Day 209

This Too Shall Pass

My aunt is dying. Well, at least that is the report I get from my mom when I talk with her. The other day we had a tearful conversation about my aunt’s condition. It looks pretty bleak, but I believe strongly that there is still hope, but I am still learning how to communicate this to my mother and more importantly to my aunt.

My mother and cousins had a meeting with the team of medical professionals who have been taking care of my aunt. The doctors say there isn’t any more they can do for her. Her internal organs are dying because they are not getting any blood. There is nothing they can do to stop this.

I believe that when you’re fighting for your life and the doctors have done all that they can do, turning to the spiritual world is one avenue to take towards healing. Mediation has proven to be effective for pain management and depression, and I believe that with guidance one can go within to find the answers to problems manifesting themselves physically. However, I am still learning how to gain the confidence necessary to share this with my loved ones.

Part of me feels like these possibilities are known to my mother, my aunt, and my cousins. After all, they live in a place where it is rare to find someone who is not aware of  spirituality, yoga, and alternative medicine. I think that if I say something they might interpret my behavior as being self righteous or presumptuous. Moreover, I feel that it is not my place to offer feedback or help where it hasn’t been requested.

Years ago I made a promise to myself that I would not help others unless they asked me, that I would only say, “if you need anything please ask me,” and leave it at that when I see someone struggling or suffering. I made this promise because I believe we all have it within ourselves to solve our own problems, and that is my way of standing by what I believe.

Well, my aunt is dying, and they are thinking about transitioning to hospice care. So it is difficult for me to hold my tongue. I want to say there is still a way to turn this around. Embrace the pain, the disease, and learn from it, but again, it is not my place; it is not my choice. Instead, I choose to offer emotional support, and make my presence known. That is all I will do, and that is enough.

As is my habit when faced with difficult decisions and tasks, I ask the question, “What would someone who loved themselves do?” The answer is, “Be there. Be available. Have faith that whatever is happening or is going to happen is part of my aunt’s path. Accept it. Learn what I can from it, and allow myself to feel, to grieve, and to hope. And remember, this too shall pass.”

To those of you who read this, if you are facing a similar situation, I wish you peace and the strength to find acceptance.

Day 63

Suspending Judgment-Learning to Be Present

I have always been my worst critic. When I was in elementary school during recess instead of playing with the other kids, I used to find a quiet secluded little corner outside near the school building, going over my mistakes in my mind relentlessly berating myself for not being good enough tears silently falling down my cheeks. I’m not nearly that bad now, thank goodness, but today and most of this weekend, I found myself playing the should have could have game. You know, when you go over all the mistakes you made, all the words you would have said if you had just been more clever or less flustered. I played that game a lot this weekend, and I realized something; it takes me out of the moment and traps me in the past. Sitting in judgment of myself disconnects me from the moment, and I lose the precious time that I have been given.

So for me, being present means suspending judgment. Today was parent’s day at my daughter’s elementary school. I was interested to see how a Japanese elementary school classroom was organized and how her teacher would teach. The children were sectioned off in little groups. Their desks put together in little pods of four. Off to the side, next to the chalk board was a pair of students who seemed to act as leaders. Guided by the teacher, when it was time to answer questions, they called on students who were quietly raising their hands and not just calling out the answer. It was a great set up. The students were engaged in the lesson and encouraged to talk with each other about what they thought the answer was. When the teacher asked the groups to discuss a particular problem, the little ones would excitedly whisper to each other what they thought the answer was. Unfortunately, my little one was not included in this experience.

Next to her was a volunteer provided by the city to help her understand what was going on. Instead of the teacher or her peers helping her out, the volunteer helped her. She was in her own little world playing with her pencils and her markers. Sometimes she would have her head down. Other times she would be playing with her skirt. The volunteer would constantly but gently take her pencil away or encourage her to listen to the teacher. Occasionally, my beautiful brown eyed girl would turn to look at me, and I would smile encouraging her to look at her teacher and to engage in the class. However, I must admit, when she was chewing on her markers or not paying attention to her work, there would be a disappointed frown on my face instead of a sweet smile on the occasions that she turned to look at me. I was in turmoil because the part of me that believe in allowing your child to emerge and to handle their personality and their psyche lightly never imposing your will upon it was at war with the part of me that wanted a child who eagerly participated in her class. The judgemental part of me was dismayed and embarrassed by my child’s behavior, and I struggled to stay present as I observed the class.

In that moment, I was more concerned with how my child’s behavior reflected on me as a parent rather than on what role my child played in her classroom. Looking back, I would say that she is a bit ostracized. During a vocabulary activity in which all the children took turns making words using the last syllable of the previous word, my daughter was in her own little world. She was not included in the discussion, and the teacher seemed very nervous when it came time to call on her to add her word. The last syllable was, “go.” Rather than giving her the time to think about an answer, the volunteer and her peers spoon fed her an answer. Some of them whispered the word “go ma,” which means sesame in Japanese. Naomi wanted to say “go ri ra (which is a loan word from English for Gorilla). The game started with “go ri ra,” so she could not use that word. Confused by the different answers coming at her and her own desire to use the word “go ri ra,”  she came up with a combination of the two answers being whispered to her,”Go ma ka go ri ra,” which is the equivalent of “Sesame Or Gorilla.” It was an awkward moment for her, and the teacher took the answer despite the fact that it was a nonsensical answer.

