Archive for self-esteem

Risk. Regret. Realism.

By Guest Blogger, Andrea Lea-Kraus.

risk

1: Possibility of loss or injury : peril
2: The chance that an investment (as a stock or commodity) will lose value

regret:
1 a : To mourn the loss or death of
1 b : To miss very much
2 : To be very sorry for

realism:
1 : Concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary

Sometimes… when the concept-mosquitoes are swarming around the muggy, boggy swamp of my mind… 

I have to dip into the clear, cool, as-yet-untainted (by that sticky, humid, south Georgia-in-July, bulldog-with-a-bone mind), Merriam-Webster-well take on what words mean. Take it back to the basics. Detach a little. Relax the jaw.

Somehow, grabbing onto a definition helps things feel less personal when every thought in the swarm seems to itch for days, sometimes at an intensity level that sends me clawing awkwardly for that unreachable spot one inch to the right of the angel-bone – you know, the one on the tight-shoulder-side of life.

Words like shame, regret, disappointment, regret, never, too late, settle, dissatisfaction, regret, are fast-breeding parasites in the muddled mind; squatters in the high-rent district whose rights are illogically and ironically protected by universal law, who have only to show up to get a free meal and a place to stay.

How unfortunate and unfair that words like forgiveness, self-love, beauty, perfection, joy, good, have to be lassoed into one’s consciousness over and over, with never-ending dedication and a fool’s faith – like doing crunches every day to keep in touch with those abs we’ve heard are underneath – just to make a blip on one’s screen of awareness (I mean, how many crunches have you done without seeing any result? What does it take???).

So, several parasitic concepts are giving me the itch right now.

The double-edged blade of “risk” is neither friend nor foe, though we tend to sing the praises of the shiny side of the sword here (and rightly so – enough of that toothy, serrated side being worshipped out there), but I cannot help but see how the risks I have taken in my life have mostly led me down the painful path to regret. My mind is pretty clever sometimes, in the Cheshire Cat way that minds can be clever enough to lead one just out of earshot of one’s higher voice – one’s True Voice? – so intellectually I know that I can take this idea and spin it into a positive… but where does the spin begin and where does it end?

Once I start the new-age “think positive” spin, how do I decide what was first spun and what is just REAL?

I can say that all my risks worked out because we all got out alive and it could always be worse, but that’s not real – that’s not what I really feel. That’s a manufactured thought, designed by the Cheshire cat mind and the new wave of feel-good thinking which, by the way, I buy into 99%.

I keep being drawn back to the scene in Adam Sandler’s Spanglish where Tia Leone’s character is having a nervous breakdown in her big, black SUV with her mother standing by the window saying, “lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”

I usually only write or appear in any way when I have something figured out; when I have trekked past the mirage’s promise of quenching my thirst on the surface, and burrowed deeply enough into the earth’s bosom to slurp one sip of crystal clear truth, swirling it around on my parched palate, grateful and cleansed…

But that is not where they send my mail. I am thrilled to have a glimpse now and then and bring home my big fish tales to anyone who’ll listen, but I dwell too in this buggy swamp with the squatters and skeeters.

I am not sure what I am risking today. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually known what was at risk in the moment that I “took” it. There has always been an unfolding of joys or consequences I could not have seen around those corners. I’m not sure if it is “good” to share the negative feelings while they still feel negative. I’ve always gone with the if-you-don’t-have-something-nice-to-say dogmatic principle, so this is a new approach for me.

I’m going to say that I’m risking looking at my shit realistically and owning the fact that I feel, at times, like I could drown in a sea of regret. Like I am on damage control. Like I’ll do the best with where I got myself but I followed that damn disappearing, hallucinated Cheshire cat so far off course that I have given up on finding my way back… like I can never risk again because I am frozen by the cold reality of how long and empty the hall of life can feel and how far an echo can travel. Like I need to mourn some losses (is mourning a task one can ever complete?).

Maybe I’m risking a different kind of honesty.

My life is so good and I have so much to be joyful about in the NOW – but I am apparently never quite finished punishing myself for my past mistakes, so I have to rip myself out of the moment (don’t worry, I know it’s wrong and I am already punishing myself for this, too). That’s not the sort of thing you admit on a blog! This is a place for higher thinking and self-development, answers and solutions, steps forward and progress!

The best I can say is that Mercury is retrograde and I am, too.

This post originally appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay Blog Project which has now concluded.

 Andi Lea-Kraus is a yoga teacher, personal trainer, writer , and all-around artist who is cracking the code of the symbolic and recording the spiritually hilarious. Her adventures so far have included several years and a cooking show in post-Apartheid South Africa, a stint in rural south Georgia, a brief but sparkling singing career which she intends to revive, and a glorious indigo daughter named Dom. When she’s not teaching, training, writing, painting, taking photos, singing, or doing laundry, Andrea can be found in her kitchen, channeling her grandmother through new recipes, and feeding folks. Andi’s plans for the future include finding her way to the musical theatre stage. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website here.

Are You Playing the Tapes All the Way Through?

