This being me… whoever that is

It was many moons ago but I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I was on the phone with my sister, asking her what I should text this guy I had gone on a date a few nights prior. I was asking if what I had planned to text him sounded good (I guess a mix of witty, cute, sweet and yet not too sweet, that shows I like him but not too much, etc, etc). This wasn’t unusual in my circle of friends where we’d be hanging out and someone would ask if their planned text message was good enough to send or if they should say something different. On that day though, instead of her usual response, my sister surprised me and asked “Why do you think I would know better than you?” I didn’t think much of what she said at the time and went on with my quest for the perfect text. 

But in the past decade or so, her words have come to me at times and more so recently.

As the etched words of Bob Dylan on my necklace remind me “All I can do is be me, whoever that is” 

All these efforts for self-love over the many years had not really driven this point home as well as recently when I went to a Byron Katie School of work. And while there, sitting with myself, questioning some belief, I started to realize how incredibly relaxing and freeing it is to let myself be. Whatever comes out. 

I recently met a guy I like and as we were texting back and forth, I found myself thinking if the text I had just sent him was good. What if he misunderstands it or thinks I am too much of something or not enough of something else and likes me less. And it hit me, perhaps for the first time that the words that I had just texted, was ALSO me, however perfect or imperfect it may be to him. Obviously when I sent it 30 seconds ago, it seemed good enough to me and yet 30 seconds later I am not so sure. 

The title of Byron Katie’s book “A mind at home with itself” gave me this idea…..  What if, god forbid, I accepted my mind? The crazy, monkey mind that has fear and anxiety- causing thoughts in it…. Of course I don’t like my mind when it gives me self-deprecating or fearful thoughts. And yet, what if I accepted it? I mean, these thoughts are running through my mind anyways and hating on them and trying to ignore them doesn’t work for me (It may work for others but not for me). Resisting them and hating on them doesn’t make them go away. They circle right back again. Yet, questioning their validity with kindness makes them slowly lose their grip on me and evaporate and not circle back as strongly. 

I remember an episode of the TV show “Friends” where Chandler is getting ready to go on a date and the group’s advice to him is “Just be yourself, but not too much yourself”. That’s the kind of advice that can subtly drive me crazy. A part of me thinks I am too much, too open, too nice, too independent, too needy, too naive, too a lot of other things. 

So in this journey of self-acceptance, I have realized that when I am sitting here thinking of the perfect text and writing, deleting it and re-writing it, that I should just send what I am thinking as corny or dorky or whatever as it may sound cause that is ALSO me. Sometimes my words are witty and funny or whatever is acceptable to myself and sometimes they are not and yet it is all a part of me. And someone who wants to be with me, will inevitably see all of it. 

It feels so much more freeing and relaxing since I have adopted this. The minute a self-doubting thought comes to my mind about what I said the night before, I think it was THE ME at that time and it was supposed to be like that.  And if I turned this guy off because he didn’t like what I said or did, then he wasn’t meant to be. I’ll be sad to not see him, but I will get over it. After all, if I don’t like my own company including my own thoughts, how can I expect someone else to like it? 

And I know as clear as I feel about what I am writing here today, that next month, I may totally be driving myself crazy over what I said and how I should have said or done it better. Hopefully if that happens, I can come back and read these words that my sane mind is writing right now and remind myself that it is all ok because all of it is part of me and this being human. 

Nothing Means Anything!

What does it mean to live with your mom when you are turning 40 and single?

A few months ago I decided to move in with my mom. I don’t know why exactly. I loved my apartment in MarVista so much. It was my sanctuary. But maybe because I felt like I needed a change and it would help to save some money to be ready for that change. And  I would get to be close to my mom and my favorite furry creature, Hooloo, my mom’s kitten.