I wondered how the teacher would have responded if a Japanese child had given her that answer. At the same time, I sympathized with the teacher, as a teacher, you do not want to discourage your students by inadvertently humiliating them. I probably would have done the same thing in my own class.  My memory of this moment is clouded by my sense of self criticism as a parent, and I do not believe that I have a clear picture of what was really going on in that moment. Would my memory of this have been clearer or at least different if in that moment I was not so critical of my own parenting. I regret that I did not have a clearer mind in that moment because I think there was a lot I could have learned from it if I had not been so embarrassed and disappointed. Perhaps, as an outsider, you might have a more objective perspective of my account of what happened. If so, I’d love to hear your ideas.

What I learned from my experience at parent’s day is that I spend entirely too much time inside my own head. I rarely experience anything in the moment. I move in and out of the moment and in the end I have no idea what really happened. Again, this is a form of self abandonment. When I am not present, I deny myself the opportunity to experience the richness of the moment. I could have learned so much from just observing my daughter in her classroom rather than judging my parenting style based on my daughter’s behavior in her classroom. So not only am I denying myself a rich experience, but I am also denying my child the chance to feel loved and accepted.

Being self critical makes me critical of others especially my daughter. It also causes me to emotionally abandon the people I am with. It is something of which I am not proud, and I would like to change. There’s that judgment again. Well, old habits die hard, so every day I will commit to suspending judgment, living in the moment, and being completely present with my emotions. Perhaps when I am present and I have trained myself to observe without judgment, I will have deeper and richer relationships with the people in my life, especially my daughter.

Until next time, I wish you all the best.



Day 39

Growing Pains: Learning To Thrive

In my last post, I mentioned the email I received from my mother and all the fear and anxiety it evoked. I’ve been grappling with those emotions all day. It’s brought up my past and it has made me realize that with my mother I often exist in the past.

My childhood was not a happy one. I spent most of my time feeling isolated, and desperate for attention, affection, and love. In elementary school during recess, I would find a little corner somewhere away from the other kids and just cry silently. I was in so much emotional pain, that in my early teens I contemplated suicide, and once downed an entire bottle of over the counter pain killers in a feeble attempt to end my life thereby ending the pain, but nothing happened. I didn’t even get sick, and I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be free of the pain.

Fortunately, this overwhelming agony dulled when my mother decided to enter my siblings and me into a private college preparatory school. Thoughts of suicide waned, and I found salvation in the pursuit of knowledge. I was happiest when I was learning, and I also had attentive and compassionate teachers under whose tutelage I thrived. It was the beginning of my love affair with academia.

I was also blessed with a family friend who took me under her wing, loved me unconditionally, and showed me that I mattered. In my early adult years, I confided in her sharing my emotional pain and misery with her, and she listened. She listened and she shared her story of pain and strife, and eventual triumph in the face of misery and self-doubt that comes out of a painful childhood. She too suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her mother. Being able to share my pain with her helped me tremendously.

So I survived. I have been surviving most of my adult life. Although I am grateful for everything that I went through and all the things that I have learned throughout my life, and I know that those things will help me in my endeavors to be whole and happy, I am tired of just surviving. It’s not enough for me anymore. I’ve learned to love myself enough to give myself the permission to want a better life. I have just begun to live a life worth living, and it is proving much harder than a life lived surviving.

Thriving means delving deep into the shadows where the most brilliant parts of myself are waiting patiently to be released. They are the parts of myself I’ve abandoned in my childhood or in my adolescence in order to survive. They are the parts of myself that I need in order to thrive. I know this. I understand this, but the fear, that faithful and familiar companion that has been with me for so long, keeps me from going back in.

Although I’ve done it with excellent results, I am afraid to do shadow work. If you’ve followed this blog since the beginning you know that I’ve had great results from delving into the shadows. I’ve gained self confidence, a sense of purpose, and I now believe in my core that I matter and I have value. These are priceless and wonderful things, and they have all come about as a result of my facing my fears and plunging into the depths. So what’s stopping me now?

I can only say that it is the fear of losing my mother. The fear I feel now is related to my mother and our relationship. As I face this realization, I am reminded of Teal Swan’s video called “The Catch-up Effect” in which she talks about the real reason we fear change. She says that it is because we are afraid of losing a loved one. Of all the people in my life that I love, my mother is the one whose love I fear losing the most. Despite her constant betrayals, and her manipulation, and her disregard for my feelings and my individuality, I have always craved her love and attention. I am attached to my mother, and I’m afraid that if I do the work that I know I must do I will lose her.

