Guilty for enjoying time alone

Saturday night was a big night. For this 41-year-old introvert anyway.

My husband and I were out celebrating his good friend’s fortieth birthday in a private dining room at a fine dining restaurant with 20 other people. Sounds lovely? Yes, it was. And the food was divine. However, it started at 7.15 pm, and by 11.30 pm, I was itching to go home, to bed and to recharge, as many introverts need to. But it didn’t seem that the others, including my husband, were ready to leave just yet.

So I stayed, because it was in honour of my husband’s dear friend. And it was 1 am, when the restaurant was closing, that most of us finally left (whew!), with a few carrying on elsewhere with the birthday boy.

The thing is, this ‘staying on’ affected me for the rest of my Sunday. I was meant to pop in to see my sister and my nephews on Sunday afternoon, but I couldn’t face any extroversion. I stayed home the whole day, venturing out only to go to yoga (where I don’t really need to interact deeply with others). I cooked, read, napped, coloured in (yes, I have one of those mindfulness colouring books!) and watched TV.

But I felt guilty for choosing solitude over visiting my family. So some of my Sunday was spent googling ‘guilty for enjoying time alone’. I found some great reads that made me feel ‘normal’.

Over time, I’ve realised that my dilemma is accepting my need for plenty of time in solitude. Should I be more self-accepting of this need, I’d be less inclined to feel guilty about hurting other’s feelings or perceive that others will think less of me (or that I’m weird).

I’ve become better as I’ve gotten older, as I’ve become more aware of myself, but the feeling of guilt does get me now an then, as it did on Sunday. It’s a work in progress, which will continue for the rest of my life, no doubt. Hopefully, though, this feeling will soften as I age.

During my Google search, I found on YouTube this video by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis on how to be alone. If you love spending time in solitude, it’s a worthy watch.

Do you feel guilty for needing to spend time alone? What have you done to handle such feelings?

The hard lessons of 2014

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

~ Rumi

This year has been a year of trials and tribulations. This wasn’t something I had anticipated, but I’m not sure whether one can anticipate such things.

I felt these challenges were thrust upon me, coming left of field, yet it was me who brought them upon myself.

Clearly, challenges serve a purpose ­– to learn lessons and crack open another layer, letting more light to enter within. In this way, 2014 was a year of self-discovery.

My first major trial for the year was to finish and launch my ebook, which I did in early February.

The product itself is merely a tip of the iceberg. What lay beneath was not only a lot of hard work, but also self-created anguish around marketing and launching the book. To be honest, that took the joy out of the accomplishment – having to hustle (ugh!) using cookie-cutter online selling techniques. You either enjoy that stuff or you don’t. I learnt that I don’t – it killed my mojo.

Eventually, I grasped that I’m not an entrepreneur – nor do I want to be – and that I don’t need to go down that path even if I do create something to sell. It’s the creating that I enjoy – and the pressure of launching, for me, just roadblocks everything.

I’d rather make sales through people who genuinely want to support me, trust and enjoy my work, and value my integrity – rather than enticing them to buy something. For me, business has to align with my core values.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There were a few painful months in between.

About a month after my book launched, I turned 40. I didn’t handle that very well either. I lost my sense of self-assurance that I had in my thirties. I began to question everything. I can’t ‘blame’ one specific thing, but the many things that were going on in my head – and how I projected them into life.

Mostly, though, it had to do with The Mindful Foodie – that is, how to earn money from it, and me trapping my identity within it. I’d mistakenly looked outward for the answers. What I saw was extremism in the ‘real food’ scene, and the narcissism of personal branding through social media. My gut kept twisting in a knot – it knew that I didn’t want to be a part of this. I had to shut off the noise.

What eventuated was learning a very hard lesson:

How much I earn or ‘playing it big’ is not tied up with my self-worth.  

But observing others online can easily delude you into this.

After coming to many realisations – about business and life – I finally began to add the colour back to my life and trust my gut. For I had been hiding.

I didn’t get out of my funk by myself. I had some help. Massive thanks to Alexandra Franzen, whose newsletters and posts on love, life and business made me feel ok for what I wanted – to do business my way, with integrity; as well as to my reiki sessions with the beautiful and gentle Katie Wong, who helped me realise that writing is what feeds me – literally and figuratively. Finally, it was my trip to Sri Lanka that put the pieces together.

Sometimes we have to go through painful situations to become more aware of who we are. And I now feel that I’m ending 2014 and beginning 2015 on a much solid foundation of trust – of self and of life.

All in all, a very successful year.

Life – be in it

“Life. Be in it.” is the mantra of an Australian campaign, promoting healthy, active lifestyles.

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To me, something big underlies this motto: possessing a zest for life. Unfortunately, for most of this year, I lost mine.

After reaching two milestones earlier in 2014 – launching my ebook in Feb and turning 40 in March – I assumed I’d have some answers. That I’d know what the next big thing was, particularly career wise.

