Looking for Flowers: Staying Out of a Negative Mindset

Have you ever noticed how when you’re in a bad mood the world seems out to get you? Or the inverse, when you are feeling great the world is also full of joy? Today I am thinking about self-compassion and how important it is that we take care of ourselves first so that we can come to the world with a positive mindset.

An old story comes to mind. 

A weary traveller came to the gates of a new city and asked the gatekeeper, “What kind of city is this? The last city I left was full of thieves and evil people.” 

The gate keeper answered, “We have those kinds of people here too.” 

The traveller moved on not wanting to stay one more minute in such a terrible place. 

Later that day another traveller came to the gates and asked the gatekeeper, “What kind of city is this? The last city I left was full of creative and interesting people, everyone was kind and I left many friends.” 

The gatekeeper answered, “You’ll find people like that here too.” And the traveller entered the city.

The gatekeeper did not lie to either traveller – there were both kinds of people in her city. But the wisdom is in recognizing that that which we look for we will find. The first traveller sought only to find the evil and darkness in others and would likely find it. The second traveller saw only light and would likely find the same. 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone like the first traveller who is hurting so much they seem to have no choice but to fixate on the negative things that have happened to them? A friend once spent an entire day lamenting to me about the hurt her family had caused her, how their cruelty had poisoned their relationships, and how she was an innocent recipient of this pain. On the way out of a family event her father asked her to please wait as he had picked up dinner for her. In that moment it really struck me – was my friend truly being harmed and hurt by her family? Yes. Was it because of their careless disregard or intentional desire to cause her harm? No. She was simply choosing to observe and remember those situations when they had disappointed her. She was looking for their faults and not their kindnesses and like the first traveller, she found it.

My friend’s inability to accept love was causing her pain. We remember pain longer than ease because in our primitive history it has been the avoidance of pain that contributes most greatly to our survival. For example, if we remember caves may be mountain lion dens we will not be eaten. On the opposite end, if we find a field of flowers it may be beautiful but if it does not lead us to find honey or food our primitive brains forget as it is not imminent to our survival. This survival tactic worked well for our primitive selves and we can all be grateful to our ancestors for remembering every danger that kept them alive so that eventually we could exist. However, these are no longer primitive times. If all we remember is danger and pain, looking for mountain lions – we will miss all of the flowers.

We lead lives full of potential and possibility but when we focus intently on the negative we loose sight of the joy and love in our lives. Negativity may initially generate a response from others – attention, pity, or support. If a person continues to come to us with their negative story and we do not share their perspective – we see that person like the first traveller, better to let them move on than waste our time trying to introduce them to good people. The perspective of the traveller, is the travelers responsibility, not the gatekeepers.

It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and love ourselves first. It may be difficult to shift your attention, to see someone else’s care for you. But with practice even that first traveller can learn to look for the good so that their toxicity does not spread into personal relationships and their life. In my friend’s case – her father was showing love and care to her – it’s her job to see and appreciate it. 

What makes this work most important is that if gone unchecked that negativity will consume you and every relationship we hold dear. We become the mountain lion, the dangerous predator consuming and destroying the love and connection the world offers us. Much like that first traveller, we walk alone and miss so many friendships and opportunities simply because we were not looking for the flowers.

How do you protect yourself form mountain lions? How do you make self-care a priority so that you don’t become a mountain lion yourself? 

Also, no mountain lions were harmed in the writing of this piece. This work is not based on any one mountain lion living or deceased, it is the authors attempt at metaphor. She has no animosity to the mountain lion community – please do not eat me. I just needed an animal that lives in caves and might, in a hypothetical situation consume a prehistoric cave invader.

Centering: Using the Tools we have to Ground Ourselves

This weekend in the absence of meditation I have been feeling discombobulated. I have had so many thoughts running through my mind that it’s hard to pick and choose where my natural beginning is to be found. Which task needs to be addressed first – what is my next right thing? Fortunately, when I start to feel overwhelmed I have the tools to bring myself back into the equation and to find my way back to my own center. 

The temptation may be to scroll through my phone or search for wisdom from some outside expert. Sometimes I follow this rabbit hole but the answer is already here inside of me. I know the answer already. There is no sage wisdom that someone else possesses – we possess it inside ourselves already. In short, I got this. 

