Are you trying to be Perfect?

I’ve written about perfectionism before but Brené Brown has resurrected this topic for me in a new way. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she writes that “perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.” She writes that healthy striving focuses on how I can improve, rather than what will they think. I think this is a wonderful way to summarise a shift that was necessary for me.

Perfect

In the past few years while recovering from burnout, I have realised where my perfectionism comes from. It comes from looking for approval from the authority figures in my life. It started out with my parents. I thought that if I did really well at school, they might pay more attention to me. Although I did well, they didn’t really notice me, or my results.

In my work, I tried really hard to get everything perfect. I used to get upset when things didn’t go according to plan, ending in tears of frustration. Seeking the approval of others didn’t ever get me to a point where I felt good about myself. I still felt inadequate and kept striving to deliver perfection, even though I got excellent performance reviews.

When my health collapsed at the end of 2014, I had no option but to stop working. I retreated to home so that I could recover. I didn’t. I then arranged a sabbatical so that I could recover. I didn’t. So eventually I resigned from my company and surrendered to the fact that my illness was serious and that I needed to regroup in a number of ways.

It was during this recovery period that I realised that I was still spending a lot of time looking for approval. From shareholders, from my father, from my friends and family. At last it dawned on me that until I love myself and approve of myself, I would never really feel it from anyone else. And the irony is that as soon as I learnt to be kind to myself, I realised that I didn’t need that approval I spent so long searching for. Another benefit is that once I treated myself with love, kindness and respect, my other relationships slowly started to transform.

I can’t tell you exactly how I made this shift and of course, I would never say that I’m fully ‘there’ because it is an ongoing process. I know that meditation has something to do with it. I know that I consciously shifted my self-talk to be more positive. I try hard not to berate myself for mistakes, and to be kind to myself when I mess up. I think knowing that we all fallible is helpful too.

Perfection is something we will never attain. Certainly, I always advocate giving your best in any situation and I try hard to do a good job of whatever I’m tackling. But my best might be horribly flawed in some instances. And in others, it might be pretty good. It’s okay to suck at some things, it really is. I’m trying to teach my children this too, so that they don’t grow up as I did, trying to be perfect.

I’m teaching them to love themselves, to be kind to themselves and to accommodate failure. They are truly intrigued when I make mistakes. I certainly don’t love that part, but it’s a chance to teach them how to be kind, and to model behaviour that I’d like them to adopt.

Perfect

I don’t think they will feel that frustration I did as a child in not ever getting the approval I looked for. One of my father’s favourite lines was “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I don’t think he realised how much of an impact that had on me. It’s a pity I spent so many years looking for approval from the very person who should have made it unnecessary. I hope to undo this pattern with my children. To offer them love and approval, unconditionally. And to teach them the importance of self-compassion.

Wholehearted living

I have just finished reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Every time I read one of her books, I marvel at how honest she is about her flaws, mistakes and her deep-seated fears. Not many people have the courage to talk about those things, or the interest in tackling such heavy subjects. It’s part of why I love reading her books.

Currently, I’m creating a new career path for myself, post burnout. I feel that I have recovered and I await blood tests to prove it in a few weeks time. I am now on the other side of a momentous life event. Something that shook the foundation of my identity and my life. It changed me, and I’m glad I let it. I now get to lay down a fresh path, on purpose, one that contains all the elements I desire in my life.

I get to choose it. I get to design it. I’m not a victim of what opportunities other people offer me. I’m not at the mercy of a boss who will tell me what I’m worth through flawed corporate processes. I get to design something that is as unique as I am. It’s exciting and a little scary. But this is the very best part of the gift of burnout – that I get to start again. Many people don’t get an opportunity like that in their lives and I am thrilled for it.

Stripped from my old job title, and almost every way I defined myself, it took some time to actually figure out who I was and what I wanted. I spent a lot of time reading during my recovery. I studied positive psychology, I read extensively on what constitutes happiness and I’ve actively included the practices that resonated with me, into my life.

