Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates, Or Is It? What Is Most Important To Focus On

Stuck, or on a journey, between self-development, reaching spiritual awakening, realizing self-awareness, and being physically productive.

Being productive, to most people, means being disciplined, organized, getting tasks done, having a well run, clean home, etc. For me, that meant giving power to material wants or tangible and intangible accomplishments, such as paying off debt, getting the kids to sleep well, organizing the week by tasks in time blocks, battle procrastination and writing this blog consistently, which till now I haven’t mastered.

But before starting on this journey, the journey of being an effective and proactive human/mom/wife/nurse/coach/awesome-listener-to-problems-of-others, I was on a lovely and peaceful path to pure, super focused self-development, in the spiritual sense. I was immersed in books, videos, classes, and audios about meditation, Buddhism, the minimalist philosophy, being free from emotional suffering, and mastering the conscious mind. I successfully rid my life of anxiety, became more empathetic, curious, compassionate and more loving to my kids (a.k.a. not letting myself become angry as much) and overall becoming less emotionally-reactive. HA! I bet you not many ladies can push through those PMS emotions without as much as a “scratch” on the kids or the poor husband!

Man, was I thrown for a loop when taking on a totally different career path. A new career where I was fundamentally good at but still totally a beginner with a lot to learn. Suddenly finding myself vulnerable and reactive all over again.

This is how I can best explain it, let’s go on a trip together: imagine, you’re on a long train ride, from NY to California (if those still exist). When you board the train, you get comfortable in your cabin for the first two days. On the third day, you may get bored and decide to explore. You spend time and effort to go through each cabin, talking to different people, seeing the train and the view outside from different perspectives. Though you enter a different cabin daily, you’re still somewhat comfortable, and also quite excited about your daily discoveries. One day, mid-journey, the train gets derailed and you are somehow forced to travel to your destination via a different mode of transportation, say, a helicopter. Only thing is, you have to be the co-pilot, because you were the only other person brave enough to get in it, eager to reach your destination quickly, besides the pilot, when the others were too afraid to go in the air and chose to either go back home or walk or hitch a ride the rest of the way to California.

Now you are no longer comfortable. You can no longer remember to enjoy the damn journey, because so much depends solely on you! Oh, and the pilot, that’s actually a projection of you, the one who thought they can do anything they set their mind to. So there you go. You’re a novice pilot, flying alone. Sure you have a map and the radio for navigation help, but that’s not enough to make you feel comfortable and secure.

If that didn’t confuse you by now, you must be familiar with this feeling.

The feeling of living your life, having most things figured out, and then being thrown for a loop, or rather jumping into a “loop”, and the peaceful, self-assured person you thought yourself to be is nowhere to be seen. Now, it feels as though you have to start from scratch.¬†

So which journey is more “correct”? The one to enlightenment, being present, discovering self-awareness, non-duality, and so on, or the one of establishing yourself a worthy being of this life, making the most of it by being super effective and helpful to others on this earth, truly making a difference?

To be honest, I don’t have a “good” answer for you. Both of those journeys seem to be equally important, in totally different ways. Or am I wrong? Could they be one and same? Where would be the point that they meet? Or maybe a better question would be, what am I chasing exactly?

What are we all chasing that makes us feel inadequate at the moment, that we feel will complete us once it’s in our possession? What would we have to believe in order to feel fulfilled? Is it status, income, a spouse, kids or is it spiritual and self-development? Could it be both? How can one person be able to take care of all those areas simultaneously?

This is what I’ve come up with, and I had help from my mentors: whatever the reason was that started my second journey, the new career path, was it a true need or was it a pure reaction to a current unpleasant situation (I was annoyed at my job, fuming to be exact, of being controlled by someone else to such a degree that I had constant anxiety). So if the case is that I was just reacting, and I don’t have to base my life on emotional reactions, because they’re temporary, does that mean I don’t actually NEED this new career path?

Don’t need it?! What do you mean you don’t need it?! You just spent over a year working your butt off on this! …is what I was telling myself during this realization.

Then, a moment of clarity. After an agony/confusion-filled afternoon with this realization, it came to me. I don’t need it, but am I good at it? Does it fulfill a need I have? A need of feeling significant and making a difference? Actually, this was with the help of my mentor as well, or my brain would explore before I came up with it myself.

