Gentle reminders and the spirit of aloha

Every winter our family takes a trip together in December to commemorate my in-laws’ wedding anniversary which happens to fall on Christmas Day. This year, they celebrated 50 years of marriage and we all went to Hawaii where the spirit of aloha is everywhere. One of our activities while in Kauai was a private plane tour over the island. It was one of those tiny puddle jumpers that sat six (my sister-in-law and her daughters rode in another plane) and everyone got a window seat. As we soared high above the Na’Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon, I found myself captivated as our pilot, Desi, told us stories of the Ancient Hawaiians who called many of the places below us home. I thought of the way they lived and how things as simple as fresh coconut, a rainbow after a tropical drizzle, the sound of the ocean in a conch shell, and the feel of warm sand beneath their feet were little joys to them that meant so much. I thought of how grateful and cognizant they were of these gifts.

26000907_1970385639948920_3681049406501006604_nGranted, we can’t change technology or modern science and inventions that have shaped the planet in the time since (many of them are needed and do make the world a better place), but we can still learn from the Ancient Hawaiians and their spirit of aloha. The plane ride was a gentle reminder for me that just like the deep azure waves below me, I, too, needed to “flow”. I made a conscious decision to be more mindful of my surroundings and sacred moments (yes, even after yoga class is done) and really try to not let distractions penetrate moments in which I should be more present. What does that mean? For me, it’s things like not worrying about photographing my food or even parts of a vacation for Instagram or Facebook or allowing a phone call to interrupt dinner with my family. It’s focusing on what my husband or children are saying – yes, every single world – without allowing thoughts of what item I wasn’t able to check off on my daily To Do List to nag me. It’s enjoying the scent of the neighborhood flowers on an evening walk and not obsessing over an email I sent to a client. These are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

This isn’t some sort of sanctimonious post about willing myself into always being happy. Part of being present and remembering “flow” for me will be allowing myself to feel things like grief and anger too. I don’t want to avoid or ignore these emotions because that would only amplify frustration. It’s important not to dwell on negative feelings, but I certainly don’t want to judge myself for having them either – we are all comprised of dark and light halves (yin and yang) and need to visit each of them in order to be whole.

Words like self-care and self-love seem to inhabit the lexicon of the zeitgeist right now, but the idea and behavior they encompass have been held dear since time immemorial by many cultures like the ancient Hawaiians. I realize it’s not practical to fly off to the islands every single time any of us need to unplug or decompress, but we can make an effort to tune in and focus on the NOW which may be something as elementary as not allowing ourselves to be bedeviled by worry or stress.

We need to pledge fealty to ourselves. To our wellbeing. To our own spirit of aloha.

Make time for yourself. Yes, really.

Self care _Lipstick-Republic

 

Self-care seems to be the phrase du jour right now and rightly so. It’s about time humans started realizing the importance of loving themselves. I know that for me, personally, it’s difficult to fill other people’s cups when my own pitcher is running on empty. Women are taught from a very young age to nurture and care for others – from our toy dolls we bathe and clothe in tiny outfits, to our Easy-Bake ovens with a nod to society’s gender roles surrounding a woman’s place being in the kitchen.

One of the classes I lead centers around the need for Self Love and Self Care. Not surprisingly, many women feel guilty or embarrassed to think they deserve either of these things. They have learned to put themselves last on the ladder and everyone else in their lives above them – husbands, boyfriends, parents, children, even their pets. Often, this turns into resentment, anger, or even sadness. It’s truly a beautiful thing — that moment during the workshop when I see the light in a woman’s eyes change and I know that she finally gets it and understands that she is worthy of love and care. Just as with career professionals needing to take continuing credit classes for their respective fields, it’s imperative that women take time to recalibrate and decompress from Life’s daily grind.

Here are a few simple examples of rituals that aren’t complicated but will touch a part of you that you’ve forgotten to nurture. They will make you reflect on simple joys and they will offer you a glimpse of the beauty that your soul needs to experience regularly in order to thrive. They range from ten minutes to several hours. None of them are exhausting physically or emotionally. ALL OF THEM will show you the importance of creating time for yourself.