Dr Brown provides ten guideposts for what she calls Wholehearted living. I found it fascinating that I’ve unknowingly incorporated these guideposts into my new life. Things like a gratitude practice are now a part of my routine. I make time for creativity, stillness and fun. I’ve learned to be kind to myself, and to cultivate authenticity. I left WhatsApp groups that didn’t fit with me and I was prepared for the fallout that followed. I even ended relationships that were unhealthy because I knew that my life needed to change. Not just because, but for my very survival.

Wholehearted

I learned to really feel the emotions and to connect my head and my heart. I learned that feeling things is critical to really living, and that we can’t enjoy the best things in life if we try to numb the pain. I don’t have crutches like other people do, since I can’t drink alcohol, I don’t do caffeine any more and I can’t drown my sorrows in pastry since gluten and sugar are also out of my diet. I have to actually deal with my problems, and not escape them through addictive behaviours. Date balls don’t really have the same comfort impact as a chocolate croissant. So instead I was forced to face what I was feeling. And I’m better off for it.

Comparing the person on the way to burnout and even during recovery to the person I am now, is so incredibly rewarding. Dr Brown speaks of people who experience joy and that it takes time to cultivate it. I can honestly say that there is true joy in my life now. There was none in the years that led up to my burnout and it took a long time for me to find it. In the past year I started to play. I wrote about it in a blog post about our holiday at the coast. The one where my children said “Mom, you’re like a kid.” Joy has now become part of my existence and I feel so very grateful for the life that I lead.

Wholehearted

I now live a wholehearted life where I embrace each day, I live with hope and enthusiasm for my future. Many people might think I’m delusional since I don’t have a clear idea of what the path ahead looks like. But I’ve learned that not knowing is okay and that it will unfold as it needs to. What matters to me is that I believe in myself, I’m kind to myself along the way, and I keep moving forwards towards things that I love and that I find meaningful.

2016 in Review

In the first week of a new year, I thought it would be a good idea to review my past year in detail. Many people have rituals that they do at the end of a year or beginning of the next one. Some people have a happiness or gratitude jar where they store the joys of each day or week, and review it at the end of the year. I can’t say I have any of these rituals but this review might become one.

Review

The main reason for the exercise is that I want to see how far I’ve come. I want to celebrate my growth and improvement in my health since my burnout at the end of 2014. I’d say that 2015 was the year of burnout in which I suffered the worst of the symptoms and didn’t receive good medical care. I’d label 2016 as the year of healing.

In 2016 I did a lot of research into autoimmune disease and adrenal function. I learned a great deal and I implemented a lot of small changes to improve my health. I read the Autoimmune Solution which correlated well with my existing beliefs around my recovery. I visited a functional practitioner who provided wonderful assistance, supplements and advice, resulting in a leap of improvement in my health.

I’ve worked hard on my diet in eating a green smoothie every day and in eliminating foods that cause me harm. I have started regular yoga practice and have received tremendous health benefits from it. I started biokinetics and healed my hernia with homeopathic medicine and exercises.

I have continued my alternative healing practices such as body stress release, reflexology and kinesiology. I experienced some fun new healing and learning about myself. These include access bars, balvaspata healing, chirology and healing codes. I learned how to meditate effectively, and made it a daily practice.

I completed an online course, the Science of Happiness, adding to my knowledge in positive psychology. I adopted the practices that resonated with me into my daily routine. I actively made myself happier in the process.

Review

Professionally, I did a talk to 170 people with great success. I got a speaking coach, joined Toastmasters and delivered eight prepared speeches, one of which was in a contest. I tried impromptu speaking a few times, stretching myself outside of my comfort zone. I was vulnerable and shared my dreams, fears and beliefs with loved ones, my fellow Toastmasters and my talk audience.

I wrote 43 blog posts and used my writing as a way to find more flow. I worked on my book, found a stronger editor and rewrote the first half of the book. I met with some interesting people, put myself out there and even submitted a few proposals. I got rejected a lot but conditioned myself to be prepared for it as part of the process.

I learned a lot about myself. I became better at setting boundaries to protect myself and to not let harmful people in. I worked on my marriage and deepened some friendships. I read some wonderful books which stretched my mind and my perspective on things. I exercised great courage in speaking my truth on a number of occasions, some of which were incredibly difficult for me.

