Sunday, December 20, 2015

We are Earthlings - Why Saying "Girls Rule" Isn't Helping Anyone

As a mother of three children, two boys and one girl, I truly want to pass on a better world than what we are seeing now.  Everyone seems so polarized - politically, financially, spiritually.  We attack each other over our differences, which breeds fear and anxiety.  And what do we do when we are frightened?  We retreat into our own little corners and attack, attack, and attack some more.

We all know this isn't working.  And we already know what will help.  I mean, how long has it been since The Beatles sang, "All You Need Is Love"?  (For all you trivia buffs, the answer is 46 years.)  Yet, the second we encounter anyone who seems slightly different from you, our reaction tends to be to attack rather than love.  You know you've done it.  You've criticized people inside your head even if you didn't let out a peep.  I know I certainly have.

So how do we stop this?  How do we change the world?  I believe the answer is one thought at a time.  I think we should all take a good look at the beliefs that's been passed down as truth and really examine them.  Ask yourself, "Is it REALLY true?  Do I actually want to believe this?"

I want to write a series of posts called "We are Earthlings", so that we can all challenge our old beliefs that separate us and learn to love each other as co-inhabitants of this little planet called Earth.  So, here we go.  I hope you'll come along with me on this mental roller coaster ride.


Today is my oldest son's birthday, so in honor of him, the first belief I'd like to tackle is the currently rather popular belief that we should be teaching our girls that they "rule".  Supposedly, this is supposed to make them feel "empowered".  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for gender equality.  I'm not suggesting that we should go back to the olden days of male dominance.  But the word "equality" is the key here.  "Girls Rule" crosses that threshold and suggests that girls are superior than boys.  That's when I say, "No, thank you".  I want a world where my boys, as well as my daughter, are respected equally.

I see so many grown women these days who treat men as if they are supposed to be their servants.  I don't mind parents teaching girls that they are princesses.  Every girl IS special and should be worshiped like a princess.  But we should also be teaching our children that every boy is special, too, and that he deserve to be worshiped like a prince.  Every man is different.  Every woman is different.  The only thing that isn't different is that everyone deserves respect.

Once the children understand this, it should help immensely when they start dating - though I'm sure some of you would rather not think about that stage yet!  :)  When my children grow up, I want them to be in a partnership where both parties feel loved and respected.  Should the relationship fail, I want them to have the courage to examine what they could have done differently because no one is perfect.  And I certainly don't want them to result to the frail excuse of "I just don't understand women" or "If he had treated me better".

Ultimately, I want all our children to learn that the key to happiness lies within themselves.  They don't need someone else to make them feel validated, and they certainly don't need to put down the opposite sex to make them feel empowered.

So next time you see or hear comments that tries to distance the sexes, stop and think "Is this true?  How would I feel about it if the genders were reversed?"  If you don't think you would like it very much, then don't let it continue.  Don't pass it on.  And most definitely, don't pass it on to our children!

By the way, I'm well aware that in many parts of the world, girls are still treated as second class citizens, if not objects to be owned.  Recent series on NPR comes to mind.  I certainly want equality for girls like them.  I certainly want them to see that their lives matter.  I certainly think that girls like that should be encouraged and have role models to follow.  As I said before, the word "equality" is the key.  We are Earthlings, each and every one of us.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Are Your Parents Obligated to Love You Unconditionally?

OK.  I know my answer to this question is going to ruffle some feathers.  But I've been thinking about this for a long time now, and my answer is NO.  That's right, N. O.  I don't think so.

Why?  Because I think the only person you can truly rely on to love you unconditionally is you and yourself alone.  I can add God to that list if you like, but I believe God is already within you - you are part of God - so that would be the same thing.  You expect anyone else to love you unconditionally, and you give up control of your happiness.  You're always relying on love from an outside source to make you happy, and that's unreliable!  Don't look for someone to be your savior.  YOU are your own savior.  YOU are responsible for your own happiness.

Maybe I should back up a little bit so you can understand how I got to this point.