I recover from this feeling with meditation or writing. I write out all of the half-sentences, and half-baked ideas swirling around in my head like a list. I let them flow out of me and onto the page and eventually they start to make sense. There’s a deeper meaning that is hidden beneath the layers of surface distraction. And whatever it is, that small whisper has room to come through when I get all of that extra background noise out of the way.

Once it is out of the way I focus on my intentions and what I want and need. That means eating well, drinking enough water, and tending to myself as if I am precious. It means investing in myself and giving myself the time and attention I need to feel balanced. Focusing internally allows us to redirect the energy that can be lost quickly when I am looking to someone else to guide me or give directions. I follow my own marching orders and to do that I need to be nourished, healthy, well rested, and to be kind to myself. The little voice inside of me that longs to be heard will not shout – it is my job to silence the external din so that I can listen within myself and find what I am looking for there. 

Each of us has a mission and a purpose in this world. Our role is not to understand or explain it. Our role is to show up and give our best. What’s incredible is that even as I write this I feel the tugs of self-doubt and fear that our society indoctrinates young women to feel. But I also feel the soaring of my heart when I listen to myself, when I reward myself and don’t silence the vision I hold of the future. We all have so much to give the world and we can only share our gifts if we slow down, look within, and share our souls. 

To me this looks like silence, hydration, rest, meditation, good food, and exercise. What does it look like to you?

Comparison as We Prepare for Re-Entry: AKA Brunch

Comparison is the theif of joy and I am going to do my best to remember this truth as I attend my first brunch with friends since the pandemic began this weekend. We are all finally vaccinated and ready! Despite scoffing at articles that preach the surge in spending on cosmetic procedures and the investments many of us are making into looking more youthful and attractive – I feel it. There is a twinge of desire to show off since we have been in lockdown. I am owning this feeling but I am also making a point to focus my attention on the intention of the gathering. 

The purpose of brunch is to connect and feel seen and supported by the people I love and who love me. This is not an opportunity to shame or show off. This is not a moment to “win.” The win is that we are all vaccinated. We can all safely eat at restaurants together, likely outside just to be sure. The win is that we can all be together without calculating the risk repeatedly or without fear that this gathering could be the last for some of us. 

Staying focused on the freeing and beautiful opportunity and not on whether and if we will be judged by our peers is focus of this event. If it isn’t then we are gathering with the wrong people or for the wrong reasons. Still, there is this feeling of wanting to impress. A tender little desire to show off and wear a face of make-up, or style my hair in a fashionable manner. Not as an attempt to draw attention or impress but to commemorate and celebrate what is a new event.

As we are going out in public, if you too want to dress up or appear stylish, let us agree to do it for ourselves. Let’s show up as we want to present ourselves. Let’s take care of ourselves and celebrate that we survived this pandemic. Let’s be there to support our friends who lost loved ones, who lost relationships, and many of us still uneasy with the prospect of even being in public. Mourning that we may perhaps have to return to the office or taking stock of friends we have lost to the disease. We are communing with our people and sharing what we have learned. If new sunglasses or a coordinated outfit will make me feel fabulous and more comfortable in my skin, I’m going to do it. But I am also going to focus my attention on what I am brining to this event. I am bringing my full self. I am not interested in portraying a character or an abstract version of myself that pretends like everything is fine. I am showing up raw, real, and empathetic. l am greeting my friends with open arms and a full heart. I am excited to see my friends. Excited to hug them and laugh together. I am grateful that I can do this. I am grateful that we have seemingly come out on the other side. There is much to celebrate and regardless of what is said or what has happened, we made it. WE did it! 

And with that in mind I will drink a mimosa, I will celebrate the victories, and I will cherish this moment. Because gratitude is what got me through this last year. The love and support I have shared with my friends is what supported me in this endeavor. And I don’t know about you, but that seems like enough. I don’t need to have my eyebrows waxed and my hair blown out to give and receive love. If I feel like styling I will, but i will not do it out of competition or a desire to see someone else feel less than or as if they cannot compete. I am doing it so I feel comfortable in my skin and so when I spill a little mimosa, no one will be able to see it – that’s what Lilly Pullitzer was designed for anyway. 

So cheers my friends! Welcome back to the real world! Let’s celebrate this moment with a little more kindness and gentleness for ourselves and for each other. Let us be grateful for where we are and how far we’ve come. Let us never forget that the reason we are friends is for what we have found inside one another that resonates not for what we appear like on the outside. Real deep lifelong friendship is a gift, I’m grateful I get to share it with these amazing women. I’m grateful for Brunch.