In this year, I suffered disappointments, I gave up on relationships and recovery at times, and picked myself up again. I failed at things, I improved at things and picked up new skills and knowledge. I grappled with issues around self-compassion, forgiveness, surrender and hope. I became more mindful, and I think through that, became a better mother. I know myself better. What I need, what I want and what I wont accept.

I pushed myself into uncomfortable places and came out stronger and more at peace. I think 2016 was truly a year of healing, and I’m grateful for all that happened and what I learned from it.

What was your year like and what does 2017 hold for you?

What kind of Effort are you putting in?

I have been doing a lot of yoga lately and am finding it a great form of exercise. It raises my heart rate just enough not to cause my adrenal recovery to slip backwards. Yoga also allows me to build strength and flexibility, as well as balance from a physical point of view. It requires a great deal of effort to master the postures, which is important for me. It also provides a full hour of stillness and focus, where my mind doesn’t wander. In that way, I see it as a form of meditation.

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It is by no means an easy form of exercise. I find there are times in class when I’m tempted to slack off, or just coast in a posture and I’m sure the instructor might not even notice. But it’s just not my style. I like to put in a lot of effort in everything that I do. I don’t like half measures or to deliver poor quality. That is a constant in my personal life and my professional life.

This personality trait of mine has been problematic as I recover from burnout. The chronic fatigue I experienced is difficult to relay and of course, no-one can see or understand how I feel. There were times that everything, small or large required just too much energy from me. It meant that I could not give my all to everything I did, because my energy tank was completely empty.

I could not be the mother I wanted to be. I could not be patient, and jump up every few minutes to pour them juice, cut them apples or play with them. I could not keep my house as neat and clean as I would like it to be. I could not work and contribute to the household income, or to society. I could not realise my own hopes and dreams.

This feeling of being trapped, or paralyzed, is more frustrating than my words can explain. For about two years, I could not be the person I’d like to be. That is a hard thing to cope with, along with the adjustment to my autoimmune disease and the resultant lifestyle changes I had to make. To say the last two years have been difficult, is an enormous understatement.

Now, I’m able to do a lot more than I have been able to do in the past few years. I can go out more than once a day, I can enjoy my children, I can cook dinner everyday and still find strength for a yoga class. I’m still deciding whether yoga takes energy or gives me energy, but there is no question that it is beneficial for me. I’m going further in postures than I have ever been able to do, and am so pleased with these small accomplishments.

effort

I have not accomplished much in terms of professional deliverables (well, apart from the pending book), so it is important that I feel myself achieving something worthwhile. It’s good for me to feel good about myself. Deep down, I know that I am capable of having great success in my work. But the waiting to recover has been so frustrating.

It is important that I maintain this belief in myself as I embark on a scary new career path. But I do know that my tendency to put in a lot of effort, is something that will help me to achieve success. The very fact that I don’t like slacking off is probably what led me to burnout. But on the flip side, it’s what will help me to achieve well in a profession that is aligned to my talents and interests.

Are you slacking off when no-one’s watching? Are you giving everything in your life your all? Are you taking out the trash with care and mindfulness? I think life is better when we apply ourselves fully to every single thing we do in our day.

The Challenge of Savasana

I have been increasing my exercise regimen lately as I’m really recovering well. It is difficult to explain to people what it is like to recover from burnout. It has been a difficult process for me to learn when I’m overdoing it, when to push a bit harder and when to rest.

I’m not so good with rest. I like to push myself – that has always been my default. I like to make the most of opportunities to grow and to achieve. I don’t like wasting time. It has been very difficult for me to force myself to rest, to slow down and to find time to care for myself properly during this recovery period.

I am not yet able to resume my running as cardio exercise is still too hard on my recovering adrenal glands. I walk for about an hour or two per week and I am able to do yoga classes. I do flow yoga which is wonderful for stability and strength, as well as the hot yoga which builds flexibility and balance. In the hot yoga I am able to sustain a minute at a time of cardio, interspersed with a few minutes of rest in a posture called savasana or corpse pose.

savasana

It occurred to me recently that I might not be the only one who struggles to rest, or to stay in savasana for long. At the end of the class, the instructor usually advises you to stay on your back and to absorb the benefits of the class. In the old days, pre-burnout, I would feel too indulgent and lazy to do that. I’d jump up and get showered and off to the next commitment. I think this behaviour and thinking is part of how I burned out in the first place.

