Category Archives: Reflection

Take Two: Learning to be Alone

I can just imagine the look of stress on my mom’s face as she receives an email notification that I’ve written another blog on me being alone. Let me quell your fears right away — It’s OK Mom, everything is fine and we have not broken up.

In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. This time around I am learning that there is a new kind of being alone, the kind that you schedule and choose very carefully. The kind that is infinitely more challenging when you’re in a happy, loving relationship in a city full of things to see and places to eat and and friends (!) … did I mention I have those too! It’s kind of well…overwhelming. Both in a very good way (believe me I’m grateful) but also in a how-do-I-balance-all-this-and-still-go-to-the-gym-kind-of-way?!

So here we go with my biggest realization as of late: my time living on Long Island should more accurately be described as my time in isolation, not my time spent alone. I didn’t know that there was a difference until I had something to compare it with, but this is what isolation looked like for me.

Scrolling for hours and hours through social media because I missed all my friends and even randoms I didn’t even really care too much to know how they were doing.

Crying after coming home from a fantastic weekend of visiting people and feeling the heavy void of them not being there.

Being in bed on a Friday night at 9pm because I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time, warming my heating pad up and calling it my “boyfriend” because it was heavy enough to mimic human contact.

These were some of the down sides, but I’ve also written extensively on the positives — I learned a whole lot about what I do to entertain myself when I am isolated. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • Getting tipsy and playing 9 holes of golf by myself
  • Going for a long walk at the beach in the winter time
  • Learning to dance the tango
  • Learning to kick box
  • Zumba!
  • Taking myself out to restaurants
  • Going on a string of ridiculous first dates
  • Shopping — lots of shopping

And above all, I did a lot of reflecting. There was a lot of laying around on my yoga mat, deep-breathing through challenges and grappling with feelings of longing for a more active and interesting lifestyle. But don’t get me wrong, I did settle in some. I made a few really important friendships and I quieted myself down from my usual warp-speed pace. And you know what? By the end of it all… I was actually really grateful that I got to have those experiences. And I was also like, really fit. Which was cool.

And so now, looking back it feels almost crazy how quickly I’ve accelerated. I went from 0-60 practically over night. And with 9 months under my belt, I am starting to crave some quiet again and I realize that I have to make that time for myself. That I have to choose it and I have to honor it.

I need to take time to reflect more and to be alone. The alone that I choose for myself. The alone that is the opposite of isolated. The alone that feels so decadent and healthy and re-energizing. The alone that feels so good.

So all of this just to say, there will be more here soon. This is one of my favorite outlets of reflection myself and it’s been a while. But I am back and I have so much to say.

L.

 

 

 

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It will be worth it.

For the past three years I have been a shepherd, so to speak, for young international students who are leaving home (some for the first time) to come to the United States to spend a year, maybe two, living with an American host family as an au pair. My training school has ushered thousands upon thousands of students through its doors, welcoming and grounding them in preparation for their adventure ahead.

The question “what’s next?”is the common theme that bonds all of the students together, and our facility is a place where transition begins the process of transformation. At the Training School our students are on the precipice of an enormous change, perhaps one so drastic that they may not even recognize their former selves upon returning home to their countries at the end of their program.

And it is this raw energy of change that has fed my heart and soul, and which has driven me to work harder than ever before. Over the past few years I’ve come to discover that I value nothing more than pushing and expanding boundaries, stepping outside of my comfort zone and trusting that the “what’s next?” will be effortlessly handled when and as it is meant to be.

So as I prepare myself for a life transition of my own, I think it’s pertinent to reflect on some of the lessons my students and this school have taught me over the past 3 years.

1. The unknown is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. I’m literally reminded of this one hundred times a week. When I ask an au pair how they are feeling about meeting their host family for the first time 99.99% of them will say “I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.” And well, duh! That’s because they have only the faintest idea of what their life is going to be like in a mere 48hrs. Nothing is more unsettling than not being able to plan two days in advance. The thrill of it all is the adrenaline pumping through their veins and the realization that, “well, shit, I am here and I’m doing this and soon I will walk through their door and I will figure it out.”

2. Be aware of your point of no return …and embrace the momentum.  Each week as the au pairs fly in from all around the world and arrive to the Training School in New York, I sense they are feeling that they have crossed their point of no return. And while this isn’t exactly accurate, they are autonomous beings who can exercise their free-will and return home at any point, there is some genuine truth to the statement. After all, they got on an airplane. They flew around the world. They’ve now invested both their time and their money into this adventure and turning around feels harder with all the momentum pushing them forward into the next segment of their experience.

The point of no return, however, is where most humans begin to flip out. You’ve set the wheels in motion and guess what baby — physics. An object in motion will remain in motion, so unless you’re going to quickly build a huge brick wall to smash yourself into (which I don’t recommend by the way) your only other option is to hang on for the ride. Let it take you where you are meant to go and trust that you are going to make it to the other side.

