Final Post

Farewell!

A year later give or take; I think my math is off..

I am now on the other side of the 365-Days-of-Self-Love challenge.

When I started this blog, I had just begun to commit to live my life in a way that showed that I love, respect, and accept myself as I am. Now, I feel closer to a state of self-love and acceptance. I accept myself more often than I disapprove of aspects of myself. I am learning to just be. I am learning to look at my failures not as a source of shame, but as an indication of change and progress. I am learning to embrace imperfection, and not to take myself and life so seriously. I am learning to release judgment and accept things as they are, and not as I would like them to be.

I am happy more often than I am sad. I am more at peace than I am in turmoil. I am hopeful of my future more often than I am fearful of it.

This was a wonderful experience. I will continue to bring everything I have learned with me, and I will continue to grow and change.

Although I am finished with this blog, I will still be out there.

Very soon, you can find my words on Amazon and other places where you can find e-books. I’ll also be hosting websites, and posting on social media.

This process has taught me that what I have to contribute is of equal value to everything else that is out there and that has yet to be shared.

I will continue to walk my path, taking every twist and turn, rise and fall with grace and humility.

I hope to meet you again in another forum, on another website, in another time and place.

Until then, I wish you all the very best.

Day 64

On Sadness and Self-acceptance

Until recently, I’ve been critical of feeling sad. I am only now just beginning to accept that sometimes I feel sad. I am used to perceiving my sadness as an indication that there is something really wrong with me, as if I am somehow broken and irreparably damaged. Being sad meant I was weak and vulnerable and unworthy of love. I don’t like being sad, and in the past, whenever I felt even a hint of melancholy, I did my best to talk myself out of it and deny myself the opportunity to feel anything but happy. So although I have committed to being kinder to myself,  it is difficult to suspend judgment when I feel sad, lonely, or isolated.

Today I found myself on several occasions sadly sitting at my desk listening to my colleagues engaged in different conversations some of them work related while others were of a more personal nature. As I sat alone in my cubical, somewhat in my own little world, I tried to practice observing myself feeling a range of unpleasant emotions from sadness to irritation to loneliness. I fought the urge to tell myself that I shouldn’t feel those emotions and that I should think about all of the people in my life who love me. I fought the urge to suppress what I was going through as I listened to all the conversations going on around me. I wanted to escape, but to escape would be to abandon myself. So I sat there experiencing the pain, close to tears at times feeling silly and uncomfortable about feeling isolated and alone.

For the most part, I get along with my colleagues. I have pleasant conversations with them and most of my fellow teachers are warm and welcoming. So when I get this way, I wonder from where the emotions are coming. I observe them and their affect on me as they run through me and I try not to justify them. These unpleasant emotions last for a few minutes and then pass and I realize it is not so bad to feel sad once in a while.

Observing the loneliness and the sadness and accepting myself as I experience the pain of not fitting in, I realize that I love myself a little more deeply having allowed myself to sit with the sadness without rationalizing it away. As I walk home from work, there is a smile on my face not because I talked myself out of an unpleasant emotion, but because I allowed myself to feel the emotion without judgment and with loving compassion.

It is in that moment when I am aware of that acceptance that I begin to cheer up, and I think about days when I will have a deep sense of belonging, and the people surrounding me will want to spend time with me no matter how I feel. Like I am beginning to do for myself, the people who I will attract into my life will be able to sit with me when I am sad, and be okay with that. I think as I begin to give myself unconditional love, I will begin to recognize those who can do the same for me, and from that realization springs a feeling of joy and peace, and a certainty that I’m okay even when I’m feeling sad, lonely, or isolated.

Until next time, I wish you all the best.

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 61

Exploring My Biggest Fear: What I’ve Learned So Far

Last time, I addressed the fact that my biggest fear is having a lower IQ than someone in my position should have. I have no idea what my IQ is but considering I was put in remedial math when I was in elementary school and my teachers did not have much faith in my academic abilities, I assume I didn’t have a very high IQ. I am terrible at taking standardized tests, and I’ve never been good at math or science. These observations have led me to believe that I am not very smart. So as a result I feel inadequate and inferior to my fellow instructors.

The key here is my feelings of inadequacy. I think at its core this is a reflection of my consistently low self-esteem. Although I have come a long way, this little hiccup is an indication that I have much more work to do. There are still parts of me that do not feel valued, and I need to delve into the shadows once more to rescue them and remind them that I am not that shy little girl counting on her fingers and relying on touch math to do the simplest equations. I am a grown woman who has accomplished a lot and has a lot to offer the world, and has done a lot to contribute to English education in Japan. Moreover, my worth is not determined by how smart I am or what I have accomplished or what I have done. I have value because I’m L’Shawn and that’s enough. I do not need to prove my worth.

Sitting with this fear and allowing myself to feel the sadness and frustration that comes with the core belief that I am stupid and therefore unworthy of love or respect has taught me another thing about myself. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I noticed today that I go to great lengths to reduce my emotional discomfort, and it was with some effort that I let myself be uncomfortable. Throughout the day, I found myself seeking emotional comfort from colleagues, only to realize that I was escaping feelings that I judge to be bad and therefore unacceptable for me to express or feel. The more I denied myself the chance to unburden myself  to my colleagues, the sadder and more isolate and desperate I felt. However, I knew that I needed to allow myself to get through the emotional pain without getting quick fix from those around me. I could not abandoned myself, so I let myself get through the pain, and eventually, I began to feel better, and I was happy that I allowed myself to let the emotion play out.