I didn’t feel entitled to just lie there for a few minutes after an intense 90 minute class of pushing myself beyond my limits. I wonder how many of us feel this way. I was entitled to that rest and I should have reveled in it. I’m learning to do that now but it isn’t very natural. I’m trying to change my thinking to ensure that I do rest after pushing myself, and not only in yoga.

It seems hard for many of us to surrender, to just relax and to let things flow. We try to control and to change things to go the way we want them to. Of course, it’s important to have goals and to work towards things in life. But sometimes we need to surrender, to fully relax into the space and to let go.

In my days as an ultra-marathon runner, I remember how important it was to take rest days. It is common for new runners to experience overuse injuries because they haven’t learnt to prioritise rest. In the days before a big race, one also has to taper off training and mileage in an exerted effort to rest the body before an event that will be grueling. It’s a pity that I was able to execute on these principles for running, but I failed to apply them to the rest of my life.

It is in the rest periods that we gain the benefits of the hard work we do. 

As an introvert, I didn’t schedule recovery time after busy social engagements and work days. After highly stressful periods of work, I didn’t prioritise self-care and recuperation time. With small children, there is no respite from the demands of childcare and I didn’t fight hard enough for rest. One of the biggest lessons I learnt from burnout is to prioritise this recovery time and to insist on a life-savasana.

I haven’t written for a while as it is a really busy time of year. It is the end of the school year so there is a mad rush to finish everything before the Christmas holidays. Birthdays from November and December are squashed into a few weeks. I have attended eight extra mural demonstrations and a bunch of children’s parties in the past few weeks, as well as attending to the many last-minute demands from schools.

It is exhausting, and it’s hard to make progress on my own initiatives in this environment. I am also facing a long school holiday at home with two kids in my space. But I have decided to surrender into it. I hope to let go of my own plans and to indulge in the rest and the fun with my children over the holidays. I make the explicit exception of my book, since it is a very high priority in my life and my career, so I will make every effort to work on it as much as possible to ensure a launch early next year. In any case, writing feeds me, so it’s not as if working on my book will be tiring.

Savasana

Here’s to surrender, to savasana, and embracing the well-deserved rest that this holiday season offers.

Avoiding Leadership

For most of my life I have avoided leadership. I occasionally get feedback from people who know me, or my merry pack of healers where they say something like “You know you’re a leader, right?” I smile and know that I’m avoiding leadership again.

When I was in junior school, I was selected as a ‘monitor’. I didn’t think much of it but I rose to the challenge and I did what was expected of me. When I was in high school I did not expect to be appointed as a prefect. It was a huge shock to me and I remember wondering if I really heard my name being called. I went home quite amused and pleased that others had noticed my capacity to lead. I’m didn’t do a perfect job of it and I recall some failures in that role quite clearly.

leadership

There are definitely times in my life where I have hidden from the spotlight and tried to blend into the background. The reasons for that are too complex and perhaps not so interesting to go into in one blog post. But I do struggle being seen. It is something I have worked on this year because my future entails spreading awareness about burnout and to do that, I need to be seen.

In one exercise I did at a workshop, I had to stand in front of a group of people who stared at me for several minutes. It was excruciating for me. I know that they felt and sent love and approval, by the nature of the people attending the workshop. And still how much I struggled to be seen and to receive.

This is something I know I need to work on. And this theme of leadership keeps emerging for me. It was my team mates at work who encouraged me to push for my first promotion. And once I was in a leadership position, I enjoyed it. I like setting the direction and working on the team dynamic, promoting harmony and steering everyone in the right direction.

In my role as business owner, I got involved in networking functions where I was quickly put in charge of running meetings. I had to relinquish this responsibility when I became too sick to work. At work, during our company restructure, I found myself too weak to lead. A bad leader was selected and I found that I could not follow him. Certainly, I needed to recover before starting something new but it is telling for me. I can follow, but I can only follow a very strong leader. Otherwise, I need to be leading.

leadership

In being sick, and recovering from burnout I have retreated from many social and work-related engagements. To heal, it was necessary to scale down outings and work engagements. However, it is tricky to break back into the circles and let everyone know that you are ready to participate again. I feel a little rejected and uncertain that I’ll be welcome back because some people don’t understand fully why I needed to withdraw.

