I recently came across an old day planner of mine from 2008. We were living in Austin (before our move to Mexico), my girls were babies (oh how fast 1, 4, 7, and 13 turn into 8, 11, 15, and 21), and I was still convinced that if I just pushed myself a little harder, managed my time a little more wisely, or stretched our money a little further, I could finally achieve the simple, connected, and joyful life I longed for.
My December to-do list paints a perfect picture of my
insanity do more, feel better mentality at the time:
My happiness around the holidays was directly related to the accomplishment of the tasks on my list (I usually managed to complete about a third of them), and the resulting appreciation and respect I hoped would follow.
But it never worked out that way. Every year I felt more stress than joy, more disappointment than connection, and more expectations than appreciation from others.
Looking back, I recognize a LOT of two things:
The good intentions:
The limiting beliefs:
My intentions reflected deep-seated values. But without checking in with my belief systems around those values, the life I longed for always seemed just beyond my reach.
I’ve come a long way since those inner slave-driver days. I now value my own well-being in the mix, I have a ton more trust that life will give my kids what they need, I’ve learned how to slow down and truly be present, I no longer take responsibility for other people’s emotions/choices/reactions, and my save the world sentiments have given way to something more akin to heal thyself.
But here’s the shift I’m most excited about this year:
I’ve gotten clear on how I want my life to FEEL (as opposed to look like), and increased my chances of feeling these feelings by exploring the limits I’ve created within myself.
Joy, peace, love, and connection have never felt so abundant, nor so available to me.
Are there gaps between the way you want to feel and the way you often end up feeling (during the holidays or any other time)? If so, you may benefit from checking in with your own limiting beliefs.
Here are four questions to ask yourself, for starters:
Here are a couple of examples in my own life at the moment:
I want to feel present this season. Historically, presence was only something I allowed myself to feel once the to-do list was accomplished, which was pretty much never (I just answered the first three questions). So, removing barriers to presence looks recognizing that I can be present ANYTIME, and that I’m worthy of this feeling under any circumstances. I can be present in the line at the grocery store, I can be present when my kids are complaining, and I can be present while driving in traffic. This drastically increases my opportunities for feeling this way, and isn’t dependent on the behavior or choices of anyone else.
I also want to feel connected. I used to believe that in order to feel connected, the other person had to be a good conversationalist, be willing to skip the small talk and dive right into “meaningful” topics, respect and honor my parenting choices, and more or less see life the same way I did. It goes without saying that I only felt connected (during the holidays or any other time) to a very small and very select handful of people. For me, removing barriers to connection looks like meeting people where they are, truly listening, staying out of judgment, seeing them as my equal, and honoring them wherever they are in their process of growth. Once I realized that understanding is not a prerequisite for connection, the possibilities suddenly felt quite endless. (And if my bids for connection are not accepted, I can always connect with my experience and/or myself.)
No one else needs to change in order for us to feel more of the feelings we want. Love, joy, peace, presence, and connection require simply that we open even wider; that we allow them to be as vast, ever-present, and ever-available as they really are.
My wish for you this season is not only more of what you want, but more openness to receiving it.
Limitless love to you and yours,
**Assuming you don’t already know and love her, I’d like to introduce you to the beautiful, crazy-talented photographer Jote Khalsa, whose work stirs my soul on the daily. She and I will be working together in the coming year by pairing my words with her images (such as the one in this post). Yay for soulful collaboration!
Merry Christmas! I’d love to see your 2015 list compared with your 2008 list. Hmmm. What does that look like? Or have you given up the list completely? You are so talented, loving and caring friend, mother and wife. Thank you so much for another wonderfully insightful article. I like that it includes an exercise to encourage me to check in with myself.
Thank you Beth! So well said! I always enjoy your posts!
Figuring out where our intentions originate from is smart. You seem very lucid. This is particularly true: “living simply requires a shit-ton of work”. Simplifying should make us feel serene, not overwhelmed! I am still trying to find the sweet spot.
You speak to my heart once again. I feel so connected to you just reading this. I love you!!