The Bait: Do Not Take It!

Perhaps, like me, with the start of a new year, you begin going through a list of stuff that you “should” or “shouldn’t” do.  For example, I should clear out the clutter of random and unnecessary papers that have been occupying my bookshelf for the most part of the last year; or I shouldn’t spend so much time online looking at the random and unnecessary aspects of online life.

Well, I think you get my meaning.  Either way, the start of a new year, oftentimes, means a break with the old and an incorporation of the new.

So, what have I decided to keep or to let go this year?

First, I decided to keep my spirits up. 🙂  How?  By continuing the new part of self-care journey that I started towards the end of 2013.  That is, I am going to continue to work on achieving holistic self-balance.

Why?  Because I realize that I have a tendency to abandon my self-care when something or someone “more important” comes along.  As therapist, I know that this is a big no-no.  Still, in my personal life, it has not always been easy to practice what I preach.  Thus, it leads to my second decision.

"Not the self-destruct button" found at http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/4100.  I had to include this image... It was just too funny not to do so.

“Not the self-destruct button” found at http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/4100. I had to include this image… It was just too funny not to do so.

I have decided to let go of the bait(s).  Nope, really, I won’t take them, no matter the form.  Not interested. Zero percent, nada, niente, zip, zilch.  None of it!

Now, you might be wondering what I mean by bait.  It’s very simple:  it’s anything that depletes you emotionally, physically (in a negative way), mentally, or spiritually.  So, how can you spot it?  Well, here are four examples:

  • Always being a “yes” or people-pleasing person.  Think about it.  Are you the type of person, who when asked to do x, y, and/or z, you immediately say “yes”?
UnderPressure

“Under Pressure” photography by Dolores Juhas, 2008. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

If so, STOP…or, at the very least, decrease that action.  Why?

Well, I like putting it this way:  if you are saying “yes” to someone, then you are, oftentimes, saying “no” to yourself.  And just why would you do that?  So, the next time someone calls you up and asks you to sit through a 10 hour back-to-back special of a watching grass grow nature show just say “no”…unless you are into that sort of thing.

  • Always being a “fixer”. Yes, really.  Do people (friends/family/acquaintances/random strangers) like to come to you with their problems?  And if they do, does your mind transform into a Mr. or Ms. Fix-It mentality.

 

"Zed" photography by Dolores Juhas, 2008. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

“Zed” photography by Dolores Juhas, 2008. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

If so, STOP…or, at the very least, decrease that action.  Why?

Because the reality is listening might just be what that person is seeking, rather than your intervention.   Or better still, ask yourself this question:  Do you have the emotional space to manage listening/dealing with someone else’s issues?

If the answer is “no”, politely back up and say, “You know, I am really sorry to hear about that, but I am not in the best (emotional/mental/physical) space to listen/discuss that with you.”

It may seem callous.  It isn’t.  The reality is that there are times when things are beyond our capabilities to manage them, and it is better that we acknowledge or limitations rather than jumping blindly into fixing someone else’s life (before they ask), especially when we have our own lives to manage.

  • Always being “right” or coming out on top.  You know what I mean. 😉 Were you ever in the debate club in high school or really enjoy being contrary just for the heck of it…or rather for the thrill of being “right” in the end?
"The Revenge of Pride," photography by Dolores Juhas (2010). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

“The Revenge of Pride,” photography by Dolores Juhas (2010). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

 

If so, STOP…or, at the very least, decrease that action.  Why?

Do you have any idea of how much mental and emotional energy (read: capital) goes into making an argument?  Seriously, picture it!

Now, imagine using all of that energy to plan your future rather than arguing over whether something is black or white.  Find the grey already and move on with your life already!

  • Always being the “victim” or “martyr”.   It happens to all of us at some point in our lives.  You look around you and your life feels empty and desolate.  Or perhaps you are in a relationship or job that is sucking the very life out of you.  Do you find yourself looking at your life and asking yourself or anyone available questions like “why me?” or “why does my life have to go this way?” Seriously?
Breaking the Circle: Failure, Photography by Dolores Juhas ( http://www.dolores-juhas.tk)

Breaking the Circle: Failure, Photography by Dolores Juhas ( http://www.dolores-juhas.tk)

If so, STOP…or, at the very least, decrease that action.  Why?

Because it is time for a reality check.  Yes, your life may not be what you want it to be in the moment.  But you know what?  Asking those types of questions won’t get you out of the place you are in!