This summer, when I was really questioning myself and my parenting skills in particular, I kept wondering "Is it even possible to raise your children without scarring them somehow?"  So I went to the Great Google and typed in the question.  What I found out was that not too many people were asking the same question.  What I did find out was that there are A LOT of people asking, "Do you think your parents loved you unconditionally?" and the resounding answer to that question was "NO!"  It seems pretty much everyone felt that their parents were selfish, if not narcissistic.  There's even a whole website devoted to daughters raised by narcissistic mothers.  Even the ones that felt relatively well loved remembered incidents in their lives that made them feel unloved.

My first reaction was, "Oh lord!  Is this how my children will see me when they grow up?"  But the more I thought about it, I started to feel like, "Well, why not?"  After all, I am a human being.  I'm not some perfect saint!  Sometimes, I need to do something else before I can sit down and read a book with them.  Sometimes, I don't have the patience to deal with the constant bickering among siblings or the obnoxious repetition of a really annoying song.  If my children choose to see those moments as my being selfish or a sign of lack of love, there really isn't anything I can do about that.

And this is true for all parents, including yours and mine.  It's completely normal and routine to feel unloved at some point in our childhoods. What's insane is that we've all bought into this lie that our parents are supposed to love us unconditionally, and then we lick our wounds collectively, blaming our parents for "messing us up."  Please, let us all get rid of this unrealistic burden!  I know a lot of people, personally, who didn't feel loved as children and are carrying this huge load of resentment, anger, sadness, as well as a faint hope that someday, somehow, their parents will turn around and tell them "I'm sorry, I love you."  Why wait until then to be happy?  What if that day never comes?  Wouldn't it be better to just recognize this as a myth and get rid of the guilt that comes with thinking "My parents must not have loved me because I wasn't good enough"?

Now, I'm not saying that no one is able to love unconditionally.  I'm sure some people are capable of loving others unconditionally, and some of you grew up without ever doubting your parents' love.  I also believe that all of us are capable of loving others unconditionally, too.  But before that can happen, we must learn to love ourselves first.  When we love ourselves, we take responsibility for our own happiness.  When we take responsibility for our own happiness, we stop seeking validation from others.  When we stop looking for validation from others, we stop seeing others as possible attackers of our fragile egos.  And when we are no longer afraid of receiving attacks from these people, we can love them freely.  Unconditionally.

So that's where I am now.  I may feel differently a few years from now, but right now, I'm working on loving and accepting myself.  I at least recognize my immediate anxiety when I hear a word of criticism from my parents and try to just observe that anxiety from a distance.  I'm trying to allow my children to feel whatever they want to feel without turning it into a personal attack on my parenting skills.  I feel more connected and loving toward all earthlings.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

Do you think your parents loved you unconditionally?  Do you think we can raise our children without scarring them somehow?  Do you feel at peace with your answers to these questions?  How do you feel about my stance on unconditional love?  I'd love for my thoughts to start your inner dialogue - a seed that begins your search for a deeper answer.  And do let me know what you found in the comments below!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ajahn Brahm

So we all know that YouTube can be a source of an enormous amount of mind-numbing junk, but you can find truly wonderful things there too.  Pretty much every night, I spend about an hour or so to help me relax and also to educate myself.  One of my favorite people to listen to is Ajahn Brahm. 

Ajahn Brahm is a British monk in Western Australia.  He gives talks every week, and thank goodness for us, they are posted on YouTube for all of us to hear.  Of course, his words are full of wisdom, as you would expect from a Buddhist monk, but the best part is that he's very funny.  I can always count on him to make me smile, and that's the best way to relax!

Each and every video has spoken to me in one way or another, so I find it hard to pick out my favorite.  I'll just post the latest video titled Terrorism and Peace since the terrorism in Paris has left many of us searching for answers.  Yes, the internet can be used by the terrorists to recruit more members and spread hatred, but we can also use it to recruit even more people into our global community whose mission is to spread love and compassion!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What I'm Learning about Being a Parent #2

In my previous post, I wrote about the #1 thing that I've been learning about being a parent, which was to stop trying to teach them something and just be a good role model.

I think the second most important thing is to accept yourself just as you are.  This actually goes back to being a good role model.  We want to be the "perfect" parent for our children, but we are also human beings.  We all make mistakes sometimes.  That's part of life.  How we choose to deal with those so called failures, however, is up to you.

