakening, and for that I will always be grateful to the people who helped me grow, and the experiences that led me to my truth.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

 

 

Day 76

Priorities: Learning to Say No (Inspired by Tool 17 in Teal Swan’s “Shadows Before Dawn: Finding the Light of Self-Love Through Your Darkest Times”

As I am becoming more grounded and clear on my calling, I am compelled to take stock of the things to which I will say “yes,” and that to which I will say “no.” My list is below. What things are most important to your life?

My list of priorities:

1. Self care- this includes daily mediation (abundance and mindfulness), weekly exercise, at least twice a week, eating healthy, delicious satiating food, reducing sugar and cutting out processed food

2. Family-this includes spending quality time with my children every day, touching base with my husband, as well as spending quality time with him every day

3. Friends-this includes nurturing old and new connections with people in my life, checking in through email and other means

4. My calling-this includes raising awareness of the cycle of psychological wounds, and researching and writing about issues near and dear to my heart

5. Manifesting abundance-this includes having all resources at my disposal without having to earn anything, fostering the belief in the Law of Attraction, and following my bliss

6. Manifesting love-this includes being open to connections with people and allowing them to come into my life in whatever way they happen to arrive

7. Letting my intuition guide my decisions- this includes committing to a meditation routine starting with 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day

8. Play-committing to 30 minutes of play each day, be it in the form of dancing, taking a walk, playing with my children, taking a nap, watching a movie, reading a novel, binge watching YouTube videos, or where ever the fancy takes me

9. Rest-one day of rest a week, and no work on evenings and weekends

10. Learning-this means learning a new skill every month; this month, I’m going to learn how to cook high protein, healthy foods using healthy fats and lots of veggies.

My list of No’s:

1. Obligations-this includes doing things because of a perceived or actual duty

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

Day 75

In Search of Common Ground

My husband and I want different things for our daughter and to a lesser degree our son, who is still an infant. We grew up with different ideas of family and we come from different generations. How are we going to make this work?

I imagine as with everything else in our marriage, we will talk about it digging deep to the heart of the matter finding out the need that lies behind each image we have of a good childhood for our children. I am not discouraged by these differences; I’m just happy now that I know that they exist.

We have only just realized that how we imagine our children’s childhoods is different. I think this is because before I started caring about what I really thought rather than aiming to please, I never really articulated or more importantly knew what I wanted. Now that I am asserting my needs, my husband and I are finding out that our needs clash.

Until recently, I usually deferred to my husband’s wishes. It is not that he is overbearing or controlling, quite the contrary, he has always asked me what I think, and until recently, I always thought I agreed with him. However, for a long time, I have not been happy living in Japan, and it is emotionally painful to raise my children so far from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I always imagined that my children would have close relationships with my siblings, their spouses and children, and my parents, and likewise with my husband’s siblings, their spouses and their children, and  his parents. I imagined we would not only be emotionally close but also close in proximity. Every time we have decided to stay in Japan for one or two more years, I have felt torn between staying the familiar albeit less desirable life in Japan and pursuing a life worth living. I now realize that it is because I never wanted to raise children far from family.

This desire to be close to my family is a little ironic if you’ve read my About page..You know that the family in which I was raised was not very nurturing, but I am still very close to my parents, especially my mother, and my siblings, especially my older brother who has shown me nothing but love and respect my whole life. Although the low nurturance environment in which I grew up is responsible for a lot of my emotional scarring, my siblings, parents, and cousins are not the same people they were when I was growing up, just as I am not the same person I was when I was growing up. I love them no matter what and I want them in my life.

Part of learning to love myself is meeting  my needs. This entails recognizing them and acknowledging them and honoring myself by meeting those needs with out judgment. I love and need my family, and I am no longer willing to sacrifice what precious little time I have remaining with them, especially my parents and my parents-in-law. The dream I have had of my children growing up along side their cousins has been deferred for too long, and I am anxious to get back to the States before the older generation passes on.

My husband is not so eager. In fact, he is dreading the idea of being close to his father, who was physically and emotionally abusive to my husband most of his life. Even now, his father says mean and nasty things to him about his weight and the fact that he doesn’t have a “job” because child rearing is not a respected occupation in our culture especially for men. Going back is to my husband like serving an interminable prison sentence.

That is where we are at the moment. I certainly do not want to drag my husband back against his will, but I do not wish to stay in Japan any longer than my current contract. I see my daughter suffering from lack of attention and affection, and although my husband and I do our best to give her what she needs, it is hard for me to admit it, but we are not enough. It takes a village to raise a child, and we don’t have one. Living in a foreign country as an illiterate adult with sporadic support is very stressful, and it has taken its toll, which is sadly in the form of my daughter’s peace of mind and sense of attachment. This has become a price I am not willing to pay.