I often use the metaphor of a roller coaster to explain my emotions to people, but this situation is quite literally the most accurate time to employ this visual.

You willingly get on the rollercoaster, possibly even choosing the front seat for greater effect. You buckle in for safety and as the roller coaster clicks higher and higher, you realize that return is no longer an option. This is when your heart begins to beat faster, you fear for your life, your stomach drops into your butt and you panic like a small child lost in Costco. But as you peer over the edge you begin to let go into an inexplicable trust that the structure to which you have so willingly entrusted your life has been soundly built. What’s more, in less than two minutes you will be back at the loading station with a few snapshots to purchase of your smiling (more like scream-cry-laughing) windblown face.

3. Know that you are never alone. One of the greatest aspects of the Training School is that everyone is in the same boat. The community of students is strong, even with so few days to get to know each other, the bonds that are formed are very strong because they are able to comprehend in such as deep way the nerves and excitement that their peers are experiencing.

This has served as a reminder to me that in any kind of transition, it is crucial to seek out those who are or who have recently gone through something of similar sorts. Taking care of yourself is your number one priority during any transition, but the task can feel daunting if you are trying to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and significant others for support and comfort. Let them know that you believe in the process, and that you want them by your side to remind you that the trail you are blazing still leads to Rome.

4. Take off your armor. The most gratifying moments for me at work are when a student will come to me or a member of my team, and wearing their heart on their sleeve, demonstrate their exquisite vulnerability. Just this week I had a lovely girl from France reach out for help with her transition from home to the U.S. In speaking with her she told me that she has always been a pillar of strength for her family, and that being an au pair has always been a dream of hers. As her dream began to turn into reality, the pressure of holding  not just herself, but her family together as well, was weighing heavily on her. She was homesick, she couldn’t stop crying. She felt she needed to be strong and forge ahead.

My advice to her was take off her armor. Be vulnerable. Soften. It takes an incredible amount of energy to put on a face that exclaims, “everything is fine” when you’re actually feeling more like, “holy shit, everything is upside down.” That energy should be conserved and used to process your emotions. Don’t use your valuable energy to cover them up because the ramifications on your mind and body will be grave. Your future-self will thank you for doing the hard work.

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Transitions are super hard and can be incredibly uncomfortable and trying, but they are also pregnant with possibility, excitement and growth. It’s crucial to remember to be mindful. To be where you are. To observe what you are feeling and to give thanks to it. It’s ok to ask for guidance. It’s ok to ask for support. Trust. Soften into the discomfort — it will  be worth it.

 

 

 

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Feeling All the Feels– A Subjective Analysis of Why We (I) Cry

The science of crying is fascinating, and there is a lot of research behind the mechanics of our tears. We cry to protect our eyeballz as well as to regulate an overwhelmed nervous system.  The kind of crying I want to talk about here is not so much the I’m-cutting-onions cry or the I’ve-got-a-piece-of-lint-in-my-eye cry but rather, the I’m-so-overwhelmed-with-emotion-I-need-to-ugly-cry cry.

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It’s a well known fact amongst those who know me that I unabashedly let my salty tears flow. I wear them proudly, my mascara bleeding down my face, my face red and blotchy, my eyes puffy and swollen. What isn’t so well known, however, are the reasons behind these tears…

…so let me flush out a few of my fave tear jerkers: 

The I’m-so-grateful cry:  An overwhelming sense of gratitude for a person, place or thing will get this type of tear flowing for me. Nothing feels quite as good as the I’m-so-grateful cry because it signals to my brain how much abundance I have generated. This direct link between gratitude and abundance is most advantageous for those who wish to manifest even more things to be grateful for into their lives. By focusing on your abundance you align your energy to attract more of the same.

The I’m-so-grateful cry is a fantastic indicator that you are on the fast track to a vastly abundant life. Simply put,  you are hard-wired this way, and this physical response is your body working hard for your success, so you don’t have to. Let these tears runneth over, cuz you’re #blessed.

The standing-on-top-of-a-mountain-one-with-nature cry: Another cry I am a big fan of. This cry comes from the overwhelming feeling that goes something along the lines of “Woah, I feel humbled by the magnitude and beauty of creation. How am I, in the grand scheme of it all, so small and insignificant and yet so uniquely a part of this?!”This mind blowing feeling and the consequential tear drops can be induced by a double rainbow (what does it mean?!) or the constellations in the night sky or standing beside the ocean or being high on a mountain top.

The reason I am a fan of these tears is their intuitive understanding that we are one with everything around us. They are a homecoming of sorts, a reminder. They signify to us the bigger picture and allow relief from our everyday woes and squabbles.