Instead, challenge yourself to pick up the phone and call for professional help if necessary (therapist and/or life coach).  If you believe that you don’t need that, then grab a planner and start writing down the ways in which you are in control of your life…and then what steps you would like to take next.

So, that’s my start for the New Year:  taking care of myself and not taking the bait.  After all, it is when you are most true to yourself that you can be most authentically available to everyone else.

"Black Health Is..." Found: http://cdn.madamenoire.com

“Black Health Is…” Found: http://cdn.madamenoire.com

Also, please, remember that you are never alone.  Someone out there is walking a similar path or has walked it.  Someone out there is willing and available to help you.  You simply have to want it and reach out to accept it.

Until Next Time,

D.

Self-portrait by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Self-portrait by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue. 

You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her:d_juhas@yahoo.co.uk.  She has her own blog athttp://themax.bloger.hr

Choosing not to chase…

ImageHow do you know that you have been running until you stand still?  How do you recognize that your running has been a chase, one that is going after that which is and always will be ever-elusive…because it is not real?

We are born into a world that  sometimes demands of us to begin running before we understand what it means to truly stand, before we understand what it truly means to walk.  Sometimes, we are asked to go after and resolve the dreams of those who have come before us, because they have “failed” to achieve them.  Thus, their dreams become our dreams.  They live vicariously through us (even if they no longer live), and then we do the same to others.

As we begin this new year, we may be tempted to create long lists of goals to be achieved over the next twelve months.  That is, until we have to create newer and even longer lists that include the goals we “failed” to achieve (alongside the ones we now believe we must achieve in order to be “successful” in the process of living our lives).  We may be tempted to beat ourselves up for not having achieved our goals from the previous year(s).  We may even be tempted to simply give up and decide that we can never live life as we are expected or would like to live it.

Recently, when asked if I have made any resolutions for the new year, I have responded, “No.”  This answer, however, is not true.  There is one resolution that I have made–I have resolved to understand why I chose to make resolutions.

This year I have resolved to understand what parts of my desires for my future come solely from me, rather than from the desires of those who have come before me and who have had an influence upon my life.

It is a daunting task.  It is, however, a task that I am undertaking with great pleasure and already happy results.

28I recognize now that the fear-tinged “happiness,” which I have been chasing for so very long, is neither of my design nor is it my desire.  I recognize now, even more fully, that the capital “H” Happiness is not a fearful experience and one does not have to chase after it.  Happiness is always around you.  You simply have to choose to stop running.  You must choose to stand still–at least, this is what I have come to understand in regards to my life.

Stopping, however, is a process.  You cannot simply halt yourself midstep and not expect to fall.  No, you must slow yourself down and begin acknowledging that which surrounds you.  And as you slow down, you begin to realize that you can breathe more easily, think more freely, move more gently. You realize that the path, on which you are travelling, is not so very hard on your feet, on your body, or on your mind.  Indeed, the path is actually one that is quite beautiful even if and when it is isolated…

Beginning late October of last year, I began this process of stopping.  I decided to allow life to show me that, even at my lowest, I can also experience my highest sensations of gratitude and love.

Thus, I would like to welcome this new year with an expression of gratitude to all those who have supported me and continue to do so (even when my path diverged from their own). Particularly the following people:

  • My Mother (who is an emblem of strength),
  • My Sisters (who think and know that I am quite strange but love me anyway),
  • My Ex-partner (who showed me the part of myself that was missing and still loved me),
  • My New and Old Friends (who help me to face myself each day),
  • My New and Old Mentors (who inspire me to reach that which seems beyond me),

Thank You All.

 I hope that You have been able to welcome the new year with hope and joy. 

Until Next Time…

Best,

D.

Resolve…resolutions (Part 1)

I would love to say that what I have woken to is all wonderful, and that my time away has been restorative.  The truth is, opening my eyes has meant having to see those parts of myself that are pretty, well…you know, dark.  I am not saying, something like “Oh, woe is me!”   Heck no!

What I am saying is that I recognize that I have been slowly chipping away at all the good that I have worked so hard to achieve over the last few years.  And what exactly the point of that is, I do not know.  It is, however, exactly what I have been doing.  I have allowed my health to deteriorate, my weight to gain, my physical appearance to become disheveled, my thoughts to shift to black, my creativity to be stifled.  And why?