This fear is irrational. There is no guarantee that I will lose her because after all, it is not my current relationship with my mother that is the problem, it is the trauma associated with the relationship that I had with her in the past. Resolving those issues that cause me to react negatively to the seemingly benign and even loving gestures she makes now will allow me to have a healthier and more adult relationship with my mother.It will give me the clarity I need to be present with our relationship now, so that I can behave appropriately when she offers to pay for my daughter’s tickets and offers to let us stay at her place. It will make our relationship better.

Rationally I know this, but the little girl inside of me that is afraid that confronting all the wrongs my mother committed in my childhood will result in mother’s disapproval and consequently the loss of her love is begging me not to do anything to jeopardize our relationship. Those parts of us that are stuck in the past have no idea that we are adults now and that our circumstances and our ability to change our situation have changed. They are still living in the past where the trauma occurred forever experiencing the emotions that were born of the trauma.

As I write this, the fear dissipates a little. I sigh deeply and accept what needs to be done. I will close my eyes, let myself feel what I feel and embrace it, sit with it, and learn what lessons I must from it. Delving into the shadows learning something about myself and reintegrating the part of me that is crying out to be loved and to be accepted I will emerge a stronger wiser version of myself ever blossoming into one who thrives.

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

Day 13 11:53PM

Shifting Perspectives

Shadow Work: Remembering the Process

After spending an hour desperately trying to reintegrate parts of my Self that aren’t ready to be revealed, I realized that I’ve been going about this all wrong. I’ve been so determined to reach the goal that I’ve completely ignored the process. The process, learning to focus, maintaining an open and accepting mind, and taking time out for myself to meet my needs are important aspects of shadow work that I’ve neglected to appreciate. The past couple days have not revealed much in the way of repressed emotions, but they have given me the opportunity to establish a new routine, and to prioritize my needs which was why I started this little experiment in the first place.  Now that I’ve shifted my focus from the goals to the process, I can appreciate what I’m doing with shadow work even if I don’t reintegrate a repressed emotion.

Today: A Long Awaited Goal Accomplished Not Just a Failed Attempt

Standing on the street, my son wailing and my daughter whining that she was so hungry her stomach hurt, I looked out at the sea of humanity threatening to consume me, my insides churning and my head pounding with frustration, I decided with a dejected sigh that the situation was FUBAR. I whipped out my phone, sent a quick text to my colleague who was hosting a party for the language program at which I work, and told him with sincere apologies after an hour of being lost in the city, I was going home. I hated giving up, but I was exhausted, my daughter was hungry, and my son’s piercing protests were making it hard for me to think, not to mention the hordes of people coming at me in all directions. It was the end to a very disappointing trip.

The day started out lukewarm, neither bad nor good. My daughter had made a new friend at her new play group and my neighbor, the person who introduced us to the play group, said she had a great time. It was my hope that we would have a good time at the party in the big city as well.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. I never found the meeting place even though I had Google Maps and two maps from my colleague. Lost in a seemingly endless ocean of people and weighed down by a backpack, a diaper bag, a baby carrier, and a very hungry six year old; I gave up and went home. It was an hour’s train ride home, and we had had a long day.

On the train, which was standing room only, I got lost in thought going over all the would haves and should haves feeling more and more irritated and upset with myself for not learning to read a map. I had worked myself into the foulest of moods, when I looked over at my daughter, who was hanging off of a bar that was bolted across a window that looked out onto the tracks. We were in the last car where the conductor’s little control center was. My first thought was to tell her to stop what she was doing and be still, but a little voice inside of me said, “Look at your daughter. See her through the eyes of someone who loves her.” So, I put aside my dark feelings about myself, and looked at my daughter.

My daughter was crouched down peering out of the window at the tracks. The sky was hazy and the sun had just gone down. I took a moment to imagine our time in the big city from the eyes of my daughter. How wondrous everything must have been. She wasn’t thinking about how lost we had been, and how late it was, and how we wouldn’t make it to the party. She was in the moment. She was on the train, hanging off a metal bar, looking at the tracks, singing her own made up tune and having the time of her life.

As I watched her doing the things that children do on a train, I realized that it didn’t matter that I did not make it to the party. Yes, it was disappointing, and yes, on Monday in the office it would be hard to hear my colleagues talk about how much fun they had, but it didn’t matter because not going to the party was in the past, and my colleagues talking about the party was an idea of the future neither of which mattered in that moment on the train.

Once I let go of the past and the future and focused on the present, I was able to appreciate my daughter swinging on the bar, and singing to herself blissfully unaware of the other passengers. I could smile and relax, and I could let go of the things of which I had no control.

Like my shadow work, I needed to focus on the process rather than the goal. I needed to be in the moment. Today’s events taught me that the art of letting go lies in my ability to stay in the moment, to be in the present, and to experience the now. I used to think focusing on anything but what happened and what was going to happen was a form of escapism, but now I see that it is just the opposite. Focusing on things of which I have no control only fuels my frustration and allows me to beat myself up by reliving my failures over and over. It may feel productive, but now I realize it is not. The only thing that is real is the present, and when I understood that I felt empowered.

May you find those moments of clarity in times of frustration and disappointment because when we are able to be in the moment we can be free of the negative thoughts that hold us back and weigh us down, we can reclaim our power and find peace of mind.