Day 124

First Day in Arequipa, Peru

I arrived early in the morning Wednesday, July 27. My first impression of Peru, arriving in Lima at around midnight, was one of warmth. Watching the people interact with each other, I couldn’t help noticing how close everyone seemed. It was the way they leaned in closer to each other, and the way they talked to each other as if they knew every intimate detail about the other and loved every part of them. Now that I am in Arequipa and I have interacted with the people on a closer basis; the tour guide Alonso, and the staff at the hotel where I am staying have strengthened my first impression of the warmth and kindness that can be found among the people of Peru.

Alonso, the tour guide, was so kind. He showed up to my hotel and explained a tour that I will be going on Friday. He also showed up again to see if I wanted to go to dinner with him and another conference participant who was also staying at the hotel. The three of us went to dinner where we met the organizer with whom I have been in contact over the months leading up to this trip. She was accompanied by Alonso’s aunt and another woman who I believe is their friend. We greeted each other with a hand shake and a kiss on the cheek. It was like we were old friends rather than acquaintances meeting for the first time. When I am greeted like this, it is both awkward and disarming.

It is awkward because I am used to handshakes or living in Japan bowing deeply upon greeting someone, so it takes some getting used to. It is disarming because it is one of the most vulnerable greetings, getting that close to another human being immediately builds a sense of trust. You are both vulnerable and so you must trust each other. To be that close and that vulnerable with someone you barely know sends the message that you trust them and that is reciprocated. It is a wonderful feeling.

It was wonderful first day. I learned a lot about myself and the people who will be in my life for the next six days. I anticipate that I will learn a lot more, and I am looking forward to the lessons that are in store for me. I will write a post every day that I am at this hotel because I have wi-fi, but when I go on the tour Friday and Saturday, I might not be able to post anything; however, I will give an update as soon as I can. Until next time, I wish you all the best.

Day 120

My Daughter: One of My Greatest Teachers

Earlier today watching my daughter play in the water at a social event to which my family had been invited, I noticed how she was surrounded by people who cater to her every whim. To be honest, I couldn’t stand it, and it was with every fiber of my being that I did not say something. She was in a raft, which belonged to a family that had nothing to do with our group. She simply wanted to go into it, and one of the adults supervising the children playing in the river, gladly plopped her into it with the family smiling awkwardly. Sitting on the grassy bank a few feet from the river and my daughter and this family that had now taken on an invited guest, I watched as the two men pushed my daughter back and forth in the water. They happily complied to her demands, but I was fuming. I was too far to hear what she was saying, but it didn’t seem like she was at all grateful for what they were doing for her. She simply expected it. I was a little embarrassed that my child was ordering around adults and children, the little boy whose raft she had so boldly taken for her own had joined his father in the task of pushing her when his father or the man who had taken the main job of meeting my daughter’s needs was unable to get to her in time. I watched this little dance unfold for as long as I could, and then too uncomfortable to continue watching, took out my phone and tried to read an article I had downloaded earlier.

That didn’t last long, as I could not help glancing up from time to time. On the umpteenth time that I looked up to check on her, I saw my daughter throw her doll into the water beyond her reach, and then demand others around her to either push her toward her doll or bring her doll to her. This was too much, and I called out to her to stop explaining that it was rude to expect others to get her doll when she was purposely throwing her out of reach. It was one thing to drop it by accident, but to do it on purpose was just too much. She complied, and continued to be pushed by the two men looking out for her and the little boy who seemed to be enjoying pushing her in the raft, and seemed okay with her using his stuff. After this incident, I turned off my phone and put it away taking a moment to examine the source of my dismay and embarrassment at my daughter’s behavior. More than once I thought of her as a little princess getting her needs met through others around her. I listened to my inner thoughts and wondered from where they originated.

I realized I was embarrassed because I wanted her to be gracious. I had no objection to her getting help from those around her, but I did take issue with the way she did it. She never requested the help, she demanded it. She had only to express a desire or need, and several people would come running to her aid. It was amazing to see all the people who happily gave her whatever her little heart desired.

