Who are the other people? My friends? My coworkers? My family? My extended family? Strangers?
Everyone sees me differently. I use vulnerability to connect with people. Some people view that as a ploy for me to further myself. Some people view that as a safe quality – it makes them feel comfortable around me. Those are the people I like. They are like me. I learn from those other people. I learn some people don’t want to be around me. Maybe I make them uncomfortable by holding up a mirror and they don’t like what they see. Or maybe they just don’t vibe with me.
My point is, it is none of your business how people see you. It is their business. Just keep on being your authentic self and things will be fine. It is stressful to pretend to be someone else so you get people to like you. Get over that. Find your people. Be yourself. Do nice things. Be good to you.
As we get deeper into these questions, they feel a little repetitive. Maybe that is the point. Keep telling yourself that you love you until you believe it.
I am comfortable being alone. In fact, I love it. I am an introvert. That doesn’t make me shy. Introvert means my energy is depleted in a crowd of people or when I am with energy vampires. Working from home during the pandemic has me living my best life. I like the quiet. I can get lots done and I don’t feel like someone is sucking the energy from me dementor style. I enjoy my own company and get my best thinking done alone.
I am a risk taker. People are not mind readers. You need to ask for what you want. This is risky and puts you in a vulnerable position. But it is helpful too. If I don’t want something I express that. If I do want something – I will say it out loud. Tell someone. They might be able to help. Tell the Universe. Nothing happens if you don’t do anything about it. Take a risk.
I am a dreamer. My grade one teacher Mrs. Long used to tell my parents I day dream too much. No I don’t. Stop blaming me because your class was boring. I used daydreaming to solve problems, think about what I want in the future or just put myself into a movie of my own making. It kept me out of trouble and I wasn’t bothering anyone. Lots of teachers were interesting and I would stay focused in their class. I can sit for long periods of time in stillness but my mind is super active planning out my future, coming up with new ideas or sometimes thinking about a scenario I wish I could have done different. I am learning from all of those scenarios. Dreaming is what makes the world better.
How about you? What three things do you love about yourself?
Of the people in your life, who makes you feel the most confident?
The hubs. I suppose your life partner should be the one you feel safest with. I know that isn’t always true. I was married before to a class A selfish abusive rat-bastard. That relationship was the opposite of instilling confidence. I went through a series of people in my life who were allowed – by me – to treat me like hot garbage. There was a deep something that was comforting about this. I knew what to expect. Knowing what to expect – even bad – was comforting. How sad is that? Feeling bad because you know what to expect. Abuse messes you up.
The hubs held space for me to explore all kinds of feelings and experiences. He was constant. Was? IS. I had a terrible “friend” once say my hubs was a good guy like it was a surprise. He is. We are a good team. He is the anchor while I go out and try new things and either fall or fly. He is there to cheer or give me Band-Aids. Our relationship has evolved into something I can’t explain but its really good. Twenty five years this June.
Write about a unique quality you have that makes you special.
What unique quality….. This is a tough one. I am sure if I asked you, you would each say something different. But I am going with problem solver. I am a unique problem solver.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it showed me that I can pivot and problem solve. My job requires me to be creative, always has. This year I had to reimagine how we do things and I am not going to lie – it was hard. The same old thing is easy and safe. New things require unknown. Many times this year I wish I had a crystal ball to see if my idea was a good one. I am lucky I work somewhere that is okay with trying new things and okay with not getting it right every time. Doing something new can be scary as hell. Nine times out of ten it will be worth it for no other reason than you learned something.
My yearly evaluation had a comment that stuck with me. Reframe how you look at things, not always what we can’t do, but what we can do. At the time it felt like deep criticism. It wasn’t but it felt that way. I let fear hold me back. I am scared of producing something then having someone get sick because they trusted me. It’s a heavy burden to stack on my shoulders. It isn’t just an event, it is something that can permanently impact someone’s life. That is a big deal.
I have always reframed how I look at things, but my evaluation showed me that I stopped and let fear decide what is okay. In meditation, a reoccurring theme comes up: Allowing. Allow things to unfold. This is a big change from controlling the outcome. Allowing implies I set things in motion and wait to see what happens. That is my plan. I think I solved the problem, I have been creative about it, now just wait to see the outcome. I think it will help me sleep better because I am not trying to control every last detail.
Back to the original statement: Write about a unique quality you have that makes you special.
I am a creative problem solver. Not everyone is, but I am. Does that make me unique? Maybe in some circles but it is a quality about myself that I like.
How do your parents encourage you to be more confident?
To find this answer, I need to think back a ways. I have excellent parents. They encouraged us to explore the world, try new things and be independent. I definitely do all of those things. Getting there was trickier.