I’m finding myself at the point where I want to start networking to spread the word of my new offerings and to look for opportunities to speak. I have to work on my own personal brand and to be clear on what I offer. I need to hone my elevator pitch and to project confidence. At times I do feel a little shaky and unsure of my new career but I’m hoping that it will take shape as I practice more. I’m facing a lot of rejection and difficulties in the months ahead as I begin to sell the new me. It’s really difficult to push forward and to be resilient in the face of rejection and apathy around something I feel so strongly about.

I have been working on my book again this week and it has brought me so much joy. I have a rule that I take an afternoon nap on the days that I exercise but there is one exception to that. If I’m writing, I don’t need the nap and I’ve come to realise it’s because writing energises me. I’m in flow when I’m writing and I don’t get tired. I need more of it in my day and I must work on structuring my day accordingly. I even have an idea for my next book and I’m putting together some basic ideas.

So the question remains, why am I avoiding leadership? I think it’s because it’s hard and it’s lonely. It’s much easier to blame your boss for your horrible job. It’s much easier to follow a list of performance indicators someone else has set for you. It’s really hard to stare at a blank canvas and to design your life and career. It’s a scary prospect to set the direction and not have anyone guiding or helping me. But I think I’m up for the challenge. I think it’s time I stopped avoiding leadership.

My Introversion affects my Extroverted child

I’m an introvert. My introversion shows in that I get very tired being around people for a long time, although I do need interaction. It also shows in that I don’t like a lot of noise and I don’t enjoy small talk. I enjoy meaningful conversations about real things that actually matter. I love being alone. I feel lonely when I’m in a crowd, particularly of people who don’t get me.

I have two children: one introvert, almost eight years old, and one extrovert, who is five years old. My extroverted husband and I became more attentive to each other’s needs and that of our children after we read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet. I tend to fight for our introverted daughter’s needs because my husband might not always be aware of what drains her energy, and what she needs. I also try to make sure things are a little more exciting for our little one. I play music in the car when she’s there, and I do a lot of tickles and playing YouTube videos on my phone to stimulate her.

We have also explained to them that they have different needs, and to be mindful of what the other one needs. We often tell our youngest to give our oldest a little space due to her introversion, and I have explained to our oldest that our youngest gets bored without a lot of stimulation. We try to help them to be aware so that they know when to withdraw to recharge, and how to notice that someone has become overstimulated.

Introversion

Our oldest daughter’s introversion was painfully obvious, right from the start. Many people mistake introversion for colic but it shows up as babies becoming overstimulated and crying incessantly. As a baby, our oldest would get overstimulated easily and would wake up and cry for hours in the early hours of the morning. She needed me to hold her tight in a room with dim light, patting her and saying ‘shh, shh, shh’ gently as I tried to soothe her. I, too, have felt that I needed to be held and soothed in a dim, quiet room at the end of a busy day but sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Our second child screamed blue murder at eight weeks old when we tried to put her to bed on Christmas day. She knew that there were people around and she was not prepared to miss out. Finally, I put her in a stroller on the patio so that she could see everyone, and eventually she drifted off in the midst of the family meal.

Our introverted child has few friends but she builds strong bonds with them. Our extroverted child has a lot of friends and she values them a great deal. She keeps asking me if we can invite them all around for Christmas day and my answer is ‘No, Christmas is for family.’  She frowns as if I completely misunderstand her.

She is transitioning from preschool to ‘big’ school in the next few months. Her classes will be bigger and she will form some wonderful friendships in the next thirteen years of school. She gets quite upset if she is not included in some event with the current preschool kids, like a play date or a dinner between two families. I don’t see these friendships as really important since she is unlikely to see them after December. I have also tried to explain that we don’t get invited to every event but it’s no use, she’s not convinced.