A part of me; the curious aspect of myself, wondered why this was a problem. Meeting our needs is a basic and fundamental human concern, and my daughter is a mistress at it. She knows what she wants and she gets it usually by asking for it directly and of anyone who is willing to meet her needs. It is something that was beat out of me. It was forbidden and shameful in my childhood to even voice my needs let alone expect others to meet them, so now as an adult, I am learning how to do what comes so easily to my daughter.

As the day continued, I observed my daughter not from a place of judgment, but of curiosity, and what I discovered was that she manages to attract the kind of people who enjoy helping others and meeting others’ needs. When I viewed my daughter’s behavior through the lens of a student rather than a mortified parent, I learned that she simply expresses a need and people voluntarily meet her needs. When I was close enough to hear what she was saying to people, it became clear that she didn’t even ask, she simply said, “That looks good,” or “That would be fun,” and the adult nearest her would reach out and give her the food she was eying or assist her with the activity on which she had been commenting. I still wanted her to be gracious, and show her appreciation for what others were doing for her, but I appreciated my daughter’s ability to meet her own needs so easily.

If I believed in the Law of Attraction, I would say that my daughter’s thoughts are in direct alignment with her needs and meeting her needs, so the universe complies and makes it possible for her needs to be met. She lives in a world where her needs are met a majority of the time otherwise she wouldn’t take this fact for granted. Instead of being mortified by her behavior, I should at the very least be grateful that she is healthy enough to expect her needs to be met. Although I would prefer she would be more grateful for what she receives, I’m rather glad she takes getting her needs met as a given.

I have to be honest though, I still wonder if we are not creating a monster, but then I see her with her baby brother and other small children. I see her taking care of others around her, and sharing her gifts with her friends. I remember that she often thinks of drawing pictures for her friends, and giving things to her teacher and her grandparents. She is loving and compassionate, and although she often forgets to say thank you, on occasion she does give back. So, I don’t think she’s a brat or selfish. She is a mistress at meeting her own needs; she is my daughter, and a wonderful teacher. I’m grateful for the lesson she taught me today, and that is to meet my needs without apologies. She taught me that I should not only meet my needs, but I should expect them to be met, and once I have aligned my thoughts with the undeniable belief that my needs will be met, those who would happily meet them will come into my life and make it so. I think we all could use such a lesson.

Peace.

Day 119

7 Days in Peru

On Tuesday, I am leaving for a business trip to Peru. It will be my first time visiting Peru as well as my first time going to South America. I’m excited to see how the people there live and the food they eat. It will be my first time experiencing another culture outside of Japan. I will be joining a teacher’s conference where I will be giving two presentations/workshops. I’m a little nervous, but I am trying to stay positive. My hope is to continue blogging while I’m in Peru, but I’m not sure about the wifi situation there, so I cannot make any promises. However, I’m going to keep a video record of my travels, and I will post the video on this blog as soon as I get a chance. It should be a wonderful experience. I plan to learn a lot about myself and my fellow humans.

Peace.

Day 118

Letting go: Acceptance and My Perception of the State of the World

The world seems to be changing and not in a good way. I am afraid that our freedom of speech is being threatened by progressives, and those of us who value freedom of speech in its pure form are losing the fight. At the same time, race relations in the U.S. are terrible, and the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota as well as the retaliatory shootings targeting police in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Kansas City have brought that to the fore. So for the past couple weeks, I have been struggling with my feelings about identity politics and the best way to address what is happening in my home country. I am worried about how things are going in the States, but I am not sure how I can stop this change from happening. I’m not even sure it is a bad thing. Certainly, I feel like it is a bad thing when our freedoms are taken or given away, but this is because I was raised in the United States where individual rights and freedoms were highly valued. However I am aware of the fact that there are other places in the world where individuality is not important. I’ve been living in such a place for over a decade, and life isn’t so bad here. So, I have been thinking deeply about my perception of the world, and I have been doing so through the lens of acceptance.