Back to my point, I don’t need this new career, I don’t need more money, BUT, I could definitely benefit from a more flexible job, or business, where I am following my own vision, using by unique skills and talents, and making a difference in the world, by being a catalyst for long-term changes in people’s lives.

Freedom! This is what freedom must feel like! No more guilt of “succeeding” in a new career, in totally new territory, in a “timely” and “perfect” manner. Sure,¬†sometimes the guilt lingers and I have to acknowledge that ancient survival state of mind and wave it goodbye, I don’t have to believe it.

So can we develop spiritually and physically at the same time? Yes!! And I realize, finally, that no-one is rushing me, no-one was pushing me to be an expert right from day one, except myself. Matter of fact, I can take all the time I want, at least reasonably, to study and experiment with my new field of work. Because if I die tomorrow, all I have to know to be content is that I had a loving relationship with my kids, my husband, and that I was moving forward in life, no matter how “slow” I thought it was.

As I spill out these thoughts to you all, if you are still reading this, I’d like to share a paraphrased excerpt from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: imagine (seriously, take a deep breath close your eyes, and really picture this. It could be the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do in your life right now to gain some clarity): you’re going to a funeral. You don’t who’s it is, but it is someone close to you. As you enter the funeral home, you pass by all your close family members and friends. The air feels heavy and filled with sadness at the loss of your shared loved one. You enter the wake room where the body is displayed. As you walk up to the open casket, you come face to face with… yourself. Shhhhhh. Let that image sit for a moment. Shhh, I said!

You’re gone from this earth. Now, there will be 5 speakers, a close friend, a child, an intimate partner, a parent, and a co-worker or client.

What would you want each one of them to say? What kind of parent/child/co-worker/business provider would you have wanted them to remember you as? What kind of attributes would you have wanted to be remembered as having? What kind of legacy or inspiration would you want to leave behind?

After I did this exercise, it was clear to me, that my family came first, then the kind of person I was being came second. Then I realized that none of that is possible without having good health. So health came first. Whether I was successful in business in the first year was not relevant anymore. In truth, this is my life, and what I deem important will come first.

This is my journey. It is unique to only me. And on this journey are only MY results and MY rules, (Jeffrey T. Sooey’s inspirational words that I finally understand). If I decide to land my helicopter on a mountain top and study the land below for a time or to take a nap, I will do that. The voice on the radio cannot actually control me or even has the right to control me, whether that voice is my own guilt or others’ expectations and frivolous advice.

I give you permission to be yourself, make up your own rules, and take the road YOU want to and were meant to travel. The rest is just background noise to be taken lightly.

 

Love,

Tiffany Olson

Home, Sweet Home; Finding Serenity in the Chaos.

It’s the first day of school for our son at pre-K. The weather outside is beautiful, he’s got his cute little minion backpack strapped to his back and we are all excited to start this new journey. We, as in me, my 3 year old son and his 2 year old sister.

We’re a couple of minutes late. No big deal! We’ll get the hang of it by next week, I’m sure. Well, it’s 6 weeks in, I look at the sign-in sheet and everyone else, of the 15 students, was signed in at 8am on the dot. Am I the only one coming in between 15 to 40 minutes late every single day?! For the past 6 weeks straight?!

Luckily for me, I’ve been committed to not care what others think of me, which helped to open an opportunity to face the real issue. The issue of why we are never on time. This issue must be so big that it has prevented me, a somewhat organized person, to be completely off the mark and off the timeline on a daily basis. What’s this issue, you ask? Hell if I know!

But, for the past 3 months, I have taken a reprieve from my side business, at least from the marketing aspect of it, and decided to focus on my family life, on our “family system”. Face what’s working well, what’s not working and what can we do to fix it.

Here’s what I’ve observed, the things or routines that caused chaos almost every day. That feeling of overwhelm just in the first 10 minutes of the day constantly present.

(Side note: my son recently requested to be woken up with some patting on his back for a calm awakening. HA! May I make such a request of my alarm clock or one of my dogs?)

Here’s what I observed: Complete Chaos!

Bedtime routine: out of wack. There’s a presumed order of events during the kids’ bedtime routine but the steps are not sequential in order, which causes the kids to feel no routine is present at all and they feel freedom to run around during this time.¬† Nightly screaming, whining and crying, either from the kids or either parent, is a common occurrence.

Morning routine: husband is out the door before the kids awake. Kids don’t wake up at the same time, one wakes up randomly between 5am and 8am, the other one 7am-9am. My personal morning ritual, which was what kept me sane before, is out the window because it kept getting interrupted, so I gave it up in frustration.

