Sunday, August 28, 2011

Broaden your horizon

Stepping out of my ‘usual’ space for a day provides new insights and ideas - not only for my work but also for me; even though I went only to a different city. It reminds me how stepping out of ones comfort zone and own space (physical and mental) broadens your horizon. Travelling, studying and working abroad have often exposed me to more things than I was looking for.
For example, expecting to learn the language of the country I am visiting is an expected outcome. However, to learn so much more about my own language and understand how translating it directly into a foreign language can in other cultural contexts appear rude and very offensive, was an interesting discovery.
Experiencing new cultures, countries and people the most inspiring is to learn something about one self. The engagement with other people and cultures made me re-think and even question my own cultural core assumptions and beliefs. Meeting the other has provoked more change ‘within’ than I ever expected.
It does not mean that going elsewhere will have the effect of learning and discovery. I have also met people who lived abroad and successfully blocked out all new things. They actually put in a lot of effort to remain the ‘same’ by downgrading all that is ‘different’ with the sentence ‘where I come from we do it this or the other way, which is much better than...’
It is a difficult exercise to explain to others the possibilities that open up when broadening your horizon. I would like to encourage you to try it out and to never get tired of exploring new things. It keeps you fresh, humble and excited about life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Helping others

I’m sure all of you have experienced situations when a good friend or close family member had to go through difficult situations resulting in over-indulgence of alcohol, drugs or any other addictive/destructive behaviour. My natural inclination is to want to help. I want to do the right thing to make sure the person can see how damaging the behaviour is and show them that there are many other options. I think specially women have the strong sense of wanting to assist - many times without success. We tend to help in wrong ways by providing ‘quick-fix’ aids because those make us feel as we are doing something concrete. Even though the efforts are appreciated and in some cases the people acknowledge their difficulties, the success rate remains low.
Only if the person shows true willingness to change something will actually really happen. It needs to come from deep within, it needs a lot of courage and strength. Drug addiction is a good example. Any attempts to assist with getting people of it, pay them a stay at the most expensive clinics etc. only bears positive results if the willingness to change comes from them.
As an outsider the biggest challenge is to accept when a person doesn’t want to get help and doesn’t want to do anything him-/herself. I find this the most painful experience of love – to let go; to let someone fall. I guess parents experience it from the first step they have to leave their child on their own and let it literally fall. I feel like wanting to ‘save’ the other person so badly that I might become preachy because I wish so strongly to do something about the situation -mostly without effect.
It doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do. Offering help and affirming repeatedly and showing that we are available whenever needed makes sure that a door remains open – when many others have closed. However, to let go is true love. We cannot save someone else if he or she is not involved.
Only the scars experienced by oneself are the ones that will remind us how painful the path to healing was. We cannot go through the experience for others or take the pain away. But we can certainly assist each other to learn how to let go and be there for each other when needed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mother and daughter

Travelling with my mother made me think of writing something about her and me. Being in my thirties I found that the interaction with my mother has reached a very interesting phase.
When I was a child she seemed like the know-it-all saint, to then become the main enemy during teenage years and to reach a more balanced view in my twenties when a mature and adult relationship emerged. It seems that in my thirties the process of relationship formation with my mom has come to its heights.
Now being at the stage of full adulthood deep appreciation for her efforts and her energy invested in me and my siblings are on the forefront. She is an amazing woman.
Observing her, I can see her traits in me. I have similar gestures, expressions and behaviours. I am proud of a few and hope to manage life as well as she did/does. However, her being close to sixty some of her attitudes and characteristics are very prominent. They stand out and are sometimes annoying to me or people around. In those moments I think that I don’t ever want do this like her or be like that. It is not a degradation of the great person she is but a critical engagement and reflection. It also entails the hope that this reflection will assist me to really take a different route where I think necessary. In many instances, however, it will not work. Interestingly, the older one gets the more we become like our parents. We often are just a slight adjustment to who they are.
When I was at university I had to write an essay about myself being an inter-generational buffer for my family. This term basically means that I am the sum of my ancestors, my grandparents and my parents lives and I am like a funnel through which a new generation, a new mix evolves. Consciousness about this enables me to decide what parts of the mix I want to transfer to future generations BUT some of the parts will subconsciously and naturally be transferred to future generations.
Writing this reminds me to be patient in moments of irritation with my mother because I will wish to get this grace and patience from future generations as well. It is owed to her as she has more than gracefully earned it. It also calls on me as a daughter to be reflective and memorize those things that irritate me and not forget how I felt in my twenties/thirties when one day I reach that age and future generations are irritated with me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don't give up

Last weekend I felt a ride with my bicycle to the close by market would be an easy and enjoyable treat after 3 weeks of daily gym sessions and a sense of grown ‘fitness’ levels. Midway I actually realised how wrong I was.  I was struggling. I could hardly keep a constant speed, peddling was difficult and I was sweating - all of it on an easy, flat  road. I felt anger creeping up inside myself: ‘Why all the effort to be fit, to lose weight when I am still such a looser?’

I was peddling, struggling and in addition really being harsh to myself with all sorts of insults and angry words. The result?  Me bursting into tears of anger, total exhaustion and a great sense of just wanting to give up. I wanted to give up to ride to the market, give up gym and give up trying to lose weight....and overall just give up on enjoying my weekend.

In retrospect, I can laugh about it. It’s almost worthwhile drawing a caricature picturing me cycling, sweating and crying like a baby. Lol
Besides smiling about it, this experience made me realise again that we are our worst enemies. Our own minds have more power over us then anything or anyone else.
So what to do when you about to give up?

  • Firstly, remember to be your own best friend. Only say things to yourself you would say out loud to someone else.
  • Secondly, make a conscious choice in your mind - because you CAN. It is up to you to see the glass half full or half empty. I know well that it seems the most difficult thing in the world in that moment. The classic excuse is: ‘it’s not always easy’. One also finds a lot of ‘buts’ why you cannot. But we CAN. You have more power over yourselves then you wish to acknowledge.
  • Thirdly, don’t give up. Giving up takes two seconds, building up to this point has already cost you substantially more time and energy. Perseverance will pay out.
  • Fourthly, find a ‘good karma’ person around you to cheer you up. You are not alone with the challenge to persevere.

I know the things I mention are stating the obvious, but I thought sharing my experience would maybe encourage you to NOT GIVE UP

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