I have accepted that freedom of speech is really important to me, and that individuality is also valuable to me. I want my children to grow up and live in a world where they can self actualize, and where they can express themselves without the threat of being criminalized for having an unpopular opinion. I accept that issues regarding race and identity politics upset me, and that I would prefer a world where race was not such a determining factor in certain people’s identity. I also accept that race is a determining factor in the identity of most people of color in the U.S. I accept that our concept of freedom of speech is changing, and I accept that my idea of what is right or better may be wrong. I accept that my ideas are unpopular and that they would be met with resistance if and when I shared them with other people, especially those that share my ethnicity.

The majority of my family members would be shocked and dismayed to hear what I have to say about Black Lives Matter and the recent police shootings and the subsequent retaliatory shootings targeting police. Accepting these things has led me to face the situation with my eyes wide open, and I have decided that I am not going to broach the subject with my family members and those who are not open to alternative perspectives on the issues. I have decided to focus on my mission and my vision for my life, which is to bring compassion and unconditional love to all who cross my path and in all aspects of my life.

As such, I have decided that my path is not one of the political activist although I feel strongly about politics. I have accepted that I am emotionally involved in identity politics which makes it hard for me to remain reasonable or rational about issues surrounding that particular topic, so I am not going to spend too much of my time and energy on it. Instead, I am going to dedicate my time and energy to finding a way to influence the world in a way that is uplifting and enriching for me.

This has not been easy for me as I feel a certain sense of defeat when I think about my decision not to talk about certain topics with my family and those who clearly are not open to alternative perspectives. However, it seems reasonable to stay away from topics that will only upset me and the people involved, especially if those people are not interested in my opinion or respectful of it. Although I feel like I should stand for what I believe in and tell my story to as many people that will listen, I know that the best thing for me to do is to focus on self-actualizing and making my vision a reality. For now that is what is important to me. It is how I can make the most impact.

The world is changing. I am changing. Whether it is good or bad remains to be seen, and is not that important. What I am going to do with my life and how I am going to contribute to the world is more important to me now, so I will live my life accordingly. I have found peace in letting go.

 

Day 110

Something Else Entirely

This week started as one of the worst few days I have had since I started this process, but it’s shaping up to be something else entirely. I had some pretty bad moments, and some so so moments, but now as I sit at the end of this week, I feel differently about things.

The lowest point was Monday night after a difficult time helping my daughter with her homework. I had been so frustrated with her because she wouldn’t concentrate and she kept getting up and leaving the table. I had lost my temper with her several times, and afterward without a word she left the room returning shortly with a picture she had drawn of me. It was a rather well executed depiction of me with sharp teeth and mean eyes. Looking straight at me with condemnation in her eyes, she said, “This is you. You’re a monster.” It cut me to the quick, and I had no argument. I could only apologize and promise to be better.

My highest point was today when I met my friend to run errands at the city office. We both had baby business to take care of, and because she is fluent in Japanese she offered to help me communicate with the bureaucrats. We met for lunch, and I found myself telling her about my problems. She listened with a sympathetic ear and had sound advice for me. It felt so good to share my story with her, and afterwards she shared her story with me. It reminded me again that I am not alone, that there are people who love and care about me, and things are never as bad as I think they are.

So my lowest point taught me that I need to find a better way to express my frustrations with my daughter, and my highest point taught me that asking for help and being vulnerable can be a good thing if you do so with a friend. They were two great lessons that taught me something else as well.

I went from having one of the worst weeks to a pretty good week in the space of two days. It made me aware of the fact that nothing is really lasting, and it prompted me to think about the whole concept of the Self and my nature. I realized that I am not my emotions or behaviors, nor am I my beliefs and my thoughts. I’d like to think that I am an emergent phenomenon that is constantly changing depending on the environment in which I find myself or the people with whom I interact. I am learning to let go of the idea of a Self. I do not think there is any permanence in my nature. This is both liberating and unsettling at the same time.

