Day 325

Accountability

I have always had a strong sense of responsibility. I even feel compelled to do things that are not necessarily my responsibility. This is especially true when it comes to helping people. When I see someone that I think is in need, I am called to do something. When I go back to the States for a visit, this happens when I see homeless people on the street holding signs asking for money or food. I cannot go past them without giving them something-a few dollars or some food. It drives my husband crazy; he says, “We need to think about ourselves first. We can’t help everyone.” Intellectually, I know this to be true, but if I see someone in need and it is within my power to do something to help them, I do it. I do this because I feel blessed with so much and I want to share my blessings with others as much as I can.

This accountability is also true when it comes to commitments. My sense of responsibility is strongest when I enter into any verbal, written (in the form of contracts), or understood agreement with someone. I am keenly aware of my responsibilities, and I have a deep sense of shame and disappointment when I fail to make good on a promise I have made, and it hangs over me for years until I either forgive myself or have a chance to apologize to the person concerned. I take commitment very seriously, and I try to do what I say and say what I mean whenever possible. So, it is ironic that I don’t extend the same consideration to myself.

Follow through is my greatest weakness when it comes to taking care of myself and keeping promises that I make to myself. Case in point-weight loss. I have struggled with my weight since puberty. I have fat times and not so fat times, but I have never been able to maintain and sustain a healthy weight. I’ve never been under weight, but I’ve often been over weight. The heaviest I’ve ever been was after my first pregnancy. I was almost 200 pounds which is around 90 kilos. I’ve never gotten that big again, and I vowed that I would never be 90 kilos, and for about seven years that has been the case; however, I still hover around 80 kilos, and last spring when I got down to 75 kilos, I promised myself I would never see 80 kilos again, and towards the end of last year, I got up to 85 kilos! I am now back down to 78 kilos, but nevertheless, I’m not doing to well at keeping a steady weight.

This has mostly to do with my diet and exercise. When I’m stressed or anxious, I binge eat sweets, and when I am not working or running errands, I stay in and I rarely get any exercise. In the past, I’ve been able to reduce my sugar intake and exercise regularly, but I have been unable to change the behavior into a habit and usually after a few weeks or a month, I revert back to my old habits. If you follow this blog, you know I went on a sugar fast for two weeks, and that for a while I felt good about my relationship with sugar; I believed I had a handle on it; well, it turns out two weeks is just not enough time to change a thirty plus year relationship with sugar. I know this, and yet I have done very little to make good on my promise to be healthy and free myself of my sugar addiction.

Another area of my life in which I have rarely made good on my promises is concerning my finances. I’m not very mature about money. I’m neither a big spender, nor am I penny pincher, but my philosophy on money is “Money comes and money goes.” It’s magical thinking. I do not feel that I have control of my money, and I do not act as if I can change my financial situation.

My relationship with money is no different from a baby’s relationship with mother’s milk; it feels hungry, it cries, and magically it gets fed. That’s how I feel about money. I need money, I get a job, and magically I have money in the bank. Now granted, I am aware that I have money because I have a job, so I am slightly more aware than an infant, but the feeling is analogous. If an infant were deprived of milk, then she would cry and cry until she received the milk. She would not be capable of going out and finding another source of milk, and no one would expect her to. Likewise, if I were deprived of money, I would seek out a job, but if there were no jobs out there, like the baby, I would be at loss as to what to do because a job is the only source of money from my perspective.

When I have a job, which thankfully, has been pretty much my entire adult life, I have money, and when that money runs low, I slow down my spending, and wait anxiously for my next pay check. Last year, I decided to start being mature about money and to start being proactive about bringing more money into my life. So, last fall I started taking on side jobs. They don’t pay much, but it’s more money coming in, and it was my way of increasing my income. It felt great to make more money, and I felt a boost in my self confidence, but I knew that my concept of money and how to make it had not changed.

In fact, this was made apparent when I failed to get a handle on our bills. I was putting off paying some of the bills, and it got to the point where I paid I few of my bills late, and at one point, forgetting to pay one of my bills cost us a day without Internet, which was really difficult for my husband.

Getting our Internet connection cut off was a wake up call. I needed to be better about paying bills, and I needed to get all of my bills that were not already on auto debit on auto debit. That was a month ago, and I have yet to take action. I have yet to follow through.

So, what’s the disconnect? What allows me to take responsibility for my actions regarding other people, but prevents or keeps me from honoring my commitments to myself? What does this ultimately mean about me? Well, if you follow this blog, and you’ve been with me on this journey for a while, you know that I am learning to love myself and put my own needs first. A year ago, I would have seen these short comings as demonstrative of a deep personal flaw one that was indicative of the fact that I was irreparably broken. However, I don’t see it that way now. I see it as indicative of the fact that I’m human, and I am a work in progress with the promise of brilliance.