  • Sit outside and look at the stars or the clouds and just appreciate the vastness of the Universe and time.
  • Take a different route to work, to the grocery, or somewhere you go regularly. The change of scene is a nice break from your routine.
  • Laydown on the grass, the sand, or the yoga mat and try to connect with the Earth. Close your eyes and imagine roots spreading down through your body below. Let go of all the other stuff above the surface.
  • Get some cuddle time in with your furbaby. Pets are soothing and the touch therapy will be good for you. Focus on the unconditional love your animal has for you. Try to remember to give that same love to yourself.
  • Do you have a garden? If so, go outside and appreciate it, weed it, prune it, cultivate it – whatever. Marvel at its growth and beauty. Sample a succulent fig or find a pretty flower to put in a vase. These are things YOU’VE grown. Be proud of that accomplishment.
  • Take a bubble bath or a linger in a hot shower. Enjoy the water and the time alone. Light some candles, maybe even pour yourself a glass of bubbly. Picture yourself soaking or washing away the everyday stress or issues that are currently bothering you.
  • Draw, color, paint, craft, take some photographs. Use your hands and appreciate that you’re physically able to create. No one expects Picasso or Ansel Adams.  Revel in your own unique abilities.
  • Take a walk outside. Yes, even if it’s just around your block or the neighborhood park. Feel the air outside hit your cheeks or the sun warm your shoulders. Look at the other people you see strolling by. Appreciate the colors and the smells of your neighborhood. Smile at strangers and watch them smile back.
  • Stretch. Even if it’s just before getting out of bed and not necessarily a full yoga or pilates session. Take note of your body’s strength.
  • Breathe in and hold it for a few counts and then exhale. Repeat. Concentrate on your breath and being in the moment. Inhale all the positive in your life and exhale all the negative. Breathing has been scientifically proven to change your brainwaves from betas to alphas.

 

Hello. I love you. Won’t you tell me your name?

We all have an idea of who we are as people. Younger people often confuse their real identity with who they want to become. Although to be fair, I’ve seen older people do this too so it’s not like Millennials have a monopoly on this behavior. Are you as big a believer in spirituality as your girlfriends at yoga class and in solstice festival you attended believe? Are you as open-minded in real life as you espouse to be online or at cocktail parties? These are just a few examples for the sake of this post and there’s no right or wrong answer – only you know the truth.

Identity Lipstick-Republic blog

I had theories of who I thought I was for most of my life from about age 18 till about 33 when I realized I wasn’t any of those things. It wasn’t so much that I felt like an imposter – I mean, I genuinely DO like opera, but I’m not itching to see La Boheme whenever I hear it’s playing. Rather, I felt like I was interested in a lot of things because that’s what I felt was expected of me or needed for me to be liked or loved by those I respected and admired. Also, because I went from being a teenager to being a mother and wife so young, I believe that played a large part in not really having the time to really understand who I was as a young woman: my passions, my dreams, what made me truly happy or truly sad…those sorts of things. For a long time, this not knowing myself caused me a lot of pain through no one’s fault but my own. By the time I realized that a person wasn’t whom I thought them to be, I was exhausted and ready to move on without them in my life, becoming resentful and instead of owning my own baggage, I’d walk away from the friendship or relationship. I was honest with the “it’s not you, it’s me” thing, but in hindsight, I should have explained to those people the gravity of that statement for me and that it really wasn’t just a vapid way of blowing them off, but a very real one.

I had a friend named Talia who was really into loud music, loud men, and loud opinions. In retrospect, I think I gravitated toward her because she was strong in a lot of ways I wasn’t – she asserted herself and didn’t put up with anyone’s crap. I was soft spoken, avoided conflict, and tended to be more submissive in my romantic relationships. For a time, I loved hanging out with her and the power I thought she embodied, hoping it would rub off on me. Eventually, I began to see that while she was assertive, she was never soft and often cruel to people. I saw her need to be loud wasn’t necessarily some sort of illustration of feminist strength, but more a need to always be the center of attention that stemmed from her own insecurities. I walked away. There were other similarly dysfunctional relationships that came into my life and with each of them, I made the decision to walk away.

When I was thirty-three, after another bad judgment call in the friendship department (this time I had seen red flags early on in this particular friend, Janice. She was clearly a user and only wanted to hang out when I’d buy her things or take her places. Still, I allowed it because I always had a companion to travel with or to go shopping or eat out with because well, of course, I could count on Janice. If I was paying, Janice always RSVP’d), I had an awakening. I went to Santa Barbara for the weekend alone to do some much-needed thinking. I sat by the sea. I wrote in my journal. I made lists. I ate by myself. I shopped by myself. And –  I realized that I enjoyed being with myself. I didn’t need another person to validate who I was for me to like myself. I went home with a renewed purpose and excitedly told my therapist. I was elated. It was like a I’d been in a fog and could finally see for the first time.