Was it depression?  Possibly…okay, probably.  But why?  Was I missing home for the first time in my life?  Possibly…okay, probably.  Was I feeling lonely and wishing that I could meet someone special? Possibly…I refuse to say probably here, because I prefer denial on this topic.  The point is, today, I looked in the mirror and found myself asking the same question I had asked myself upon my arrival to Rome two years ago… That’s right, it’s been two years since I started this romance with the Eternal City.  The question was:  Who are you?  The image in the mirror did not reflect anyone I knew, or wanted to know.  I wanted to hide myself from myself…and then I thought, Why hide?  This is simply another step on the path to who are becoming.  Perhaps that is a bit too zen…For me, however, it worked and it is still working.  So, I have come to a decision to charge of my life from this point forward.  At this point, you are probably thinking How, D?  

Well, that’s the tricky part, isn’t it?  Imagine if everyone knew just how to make their lives better, wouldn’t that be great?  Well, I certainly don’t know how all the steps that I shall need to take in order to take charge of my life, but there are ten (yes, 10) resolutions to which I have come.

Okay, so I know that one should normally make resolutions at the start of the year.  That’s that whole New Year’s Resolution  thing.  Got it.  Since, however, I have always tended to like keeping an open mind about the future, I’ve never really seriously made resolutions for the near year…and I don’t think I ever will.  Making resolution for the end of the year seems to be something that I can handle more easily… It’s a bit more…short-term.  I mean, I have only two and a half month’s to get these ten resolutions together or stick to them as the case may be.

So what are they?  Well, first I have say that I plan to give a weekly update on my progress in maintaining the resolutions.  Ten resolutions in ten weeks…I can dig it, can you? 😉

By the way, any support on achieving all of these would be lovely!

Until Next Time!

Best,

D.

Vision Boards, Love Games & Mechanics….

Knitting gloves, photography by Diedré M. Blake (2011)

Typically, I spend my time reading, knitting, doing crossword puzzles, watching old British comedies and cartoons.  You know, all that typically sexy stuff.  😉

Well, I have just completed reading Jackee Holder’s “Be your own best life coach” and decided to try one of her suggestions, i.e. making a vision board.

I will tell you that I’ve been making a valiant attempt at creating my vision board.  I say valiant, because my verbal Italian is not so great and trying to find the right types of magazines at the newsstands here in Rome feels like a mini-trip through hell for me.

This is partly due to the fact that all the magazines are apparently kept… sealed.  Yes, that’s right.  Here in Rome, you need to know what you want. And there really isn’t such a thing as customer service here…. So, don’t expect help.  If you get it, then give thanks to the universe. Of course, this is just my personal experience… You may have a different one if you visit.  So, keep an open mind.

(Photo Newsstand in Campo de' Fiori... They usually aren't smiling. Trust me.) Image taken from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/05/arts/05abroad.html

There is no flipping through and perusing the interesting pictures and glancing at the articles here.  And honestly, my Italianish is so not helpful for saying “I need a magazine with diverse representations of people.  You know, women, men, children.  Perhaps even different ethnicities and races might be nice.”

I’ve been offered, however, everything else from cooking to needlework.  As much as I am a fan of all of that, it certainly wasn’t what I asked for.

At this point, some of you might be wondering what is a vision board. The easy answer is that it is a visual representation of the goals/dreams you have for your life.

More recently, vision boards have been associated with the principle of the Law of Attraction (Remember The Secret?), which basically emphasizes the point that what we choose to focus upon in our lives is what we in turn receive.  That is, if you focus on what is negative, then the more negative experiences come into your life, because you are attracting it to you.  The same is applied to the positive.  This definition is highly simplistic and I would recommend that you do your own research on the topic if you are interested in learning more.

Sample Vision Board, found at http://theartisticmom.com/

Regardless of your belief in the Law of Attraction, cutting images out of newspapers/magazines and pasting them on posterboard or whatever sturdy paper available has been practiced by many artists, art educators, art therapists, life coaches and many an adolescent girl for some time now (of course children and adolescent boys too!)

As an art therapist, I see the process of creating art and the final product as inherently self-exploratory and therapeutic.  Thus, it is possible to gain a true understanding of what one desires in life by engaging in such a process as collaging.  Enough said.

So, back to my vision board.  Simply, it’s not happening.  Although I am surrounded by many cut images, and have carefully selected music playing in the background to promote my most creative self… it’s simply not on.  By now, you may be wondering why I am rambling on about this vision board thing… and why it is so important to me.