Remember, I’m not complaining here, these are just the facts. Here are some positives, for some variety: everyone is physically healthy, we stick to our budget and our dogs get walked regularly since we started renting a home without a readily accessible yard. SO there, this post isn’t all negative.

Back to bedtime routine: as the kids scatter around the house like wild ants, on cocaine, I try to clean up after dinner, feed the dogs, tidy up (lol-well that’s just a bad idea, but at the moment there’s no time for intelligent thinking), and try to catch each kid and put their pajamas on, all the while restraining the urge to yell, or worse, slap.

The oldest kid goes to bed by 11pm, by which time I’m exhausted, have no more energy for tidying up or giving attention to my husband. He, of course, proceeds to take this personally, adding more drama to the plate. But that’s a different discussion.

In between the chaotic times at home, I’m at my part time nursing job, nice and calm, possibly feeling a bit guilty about not having any enjoyment or bonding time with my own kids.

I realize I keep finding myself in the mom/boss mode. You know the one, “do this”, “do that”, “don’t hit your sister”, “get off the dog”, and so on. This, in retrospect, is not the ideal state I’d like to find myself in more than 30% of the time. What happened to the playful mom or the curious/tell me about your day mom? Where’s this bonding I used to dream of?

So I set some new goals:

1. Peaceful time at home (and also I’d like a unicorn, but hey, a girl can dream and make it a goal).

2. Bedtime/lights out for kids by 8pm. Just kidding [myself]. 9pm it is!

3. Out of the house by 7:30am.

4. In bed myself by 10pm.

5. Enjoy intimate time with the husband at least weekly.

Solutions, a work in progress:

The following are the steps I’ve taken to achieve the above goals. I’ll list which goals were met at the end:

-Sleep training for the kids, read the book The Sleep Easy Solution.

-Dedicate 2 days a week, 1.5hours each, to laundry, Mondays and Wednesdays. No excuses.

-Fill up gas in the car on Sundays, so it’s not an emergency every single, damn time.

-make the bed every morning, to suggest a sense of control and serenity at the start of the day.

-Dedicate daily bonding time with each child individually, 10 minutes each, to prevent the need for seeking attention with whining and fighting (thanks to Amy Mcready and her awesome parenting tips).

-Schedule a weekly date night/lunch with husband, because the marriage has definitely been put on the back-burner. It’s important to date your spouse, they say, but it sure doesn’t feel urgent. So, we put off caring for it.

-Do dishes nightly, no excuses, to prevent pile-up. Use the dishwasher, no matter if I trust it to do a proper cleaning or not.

Sounds like a lot to do, right? Maybe, depends on who’s reading this. Oh yeah, one more thing to add: create ME time and spend time and money on myself, care for my skin, eat better, & possibly start working out at home. That sounds like a goal. More like a future goal.

Goals Reached to date, Serenity IS Possible:

1. Lights out by 9pm, YES!

2. Calm morning, no yelling, YES!

3. Peaceful time at home, Woohoo! This is usually during 1 on 1 child and parent bonding time.

Time management is tricky, depending on how you look at it. Some people firmly believe that time is always running away from them and others know it is up to them to create their own timeline. Guess which one will have a chance of improvement?

Once I created some extra time in the day, for example, 2 whole hours opened up after the kids were sleep trained and went to bed by 9pm, yes, it actually worked. But then I came up with other things to occupy that precious slot.

However, when will it be enough? At what point do we tell ourselves to stop, relax, and don’t put anymore on our plate because it’s pretty full and threatens to fall and crack?

Honestly, I am not sure. And come to think of it, most of us do prefer some variety in our lives anyways. Though having said that, I also question that if life at home is chaotic and on edge all the time, how are we to expect anything else in our life to fall in place and feel right?

The only thing that can be done by us is to prioritize what we pay attention to and what we try to fix, what drains our energy that needs to be fixed or taken out of our life, what needs to be added for a sense of fulfillment and how to actually slow down enough and ask ourselves these 3 most important questions: What went well this week? What didn’t go well this week? What can we do to work on and improve it for the future?

And though I predict I’ll still be the only parent showing up at my kid’s school 30 minutes later than everyone else for the next few weeks, or months, at least I’ll be showing up in peace, knowing that we didn’t get this far by force or by yelling and threatening, but by choice, as a team.