So we stand at a crossroads. My path goes to the left and my husbands fades into the darkness. He is fully aware of what he does not want, but not so clear on what he does want. He is also less hopeful and optimistic about the future. We are at a stand still holding onto each others hand neither willing to let the other go.

When one spouse is growing and expanding and the other is stuck, where do they go? Does the one that is expanding halt their growth to accommodate the one that is stuck? Is self sacrifice  the answer? I am leaning towards a resounding “No.” On the other hand, I want to stay married and I want him to want to grow and expand. However, as I’m sure many of you know, these things cannot be rushed. We must heal in our own time on our own terms, or we are not truly healing.

For now, I must wait. There is still time. My contract isn’t up until the end of March. We are in couple’s counseling so we have a guide to help us navigate areas of our marriage into which we have yet not ventured. I am hopeful. I have faith in my husband whose potential is boundless and whose talents are many. He has a wonderful heart and capacity to love unconditionally. He is my life partner, and I intend to stay with him for as long as I can.

There is so much potential for growth in this endeavor. As long as we believe in each other, I’m sure we will emerge from this stronger and closer than ever. I am open to where ever this part of the journey will take us. What wonders lie ahead?

Until next time, I wish you all the best.

Day 74

The Woman With The Red Shoes

There is a woman in my Zumba class who moves with ease and grace of a professional dancer. She seems to know all of the teacher’s moves, and I often follow her when I lose sight of the teacher or have a hard time following him. I always appreciate her presence because she has become a kind of reference point when I get lost in the teacher’s fast and at times elaborate choreography.

Today in class, I felt the need to approach her. My wise inner voice told me that I should strike up a conversation with her. I believed she would be a great person to help keep our Zumba class going. Some of you may not be aware of the fact that my Zumba class has been canceled and my gym will no longer be offering the class starting in July. My friend and I have been talking about the loss and are trying to find a way to save the class, but most of the other class members are not confident that we can keep the class going. This is mostly because they do not believe our teacher will be able to continue teaching us. This is of course possible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go on without our teacher. The lady with the red shoes knows the dance steps to each song the teacher plays; she could be our teacher, or if not a teacher; she could be a point of reference. So, I thought to myself, tonight, I’ll talk to her after class.

The end of class came, and we all piled out of the studio bowing and thanking our teacher as we exited. I saw an opportunity to talk with her, but a group of people merged in front of me, and I lost my chance to approach her. She didn’t go into the locker room like most of us but instead went down the stairs. I assumed I had lost my chance and resolved to talk to her next week. I went into the locker room and got my stuff and made my way down the stairs, all the while thinking to myself how nice it would be have talked to her.

When I got to the locker where my street shoes were, I went into my purse to get the key, but it was not there. That was odd because I always put the locker key in the same place. Determined to find it, I rifled through other parts of my purse, moving from time to time to make way for people going for their shoes. I was getting frustrated and a little panicked when who should show up in front of the locker just above mine but the lady with the red shoes.

What are the odds? Before tonight, we had never crossed paths after class before. Seizing the opportunity, I told her how impressed I was with her dancing, and we talked for a few minutes. She mentioned how sad it was that our class was going to end soon, and I told her that we were trying to continue the class in another location, and she seemed genuinely interested. After she left, I looked in that same pocket in my purse that I had empty before to find the locker key exactly where I had left it.

As I made my way to the station, I felt a sense of gratitude for the opportunity that I was given to talk with Itsuko, the woman with the red shoes. Now something has begun. I have no idea what will come of our little exchange, but it was nice to be able to talk to her. Whatever made that possible, be it god, fate, the universe, or simple chance, I am grateful for it.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

Day 73

Grounded

For awhile now, I’ve been a little flighty. I’ve been really excited about finally finding a emotional healing process that works for me, reaffirming my dream, and giving myself permission to leave Japan. I think I have been experiencing the heady euphoria that comes with a discovery that gives you a new lease on life. It is akin to the giddy lightheartedness that comes with being in love for the first time. I was so full of hope and I believed in magic. Everything was possible, and the universe was unfolding before me moving to make my dream a reality.

Well that’s all over now. The honey moon is officially at an end and reality has crept in to bring me down to earth. At first, I was really afraid of this new sensation. I was afraid that once the excitement of finding the answer to my question would give way to the familiar depression that usually comes after a false start. However, that was not the case. Instead of feeling depressed, I feel, well, grounded. I feel certain of my decisions and I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I’m L’Shawn and that’s finally okay.