Truth be told, I suppressed what I truly wanted (I was scared that it deemed me a failure.) So, rather than make changes, I read countless books on life (um, I believe they’re called self-help books), meditated, and had reiki and kinesiology sessions.

While these practices have their place, no number of sessions could ‘fix me’, nor any amount of reading teach me what I needed to know about life – other than life itself.

After hiding from life for what was about 6 frustrating months, I began a scheme to get out of my head and back into life.

First, I quit facebook. Then, I pulled this blog back from a ‘gung-ho’ online business to a heart-centred space, without marketing lingo – only after giving it a go, I realised it wasn’t what I truly wanted .

The rate-limiting step, however, was my recent holiday to Sri Lanka. It prescribed just the right medicine, and put a zing into my being.

That medicine was a gorgeous couple on my tour. In their 70s, they happily got involved in all the activities. They danced, shared their travel stories, and trekked the rocky and uneven 30 kilometre trail with gusto – putting some of us young ones to shame. Plus, they’re wonderfully kind people. Jackie – who is 71, by the way – still cuts quite the figure in a bikini. Seriously, I was shocked to learn her age.

This couple doesn’t need a daily dose of green smoothies. Because what they have is a BIG zest for life. Something I truly believe keeps them young and happy well beyond their wise years.

Having been in their company – and other lovely folk on the tour – I got involved too, with a zestful attitude. Like riding a bike (I hadn’t been on one for 10 years) in Anuradhapura, one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals. At one stage the traffic was mayhem – picture cars, tuk tuks, motorcycles, other push bikes, buses, school kids, dogs and cows all at once. It was scary and eye-opening – yet fun.

And I also trekked the tea plantation country – all 30 kms of it – amidst the monsoon rains and leeches(!). (My thoughts and heart go out to all those who lost loved ones in the landslide due to the heavy rains, just a week after we were near the region.)

I’ve returned home with a renewed sense of self and an enthusiasm for making exciting, new changes. Almost immediately, this has had a spill on effect on my close relationships, my work (doing the type of writing for the types of clients I’d been dreaming of!) and, most importantly, my attitude to life.

Life, let’s play. I’m back in the game!

How often do you create?

I’ve just finished reading A man without country by Kurt Vonnegut. I’d love to quote the whole book, but that’d be plagiarism, so here’s a quote on creating that stood out for me:

Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

This got me thinking: how many of us create stuff in adulthood?

 

In an industrialised world it is the norm to consume rather than create.

Take me for example.

I don’t grow things. Neither do I sew. Or make art for that matter. Not even any crafts. Nope, no singing either (I’m tone deaf).

I do make a lot of my own food, though. Create recipes, yes. And I write.

Oh, and I LOVE to dance, but I haven’t done much of that lately. (Perhaps that’s the missing ingredient? Better get onto that, Bollywood style, of course.)

But the balance is askew. I consume much more than I create. Which, I hazard a guess, is the reason why many of us feel lost or empty.

The soul needs to grow. But it needs the right food to grow. Creating is it.

So I’ve been inviting the idea of sewing. Very basic things, like simple skirts. And growing things to eat. The easy stuff, like salad greens and silverbeet. And some daffodils, too, for decorating the home (inspired by a dear friend).

These ideas need to percolate, though, and seep into the cracks of my brain before I feel ready enough to begin. Starting little by little, fitting it in bit by bit. Otherwise, they will never happen, no? (I think I’ll start with the daffodils first.)

Kurt Vonnegut in the chapter “I’ve been called a luddite” (incidentally, my favourite in the book) illustrates with his stories how technology has taken away creative work that has given many people purpose and becoming.

Technology is helpful, yes, but it’s up to us to use it intelligently and mindfully, leaving plenty of mental and physical space to create.

So, let’s not forget to create for soul’s sake.

What do you create or wish to create?

 

Spring cleaning that creates inner space (and calm)

Melbourne’s weather is hinting spring.

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With it, I’m getting the urge to clean and declutter. Not in the typical sense, but, rather, the things we cannot see or touch, and that unconsciously become a part of us. Like negative thought patterns, and the digital stuff that takes up more of our lives than I really care for.

With that urge in full force, I quit facebook a few weeks ago. Quit as in deleted (not the timid deactivated option) my account, including The Mindful Foodie page.

Years of virtual stuff gone just like that, with the push of a virtual button. It took up too much sacred mental and soul space, you see. Looking, scrolling, comparing, consuming ads (without one’s choice), thinking of writing something witty to go with the photo I just took (or am about to take), thinking I should update my page and feeling guilty when I didn’t!

I’ve been observing myself since, my behaviours and thoughts. The mind seems calmer, and there’s more mental space to create.

I’ve been taking the initiative to call and catch up with loved ones, nourishing what feels like long-lost friendships. There have been new ones springing up too. The irony of disconnecting to connect!