Well, as I mentioned above, I’ve been searching for magazines filled with lots of pictures with people.  In essence, I am looking for the images that would go in my Love/Relationships sectionThat’s right.  I seemed to have some block against this.  This brings me to my next topic.

Love games & mechanics…

Rome is a city of romance as evidenced by the people who make it a point to makeout next to me in the metro during the day.   I mean, really… I am the last person to have a problem with PDA.   Nor do I have a problem with people who wish to share their personal version of Lady Gaga‘s Love Games at night (again in the metro).  Hey, I really don’t mind seeing if someone is or isn’t wearing underwear as I make my way home to knit…. No problem! 😉

What all of this (including my vision board quest) is revealing to me is that perhaps I find romantic relationships somewhat threatening… (Yes, it can happen to a therapist too ;))  I have somehow managed to put up a wall/block in response to the emotion love and had not realized it until I tried to make my vision board.

Being single again has forced me to examine my past relationships. That is, what I did well and what I need to improve.  This process allowed me to recognize that I had one specific issue that was truly interpersonally and intrapersonally crippling for me.  Even though apparently, some friends were already quite aware… as one said to me a month or so ago,

“D., you’ve really got to work on your professional handicap.  It’s really a liability.”

And I wonder why no one ever to told me before that I was a blatant “love mechanic.”

That’s right.  I spent my time in my relationships trying to help resolve the issues of my significant other perhaps to my own detriment and definitely to the detriment of the relationship.

Even after my friend had made the above statement to me, I still had no idea what he was talking about.  It took reading Lisa Helmanis’ book “Master Dating” and coming across the term “love mechanic” for me to really get what he was trying to say…  That is, if I ever intend to have a romantic relationship of any kind again, I need to give up the behaviour of holding daily therapy sessions with my significant other AND gently suggest outside therapy.  😉

Well, it’s a new year and I’ve got my vision board project with an allotted love/relationship section.  So, who knows what will happen…

Until next time!

Best,

D.

A New Year… An Improved Upon Attitude… A Show of Strengths

I am not a believer in making resolutions for the new year.

I actually believe that making resolutions can negatively impact one’s self-esteem.   Take one of the classic new year’s resolution, i.e. the I-am-going-to-start-going-to-the-gym-and-go-on-a-diet-and lose-a-bunch-of-weight-by-such-and-such-date… typically, this is a resolution that is often abandoned…  Why?  Well, the reasons given are many I am sure.

In my opinion, we abandon these resolutions as we are confronted by the “realities” of living our lives and our core selves.   Suddenly, the gung-ho daily visits to gym begin to diminish as work becomes too stressful and/or tiring… and the diet that was so rigidly kept to is given up for the little occasions that pop-up, involving dining out with friends, and even the amount of weight desired to be lost may be adjusted.  What was a goal of 10lbs becomes 5lbs.  You get the idea.

Why might this become a negative experience?  Well, if the resolution is not fulfilled, the resulting self-message may be “I am incapable of following through with my plans” or “I’ll never achieve my goals” or “I am a failure.”  This does not mean that everyone experiences things in this way or that these types of resolutions never succeed.  There is a reason, however, for the continued popularity of the new year’s diet resolution. 

Truly, my point is not to hyper-focus on dieting, although issues involving eating and self-esteem are areas of professional interest to me.  New year’s resolutions, regardless of their nature, can become problematic, because they can lead to negative self-talk, and thus lowered self-esteem, if they are not completed.

A New Year…

As we begin 2012, I wonder what it would be like for everyone to imagine that this new year is simply a continuation of last year…  That is, that nothing magical occurred as we shifted from the 31st of December 2011 to the 1st of January 2012.  No magical fairy came by as the clock struck midnight and imbued us with both the determination and the ability to immediately make drastic (or even simple) changes in our lives. 😉  That nothing really happened except that today became yesterday and tomorrow became today…   

What do you think would change for you in the way you acted, thought, and organized your life?  Would there actually be any difference in how you thought and felt about yourself between December 30th to December 31st and December 31st and January 1st?

Beginning a new year is not a magic wand that fixes everything…  It cannot be.  It cannot erase whatever past you have lived or present you are living.  It is simply a marker that informs you that 12 months of your life has gone by.  It is simply a tool for you to ask yourself, “What have I accomplished in the last 12 months and over the course of my life?” and perhaps more importantly, “Given my history and my present, what path am I taking and is it leading me to where I want to be?”