Do you go over the situation over and over again in your head and berate yourself for the errors you made?  Or do you accept the fact that it happened and that you cannot change what's happened already, so forgive yourself and move on?

I think many of us automatically choose option 1, but stop and think for a minute.  If you ever saw your children berating themselves over "mistakes" they've made, how would you feel?  Is this a behavior that you would like to pass on to your children?

I learned this the hard way.  This past summer, my oldest son was sick for a while, and one day, he fell asleep in the middle of the day.  The second he woke up from his nap though, he was in a complete panic.  After I got him to calm down a little, I asked him what happened.  He told me "I get mad at myself when I take a nap because I feel like I wasted my time."

...Ouch!!  What have I been teaching my son?!  Why can't my son relax and rest, even when he's sick?!

It crushed my heart.  I felt absolutely horrible.  I went down the usual path and got angry with myself.  At the time, I was just beginning to learn to accept myself and to take care of my "inner child".  I didn't feel like I deserved to.  I thought if I had been so demanding of my son that he felt he needed to place so much pressure on himself, then I must demand even more from myself.  How could I possibly forgive and accept myself, which to me seemed like giving myself a "free pass" to get away from my mistakes?

The angrier I got with myself though, my fuse grew shorter also.  Worst of all, my son was mirroring my frustration.  He would boss his little sister around and get angry with her over minor things.  I saw myself in him.  And I knew I had to change.

Your children are heavily influenced by your behavior, good or bad.  If you want your children to be loving, kind people, YOU have to be a loving, kind person.  If you want your children to respect themselves, YOU have to respect YOURSELF.

For me, saying affirmations has helped tremendously.  If I'm driving alone, I constantly talk to myself and send loving thoughts to the drivers and pedestrians passing by.  Writing my thoughts out on paper was also very helpful in sorting them out.  Whatever works for you, do it!  And do it right now!  It may feel weird to you at first, but do it for your children.  And eventually, you'll get to a place where you'll just want to do it for yourself.

You deserve to be happy, and the truth is, you can't make anybody else happy if you are not happy with yourself first.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What I'm Learning About Being a Parent - #1

For the past several months, I've been really reevaluating my beliefs and have had to completely shift the way I think about certain things.  This, especially, had a huge influence on the way I parent my 3 children.  For a while, I beat myself up relentlessly because I thought I had really messed up and had damaged my children permanently.  So, I started telling my son my new ideas and encouraging him to do the same...  But wait!  My beliefs would change again in a few days, so I had another set of new rules!

This really confused my poor son.  He actually got sick for a whole month, and I just got more frustrated.  This was clearly not the way to go.

After awhile, I came across this poem by Kahlil Gibran:

On Children  

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The first stanza is quoted most often, but the second stanza was the one I needed to get.  So, I evolved again.  I learned that you can't "teach" your children anything.  As soon as you try to do so, your ego steps in and says "I know more than you.  I'm better than you."  Your children will pick up on this  underlying message instantly and feel that they are not good enough as they are.

Well, what CAN you do as a parent, then?  #1, Be a good role model.  You have to become the type of person you want your children to be.  You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  Sure, there's no guarantee that your children will follow in your footsteps, but that's also the case when you pester them to do this and that.  At least, this way, you've improved yourself in the process.  And isn't that what we are here on Earth to do?  To improve ourselves and not anyone else?

P.S.  While this is the number one thing I've learned so far about being a parent, there are few more lessons I had to face.  To keep the posts relatively short, I'll be tackling them one at a time in the coming weeks.   Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Someone Somewhere

Someone Somewhere

Someone somewhere is grieving today
Over a partner who has just passed
Over a parent who’s fading away
Over a little one they’ll never meet
Over a beloved tail no longer wagging

Someone somewhere is grieving today
Who it was - does not matter
How long ago - does not matter
What does matter is that there is pain
Where it hides is the great unknown

Someone somewhere is grieving today
So be kind to your friends and your neighbors
Send some love to your family and strangers
Flash a bright smile, give a warm hug
Go easy on the car horn as you drive

Everyone grieves in different ways
Some are obvious, others are tucked away
But we’ll all grieve - that’s for sure
At some point, over someone - somewhere.