There was a time when failure was a frightening prospect for me. Now I know there is not failure, there are learnings. I was working on a task assigned to me by my grandfather. I was doing it but not in the precise way he demanded it should be done. Think Mr. Miyagi and paint the fence with yelling. I was lectured (the kind way to say yell) for a significant amount of time until I was reduced to tears. My mom came by and found me and I shared the entire story. This is the part where she transformed like the hulk. Those mythical stories of moms becoming mama bears right before your eyes. She stood up to her dad and defended me, my knowledge and my process. Not everyone needs to accomplish something in the same way. Its the process that teaches you something not the outcome. I learned a few things that day. My mom always had my back, trying something new teaches you things and don’t let bullies tear you down. My grandfather never yelled at me again. He challenged me often, but I had the confidence to stand my ground and explain why I was proceeding in that way.
I remember going to my dad, very upset about a scenario that happened in my classroom as a young teacher. A parent (one out of thirty) was not pleased by the way I conducted my classroom. My dad had been a teacher for decades by that point and I knew he would have the wisdom to help through the problem. I was trying to be everything to everyone, an impossible task but I didn’t want to let anyone down. My dad said, “You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If they don’t like it, invite them to go to the school down the street. This is your classroom. Set the tone.” That was the kind of advice that works in every situation. Be okay with no. If someone doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean you should have said yes. Set boundaries and stick with it. It has taken me years to set firm boundaries in every corner of my life. But I am a happier person for it. Plus my life is way more peaceful than it used to be.
Set the tone, be the captain of your own ship and write your own chapters. I am not everyone’s type of people but they aren’t mine either. I think my parents did a good job. No one would ever accuse me of not having confidence. It doesn’t mean I am good at everything – ha, not even close, but I am willing to try because there is much to be gain from the experience.
How did your parents encourage you to be more confident? Stay healthy friends!
Like many people, accepting compliments is a tough job for me. So many people I know brush them away instead of embracing them. I was no exception. Then somewhere along the way I started saying ‘Thank you’. People who gave them felt good for giving it and I began to believe what these people were saying.
I hear ‘you are so creative’ a lot. Thank you, creativity is my bread and butter. One time, a man named Tiger told me my hair was beautiful and he asked if he could touch it. I am not going to lie, I swooned. But that wasn’t even the greatest compliment. I value brains. I like being smart. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor (acoustic neuroma) I was petrified that I would lose what I perceive as my greatest asset, my critical thinking ability.
Years ago I was in a meeting with some friends and I came up with an idea. I was told I was ‘bloody brilliant’. I held this close to me. I don’t hear it often but when I hear ‘you are clever or smart’ something happens to me. It elevates my soul. I even get a little cocky (not cool – it can happen to the best of us). Hearing a compliment like that did something to me. I wanted to pay it forward. Now I make a solid effort to compliment and elevate people around me. I tend to focus on women because they hear superficial compliments all the time like ‘you are beautiful or pretty or that dress looks good on you’ or worse ‘you look like you lost weight’ (look, all weight related compliments are actually fat shaming – and fuck you- no one wants to hear that if they are dealing with an eating disorder so just stop it. It isn’t a compliment). We all know those ‘pretty’ compliments don’t mean anything. Well, not to me. I try to elevate others by complimenting them on problem solving, or creative solutions or even for being funny. A genuine compliment does something special to people. I like the way it makes me feel – so why shouldn’t I share that feeling?
Tell me the best compliment you ever received and stay healthy friends!
When I hear that question I think about what people have told me. You are great at drawing. You sing like an angel. You you you.
Like everything else in my life, I have just accepted this. I am what you tell me I am. That changed over the last 10 years. I am a lot of things but mostly I get to decide what I am .
When I ask myself what my greatest talent is, I automatically reach for creativity but that is the origin of ideas. With talent being a natural aptitude. As a child it was drawing, music or arts related. Writing is one, with 200,000+ of you readers that definitely hits the mark. After watching Pixar’s Soul, I suppose you don’t need to have one thing. I am more of a renaissance woman. I try things, master or get very good at it, and move on to the next. But to pick one? That is a hard task for me.
I always wanted to be a master at something but nothing interested me enough to put in the hours to perfect it. Trying many things and being decent at those has now become enough for me. I don’t have a passion. I move around a lot and try different things. My talents are many and I can list them like a grocery list. But to pick one? I think it is my ability to hone in on details. Attention to detail is what elevates my skills. It makes whatever I try that much better and special. I notice things that others miss, I see 1000 shades of blue where some people see one. I think that is my greatest talent. My natural aptitude or skill. The details.
How about you? I imagine most of you will say, play the piano or mobilize an army of people for a cause or can memorize complex mathematical formulas or can talk to animals. Even if it is none of those, you still have talent. Find yours and tell me about it.
Reading is not a luxury for me, it is a necessity. As I age it takes longer for my eyes to focus in the morning so I can read the small font on my phone. Some mornings my eyes work after about five minutes, other mornings its hopeless. Today, it was as soon as I woke up. I knew it was going to be a good reading day.