It’s a wonderful sentiment. It is one that is self affirming and positive, but it doesn’t do much to help me find a way to change my financial situation and more importantly, my beliefs about money. It doesn’t help me find a way to sustain a healthy weight and to become a more active person. I had the what. I needed a how. How was I going to be more mature about my finances? How was I going to honor my commitment to be healthier?

Fortunately, I found the answer. Yesterday I took a class on Accountability, and in the discussion, I received so many answers to the question: “How can I honor my commitments to myself?” There were several strategies for achieving long term goals, but the two that resonated most with me were to be kind to myself when I slip or don’t get the results I had hoped for, and to give myself very small goals that will help me get to my larger goals. It was a life changing class for me because it came at a time when I was open for solutions. I now know what I need to do to move forward.

May you also find the solutions to the problems you are facing.

More to come.

Peace.

Day 81

Reality Check: The Next Step

So, I did a self-assessment checklist to see how healthy and balanced my life is. According to the website from which I got the checklist, a 90 out of 100 meant I had a very healthy and balanced life. I got a 65. Not bad, but not where I’d like to be. The checklist assessed four areas of my life; my physical environment, my emotional and health balance, my finances, and relationships. I scored relatively well on emotional/health and relationships, getting a 19/25 in the former and 20/25 in the latter. However, my physical environment and financial situation could be a lot better. At first, I felt really bad about the outcome of this self-assessment, but after sitting with it for a little while, I felt much better and even optimistic because this means I have a solid idea of where I need to go and how to get there.

Before I started this little endeavor, I had one goal in mind, and that was to learn how to love myself. I’m only a fraction of the way through the 365-Days-of-Self-Love and I know I have a long way to go before I can say that I truly accept and love all parts of myself; however, the work I have done so far have allowed me to give myself the permission to explore a different way of life and most recently, a different way to make a living. For some time now, I have believed that the way for me to make a life worth living is to become self-employed or learn about how to invest or make my money work for me as Robert Kiyosaki says in his book “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” It is important to me to dedicate my time and energy realizing my own dream rather than someone else’s, yet I did not believe I was good enough or deserving enough to strike out on my own.

Since I started this process, these excuses are no longer true for me. I have become less critical of myself and a lot more forgiving. I am learning to suspend judgement where my needs are concerned and doing what I can to meet my needs. I am learning to believe in my ability to meet my own needs, and I am learning to give myself permission to pursue my desires no matter how I perceive others might judge those decisions. The result of this change in perspective is the realization that I no longer wish to live in Japan indefinitely, so I can no longer teach English to speakers of other languages and make a living. This means that I have spent ten years building a career that in the not too distant future will no longer be viable. I do not anticipate that I will be able to teach in North America and still be able to live the kind of life that I would like to live. So I have decided to find another way to generate an income.

Making a lot of money is not my motivation, but I know that I need a steady source of income that will allow me to set aside enough money for savings and for my children should something happen to my husband or myself. Right now, I have no assets and if I were to die, my husband and my children would have nothing. It’s really unacceptable to not have a plan in place to protect my children from unnecessary hardship, and without turning them into a burden to whomever takes them in. Therefore making enough money so that I am financially independent is an undeniable necessity. However, I refuse to take a job for the sole purpose of making money, so I am currently in the process of choosing an occupation that meets all of my needs.

The results of the self-assessment checklist put my situation into perspective. I have some work to do before I can hope to build a life in which I am completely satisfied. I now have a clear idea of what I need to do to get there, but more than anything, I am doing my best to remember that although I am improving my life, I am not doing it to be happy. I believe that happiness is a state of mind. Although I have not accomplished all of my goals, I can still be happy now. I do not have to wait for the perfect career, the best house, and a secure financial future to be happy.  As I said before, I am excited about the journey and the opportunity for growth that this endeavor offers. Knowing where I want to go and how to get there is exciting because there is so much I need to learn about myself, compatible careers, and financial security. Until I started this process, these experiences were just too terrifying, but now I am eager to learn, despite the fear that is still there, and for the first time, the desire for personal growth is greater than the fear of failure.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to see my life in numbers. It put things in perspective and has allowed me to see where I have been. The qualities of a healthy life that I have yet to attain offer a clear idea of how I can get to where I want to go. At the same time, I am mindful of the fact that although it is helpful to have goals, happiness cannot be one of them. Happiness needs to be a choice, otherwise, I will spend most of my life chasing happiness. I am certain that as I move forward towards my goals, I will be happy, and if it turns out that my goals were unrealistic or not attainable, I will still be okay. I will have learned a lot, and that is what counts.