Since I began this process, I have been spending quite a bit of time examining my motivations, my needs, and my desires. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating my Self. I have only scratched the surface, but I feel that the idea of the Self, a permanent unchanging entity that occupies my mind like some sort of homunculus might be an illusion. I have no idea who I am, but it isn’t who I thought I was, and for the time being that is an interesting concept to explore.

It has allowed me to let go of the heartbreaking words my daughter uttered three nights ago, and it has assured me that though at the time I behaved in such a way that warranted my daughter’s drawing and assertion, but that the picture that resulted in that behavior was not a reflection of who I am. It has also brought me to the conclusion that person I was with my friend and the pleasant feelings I experience as a result of our encounter are also not a reflection of who I am. Therefore, when I have thoughts of disapproval or even approval they do not really apply to my nature; for my nature or Self is fluid and constantly changing. So then it becomes less feasible to love or hate my Self. It also leads me to the question of who is doing the loving or hating.

This is a very interesting turn of events. This is a new way of looking at my Self and I am not quite sure where to go from here. I am curious to know where this realization will take me. I feel like I am undergoing a radical change in my perspective, and I am in the transition of that change; yet I have no idea what is changing. I am in between. I am in the midst of letting go of illusions I have held for most of my life, and it feels unfamiliar. I like it. I haven’t felt out of my element in quite this way in long time, and I may never have felt this way before.

This is the tearing away of the beliefs and conventions I have acquired from a lifetime of socialization by my parents, my family, the church in which I was raised, my teachers, my education, my peers, and my mentors. I feel like I am close to something significant, yet I sense that this thing will only reveal its insignificance, and the impermanence of everything. It is a sense of wonder and at the same time it is a sense of clarity and settling in. I really don’t have the words to describe it, so I will leave it at that.

Peace.

 

Day 105

Creating a Home

For some time now, I haven’t had a place to call home. I’ve had a place to live, but for years, it has not felt like home. In two weeks, I am leaving for a long vacation, and I have decided that before I leave, I’m going to transform my apartment into a home. It is a task I’ve been putting off since we moved to this apartment a year ago and I am determined to finish it.

Before I started Teal Swan’s 365-Days-of-Self-Love process, I didn’t believe that I deserved to live in a place that I could call home. Every time we got close to a long break or vacation, we would make plans to go through our boxes and get organized, but we never did. It just wasn’t important to me, but now it is of paramount importance. I can no longer live in a place that is full of clutter and devoid of any charm or personality. Our walls are bare. There is not a single family portrait on the wall or on the shelves. If you had never met me or my family and you walked into my house, you would not be able to identify me based on what was in my place. Our place looks lived in, but it does not look like a place that is loved. I want a place that I am proud to call my own. I want a place to which I can invite people and be certain that they will feel comfortable.

When I am finished with this project, when you walk into my home the first thing you will see is a spotless entrance way. To the left you will see an alcove with fresh flowers and a tapestry with a brightly colored print with a seasonal motif. On the floor in front of a row of bookshelves you will see a Persian rug. Next to the bookshelf, you will see a coat rack with a space to hang your coat. To the left of the coat rack will be the Japanese sliding door leading to my daughter’s bedroom.

Opening the door, you will find a tatami floor with a pink and blue throw rug with Elsa and Anna from Frozen smiling up at you. Your eyes will then be drawn my daughter’s colorful and vibrant art that line the walls. Next to the door will be another pair of sliding doors leading to the compartment where my daughter’s futon will be neatly stored. Next to the futon closet will be my daughter’s toys which will be organized and stored in large plastic containers. Draped over the containers will be colorful cloth on which my daughter’s collection of dolls will be lovingly displayed. In the corner, will be her art center with her papers and art supplies neatly arranged on her desk. Next to the desk will be her dresser which will have a small display case with her tiny figures. Next to her dresser will be a stand alone clothing rack where her dresses and jackets will be neatly hanging.