Having discovered that I have a hard time feeling sad or lonely, I am going to redouble my efforts to continue shadow work and to learn to accept these less desirable emotions. To fully accept myself, I must be present no matter how I am feeling. Emotions are neither good nor bad they just are, and I have got to learn to let them be. I have heard that mindfulness is a great way to learn this very valuable skill, and I will meditate for at least fifteen minutes a day.

I am grateful for my fear of being stupid because it has given me the opportunity to learn more about myself and to reintegrate the parts of myself that I abandoned in my childhood or adolescence. As I learn more about myself through my emotions, I also learn about the ideas to which I am attached that may not be helpful. Attaching my self-worth to my IQ is neither helpful nor necessary. I can still live my dream despite my level of intelligence, and I am learning to be okay with that.

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

Days 52 and 53

Looking for a Village

I am in complete agreement with the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I’d like a village please. Things are getting complicated and raising two kids in a foreign country with no family to support us is really difficult. So far my husband and I have gotten by with help from friends and my colleagues, but like being in survival mode, I’m no longer okay with just getting by. So I am giving myself two options–find a village here or go else where.

I have been trying to build a community here for a very long time, and for whatever reason, mostly that the people with whom I have tried to build a village have been too busy or have a village of their own, I have been unable to maintain a community here. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that I do not speak the language fluently and so that limits the pool from which I can find friends who are willing to be a surrogate family. Whatever the reason, I have been working on creating my own village here in Japan for almost a decade. I think it’s safe to say, there is probably no village to be had here and it is time to move on.

Leaving Japan has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but I have denied myself that option for two reasons. To leave without being fluent in the language is akin to failure in my estimation. I cannot bear the thought of leaving here after over a decade and being asked whether or not I speak the language fluently and having to say, “I could get by, but I am not a fluent speaker.” The other reason I have not entertained the option to leave is for fear of not being able to make a living. I make good money teaching at the university as what in the U.S. would be equivalent to an adjunct. I am able to be the sole breadwinner allowing my husband to stay home and take care of our children. There is also the added benefit of affordable health care. I had two C-section surgeries and two preemies, one of whom was in the NICU for three months and in the GCU for one. If we had been in the States when I had my two children, I think we would have gone bankrupt. I am not sure how I will find an equal or better occupation in the States or Canada where my family and I would most likely go if we left Japan. These factors compel me to stay.

Because of this conflict between the comforts and benefits of living here and my desire to leave, I have been at war with myself for about two years. Before I made the commitment to love myself and be true to my desires and needs, I thought that I needed to change my attitude in order to solve this problem. I needed to deny my needs to have a community and to be close to family and just accept the fact that I would never have that. I told myself that it was better to focus on the things I do have and to forget about the things that I don’t have. However, despite my efforts to accept my situation, the need to have family close and to be part of a circle of friends has always been there urging me to change my life, and now I don’t see a reason to deny myself the opportunity to pursue these dreams.

Part of loving myself is meeting my needs without judgment and with love and understanding. I do not question my children’s needs; I willingly meet them when I can. I take great care to validate their needs even when I don’t understand them, but I recognize the importance of being nurturing with my children, so why not do the same for myself? Why indeed considering those reasons that held me back no longer seem legitimate.

So, I’m leaving Japan. I still have a lot to do before I can pack up the family and go, but we will leave. It may not be this year, and it may not be next year, but everything I do from now until we make our move will be dedicated to finding a way to leave. I am now ready and willing to take the necessary steps that will take me out of this country. It feels great to finally allow myself this option. I am looking forward to finding and creating my village.

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

 

Day 36

Being Good To Myself: Not Just A Notion Anymore

Today I did several things to be good to myself. I got up early, got some reading done, and went to the gym and worked out. Although the day could have gone more according to plan, I think I did the best that I could. I’ve decided to focus on what I did accomplish rather than what I could have accomplished. That’s also in line with being good to myself.

That’s essentially what I am aiming for these days. No more beating myself up for not being good enough. Those days are over. I have committed to self love and even when I fall short of my goals, I will think encouraging thoughts. Nothing good ever comes out of berating myself for not doing everything right; it just makes me feel awful and lose my resolve to keep trying.

It’s all just an illusion anyway. My thoughts about my progress or whether or not I’ve succeeded or failed; they’re all the stuff of fantasy. So why not make up a fiction worth living for? Why not see myself in a positive light while striving to make life better? In the end, it only ever really matters to me. No one else can experience what I experience. People can empathize, but they can never really know what it’s like to see me through my eyes. So why not see a wonderful person, rather than a broken and flawed human being? Why not look at my life and see potential, rather than a culmination of bad decisions? Seeing myself in a positive light will only serve to uplift me and clear my mind of all those barriers that keep me from being me. Someone who loved themselves would see that no matter what I do I am always me. I am neither good nor bad; I just am, and that’s a wonderful thing.

So, I’m looking forward to tomorrow while taking my lessons from today. I’m planning to get up early again and try to meditate without falling asleep. I’m going to do more reading, and then remain open to whatever the day will bring. Until next time, I wish you all the very best.