Monday, April 26, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 116: Compassion Begins with Yourself

Writing lessons on this blog everyday has proven to be quite challenging. The lesson I've learned is that sometimes we run out of words. Instead of saying, "That's it, all my words have dried up, time to pull the plug on the blog," I've decided to call upon some dear friends. Friends who are inspirational to me. Alone it is so hard to do keep going. Together, so much is possible.

Sharni Montgomery from Australia has been my blogger friend since the beginning. I feel like I've grown up with her, yet we've never met. I've watched her evolve right here on the net. She went from having a sweet little blog about her life in a one-horse town to her own website called Sharnanigans where she interviews and highlights amazing people from every walk of life. Whenever I feel like throwing in the towel, it's Sharni who appears in my inbox or in a comment to say something like, "Roll with it, I'll do a guest post if you need it, I believe in you." Her post below is so timely. When things don't go our way, it's easy to beat ourselves up. Instead, compassion and love for ourselves is what we really need. Thank you Sharni, for this beautiful, timely post.

Through The Eyes of A Friend

By Sharni Montgomery

A few years ago I hit a bit of a breaking point, as we all do in our twenties at one point or another.

The extent of it varies, but I’m pretty sure everyone reaches a day when they come face to face with their own insecurities. The way we handle it differs.

Mine came after breaking up with a boyfriend when I was living in Bondi Beach.

We had been together a couple of years and it came to a halt after a few grueling months.

As the relationship ended, my whole world felt like it had ended.

I told myself that I wasn’t good enough for the relationship, I wasn’t beautiful enough, I was a bad partner, I ruined the relationship, the list went on.

As if it wasn’t hard enough going through the end of a relationship without my own voice kicking me while I was down.

I spent many weeks with eyes swollen from all the crying. Friends and family were at a loss to console me because I couldn’t hear their words over my own self-talk.

It was relentless.

When I look back I realize it wasn’t the end of the relationship that kept me up at night howling with tears.

It wasn’t what ‘actually’ happened that made me unable to leave the house, or feel I would ever smile again.

It was the way I was talking to myself that was making me cry.

It wasn’t until I took myself to see a doctor and announce that I was having trouble with my sadness when he asked me.

“What would you say to a friend that was going through this right now?”

This was possibly the ‘a-ha’ question of my lifetime.

I would definitely NOT tell my friend that she was too ugly, fat, crazy, undeserving, horrible, not worthy if she broke up with her boyfriend.

So why was I telling myself these things? Why did I feel the need to make myself cry?

The fact of the matter was one thing, and one thing alone: Our relationship had ended.

The rest of it was the story I was telling myself about why it ended and I had myself smack bang in the firing line.

Though I didn’t learn the lesson then, I look back and I see that what I needed then was compassion, forgiveness, love and self-care.

If we can’t be as kind to ourselves as we would be to a friend, then how are we ever going to pick ourselves up and get on with life?

This is something that I am now very conscious of.

I know that little voice in my head can be a real a-hole at times. It can rock up when I least need it and spout things I would expect from an arch enemy. I have learnt now to tell him (obviously it’s a bloke) to pipe down and give some air-time to the friendly self instead.

Changing that little voice inside my head and letting myself off the hook for not being “perfect’ has been one fantastic life lesson for me.

Compassion begins with yourself.

When you learn to do this for yourself especially when you are really struggling, you see yourself the way your best friend sees you.

And as Whitney Houston once said “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all..”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 103: You are Next

When we see other people's success in something we feel is only meant for those with super special talent, there is always someone who pipes up and says, "You are next." I always laugh at that statement. Who am I anyway? Why would I deserve anything like this? But sometimes it feels so close. Like someone is giving you a preview of what's to come.

Today I played hooky from work and if my boss is reading this now, I'm actually flattered. I called in with the stomach flu, but I was really at a book reading in Seattle. I LOVE my job, but this was an important event that I promised myself I wouldn't miss.

I was talking to my husband today on a walk around Greenlake. I said, "My mother, my best friend Lena, two of my co-workers and original Writers Rising members, my co-worker's friend, and my writing coach/editor are coming to this event. I feel like this is my book reading, but it isn't."