Last night, as crazy as it sounds, I set my alarm for 4:00 am, and actually I got up when it went off. You may remember, in a previous post, I wrote about how, even though I hate getting up early in the morning, I love being up while most of the rest of this part of the world is sleeping.

But today was different.

You see, once I got up, had my steaming hazelnut coffee in hand, and sat down in the (not at all sunny) sun room, suddenly all I could think of was going back to the comfort of my bed instead. I felt as though it was calling to me in that ghostly-yet-angelic-singing kind of way, “Laaaaaura… Laaaaaaaaaura…”

I was conflicted.

On one hand, I could imagine how nice the bed would feel: the sheets so cool, the mattress so welcoming, the blanket so soft. And, of course, there was the additional three and a half hours of sleep to consider…

The name-calling got louder.

Then, instead of marching right back up those stairs, as though to the tune of a pied piper, I paused. Aware that I had at least two choices here, I leaned in for a moment to the idea of writing and meditating in my favorite chair, Dogberry loyally lying by my side, and the pitch black of not-yet-morning surrounding us, just past the many windows on three sides of the room.

First, I imagined how good it would feel to do what I had set out to do, and the reward I’d get from honoring the promise I’d made to myself. I also thought about why I wanted to be up in the first place: to honor my desire for quiet time (while awake) and to connect with myself in a way that I so seldom do in the light of day.

Ahhh.

Then, I thought of how I’d feel when I got up from having gone back to bed, and having not followed through on my promise to myself.

Ick.

You see, after I had thought through the choices to their likely conclusions, I knew what to do. I knew what I wanted for myself. I knew how I wanted to look back on this seemingly small yet pivotal moment. I also knew how I didn’t want to look back on it – as yet another time when I said I wanted to do something, made a promise to myself to do it, and then let myself down by not doing it after all.

So, how did I come to this decision, especially with the bed was calling to me like a beautiful Siren, singing her mesmerizing songs and luring me toward the rocks?

I “played the tapes all the way through.”

(I know, we rarely listen to tapes anymore, but bear with me. Instead of the looking at the literal meaning of the practically obsolete words, let’s explore their metaphorical meaning.)

I see the concept of “playing the tapes all the way through” as similar to how I might view an invitation from a friend, or narrow down what activities I might take on over the weekend, or on any particular work day. It’s an opportunity to fully consider my options, and to make the best decision for myself at that time.

How exactly do we do this?

There are just three steps:

1. We accept the opportunity presented to us as an invitation to create our lives more consciously rather than doing so by default.
2. We take a breath or two, and ponder the action or actions we’re contemplating taking.
3. We consider – and this is key – the likely eventual outcomes for the choices before us, and how we expect we might feel about those choices once we’ve acted on them.

It’s that simple!

Sure, in some instances, we can’t possibly know what the outcome of each choice might be. Most of the time, however, when we’re honest with ourselves, we can make a pretty darned good guess. And that was the case for me with this morning.

After I “played the tapes all the way through,” it was clear what the better choice was. As I said, I chose to stay up. It’s not that going back to bed was a bad choice. There were certainly benefits to follow the call of the bed. But staying up was right for me in that particular set of circumstances. How can I be so sure?

Our Values are Our True Divining Rods™

Our Values are Our True Divining Rods™

I was honoring my values.

By staying up and writing, dreaming, thinking, and feeling, I was aligned with my values of authenticity, connection, contribution, courage, creativity, integrity, and spirituality. Frankly, it’s not very often that all of my top values meet in one decision, but here they did,  hence the relative ease of this decision. More often, my values are separate from each other, and in an order of priority. It’s my job, then, to figure out what that order is. And sometimes, they are in direct conflict with each other. “Playing the tapes all the way through” is an excellent tool for me to use in that particular situation, too.

Can you see how remembering to “play the tapes all the way through” can be helpful to you, too? I hope so. And my assignment to you is to use this tool right away, no matter how large or small the decision. This way, it can become a habit, and eventually, even be second nature to you. And won’t that be nice?

But what if I don’t know what my values are?

Don’t worry! I’ll be writing soon about what values are (and aren’t) and even more about how we can use them in our lives. For now, though, know that I’ll be back tomorrow with seven more strategies for arriving at the best choice for ourselves in situations of internal conflict.

Until then, don’t forget to imagine that we still use tapes, and then “play them all the way through!”

A Post Script of Two More Things to Remember:

1. This is just one example of how our world, our circumstances, our thoughts, and feelings offer us friendly invitations. They invite us to  to dip below the surface of the actions we take without thinking. And thus, by taking this deep dive, we can live fuller, more meaningful lives.

In the example above, I had a choice to make. It wasn’t a life or death situation, but I answered the invitation to go deeper. As a result of that process, and of doing what was revealed to me as the right course of action, I know myself better. In addition, I felt rewarded by my decision to listen to myself and for my motives, and raised my levels of self-trust and self-esteem.

2. And finally, know that these invitations do not demand our attention, nor are we expected to answer them. There’s no need to put that kind of pressure on ourselves. They’re there for us, however, should we choose to remember the age-old adage of  “watch, look, and listen,” and then step out into the world more confident, knowing that we are aligned with authentic selves.

I look forward to hearing what you think, and to seeing you tomorrow!