This was one of the things I wrote while I was taking a break from this blog.  I wrote it while thinking of a friend who had just lost her father.  I don't know why, but I felt compelled to share it with you today.  I hope it resonates with someone, somewhere.

Friday, September 18, 2015

You Are Stardust

This gorgeous book caught my eye when I went to the library recently with my kids.  It's called You Are Stardust.  Written by Elin Kelsey, an environmental scientist, this book also delves into how we are all connected - just like the Melodysheep video I linked to in my earlier post.  One of the things it talks about is that we drink the same water that dinosaurs used to drink.  I'd never thought about that, but it's very true as Mother Earth is the ultimate recycler!

Of course, you can't talk about the book without talking about the artwork!  The photographs are of breathtaking dioramas created by Soyeon Kim.  They are just so beautiful!  I love this book so much, I'm seriously considering buying my own copy.

The same team has apparently published another book about animals.  I'll have to see if I can find that as well!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Six Years Later

Six years ago today, an eight-year-old boy went to the emergency room because he had a severe cough.  What no one realized at the time was that he was actually having a stroke.  Next morning, as all his classmates were getting up - ready to head back to school after a long summer vacation - he took his last breath.

His name was Yuto.  He was my cousin's only child.  The end of his life was the beginning of my spiritual journey.  Because how could you not wake up?  How could you keep on living in the same old way, when you are looking at your own child and it hits you - He doesn't have a protective bubble around him. He can be taken away from you just as easily.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with everything.  It seemed so unfair.  It didn't make sense.  Eventually, I got to the point where I accepted what happened and promised myself that I would enjoy and live my life to the fullest so that his passing would not be in vain.  And every year, on the first of September, I would assess my life to see if I was living up to that promise.

This year, I'm noticing a slight but a significant change.  Rather than just saying that I should be enjoying my life to the fullest, I'm at a point now where I know I DESERVE to enjoy my life to the fullest.  (In fact, we ALL do.)  Rather than be somber all day long, I want to do things that make me happy.  I feel like that will make Yuto infinitely more happy than having me sit there and be sad, or worse, sit there and criticise myself for not living my life to the fullest.

So, my husband and I took my oldest, who is also eight years old this year, to Manhattan this past weekend.  Just the three of us, so that we can give him our full attention even if it was for a few hours.  We went to a show and enjoyed a delicious dinner.  The full moon that night, as well as the Manhattan skyline, was gorgeous.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I loved everyone and everything in this universe.  And that, I think, was the best tribute I could ever make to a boy who headed toward heaven with a most peaceful smile on his face.

If you've read this thing all the way through, I have a favor to ask of you.  Please do something right now, right this minute, that will make you feel happy.  If not for me, then for yourself and for Yuto.  He didn't leave this world early to make us live in fear that our life or our children's lives will be cut short.  He's teaching us that if we have something we'd like to do, do it now!  If you have someone that you love in your life, tell them now!  Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may....


P.S. Hmm, I seem to have walked right into yet another Melodysheep video!

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Song Stuck in My Head

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head?  I've got Melodysheep's "We Are All Connected" stuck in my head right now.  If you've never heard of Melodysheep, he digitally alters footage from television and movies to create very unique songs.  He has a whole album of songs called Symphony of Science in which you'll see well known scientists singing (and rapping!).

For me, if I get a song stuck in my head, it's a signal that I need to pay attention to the lyrics.  It's like the universe communicates to me through songs.  Sometimes, the message is obvious.  It cues me up to the exact lyric I need to hear.  Sometimes, I have to keep singing the song until I get to the part that's relevant.

I've had this current song stuck in my head for a few days now.  I thought it was because I needed to appreciate everyone in this world.  To keep working on feeling connected to the universe.  Now, I'm starting to feel like it was because I'm supposed to blog about it.  Someone somewhere is supposed to find this song, and I'm part of the web (quite literally) that leads that person to it. 

So, I trust the universe and put this out there.  I hope it reaches the person it's supposed to reach.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Baby Steps

One of the hardest parts of making changes in your life, whether mental or physical, is that it takes a while for us to unlearn our old habits and create a new one.  I am trying to make changes both mentally and physically right now, and I'm proud of how much I've grown mentally.  But the physical changes are simply not happening for me.