Behind her expression I imagine her thinking ‘Well, YOU don’t get invited to every event.’ Because I’m quite happy not to be invited to everything. I’m happy to be at home. This time of year is already so busy and I’m quite content missing out on a few dinners and play dates. But she’s not.

I think it’s exacerbated by the fact that I left the mother’s WhatsApp group. I have been recovering from burnout for two years. The relentless jokes about wine which I’m unable to drink, became boring. The sense of rejection became too much when I felt when I could not (and didn’t want to) get drunk at the mom dinners. I’m not in high school anymore and I’m too busy recovering from chronic illness to care.

I haven’t received a deluge of help and support from the group. I’ve felt patronised by the effort to exclude the alcohol from my portion of the bill. I’ve been drunk and reckless, in my early twenties. It does not fit in my life now. I don’t need to conform because I’m quite happy being me.

But in the last while I felt a tug between being authentically me, and trying to make my child happy. I felt guilty for not being the extroverted mom who is the centre of the social circle, telling stories about drunken moms’ exploits. I felt guilty for being the boring introvert who’d rather be at home reading. I wondered about the life lessons that will be learned by my child, and by me, in trying to find a good balance.

Introversion

The tug didn’t last long because I know that I have to be authentic. I have to make peace with being who I am, and my daughter will have to learn to accept that. I do my best to accept and to love her just as she is, so she will have to return the favour. I hope she doesn’t spend her life resenting me for what I could not offer her. I cannot be false and pretend to be a forty-one-year old party animal. I have to be me. And I’m hoping that she will appreciate that one day, even if it leads to some disappointment in the short term.

Where did the Resentment go?

In the past few years I have felt great resentment when it came to spending a lot of time doing things for the kids. This weekend, however, I felt none of it. I really enjoyed making Halloween outfits for them. Our oldest wanted to be a witch and her little sister, the accompanying cat. I made shoes and I put together their costumes, and spent only a minuscule amount of money.

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The girls had fun and we were able to chat to our neighbours and friends. The kids are also bigger and can cope with having a tail and carrying a broomstick. We all had such an enjoyable time and it was quite different to how I experienced the last time we attended the same event, two years ago.

Then, I was heading towards burnout and wasn’t really aware of what was happening to me. When you experience burnout, the stress makes you really irritable and it is very difficult to be patient. I was not blessed with much patience to begin with, so in my illness I became really grumpy. To top it off, irritability is also a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

I have been wondering why the resentment is gone, and I think there are three reasons. Firstly, my recovery is reaching a new level. My doctor said that we are merely building my reserves now in terms of adrenal health. That makes sense since I still need to sleep on the days that I exercise. My thyroid antibodies are far reduced so it shows that my lifestyle changes are having a positive effect on my health.

The second reason is that I found something I can get out of the time investment, specifically creating something. It was great fun thinking of ideas and brainstorming with the kids. We all put together ideas of what each costume needed and my creative juices started to flow. I made them both shoes from old scruffy shoes that were close to being thrown out. I used paper-mâché to make the shape and then painted and embellished them.

The third, and final reason I think the resentment is gone, is that I have spent enough time catching up on looking after me. I got resentful when I had to sacrifice a lot and I was so depleted. I feel that I have started to fill the tank of self-care to the point where I can now give again. Not to a point of depletion, but in bits and pieces. Giving in this respect was rewarding and fun, so it didn’t feel like a great effort.

Resentment

I spend a lot of time thinking about my process of recovery. Of course, I wonder if I could have done things differently to speed it up. Mostly, I wish I had discovered functional medicine much earlier as it has had a huge impact on my recovery. I have done so much research on my health conditions that I’m now at the point of saturation. I don’t think there is much more I could implement in terms if lifestyle change. I’m not foolish enough to think I know everything. But I feel that I know enough and that I’m doing enough. There comes a point where the focus on health becomes unhealthy and I don’t want to reach that point.

I’m exercising now and enjoying it. I’m not able to do real cardio exercise but that will come in time. I am feeling quite bored intellectually, however, and I see this as a sign of recovery. I don’t have big, scary goals and that frightens me a bit. I don’t like floating and drifting. I want to be working, to be delivering something meaningful and helping people. My book is coming along slowly and I’m hoping that it will be complete by the end of the year. I’m wondering what next year looks like for me. Hopefully, filled with fun, opportunities to help people and to make a difference in the world.