So I moved in December. And even though I was worried I may regret it, I have not really missed my former beloved apartment at all. But despite having made this move voluntarily and with really no financial necessity, and despite having actually enjoyed it so far, from the kitchen’s view of these beautiful birch trees where I sit and have my breakfast, to the recent snuggles when Ms. Hooloo allows it, to my mom’s sense of humor and her home cooked meals, to the shorter commute to work, to this adorable room that my feng-shui master of a friend set up for me, despite it all, this move has given my monkey mind a field day whenever it goes in to that self-critical mode, adding to my list of inadequacies how not only am I turning 40 but I am living with my mom. And even when I remind my mind that I have chosen this not because of a lack of career or money but it still insists that none-the-less this living situation leaves much to be desired.
I was having dinner one night with a friend of mine before the move and when I told him I am moving in with my mom, he reminded me of a Seinfeld episode when George is moving in with his parents.  Jerry’s stand-up line was that it is never a good sign when you are moving in with your parents… like you never say: “my career is going great and I am moving in with my parents or I am in a new relationship and I am moving in with my parents, etc”…. It was a funny episode and my friend was merely trying to make me laugh. I know he thinks no less of me for moving in with my mom.
But it reminds me of the book “The Four Agreements”. How we have made these agreements for certain things to mean something and even when it doesn’t mean that, the mind is so fixated on it that it can’t see it clearly any other way. We make everything mean something.
Another night I was at dinner with some new friends and when I told them I moved in with my mom, a few of them voiced their disbelief of how I was even capable of living with my mother at this age. But one new friend who is from Spain actually praised me saying: “This is a great sign that you can live with your mom, most people in this country can’t stand their families.” Clearly what “living with parents” means to him was different than what it means to Jerry Seinfeld, my friends and myself or at least that part of my mind that is saying all of this.
I have had multiple patients of mine in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even older tell me in such shame that they live with their parents. Many of them have made this choice for financial reasons or other reasons, even to take care of their parents, but this living situation is one more thing they add to their list of failures. I always remind them to not listen to this voice and not make their living arrangements mean anything more than it is. And although I mean what I say to them it with all my heart, but I guess my own mind is still entangled in the same unhealthy agreements.
The agreement that my mind has learned, the one that it uses to subtly torture me is that at every stage in your life, your life has to be in a certain place and have a certain look and if it isn’t there, even if you chose it not to be, then at least it has to be justified by something else more amazing. Like if at 40 you are not married with kids doing DIY projects with your kids and renewing your vows with your husband who dotes on you, then you should be a renowned professor, or have published several books or be traveling the world or be a high-ranking progressive political figure or like my beloved uncle, be involved in many philanthropic, creative projects around the world.
Whaaaaaat? I ask my mind; so you mean that being a physician, even a sub-specialist who sees the most rare cases, treats patients in pain and suffering every day and tries to treat them like her own family is not enough?
How about someone who tries to be honest and say I don’t know when she doesn’t know and to try to look for the answers, who tries to be real, tries to practice mindfulness, tries to do right as best as she can? Isn’t that enough? Isn’t it more than enough? Isn’t as enough as anyone else?
Mindfulness says to watch your thoughts non-judgmentally and to not identify them as you. To basically see them come and go instead of totally being in them. Like you are standing in that space between the water in the waterfall and the rock behind it. And when I watch these thoughts, sometimes I totally see their bullshit. But what really helps me, what actually changes these thoughts to completely different thoughts is remembering and literally tuning in to the voice of that Wise part of my Self, or what I call my Soul.
Soul, who speaks in whispers and I usually hear it best while on a good run or something meditative or maybe after a good cry. This voice that is so incredibly loving and says: oh my love, of course it is enough. Not because you are a doctor and not because of your education or degree or what you are accomplishing or even because you are practicing mindfulness, but because you are you, you are here, you are a living, breathing child of this universe, you are part of the universe and the universe itself. You are enough because you are alive and trying. Waking up every morning and taking another step on this journey.
My Soul’s voice reminds me that nothing means anything, only what you attach to it, only what meaning you give it.
It is not where we live, who we live with, what we do, what we have accomplished and what we haven’t, what we look like, how many friends we have, how many likes we get on our posts. It is not any of these that makes us lovely, lovable, and loved. It is because we are here, we breathe, and we try our bests even when that best is not perfect.
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