Creed

In the first month of 2018 I cried… Cried for what I have lost, because of who I have become and am becoming. I have cried for losses, missed opportunities, and what I saw as the end of an era. Cried for the lessons I learnt, the tests I have failed and the new realities. I have cried for hope. For new beginnings, for successes, for finding strength in moments when I had nothing left to give. I have cried for the moments I had to pour out of myself – an empty, damaged, vessel – never again to be whole.

But those were the tears that washed away the lies I told myself. Those were the tears that cleansed my eyes and allowed me to see that a world of possibility exists, one that so many are still yet to see.

In 2017 I truly understood what it meant to be vulnerable, to depend on others, to witness life… and death. In 2017 I faced, and understood, my mortality; yet I live. I faced some of my demons, jumped, fell and was pushed from high places. Clawed and struggled up through the depths of circumstance to truly understand that being bent is not the same as being broken, that my experiences have shaped me to find love, support, to better empathise and to better understand that life is not lived in isolation but in a community. I have learnt to forgive, to use wisdom and to go after what I want… and I have learnt to wait.

On the last day of 2017 I emptied myself. As I emptied my Grateful Jar (where I would drop notes of gratitude regarding things/events for which I’m thankful) I realised that I face 2018 boldly because of the foundation bolstered with positive attitudes and relationships.

Reflecting on 2017 I saw the power of having a vision and following through; the opportunities that I seized when others believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Through my tears, I saw the relationships I let die because I realised I could love myself enough to do without them and relationships I held onto because I loved myself enough to admit that I was wrong and would be worse without.

For 2018, I commit myself to giving back, to helping others, to heal; being less concerned with how I will be remembered when I am dead, but rather to continue to add value while I live.

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Happiness101

I find myself wondering more and more about “happiness” – stemming from interactions with friends, family, strangers and even myself. Going through this period of involuntary examination, I discovered and reinforced certain truths:

  1. Real happiness is not something you can commercialise.
  2. Not everyone will experience happiness in a lifetime.
  3. Everyone has his/her own path.

I know that so many of us confuse comfort and pleasure with happiness. We are comfortable with trinkets we can afford, the respect we think we can command, and the circles to which we can, ourselves, align; but, increasingly, I am faced with the reality that happiness, in the short term, is intrinsic.

One afternoon it hit me that if I wanted to be happy then I had to MAN up:

M – Manage Expectations:

Every disappointment stems from an unmet expectation. I have come to realise that many of us do very poorly in this area and our expectations are unfounded and often unreasonable. I’m not saying that high expectations are bad, I’m simply saying that that they should be based on something realistic. For example, there are relationships we have and we expect the other person(s) to meet our every (whim), to always be available to us and to have a solution for all our problems. But, we may not expect that they may fall short of those expectations. If you find yourself often displeased, check your expectation levels.

A – (be) Aware of self and others:

You need to know who you are and what you stand for. I tell people that I’m better at writing than sciences and that I’m like pastry. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are as well as my interests and I know that no one person is good at everything. I know who the morning people are, who like to ramble and who may be interested by what. Awareness must extend from self to awareness of others – sounds similar to emotional intelligence, I know.

N –  Navigate the obstacles towards your purpose:

As you embark on that journey, navigate the people, situations. Navigate those who nourish you versus those that will suck the fire from your moments. Navigate (toxic) relationships, and (toxic) people. Some persons you meet are just examples of what to avoid, for example, those who blame the world for their difficulty, those who tear down without trying to build (if you criticise at least have a suggestion of a route to improve), and those who seem trapped in the past while they forgo the future.

You can be happy if you just MAN up.

Confession

Everyone who knows me knows I like quotes. Recently, I found a quote that says “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves” (Eric Hoffer).I liked the quote and I tried to apply it to my life; I applied it to a level where I was comfortable because I believed I was being honest with myself.

However, during workshops with Conroy Wilson and Michael WA Holgate (from the Ashe Company) in June 2017, they stirred up my dirt. I sat through the sessions as they peeled away my false comfort, and caused me to dissect the stories I created around my experiences.

I realised that, until that workshop, I have never been truly honest with myself. I have created stories as a crutch for brokenness, to justify all my actions and behaviours that sabotage me. I realised that I have been lying all this time as a copout because I wanted to have an excuse for areas I did not want to address.

  • Fact: My father last visited me when I was about 5 years old.
  • Fact: October 2016 I reached out to him via telephone after I got his number that day
  • Fact: We had a light discussion for about 3 minutes where I invited him to call should he ever wish to speak
  • Fact: I have not received a call from him.

My lack of relationship with my father has played a significant part in my growth and development. Throughout the workshop I came to realise that from this experience I had spun a web of deceit, I had crafted stories to which concretised negatives that I:

  • Was unworthy of love, of meaningful connections and of happiness
  • Would never be enough, I had to work extra-hard to compete for affection
  • Was less of a person, that I was damaged

As I assimilated these, they manifested in all areas of my life. I became timid and aspired for mediocrity. I sabotaged many opportunities that I wanted because I believed that I was not good enough. Who was I to try to go to France or Chile to work/study? How dare I fully commit to master languages when I would not get an international post that requires me to travel? Even in job interviews, I paint pictures that do not really reflect the person/worker I am.

For example, my current boss told me that during the interview she had her doubts about me fitting in the role because I seemed so inflexible and, working in Project Management, required flexibility. However, she prayed about it and I was the one she chose. Now, working with me, she realised that she is happy with my performance because I am not inflexible as I presented and that I really am a fit.

Throughout various points, although I really want something, the seeds of inadequacy and unworthiness led me to act contrary to my interests. I have believed my lies and have accepted that my dreams were impossible for me because I did not believe I was capable, deserving/worthy.