Since then, I’ve learned much about myself and who I am as a human being. I no longer desire relationships that lack substance. I would much rather have a few good friends than a lot of fair weather people in my circle. Here are some other things I’ve come to understand about myself:

DISLIKES. I don’t cotton to people who are quick to criticize but not interested in doing any real critical thinking. I respond better to dialogue when asked or spoken to directly and do not like being triangulated. I don’t like when I feel rushed  (eating in a hurry to catch a movie? No thanks, I’d rather enjoy my meal and linger over conversation). I panic when I don’t know where I’m driving  and it can make me grumpy. Women who do the breathy voice, helpless act with men annoy me. I can’t be around them long before I want to vomit. I have little patience for people who talk down to others. I don’t respond well to those who proselytize or browbeat others into submission or conversion to anything.

LIKES. I like going the speed limit or 5-10 miles over it and prefer driving during the daytime as opposed to night driving. I like having alone time to read or journal to recalibrate. Afternoon naps are sacrosanct to me. I like fresh flowers and original art (that doesn’t have to equal expensive, BTW). I prefer antiques and classic style to ultra-modern decor. I think women should have a place at the table and no, I don’t mean just setting a pretty one. I like museums and galleries and can wander through them for hours.

What about you? How are you NOW different than you WERE ten years ago? Twenty years ago? Are you the person inside that you show the world outside? Do you do things because you want to or do you feel beholden or obligated to them because of other people’s expectations? Are your relationships with others authentic? Do you get out of them what you put into them and if not, why are you still friends with that person(s)?

It can be terrifying and difficult to have these conversations with yourself. Believe me, I speak from a place of personal experience in wrestling with these demons and identifying my own hang-ups. Here’s the thing though –  we’re all in this together as women. You’re not alone. Be true to yourself.

 

 

Surviving The Holidays: Single Mom Style

The holidays can be a stressful time for any parent and for Single Moms it can be extra difficult. As a former member of the club of fourteen years, I totally get that there’s a tendency to overcompensate because of the pressure so many of us women put on ourselves as nurturers to make sure everyone around us is okay.

I remember being super hard on myself about the gifts I thought I needed to buy my kids when they were younger – the latest PlayStation, newest G-Shock, cutest Uggs, hippest Abercrombie outfit, etc. Don’t misunderstand me. My kids never asked for those things, they knew that I was working a lot of hours and trying my best. It was more my own baggage. I grew up with a mother who showed me she cared by buying me things after she and my dad divorced and since I didn’t really have any blueprint as to how to mother (I was eighteen when I had my eldest), I thought that was how parents showed their affection. Sure, I said “I love you” all the time (something I didn’t hear a lot from my own mom growing up), but I also thought that in step with the verbal affirmation had to be a Barbie Doll or a new Teenage Mutant Ninja toy.

Christmas and Hanukkah gift lists can be a mile long and the pressure can be daunting for all parents but in a one-parent household, that pressure can sometimes be overwhelming. Starting right after Thanksgiving, there’s a seemingly neverending round of holiday party invites. Add that to the gift-giving headaches to all the decorating around the house in an attempt to make the season as picture perfect as possible for our children and you’ll be reaching for a spiked eggnog or Hot Toddy in no time.

Single moms need to make time for themselves and remember to practice self-care. After all, you can’t keep giving if your own tank is depleted.

Here are some holiday gifts to remember to give yourself that don’t cost a thing:

  • Take a bubble bath. Don’t underestimate the power of a relaxing, hot soak and a closed door away from the world. If your children/babies are still small, maybe leave the door open and place them in a playpen so you can keep an eye on them. If they’re old enough to play on their own though, don’t feel guilty about shutting the door. They’ll be fine.
  • Let yourself say no to supervising the school holiday dance or participating in a seasonal cookie swap. Betty Crocker is a fictional character. You don’t have to volunteer or agree to help with everything. Sure, teamwork is important but so is your sanity.
  • If your children do have lists or special items they want, set a budget. This benefits both of you. For them, it teaches them the importance of saving money and for Single Moms, it helps lighten the load and not your wallet.
  • Create experiences in lieu of shopping trips together. Malls and boutiques can be sensory overload for kids and nightmares for Single Moms. Instead, try baking cookies together or doing a craft project together (a couple of favorites my kids had included making paper mache piggy banks from old gallon milk jugs and wax paper crayon t-shirts). Take a walk outside and go sledding or jump in leaves together. Go on a scavenger hunt. Pick out a book and take turns reading to one another.

I know it’s not easy, but you can make it through the holidays and with a little pivoting, it can be just as enjoyable for you as it is for your kiddos.