The empathy cry: This cry is an interesting one, and I’m not actually sure how common it is. Personally, I tend to cry when I am in the presence of others shedding their own tears. I conjure these tears as I do the passing of a yawn. If someone is opening up to me with their tears, there is a 99% chance that I will shed a few of my own, even if their pain has not triggered me in any way (that I am aware of in that moment).

I consider this cry one of my super powers. I don’t know why it happens to me, but I know it is directly linked to my life’s purpose–to help others help themselves. This kind of cry notifies others that they can trust me and be open with me. I will not judge their tears and I will provide a very safe space for them to find some catharsis.

Like all super powers, though, it is important to use them for good. Sharing a tear in empathy can be very helpful in helping people heal, however, crying too much can further trigger their stress and cause things to spiral out of hand. If you also have this super power, remember to check yourself before you wreck yourself (and another), aiight?

The broken-heart cry: For obvious reasons, I think it’s safe to say that I have a love/hate relationship with this cry. It’s the ugliest of ugly cries, and yet, in a twisted way, it feels so good.

Clearly the bruising of one’s ego from being dumped is different than, say, grieving the loss of a loved one. However, these reasons for a heartfelt sob can be lumped under the same category for scientific reasons, which I will attempt to explain (plagiarize) via multiple sketchy internet sources.

Some scientists believe that having a “good cry” can release toxins and waste products from your system, which is why we generally feel physically and emotionally better when we wring out your stress and/or grief in a good sob sesh.This kind of cry is very cathartic and supports our health and well-being, so I am a major proponent! Get it out of your body so that it doesn’t manifest into something more severe down the line.

The nostalgia cry (aka the transition cry aka the growth cry): Last but not least is the nostalgia cry. For me, this is generally linked with the gratitude cry, though it can also stand alone in its own bittersweet melancholy. The nostalgia cry is temporal and beckons fond memories that have or will soon come to pass.

This might be my most common cry as I am a being in constant motion. I cry during transitions because they are a time of great reflection for me. It is not so much the fear of the unknown or moving away from people who are dear to me–this is merely at the surface level. Deep down I know that the unknown thrills me to my core and I that I will forever be connected to those who matter most to me.

The reason I personally cry tears of nostalgia is because they are indicators of my amazing successes. They are my growth tears. The tears I invoke when my psyche wants me to recognize how far I have come, how much I’ve conquered. They are my own way of recognizing of my hard work–my blood, sweat and tears if you will. What’s more, the more profound the experience or lesson, the harder I will cry.

According to my own very un-scientific reasoning, this cry is also closely linked with the science of the broken-heart cry as it allows for a softening of the nervous system. With this kind of cry I induce a feeling of total relaxation. For a brief moment, I am able to relish the satisfaction of seeing something through to completion. This pause and time for reflection is ever so important before I begin the next leg of my ascent.

So let us embrace our tears so that we can relish our vast abundance, be a part of it all, change the world with our superhero powers, support our well-being and rejoice in our accomplishments.

Tissue anyone?

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 32–Me Time

Feeling alone is a challenge for many people. We live in a society where connection can be summoned in an instant by the click of a button. The internet is fantastic and supports connectivity, but it is also a distraction. I am subject to the distraction, and the addiction, if you will, of the desire to connect. I have created a life for myself that requires me to be physically alone during most of my free time, but the facility in which I can access my network of friends and family, and yes, sometimes even complete strangers so that I don’t feel so alone, is astonishing.

This morning during my freetime I caught myself craving connection. I call it a craving because it was ravenous and imbalanced.  My fingers were poised to text message someone, anyone–but when I drew a blank as to who to send a message to, I realized that I might be overindulging in connectivity for the sake of filling a void.

I’ve noticed that recently I have slowly tipped the scales to the side of social butterfly, which is both great and exhausting. It’s great because it means that I am meeting people and expanding my small Long Island network. I also  feel like I am finding out about who I am as a person in relation to the people I surround myself with.

All of this is good, but sometimes being alone in order to reflect is what I really need. Sometimes I want to fall into my own void and see what I come out with–forget everyone else, who am I in relation to me?

Today, I was teetering on the edge of that void craving both human interaction and alone time. Oscillating between the two, I recognized that the pendulum had swung towards social, but that the physics of life was about to pull it back the other way.

Today, after my massage, I allowed the pendulum to swing in favor of alone time. Blissfully content to make a simple dinner, not even setting the table, because really, what’s the point of all the pomp and circumstance when you’re alone? I ate quickly, keen to enjoy the sea salt and caramel icecream I’d purchased for myself at the grocery store, and then I chose a movie–Frida–to watch before bed.

Today I am grateful for “Me Time.” It has been too long since I’ve consciously dedicated myself to the simple pleasure of my own company. I can be alone and I can be social. There is a time for it all, but finding a healthy balance is in my favor.

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