Being grounded is a new and unfamiliar feeling for me. I am getting used to it slowly, but with every passing day, as the sensation remains, I feel more at ease with this new state of mind I have begun to adopt. I find that I am not as hard on myself for mistakes and the times when I slip back into old habits. I am more forgiving, and I dwell on unpleasant emotions less often now. I allow myself to be annoyed, irritated, angry, sad, apprehensive, and frustrated. I no longer let these emotions define me.

Now I am interested in pursuing certain things because of how they will contribute to my personal growth rather than how they will comfort me or take away my pain. I am no longer afraid of emotional pain, and I no longer believe that experiencing emotional pain somehow is indicative of a fundamental flaw or broken-ness. I now firmly believe that I cannot be broken as I am energy and therefore I can never be destroyed. This belief is life affirming and liberating. However, instead of feeling elated, I feel a deep sense of calm, and my mind is starting to quieten. It’s definitely a state I can get used to.

At the same time, I know that I am dynamic, and although I feel grounded today, tomorrow I might feel uneasy or elated again. It’s all part of the human experience. For now, I will continue to work on my health, my mood, and my perspective, with the knowledge that it is all part of the lesson I have chosen to learn in the course I call life. I wonder what new challenges I will face, and how they will change me and those around me.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

Day 72

“You’re not special.”

I read these words in the article “The Five Lies You Tell Yourself That Keep You From A Better Life Experience” on HuffPost Women, and it gave me pause. Why did it give me pause? Why did this person’s opinion cause me to question every big decision I’ve made recently? It’s because I’m guilty of telling this lie; it is precisely because I believed I am special that I was able to get behind the idea of leaving Japan, changing my career, and writing a book. So, I was thinking, if I’m not special, how is any of that going to pan out?

Judging from my reaction to reading and believing these simple words, I discovered that I have a core belief that seems to be holding me back even as it appears to be motivating me to follow my passion. The minute that belief, “I am special,” was called into question, I immediately began to doubt the legitimacy of my desire to change my situation. I started to feel foolish about the idea of writing a blog, telling my story, or anything that gave the impression that I was extraordinary. A closer examination of my motivation to do these things revealed a little arrogance on my part; something that was very difficult to recognize. However, as with most emotions that arise, I took this sense of disillusionment at the idea that I wasn’t special as an opportunity to explore the source of my motivation, and the origin of my belief that success only comes to those who are special.

First, I’d like to explore the idea that success only comes to those who are special. Where did that idea come from? I believe that it came from years of observation. Think about it? Whenever successful and influential people like Bill Gates or Albert Einstein are discussed it is almost in the spirit of awe. These people got to where they did because of something extraordinary about their personalities. They are described as extremely intelligent, or extraordinarily talented. It isn’t just through grit alone that contributed to their success. When I see articles explaining a certain number of personality traits that successful people have, or delineating the healthy habits of self-made millionaires, it gives the impression that there is something essential about these people that if imitated by us not so special people can help us succeed. This was the interpretation of my observations of successful people, but a closer examination of this perspective reveals a fundamental flaw.

Although I see these successful people as special, in interviews and biographies, it is rarely the case that these people see themselves as special. They are just following their dreams, and doing what they want to do with their lives. What I should have taken from the stories of these successful and influential people is that they believe in their own abilities and follow their desires and that coupled with hard work and dedication to their life’s work that is what makes them seem special. If that is the case, then anyone can do what the people I admire do and have done. I can do it. I don’t have to have some extraordinary talent or personality trait that magically makes it possible for me to be successful. I only need to follow my passion, commit to it, and do whatever I can to make my dream a reality.

I also question my concern with success, which in most cases relates to being influential and famous. This preoccupation with fame is a concern because it is not something I want to want. Only shallow people desire fame and I don’t want to be shallow. Furthermore, being famous is not something I feel I have control over, so it is not something with which I should concern myself. The idea of being famous is tied to the idea of being special. The former is a phenomenon beyond my control and the latter is a delusion. Neither of these ideas serve me or contribute to my growth.

So, I agree with article’s author Lisa Schmidt. I am not special. There is nothing to guarantee success, and there is the possibility that I may not see my dream come to fruition in my lifetime, but it is not the destination that matters, it is the journey. I think about what I can gain if I step out of my comfort zone and dare to put myself out there. I could learn some things about myself and the world outside of my reality bubble. When I think about the personal growth that can result from pursuing a dream that I have had for so long, I am filled with joy. More importantly, I think about the reason I am even pursuing the dream, and it isn’t for fame and fortune, it is to make a contribution to the world thereby helping to make the world a better place.

Until next time, I wish you the very best.