Improve Upon the Attitude…

Ideally, it would be great if everyone would ask themselves the above questions regularly.  Unfortunately, it seems to me that we sometimes wait until the end of the year to begin actively thinking about what, we believe, needs to be different in our lives… and then we make a list about it in the form of resolutions–and declare that we will change our ways this year!

… And of course, we do the same thing the next year… I imagine with many of the same resolutions from the previous year (perhaps 1oth time brings the charm, who knows? :))

In essence, the task of completing these listed resolutions can become daunting and self-defeating.  Afterall, resolutions are typically actions that challenge us in some way.  For example, perhaps there is…

  • something you want to do that you have never done
  • somewhere you want to go that you have never been
  • the task losing that extra weight and starting that gym program
  • the task of getting over that relationship(s) that has been haunting you
  • getting a better, more emotionally and financially rewarding job
  • going back to school
  • starting a family
  • making up with your family
  • finding “the one”
  • unburdening yourself of your emotional baggage

Whatever is included on the list, whether pleasant or unpleasant, it still means taking responsibility for taking immediate action to make a change in your life (ideally to improve that life).  Not only that, it means that once one task is accomplished, there may be still a long list awaiting you to be tackled.  In my opinion this can feel overwhelming, especially when, you know, “life” starts kicking into full gear and we are out of the holiday mode.

 ——–

So, what am I suggesting?  Am I suggesting not to set goals for the new year?  No, I am suggesting simply that you spend the time, instead, acknowledging what you have done well in the past year and looking at the new year as an opportunity to build upon your accomplishments.  Resolutions truly focus on the negative.  They focus on what is not, i.e.

  • what you are not doing or have not been doing
  • what you”ought” to have been doing
  • who you are not or who you have never been
  • where you are not or where you have never been
  • what you have not resolved
  • what you have not accomplished

And honestly, how good does it feel to focus on the negative?  Wouldn’t it feel better to make a Last Year’s List of Accomplishments?

Wouldn’t it feel better to celebrate what you have been doing well and how you have made positive changes within yourself and your relationships?

Just How Strong…

When we focus on our strengths, we generally feel better about ourselves and our ability to be effective within our lives.  So, I say make a list of your strengths, your accomplishments in all aspects of life: career, health, relationships, finances, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically…

You could even make a timeline of your accomplishments, reviewing the last year (2011) or even the last 5 or 10 years.   Once you do this, not only will you have a visual record of what you have been doing to make your life worthwhile, but you will also have a clearer sense of the path that you are taking towards achieving any already established life goal(s)… or if you don’t have one yet, then one may emerge from the process.

I imagine that many of us know, intrinsically, what it is that we want out of our lives.  Some of us are focused on achieving a specific goal in one aspect of life (e.g. career), others of us are focused on multiple areas or are entirely holistic in our approach to our lives and have an overall goal for living.  Whatever your approach, think now about what you want truly out of your life… No, really, ask yourself:

When all is said and done, what type of life will I want to have lead? What do I want out of this life?

Listen to the answer that comes and take that answer as your motivator for how to engage the world around you each day in this new year.  Trust me, if you become resolved within your overall goal for living, the steps to take to move your life forward will come naturally… You don’t have to worry about making a list of demands that you may not be able to meet, because they are not aligned with where you are now and where you are trying to go in the future.

Best of regards for 2012!

Until Next Time,

D.

P. S. Some quotes to kick start the new year:

“A friend of mine drinks a lot of whiskey and is concened about how this will affect his path. Thich Naht Hahn replied: ‘Thats OK if he drinks mindfully, he will realise what it is doing, and will gradualy stop drinking'”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

“One day the Buddha held up a flower in front of an audience of 1,250 monks and nuns. he did not say anything for quite a long time. The audience was perfectly silent. Everyone seemed to be thinking hard, trying to see the meaning behind the Buddha’s gesture. Then, suddenly, the Buddha smiled. He smiled because someone in the audience smiled at him and at the flower…. To me the meaning is quite simple. When someone holds up a flower and shows it to you, he wants you to see it. If you keep thinking, you miss the flower. The person who was not thinking, who was just himself, was able to encounter the flower in depth, and he smiled. That is the problem of life. If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh (Peace Is Every Step)

“What we are comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is this creation of our mind.”

– The Buddha

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”

– Joan Didion

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change

the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can

change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”

– Jim Rohn