I spent the summer reading a lot of stories that took place on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Escape and travel are my needs. Some years, I spend my summer reading memoirs or intense historical fiction. Considering the state of the world in 2020, obviously I needed some safe place to retreat to. Now that autumn has moved in, summer escapes are not really where I feel like hanging out. But I am not yet ready to forage away from escapes. Seeking comfort in books is like a soft quilt that wraps her arms around you. It protects me from the stress of work, sadness from the news or drama from relationships outside of my tight circle.
Often, I start three or four books until I find the one that holds my interest. I am not that girl that will stick with a book for the sake of finishing it. Life is too short. The day my medical team found an acoustic neuroma living in the left lobe of my brain, I learned very quickly what I like and don’t like. I say yes to awesome and no to awful. Honestly my life is a higher quality and incredibly peaceful since I made that decision. Yes to delicious wine and high quality chocolate, no to broccoli and relish. Yes to real sugar and carbs, no to cauliflower pizza crust and bunless burgers. I say YES to a captivating read or engrossing movie and I walk away if it is boring. I applied this to people and jobs including pharmacists and doctors. People and professionals need to make the cut or I walk and look for something or someone that is a better fit. As a result, my life is really good. I think this is called boundaries.
Lately I remember special characters from books I have read years ago. Like Ria in Tara Road. She is one of those characters that feels real enough to call and pop over for a cup of coffee. I reread the book and realized how much I had forgotten. I learned or paid attention to a different aspect of the story line because I am coming to it from a different perspective. I am older now with more life experience. The messages felt new. It was like reading a completely different book. I have read this book at least a dozen times, I read it three times before Oprah thought it should be a book club selection. I revisited Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. This time I looked at it from the confidant character rather than the protagonist. I first read this in 1998 when it was published. I was still in young hero mode and related to all of Judy Blume’s protagonists. Not this time. It was a lovely trip down memory lane and did two things for me, 1.) Made me curious about Martha’s Vineyard has a holiday destination and 2.) Made me think I should revisit her children and middle school genres.
The comfort I feel from books I read as a child is off the charts. My first novel reading experience without an adult assist was Charlotte’s Web. I read that to my kids when they were young. The animal conversations were chaotic and fun. I forgot about that. I liked how Charlotte made Wilbur feel safe and loved. As a mom, my relationship with Charlotte was stronger. She was some spider.
I have been looking for copies of books that are now out of print. I wish I still had them but our family culture was to trade in books so you could purchase new books or visit the library. Sadly, the library doesn’t keep all the books either. Finding Apples Every Day by Grace Richardson or Mom, the Wolf Man and Me by Norma Klein is an ongoing project for me. I scour every used bookshop I come across. So far with no luck. I still think about those characters and wonder if I would still see what I liked about it in the first place.
This morning I picked up a book I had been meaning to reread for a while. I have only read it once and that was during my dark time – depression had hit me hard. This was before I figured out about boundaries and how important that was for my peace of mind and true happiness. Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert made a big impression on me. It helped me figure out some things and started my introspection to figure out things. Eat the good food, meditate daily, and surround yourself with people you love and WHO LOVE YOU BACK…not those other douches.
EAT: When I first read it, I was still deep in eating disorder mode. Yo-yo dieting in an effort to seek approval. Fuck that. I now eat to nourish me. I still find myself emotionally eating but I recognize it for what it is. The damage has been done but I accept that. My beloved Great Grandmother was round a squishy like me. She gave the best hugs and her shoulder blades never once cut me.
LOVE: When I first read it, I don’t think I knew what love was. I could say it but I didn’t really understand it. I was still doing things to get people to love me. Since then, I learned no one will love you as much as you love yourself. Sounds corny but its true. If I am not going to be good to me and treat me well, I cannot expect anyone else to (sounds a lot like boundaries). Negative self-talk stopped. The dialogue that runs through your head like a mantra… I am not….. (fill in the blank). I learned about Sankalpas – an intention you repeat until you realize it. I am kind, I am loved, I am forgiveness, I am healthy, I am valued… Fill in your own blank but make it positive. Your mind is easily tricked into thinking negatively. Show yourself loving kindness – for real. It is a life changer.
Pray: When I first read it, I had meditated occasionally, usually when I was in a bad way – like going through a divorce – I rolled my eyes at it when I read the Pray part. Who meditates every day? Who has time for that? What good does that do? Well….six years after I began reading Eat Love Pray, I meditated for real. I needed a place to let go of anger and seek peace. Today I have meditated 1379 consecutive days. I started in 2016 with a challenge to myself to go 30 days in a row. Then I expanded it to 365 days. I thought it would be hard but I looked myself in the mirror and and said “Robyn – you are worth it. Do this for yourself.” So I did. It didn’t matter that I was late, everything could wait until I took 30 minutes of me time because I was worth it. Meditation has changed everything. I am calm. I can sit in chaos and watch it with a detachment and problem solve. I am not quick to anger. I see things from a multitude of perspectives. Mostly I love the way it makes me feel. I cannot explain it other than I feel connected to everyone and everything. As if a part of me is in everything and a part of everything is in me. If you meditate you know what I mean. You enter the collective WE and are no longer alone. It took me a year of daily meditation to feel connected. Now it is like breathing. It is a knowing.
