Letters to myself: a journey of self-exploration

Waiting for the perfect moment is often a waste of time

Some would even call it another form of procrastination because, well, it is. One of the most painful self-reflections I’ve imposed is realizing all the things I didn’t do because the time just wasn’t right.

There were jobs I didn’t go after because I felt I wasn’t ready. Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, but looking back, I understand it was just an excuse. In my twenties, there were men I wouldn’t speak to because I didn’t feel ready for any kind of relationship, as if every man would immediately fall into one with me. When I first started writing, I didn’t allow others to read what I’d written because I wasn’t ready for their critiques. Keeping talents to yourself is no talent at all.

So what was it all about? I was scared. I was afraid of rejection, of getting hurt, of finding out I was no good. Rather than expose myself, I claimed it was never the right time. There was a perfect moment, and THIS wasn’t it. I was only going to put myself out there when I was certain of success. And guess what? That moment never came.

Losing out on jobs, relationships and careers because of fear is a crime, punishable by days, weeks, months and years that you can never get back.

In Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! he speaks of “The Waiting Place”. It’s obvious the characters on those pages are wasting time, waiting “around for a Yes or No”, or “their hair to grow”, or for “wind to fly a kite”, or “a pot to boil, or a Better Break.” Seuss makes it clear that the reader won’t be that person. The reader will rise above and move forward, embracing the unknown, taking chances, trying things because there’s no other way to live.

The first time I read the book, I cried. It was obvious to me I wasn’t living the best life I could live because I’d been waiting so long for the perfect moment that never came. Through self-exploration, some therapy and plenty of joy and pain, I’ve managed to overcome this issue, to a degree. I remind myself that life goes on whether we take part or not. No matter the excuse, the moment is here… and then it’s gone. Whether it’s perfect is not the issue. Whether I seize it or waste it is.

– Althea

Letters to myself: Is there time for meditation? Is there room for a room of one’s own?

Make lunches. Make beds. Get dressed. Eat something. Exercise. Shower. Get to work. Work, work, work. Answer emails. What’s for dinner? Help with homework. Laundry. Dogs. Finish “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” for Book Club. Catch up on “Mad Men” and “The Amazing Race”. A friend needs to talk. The tomato plants are dying. Buy birthday presents. Wrap birthday presents. Eat birthday cake. Yell at the children. Breathe.

I joke with friends that I’d like to have some deep thoughts but I just don’t have time for them. Sound familiar? Are you desperate to stop the train and get off, regroup and be quiet, for just an hour? Five minutes? Me too.

I’ve never met a person who would argue that meditation is folly. Taking quiet time to yourself focuses the mind. It relaxes and allows us to deal with anger and stress. It calms and gives a sense of perspective. It allows us to see the bigger picture, or depending on our needs, no picture at all.

Is there time for meditation? Absolutely. But like all good things in life, we have to find the time, often letting something go (it’s okay!) or carving our day into more pieces. At a crossroads in my life, when I was in the throes of a terrible addiction, I took myself to the ocean. I stared at the waves and listened to them crashing. I focused every thought I had towards spiritual guidance. I didn’t know who or what I was seeking, only that my earthbound existence held no answers nor solutions to what ailed me. I didn’t leave the beach that day until I felt ready, until I was given the sense of my life as a necessary cog in a very big wheel. There was no more time to waste and I sought out recovery the very next day. Meditation saved my life.

Is there room for a room of one’s own? Like time, we have to create our space, even if it means staying in the car for a few minutes before going into the house in order to center ourselves. Nature never fails in providing an environment that allows for contemplation.

Time and room. It can save your life if you force yourself to find both.

– Althea

Letters to myself: Does my weight define me?

If my jeans don’t fit, I’m down on myself. I spend a lot of energy then faking confidence, even if no one is fooled. The circle is vicious and has undoubtedly cost me precious time. But our society values the fit far more than the fat. Studies show overweight women earn less than their thinner counterparts. When was the last time you saw an overweight new bride with her fit, attractive husband? I thought so. Conjuring the opposite – the pear shaped groom with the runway model on his arm – is easy.

More proof that extra weight defines women more than men: Winston Churchill, Jack Nicholson and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan were, or appear to be now, happy, successful men. And yet, one of the most powerful and richest women alive, Oprah Winfrey, has felt compelled to publicly address and reveal her battles with the bulge.

So, yes, my weight defines me because I’ve allowed society to define me. At every turn, I know it’s wrong. I realize that who I am inside is far more important than the physical person I show the world. But more often than not, I can’t help myself. Part of it is a brainwashing. More of it is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe that good things come to me when I’m fit, and so they have. On the flip side, I struggle with relationships, work and my children when I’m tipping the scale above 145 pounds at 5’8”.

Do I owe the world my best self or my thinnest self? Can I separate the two and enjoy the cookies I bake for my family without feeling as if I’m letting myself and others down? It’s not a question easily answered, but most certainly one worth asking as I try to get into my tight jeans. Maybe it’s time to simply wear the ones with a skosh more room and then go clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Perhaps one action resolves the other.

– Althea

Letters to myself: How milestones force us to take stock

Birthdays. The New Year. An anniversary. The end of summer. Groundhog Day. (Okay, maybe not Groundhog Day.) Has a year really gone by so quickly? Has ten?

In November every year, I celebrate turning the page. It’s my birthday and I never ignore it. It’s impossible for me not to consider what happened the previous 365 days, judge where I am in my life currently, and create some goals for next year. I have to examine whether or not I’ve worked hard to accomplish anything and explore my growth as a person. Some people prefer to open a present or two. I’d rather take stock. Like meditation, it’s an opportunity to stop, think and adjust.

When I was younger, mostly in my 20s, I tell people I pissed a lot of years away. I can’t get them back and I have yet to make peace with that. Until I do, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let birthdays go by without expressing gratitude for another year and looking in the mirror. What did I do well? Where is there room for change?

January 1st is also a day where many impose memories on the year past and create resolutions for the coming year. It can be unrealistic, but I partake anyway. My view of the world, while I’m watching the Rose Parade, is just that – global. The media offers their end of the year “best” lists of books, movies, television, sports. News outlets will often do a retrospective on what happened politically, environmentally and socially, and recap those who died. More than anything, it seems individuals feel hope on New Year’s Day, determined to write a happy and successfully story for themselves going forward. There’s nothing wrong with hope.

Anniversaries can be particularly profound. Every year on March 6, I stop and think of my father on the anniversary of his death. I’m sad but in the hustle and bustle of life, it seems okay to pause and allow that. Most of us now reflect on September 11th about where we were on that day in 2001 and how it changed our lives. Taking stock collectively, even for such a tragic event, feels right.

While some might consider milestones in strictly business terms, I think of them as opportunities to consider my life on life’s terms. It isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.

– Althea