My husband said, "In a way, it is. Everything is connected."

Laura Munson kept appearing in my e-mail inbox one day. I had no idea who she was. I opened up one of the e-mails from her and found out that she is a writer in Montana who was published in the New York Times. Her article, Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear was so popular that it ended up temporarily shutting down the comment section. After years of trying to get a book published, she landed a book deal with a very large publishing company.

A friend from college recommended my blog to her and that's how she found me. We ended up talking on the phone for over an hour. At the end of our conversation, she encouraged me to contact her agent. I had just finished a book proposal, so I sent a query out to her agent. Within a week, I was offered representation for my book Lessons from the Monk I Married.

It is still all very surreal to me. Laura was in Seattle today for her book reading and I knew I had to go. I read her book in three days. While I was sitting with my family and friends at a table in the cafe which was attached to the bookstore, she came over.

I gave her a hug and it really felt like I had known her before. But this was the first time we had ever met. She was a messenger to me of what is possible.

There were so many people at the reading that the tiny little space they had for her really wasn't enough room for all the people who attended. It was a nice reading and afterward there was a book signing. People formed a long line to get their book signed. Laura signed my book with "To Katherine, Sister in Words, Yours, Laura."

I felt very good this evening. I needed to have this experience. I needed to see that everything is connected. That Laura's success is my success.

When you see someone doing something amazing, don't be surprised when someone pipes up with the statement, "You are next." Don't toss those words aside as ridiculous. Hold on to them and realize that anything is possible.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 101: It's a Small World After All

It's a world of laughter,
A world of tears.

It's a world of hopes,
And a world of fears.

There's so much that we share,
That it's time we're aware,

It's a small world after all.

By Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman

When I was young, this song was stuck in my head for weeks after visiting Disney World with my family. Perhaps it's a kind of subliminal mantra of sorts. There's so much truth in it. The song popped out in my dreams last night and I'm 40 now. I remember sitting in the theme park boat with my sister and father and all these mechanical people danced on the sidelines with perma smiles singing this song over and over through the whole boat ride.

On that theme park boat, we toured the whole world...from the North Pole to Fiji. I believe the song was even sung in different languages as we made our way through.

It's a Small World After All is so true these days. The internet can connect us to every corner of the globe. Sometimes I'm in awe of the people I communicate with through the blogosphere. I could never have even conceived of this while riding the theme boat in my youth. I never imagined I'd be sharing laughter, hopes, fears, and tears here on the net.

Some of my friends don't understand it. They say, "I want to keep my life private." I also felt like this. I wanted to keep all my laughter, hopes, fears and tears to myself. My writing was private and meant to be locked up in a closet. But what good is that? What is "my life" after all. Am I isolated on the ISLAND of MYSELF, where no one can touch me?

When I first opened up and started sharing my thoughts on this blog, I felt naked. I felt exposed. I wanted to delete myself from this place. But soon people started responding and sharing and commenting and I realized a very amazing thing. We all have different stories, but we all have the same emotions...everyone has laughter, hopes, fears and tears. By sharing these, people find comfort, people get inspired, people let go of their fears and people laugh together.

It's my own ego that I was afraid. The ego says, "This is MY life." Looking deeper, and after years of meditation, I realized that there is nothing that is actually "mine." That everything in life is in a flux and flow. That all the molecules in the universe, which make up YOU and ME, are actually nothing solid at all. They are flowing in and out of everything.

"There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all." Amazing! Yes, it's time we're aware that we can do so much on this big blue marble of ours...not alone...but COLLECTIVELY.

Now hear me out, this is the way the world is going. You are either on that theme boat or you're not.

If you are not on the boat of sharing this world, you will suffer greatly. I don't want you to suffer, but this is a fact that has to be accepted.

Now I'm not against keeping some things private. We don't need to get into the nitty gritty details of life (unless you feel you'd like to share that), but what's wrong with sharing with the world? If people get benefit from that, what on EARTH is the problem? What are you afraid of?

We don't live in a bubble in this world. Well, maybe you beg to differ on that one. Many in my part of the globe (not in my state in particular) live behind locked and double locked doors with the shades drawn at all hours of the day.

