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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Relationships - How To Be A Friend To Yourself

Okay, so I’ve said that Relationships Begin With You, and to love or be a friend to others, you first need to love or be a friend to yourself. What exactly does that mean? I mean, if somebody told me I need to be a better friend to myself, I’d probably get annoyed. What are you talking about, be a better friend to myself? I treat myself just fine, thank you. Give me some real advice, why don’t you? Don’t just spout platitudes like you’ve got it all covered, and I don’t.

So I started thinking about it. What does that even look like, being a friend to myself? How does one go about doing such a thing? The first answer I came up with was: Easy to say, hard to do. And why is it so hard? Because it requires thought. And most of us barely have time to think anymore, especially at this time of year. We live in a world of instant this, instant that, where technology has sped our lives up so much that half the time we don’t know whether we’re coming or going. All we know is we’re racing here and there, trying to get everything done that we think needs doing in December.

But we’re not really thinking, are we? We’re just doing. We’re doing all the things we’ve been conditioned to do since the cradle. We’ve accepted that this is how it is, this is how it’s got to be, and the last thing we have time for is to think about being good to ourselves. That, we leave up to the others in our circle, be it friends, family, or co-workers.

Wrong approach. Because everyone else is just as busy as you are, and people are only going to treat you with the same amount of care and respect that you give yourself. So to be good to yourself, the very first thing you have to do is SLOW DOWN. This goes against the grain, I know. If you’re a list-maker, you’ve probably got a list that has at least 50 things on it you need to do between now and the end of the year. You don’t have time to stop and think. Maybe come January you will, maybe not. Maybe by then you’ll have a whole new list to work off—that list containing your New Year’s Resolutions that somehow you never get around to following completely through on.

And why is this? Because while our intentions are good, most of us don’t stop and think about how to make those intentions a reality.

Awareness is the key—to success in all things, including being good to yourself.

You can start by asking yourself one simple question: What is the best thing for me to be doing right now? Right now is the critical part of the question. What is the best thing for me to be doing for my health and well-being right now? Is it making a healthy breakfast? Reading a daily meditation? Driving a parent to a doctor’s appointment? Cleaning the bathroom?

That’s a valid answer, because there are some of us who don’t feel right or settled unless the environment around us is clean and orderly. Others don’t care, so the answer would be different for them. And that’s okay. But try this for a week. Several times a day, stop and ask yourself, what is the best way to spend my time right now? What is the most important thing I need to take care of right now?

Don’t just run through your days like a mouse in a maze. Take the time to become consciously aware of what you are doing, and why you are doing it, each and every minute—or for as many minutes as you can hold the thought, while racing from commitment to commitment, or obligation to obligation.

Maybe it’s work. You need to get paid. Then be aware that you’re going to work, in order to get paid, so that you can provide your family with food, shelter, clothing, or luxuries. Are you going to work for a bigger TV, a fancier cell phone, or a new stove? Are you going to work for an island vacation, a school tuition bill, or new braces? Why are you doing what you’re doing, and is it the right reason and the best use of your time?

If not, then notice the gap between where you are and where you want to be, and think about what you can do to close that gap.

What about our so-called free time? Say you’re at home. What is the best way you can be using your time right now? Is it changing the sheets, helping a child with homework, paying bills, or do you just need a little time out? Time out to read a book, play with the kids, call your mother, or maybe make a cup of tea and sit down long enough to catch your breath, then jump back onto the treadmill of your life.

If you never ask yourself this question, you’ll never answer it. And if you take the time to answer it, you will more than likely be surprised by the answer.

The interesting thing is once you start asking yourself this question of what is the best thing I could be doing with my time right now, your priorities will start to fall in line, and you’ll start coming closer to where you want to be, to being the person you want to be.

I compare it to choosing a house. Many of us move into houses that are already built, and then work with what we have. But what if you had the opportunity to create your own house, to design it to have everything you ever wanted in a home? Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have even envisioned the idea. I thought I had no opinions on such things. The question never arose, so I never considered it.

But then I had the opportunity to design my own house from scratch, and I found out I had very definite opinions on what I wanted. It was easier than I ever would have thought, to go into a store and pick out tile and countertops and flooring and lights and fixtures.

But nobody had ever asked me before, what I liked or didn’t like about my house, and so I never considered it. I just worked with or around what I had.

The same can be said of your life. What do you like or not like about it? What would you change if you could? What would you design differently if you could start from scratch? Then why don’t you? Start now. Start where you are. Start by taking a moment here and there to think about what you are doing right now, in this moment, and why. Then choose what you want to be doing next, and move in that direction. Eventually, you’ll find out you have very distinct opinions on what you like and don’t like, and how you do and don’t like to spend your time, who you do and don’t like to be around, what you do and don’t like to eat, what gives you energy and life, and what drains you of both.

But to do that, you have to start taking the time out to ask yourself one simple question: What is the most important thing I could be doing for myself right now?

Is it taking a few deep breaths, is it eating an orange, is it dropping a casserole off for a sick friend, or running an errand for a family member? It doesn’t have to be all about you. But it does have to be about what makes you feel good inside, because when you feel good inside, then you’re being a good friend to yourself.

Right now I need to get this blog post done. Why? Because it’s Wednesday morning and people will be stopping by the blog, expecting something new to be there. But at the same time, my cat has jumped onto my lap, looking for some love. Do I get annoyed and throw her off, because I have something else to do, or do I stop what I am doing to pet her and coo at her and give her what she came looking for?

I stop. I slow down long enough to feel the softness of her fur, appreciate the way she pushes her head into my hands, and listen to the contented rumble of her purr. I smile and use both hands, cuddling and stroking her until she relaxes and settles in my lap, happy just to be with me. She knew what she wanted, what she needed, and she came looking for it. It took maybe all of two minutes. She’s happy, and I’m happy, and we can both get on with our day. She, snoozing on my lap, and me, continuing to type.

What would have been served by throwing her off, by telling her I was too busy to deal with her right now? I learn a lot from my cats. When they’re hungry they eat, when they’re sleepy, they sleep. They don’t worry about what’s coming up next. They live in the moment, and are fully present to whatever is around them, be it a sunbeam on the carpet, the sound of the can opener, or somebody at the door.

We need to slow down like that. We need to be fully present in the moment. When we’re folding laundry or doing dishes, that’s what we need to be doing. Nothing more, and nothing less. We need to take the time to let our thoughts roam free, not use that time to make more lists in our head or angst about things already over and done with, or what we’re going to be doing twenty minutes from now. In twenty minutes, we’ll deal with whatever is happening then.

When we’re driving, we need to be driving, and not doing anything else. When we’re at the store, we need to be shopping, and nothing else. When we’re talking to another person, we need to be doing that, and nothing else. When we’re praying, we need to be praying. The same goes for having a meal, so that we can stop and think about what we are putting into our bodies. Is it something that is good for us, or not? Or are we just wolfing down fast food while we chauffeur the kids to wherever it is they have to go and talking on the phone in between bites?

Tell me. How is that being good to yourself?

2 comments:

  1. Liana, this is so important. Slowing down is essential, and it reminds of a Weight Watcher "building block" that I score low on - Taking care of myself. I'm busy taking care of other people and I didn't take care of myself. I have to make the time to do that and it's not easy. I'm getting better at it. It helps that Andrew is 8 and has a bit maturity to help with Joe who is 4. In that sense, Andrew is old enough to help me "slow down."

    Awesome post. Inspirational and inspiring.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  2. I've been stuck your insight is helping me to move forward, THANK YOU!

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