When you walk into the house proper, you will find a clean kitchen with a neatly organized dining room and living room. The laundry room will be clean and organized with fresh towels hanging near the shower room. The wall leading down the stairs to the bedrooms will be lined with framed photographs my husband took over the years of our favorite places in Japan. At the bottom of the stairs you will see a bathroom and to the right of the bathroom will be the master bedroom. The walls will be lined with bookshelves and the top of these bookshelves will have framed pictures of our children at various stages in their lives. The bed will be made and the curtains drawn.

Across from the bedroom will be our office. There will be a computer desk and small table on either side of the room and a small display case of a few selected pieces from my husband’s figure collection. On the computer desk will be a small gold frame with a picture of me when I was eighteen–one of the first pictures my husband took of me. On the small table will be a medium sized pewter frame with a picture of my husband when he was in his early thirties–the first picture I ever took of my husband.

This is the vision I have my home. It was one that I have deprived myself of because I believed I deserved to have this home when I was perfect. Well, I no longer see a reason to deny myself the home I have dreamed of for so long. I am making it a reality today, and when I leave for my travels, I will have that home, and when my travels are over, I will have something to return to, something I will be proud to call home.

Day 104

My Path to Acceptance-A Closer Look

The idea of acceptance is an appealing one. Living life with no worries and complete faith that everything good or bad happens for a reason and that that reason is benevolent is a liberating notion. However, it is not an easy notion to live with. There is always a “what-if” in the back of my mind, and that “what-if” is related to complacency.

Acceptance has seemed to me to be a choice to let go and not try to change things. This has always been a sticking point for me where acceptance is concerned because I have always been afraid that if I adopt that stance I will stay exactly as I am without changing. On careful consideration, I realize the absurdity of this fear. I don’t think you could live without changing a little; we are always changing. However, I cannot help thinking that if I accept every aspect of myself, I won’t be motivated to change the aspects that I currently don’t like. The truth behind this fear is my tendency to be a perfectionist.

As I have discussed in this blog before, I am learning to let go of a harmful core belief that if I am perfect, I will be worthy of love. This is a tenacious belief that I am slowly changing, but there are still aspects of myself that need that belief to be true. It is this belief that I must be perfect to be loved that is keeping me from fully accepting who I am exactly as I am right now.

I know that self-acceptance is my key to unconditional self-love, and that once I learn to let go of the idea that I must be flawless to be accepted, I will feel so much better and I will be more open to people who will love me for me. More importantly, I will be more aware of those people because I will be one of them. This knowledge motivates me to take steps in the direction of self-acceptance, and that’s a good start.

I realize that I am just at the beginning of this, and that it’s going to take baby steps, but I am open to moving at a slow and steady pace. There is no rush here. I have the rest of my life no matter how long or short that might be to learn to adopt an attitude of acceptance. I’ve already begun the process. I start with daily mediation and keeping a gratitude journal. I write at least three things I am grateful for in my journal every morning. In addition, I write my vision for the day. Until it becomes second nature to me, my vision always includes acceptance. Every entry starts with I will accept what is and be open to whatever comes my way. Throughout the day, when I lose sight of that vision, I repeat those words until I am aligned with the energy of acceptance.

I love that energy. It is like settling in and receiving all that I am meant to receive. It is a feeling of complete faith in the benevolent nature of the universe and trust in my innate ability to sense that nature. It is a calm and peaceful feeling; one of clarity and purpose. It is steady, gentle, and profound.

It is a feeling I want to adopt as my base. I want it to be my default. Certainly, I will experience all emotions, but it is that sense of acceptance to which I always want to return. Currently, it is a sense of anxiety to which I go back; however over the past few weeks that I have been practicing the art of acceptance, I have found that more often than not, I can switch from an anxious state to a calm accepting state more easily than before, and I can stay in that tranquil state for longer periods of time. I am confident that with practice and more shadow work, my fundamental energy will shift to from that of uneasy dread to that of peaceful acceptance.

If you are like me and you struggle with perfectionism and the uneasiness that comes with believing that your life will be a mess if you do not have control over everything, it is my sincere wish that you find that calm serenity that comes from knowing that you are okay just the way you are.

Peace.