Grief Brings Perspective

Our cat passed away this weekend and I’m amazed at how much I feel the loss. I spent a lot of time with her in the past few years, being at home recovering from burnout. I would love just one more day with her. I’d love watch her scamper off the bed to herd me towards her bowl in the morning. She followed me around the house, and even meowed at me angrily when I closed myself in the sanctuary to work. She talked to me when I got out the shower and when I leaned down, she would jump up on her hind legs for a kiss. She loved the afternoon naps I took most days and at night, she snuggled at my chest all night. I do miss her terribly and the house doesn’t feel the same without her.

Perspective

The experience of grief has shifted my focus. I feel like I have gained perspective, and I realise that love is the only real thing in the world. Being with the ones we love, appreciating them and being present becomes paramount. The shared loss seems to have bound us together as a family. And all those niggly irritations fade into the distance.

I was frustrated with myself for not giving my best at my last Toastmasters speech. I was disappointed that I’m stagnating and that I am not applying the cumulative lessons from each speech. I became complacent and I didn’t push myself. It’s hard trying to balance self-care with progress and I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I push too hard and other times I’m not applying enough challenge. Being in flow means that challenge and skill are matched, and I’ve noticed I’m letting my skill fall behind.

In the wake of losing our special pet, that all seems irrelevant. I took a few days to just be with my family and to remember our special little cat. For such a small being, she had a great impact. Many people such as family, friends and house sitters, have all shared our grief and all commented on what a lovely cat she was.

It made me think about how we often feel insignificant – that no one cares about us. Imagine how much someone would miss you if so many people notice the loss of a little cat? We have a greater impact than we realise. We can probably make a bigger difference than we think we can. It’s worthwhile realising how much we mean to those we love, and to relish our relationships while loved ones are still here.

Are you Playing Small?

Today I was reminded about the choices we make, and the possible lives we could lead. When we leave school, it’s a time when we are probably the happiest. We get to be independent but without all the responsibilities that come with being an adult. It is the time where we choose our path, mould our identity in the form of a career and get to have a lot of fun. It doesn’t occur to us that at some point in our future, we may choose to play small.

After school I went to university. I really had to fight and be patient for the privilege of going away to university. I knew that I would have a lot more fun studying in another city from my dysfunctional family so I persisted. And eventually I got to go. It was the first time in my life I got to be young and irresponsible. My childhood didn’t allow that, so I really let my hair down at university. I didn’t do as well academically as I could have, but it was a worthwhile trade off for being able to be reckless and carefree.

I know someone who suffered a great sadness around this time. Someone very smart. Someone who everyone expected to excel in life. I’m wondering how she feels now about what could have been. That event seemed to break her spirit and she never recovered. It looks to me that she made the choice to play small, and I don’t think that serves anyone. I don’t think it’s what God wants, and it doesn’t make you noble or humble. In my view, it’s a lost opportunity to offer gifts to the world. Unique, special gifts that we all possess.

Play small

The definition of success is certainly not the same for everyone. Being a successful mother is a very difficult thing to attain, and I’m not sure there are many who feel that they will ever reach that success. I value being a good parent and offering my children all the love and support I feel I didn’t get in my childhood. But it is not everything.

Being true to myself means that I want to achieve professionally. I have things to do in this life and they are big, scary and exciting. I don’t want to look back with regret. I don’t want to feel that I never lived up to my true potential. I want to die knowing that I did something great in my life. Something I’m really proud of. I want to know that I stretched myself and that it was worth it.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s better to push myself, or to learn to accept life just as it is. It’s no wonder I suffer from fatigue with all that driving towards success and obsession with achievement. But I believe that life is for living. I am an advocate of packing life full of experiences. I want my existence to make a difference to the world. I want to leave it better for me having followed my calling and given my absolute best.

Play small

That’s the example I want to give my children. Psychologist Carl Jung said that “nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

My children wont have to worry about my unlived life, that’s for sure. I may suffer and struggle a great deal but I will have a life that is lived, as fully as I’m capable of. I will not play small.