Reading Eat Love Pray for a second time should be interesting and I hope comforting. Something that resonates with me in a “I totally get you” way.
Stay healthy friends and keep finding comfort in something meaningful for you. Most of all, be good to yourself.
I have been trying a lot of new things lately in an effort to find my tribe, my people, my kindred spirits. If you watch Anne with an E on Netfilx/CBC or have even read the book or series by LM Montgomery, then you know what I am looking for.
plural noun: kindred spirits
a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own.
“I longed to find a kindred spirit”
I have always been the odd duck surrounded by people who want to hang out with me. I am the stranger in a room full of friends. Since forever I have looked for people who think like me and who share the same values. Sharing the same interests is nice but not a requirement. I have always wanted to feel or experience a connection knowing they were the person or people who belonged like me. The tricky part is allowing this to happen and to force the situation.
I have tried out various groups and types of people and this has resulted in a very large group or base of people I like to spend time with on occasion. Allowing the situation to unfold is harder for me. I want to influence the direction in an effort to find my tribe.
Have you ever met someone that you feel an instant connection with? All you want to do is spend time with them or think about them a lot. Sometimes their life circumstances don’t match yours so you need to be apart or they are surrounding themselves with people who don’t fit with you. The hard part for me is not controlling the situation so they align better with me. Just allowing it to happen is hard for me. Maybe they will return to me or maybe they won’t. Either way, I value the time we had together and miss them when they are not in my life.
Recently I met a woman whom I connected with instantly. We share a common interest and enjoy spending time with each other. Our friendship is new but I have a good feeling about this. She is part of my Tuesday meditation circle and I look forward to attending regularly for a lot of different reasons, allowing life to unfold is a major part of why I want to attend. It has taken me 52 years to figure the art of allowing. Sitting in allowing is a new thing for me. Saying yes when an invitation arises is part of that and saying no when I feel uncomfortable is also important.
I have reached 1050 days of consecutive meditation using only three Sankalpa during that time frame. I was meditating irregularly since 1992. I started a daily practice on December 13, 2016. I sit in meditative silence for 30 minutes a day and an hour and a half when time allows for it – like weekends and vacations. I recite my Sankalpa three times to begin my meditation and offer gratitude. I end each meditation with my Sankalpa and an offering of gratitude. Three years ago, my intent was to be less angry or at least have somewhere to put the anger. I began every meditation with ‘I am forgiveness’. Over time the anger subsided and I began to feel calm or neutral towards those who I felt anger towards. When I could think about those people without emotion, I knew I was able to move onto the next Sankalpa. That is not to say I don’t experience anger because I do, but it comes and goes like a leaf on a stream. I watch it as if I am detached. I see the anger and ask myself, what do I need to learn from this. It has been transformative and I am grateful.
My next Sankalpa taught me about self-love and self-care. I cannot believe in me if I don’t care about me. I had a lifetime of believing what others said to me or about me. The greatest advice I ever received was “It is none of your business what other people think about you.” I sat with my Sankalpa ‘I am loved‘ since February 2019. The biggest change I see in me is boundaries. I don’t let bad things happen to me because I say no. I put me first and take care of me. This allows me to take care of others because my well is full. You can’t be kind if your well is empty.
In July a big change happened. I went back to my Sankalpa of forgiveness briefly and then resumed I am loved because I needed boundaries and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I think about 5-year-old me and she needs me to do this. So I sat daily. I found I needed a longer time in meditation. I gave myself that gift of time and went longer. I can’t explain what goes on for me during meditation because it is an experience that no one else has. Your experience will differ from mine, but we are all connecting because going inward is where all the answers are.
I began my ‘I amallowing’ Sankalpa about mid-September. I watch things float on a leaf down the stream. It is calm and peaceful in allowing. I am detached from anger and hate. I experience joy and happiness at a rate and volume I have never experienced before. I have no idea what is around the corner for me, but meditating daily for the last 1050 days has provided me with a gift I cannot explain in words. I seek out things and people that bring me joy. I allow situations I cannot control to wash over me. I ask myself ‘What do I need to learn from this’ when situations become uncomfortable. The inner me always has an answer. I trust my intuition and I know I got this. On my desk, I have a note I look at daily, “I am meant to live in peace”. You are too. It’s awesome living in peace. I want it for you too.