What happened to the old days when people used to bring baked goods over to the neighbors through the snow on a horse? What happened to the time when people would band together if there was a problem? No one was an island back then.

On my blog I have a planet. It spins and it seems so small. The yellow lights show all the people who have visited this here blog. Sometimes I am blown away by that. 78 countries have stopped by. People from Kenya, Jordan, Iran, Russia, Tunisia, Israel, China...

I found a dear friend from Spain through this blog of mine. I couldn't believe it. After so many years of no communication, that's how he found me. He left a comment in the comment section one day!

After the United States, Australia is the second largest reader population of my blog. I've made so many dear friends in Australia through this blog that I think I'm going to have to visit! Was I a Aussie in my past life? I feel an affinity for Australia and I've never been there. It feels like another home?!

The child who heard these words, "There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all," is finally understanding what that means. We are at a time in history when we have to realize that everything we do impacts everything else. It always has, but now it is even more critical. Whatever you do, do it with love. Share your gifts with everyone. Don't ever be afraid to do this. You may think you have nothing to give, but you have so much! Keep giving, keep sharing for the good of yourself and for the good of others!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 100: Do Something for 100 Days

100 days of blogging is upon us friends. I'm in the triple digits. That's a Ben Frank for a dollar a day of lessons. Let me tell you, I've wavered a bit here on this blog, but I'm going to keep going. I am sort of in a strange middle period in my life. It's not up and it's not down, it just is.

I'm staring at the cursor here blinking on my screen. I have no idea what will come out. I never have. This is my own discipline. It is my practice. I never thought I'd make it this far.

You ask, "Why are you doing this?" and my answer is "Why not?" Have you ever done anything for 100 days? 100 days of yoga? 100 days of poetry? 100 days of not using a car? 100 days of anything?

Of course you have done 100 days of waking up, of brushing your teeth and of going to the loo. It has just occurred to me that 100 blog posts is a lot. It's like a short book already.

What have I learned from blogging for 100 days?

*I've learned how to be disciplined and stick to something I planned to do.

*I've learned that sometimes I have so much to say and sometimes I have nothing to say at all and feel like writing watermelon, watermelon, watermelon, watermelon, watermelon..for an entire blog post.

*I've learned that I don't like the computer so much and that I may do 365 days of no electronics after this year is up.

*I've learned that what I have to say is important. If I can make one person's life better by what I write here, it is the greatest gift in the world.

*I've learned that writing everyday on a blog is not easy work and it takes time. It is a challenge to write everyday, but I am embracing that challenge.

*I've learned that the most rewarding things in life are not easy. We have to water our dreams every day if we want to see anything grow.

*I've learned that there are AMAZING people on the Worldwide Web who I have come to know like family and dear friends. For all of you who have been walking with me on this journey and encouraging me, I am so grateful.

*I've learned that we don't do anything in this world alone, we are all here together, so why not help each other.

*I've learned not to be concerned with what others think about what I do. We all have our own journey and we all choose our own paths in life.

*I've learned that we are all different, but we have so much to learn from each other.

*I've learned that real success is about making a positive impact on the world we share. What I do should be good for myself and good for others.

*I've learned that keeping a balance is key. I try to balance computer time with yoga, meditation, long walks in the wilderness, sharing time with my community of friends and family and work.

*I've learned that Photobucket has cool pictures to use for blogs.

*I've learned about embedded codes and how to change photo sizes through the Edit Html button.

*I've learned that stating your intentions out loud to as many people as possible is important. It keeps you committed to your dreams and it also connects you to so many people who will help you along the way.

*I've learned that people have popped into my life through the Worldwide Web who are helping me realize my dreams and intentions and I have also been the position to help others do the same.

*I've learned that I love to blog.

So that's it. I guess that's why I've kept going. This is my virtual diary. It is a record of this year that I will keep and read later when I am an old woman. I am learning so much in this process. At times, I am tempted to throw in the towel and give up, but my commitment to this is stronger than any attempt to lead me astray. I guess I really do have the discipline to follow through. That's another thing I have learned.

Have you ever kept a resolution or plan for 100 days? 90 days? 60 days? 30 days? What was it and what did you learn from it?