The frustrating part is that I started working on the physical changes first.  I was exclusively breastfeeding my baby so I had to eliminate dairy, gluten, sugar, soy, and a plethora of other foods from my diet when he developed eczema about 2-3months after he arrived.  It helped my son a lot, but as for me and my eczema, things got worse.  I think a lot of it has to do with my stopping the use of my steroid creams around the same time and going through what is called Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW).   From what I read on the ITSAN website, this is a long, drawn out detox process, and it will take several years for me to be completely better because I've been using steroid creams for decades.  Still, it gets pretty frustrating not seeing much of an improvement after 9 months.

Thankfully, I have three wonderful children who teache me countless invaluable lessons everyday.  Right now, I've got a little one who is showing me, quite literally, that learning a new skill or making changes in your life is all about baby steps.  My son took his first step on Independence Day (of all days!).  It was more of a shuffle or a shifting of foot position than anything else, but it was the beginning.  Three days later, he took three steps.  At that point, we could definitely categorize that as "walking".  He seemed to be stuck on taking 6 to 8 steps then falling on his tush, but after a month, he was walking more than crawling.  Now, he walks most of the time, and he squeals with delight at each step!  If he falls, he doesn't get frustrated or give up and cry.  He just stands right back again and keeps on walking.

And THAT, I think is the most important lesson I'm learning from him.  We forget how difficult it is to learn something new, and get frustrated with ourselves when we fall off the wagon or the changes don't happen as quickly as we would like.  But we just need to keep going.  We need to keep taking small, baby steps and rejoice at every steps that we do take!  We have to learn to walk before we can run, and each step you take brings you closer to your ultimate goal. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

I'm Getting My Voice Back!

Hello, everyone! It's been a long, looong maternity leave! LOL! Truth be told, it actually was 2 back-to-back maternity leaves. Yep, that's right. Just as I was beginning to think I might start going back online again, I found out I was pregnant once more, so I never bothered to restart. I'm a mother of three now, and my youngest just turned one. My daughter, who was only a few months old in the last post, is getting ready to start Pre-K this September.

So, obviously, a lot has happened since the last time I wrote. Adjusting to new life changes and being trusted by the universe to take care of little lives definitely forces you to dig deep within yourself, and I've learned much during these 3 and a half years. The past year in particular has been really intense, with website after website and books after books presenting themselves to me exactly at the right time, just when I needed it the most.

 The most important thing that I've learned is to be true to myself and to accept myself without judgement. This, I realize now, means I have to love and take care of myself before I can truly love and take care of others. I had allowed my life to revolve completely around my children because I thought that's what good mothers did. But in hind sight, all it did was make me build up this suppressed resentment that I had no time for myself, which caused me to be constantly stressed and short tempered. And then, of course, I would beat myself up because I got frustrated and angry with them! In my mind that was definitely not something a "good" mom was supposed to do. It was a vicious cycle.

There are 3 books in particular that has helped me turn things around. One is You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. This book showed me how important it is to love myself and challenged me to search deep within to figure out why I hated myself so much. The second book is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I got this book to read with my oldest son since I remembered enjoying it when I was younger. What I didn't remember (or realize back then) was how deeply spiritual this book is. It gave me exactly the messages I needed at exactly the right time. And I learned how important it is to "Do as you wish". The third book, which I just finished reading, reconfirmed what I had learned and refined some of the awarenesses that I had. It's called Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani. This is a book detailing how her terminal lymphoma was cured after a near-death experience. Her description of the afterlife and the spiritual dimention really meshed with my own beliefs about them, and it really reinforced the need to value and love myself exactly as I am, warts and all. (In my case, eczema and all!)

So that's where this blog comes in. I am searching deep within and piecing together my true identity.  Since I was so caught up in the daily chaos of motherhood, I had forgotten it.  But deep down, I am an artist and a writer. And I have things that I want to express to the world. If I truly want to be happy, I have to allow that "Self" to shine. I have to follow my wishes, as Bastian did in The Never Ending Story, and trust that I am always going in the right direction.