That little seed of self-doubt, I watered it with my stories. It became rooted in my psyche and infiltrated my core beliefs. I created barriers to my potential which I curled up beside and licked my wounds.

No longer. I now stand ready to break through my self-imposed glass ceiling. I know it will take time but, according to Confucius “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the 1st step”.

Michael and Conroy started me on the path to becoming empowered and their book “Your Empowerment GPA” is inspired. I urge you to read it as it guides us towards being the best versions of ourselves.

Lessons in Passing

There are decisions I have made that, though critical to development, they have also led to losing a part of me.

I am genuinely concerned about persons with whom I interact. But some time ago, I became aware of a pattern I found distressing – I realised that I was the one making 93% of the effort to keep in contact. So, over a year ago I had to change my cell phone and I decided that I would start my contact listing anew, saving the numbers of, and reaching out only to persons who reached out to me.

Being on that path really offered me a chance to purge myself of one-sided relationships. It really gave me a different perspective on life and friendships and it allowed me to learn to let some people go. In short, it was a period of liberation. It was also a period where I was able to solidify existing friendships and to form relationships with persons I did not give as much attention before.

There were friends I explained my new stance to; one, in particular, expressed that he did not agree. I remember when he said “don’t allow others to change your nature…” and he advised that I should still reach out. After that conversation, I sent out feelers and found that there were persons with challenging circumstances which prevented them from reaching out and not necessarily because they discounted my friendship. So, I started to reach out once more…

This weekend, I discovered that a friend I delayed reaching out to died November 2016. She went into the hospital and died the day after. This revelation concretised my friend’s warning. I had allowed myself to be overwhelmed by influences contrary to my nature. Though I cannot reverse life and death, I will move forward and try to add value to life of others by continuing to reach out, because irrespective of how one-sided it is at times, that is my nature.

Year in review

At the end of 2015 I decided to throw my hat in the ring at work for a position I had no experience. That was where January 2016 found me. Wide-eyed and trying to learn the ropes for this new job, I faced many challenges and celebrated just as many victories. But hey, that was just a part of it.

I have shed MANY tears (in private of course), tested my relationships and have lost friends. But, I have identified the few friends who have made the transition to being my ‘family’. In 2016 I had the opportunity to really connect with these persons who I am sure I could depend on to fly to the moon if I needed it and for whom I would push the earth out of orbit.

I have had my reputation flushed. I have been killed. Yet, I have risen from the ashes, resolute and strong. I have repented and I have forgiven my murderers. But more importantly, I have learnt to forgive myself.

I found my voice in 2016. Though I am not yet able to bellow from the hills, I am finding the balance where I am able to honestly tell someone that I really don’t care about the irrelevant trite they may be spewing at that moment instead of condemning myself to live in a prison of my own politeness. (It may sound rude to you but if I had done this earlier I would have gotten so much more out of life).

I have done what I love… I ate out, spent more time with my family and friends, said “NO” more (this was critical), and have given more of my time and skills towards developing myself and helping others.

2016 has been a great teacher. I have loved and lost, re-loved and re-lost and have learnt that I am still worthy of giving and of receiving love. I forgot, and have been forgotten; I remembered, and have been remembered. Now I look toward 2017, with open arms and heart and I say “bring it on”.

Present

I have lived more than others. Not necessarily longer, but I believe that I have been more open to life than they may have been. I have braved a number of my fears, been on adventures, zip-lined and can even watch snakes on television for up to 3 consecutive minutes (Yet to be able to watch snake-related movies). I have only a few regrets and most of them are not areas I could have directly controlled or influenced. I have impacted lives and I, in turn, have been impacted.

Looking back, I remember the effort I have put in to remember and celebrate birthdays because I understand the significance. That is the day to celebrate those who have made an impact, who have supported and simply, who exist, ‘just because’. So, I developed numerous strategies to remember the milestones and to share the joy.

2014 and 2015 were really tough years for me. During those years I found so many truths, many of them were hard to accept. But being ‘hard to accept’ does not make something any less true. I don’t recall how or why I realised it, but I discovered that not many persons remembered my birthday or celebrated with me. This  was when I started to focus on certain areas of my development. It simply revealed how fickle some of the relationships were, or so I thought.

Since then, I have learnt to celebrate myself. I have learnt to appreciate independence and healthy solitude. I have been inspired. This year, I concluded that I would celebrate my birthday through thankfulness. I decided that I would gift 10 of the individuals who would have contributed the most to my development for the year (negatively or positively) “for it is in giving that we receive”.

2016 was hard – triumphs, failures, mistakes and discoveries. But I survived (present) and am being thankful (present).

Victimology

It is amazing just how resilient we can be.

Over the past few weeks I had a rough patch with dealing with a friend. I believed that not enough effort was invested in understanding/supporting me. In essence, I threw a mini tantrum. It was only recently that I realised that my approach was completely wrong. I neglected to remember that I also had a role to play in the friendship.

So… I decided to make conscious efforts to reach out and to repair the fragile fabric of friendship by stepping out of my comfort zone and putting aside my expectations of what I believed that I “deserved”. It was an excellent decision. When I realised that there were so many point I had missed out on while throwing my tantrum where my support was needed I felt horrible and, as I’m famous for, I started to reflect. I mulled over Covey “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

My reflections turned my eyes outward, and I began to apply the principle of playing my role in the various areas of my life – a dutiful son, a brother, an employee etc. Over the weeks I realised how much I had to be grateful for and all that I had missed. I took a new approach to life in total, I play my part despite others seeming to not play theirs. When the rapport becomes toxic, I simply have to take the appropriate steps.

Healthy living does not exclude the mind or your network. Don’t wait to be served/catered to… Just do it. You will be surprised what a difference you will experience.