Settling Into Life in USA

New Rochelle, NY 1994: My parents have left after spending nearly a month with me here in the US. This is not vacation anymore. My new life starts here and now. I wanted this. I planned for this. My then boyfriend; a rock n roll guitarist named James (name changed) and I had devised a grand plan to get out of India, me first – since mine would have to happen with complete parental involvement and support. And here I was. Alone. For the very first time in my life. No one to lean on, no one to turn to except myself. Except I didn’t know how. I had never done it before. Never been completely totally alone. Yes, my parents traveled, without us, but they left us with family, or friends who were closer than family, and there were maids, building people, just people who knew us and would watch out for us. Because that’s how the community was in my world. Everyone was up in each other’s business. Mostly annoying, but then, when stuff happened, it was nice to know there were people out there watching out for you. Even the elevator operators in the building (liftman), and the watchman (security guard) knew me. Growing up in India, this always made me nervous, because they were so loyal to my mom, that I was sure that one of these days they would rat me out to her when she returned from a trip with my dad. “Aapki beti to pura raat bahar rehkar, subaha subaha doodh wale ke sath vapas aati hai!” (your daughter stays out all night and gets back when the milk man arrives) Yep, on a side note, our milk was delivered fresh to our door each morning, as was our produce, meat and even fish. And oh, this was way before home delivery service was ever a thing here in the US! This is the age-old way that housewives got their food – fresh! No grocery stores. Outdoor markets that were not nearly as sexy – perhaps they would have been, if we called them farmers markets – but to us, they were the ‘backward’ way that we lived. No brick and mortar market places, produce, dairy, meat, poultry and fish nearly from the source itself. But I digress; but before I go back to my new life here – it’s important to me to point out, that the going out all night was purely to dance the night away in clubs with friends who I had grown up with. We had this tight knit group of friends, most of us who had known each other since kindergarten, others who had come along and become as close as if we had known them since kinder. Clubs closed at 4am, we’d go get breakfast at an ‘omelette cart’ and then get home ‘with the milkman.’ It was always a wonder that my mom didn’t ever hear of these shenanigans. Never mind that I was well past 18. If she had her way, I would have had 11 pm curfews till I turned 30!

So back to my master plan. I arrived USA in August of 1994, and James was to arrive as soon as he could. His prospects weren’t so good. He was a single guy, a musician, not intending to go to college. Rather, intending to apply for a tourist visa to USA and just never leave. Mind you, even though this was before ICE and DOJ. It was simply INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) and even though it was tough to get an American visa (lines at the consulate were notorious for running around 2 blocks with people camped out there for a full day or more), he managed to get a visa and made plans to arrive NY in the summer of 1995.

But, here we are, Fall 1994.

I found a job at the local Boston Chicken and also worked as a barista at a coffee shop, long before Starbucks came along. New Rochelle, like most suburbs had terrible public transportation, so either I was waiting a long time, or I was barely making the bus. I dropped my class load to 1 class per semester; both to stretch out the money, but also so that I could work more as I muddled through figuring out how much everything would cost to live. As a tourist or a student in the United States, you don’t have the right to earn too much money. After all, the intention is that you’re there either just to visit, or then to go to school. So while you can work on campus you’re not supposed to really have full time work. I don’t know how I skirted this, or how a company like Boston Chicken hired me with the credentials I had then. But I am so glad they did – and till date, I have a fondness for Boston Market food and Thanksgiving continues to be my absolute favorite holiday. I had a lot of people take chances on me through the years and for this I am truly grateful to them, and to this country that gave me a chance to make a life of my own.

My parents had started me off with 3 months rent, so I didn’t have to worry about that. My biggest expense at the time were phone bills; mainly to James still in India, who I missed terribly. Long distance calling was terribly expensive, and I am still mortified when I remember that I had one phone bill that was nearly $2,500!

I made a friend named Maria who worked in the International Student affairs office, she was from Morocco and was always so chic-ly dressed. Distressed boot cut jeans, white collared button down shirt with the sleeves scruffily folded; which for me added to her allure, a fedora and motorcycle boots; the kind that had the square toe and the round metal buckle on either side of the ankle area. Hers were worn in by years of use and I thought they were the coolest boots ever and resolved to save up enough money to buy a pair for myself someday.

Maria was as broke as I was, so routinely we would go to the North Way Diner across the street from our college, and make a meal out of a plate of fries perfectly salted and crisp on the outside and soft inside; and endless refills of coffee. This was dinner and it cost us all of $6.50.

In December that year, I got a call from the International Affairs office on campus that my student visa status had been denied. Within days, I received a deportation notice that asked me to leave the country within 30 days. I was devastated. I remember being on a bus with a couple of friends from work at Boston Chicken wondering what I should do. One of them very practically said – just ignore that.

I had just gone from being legally in the United States to being considered an illegal alien (yep, that’s what we were called back then!)

I couldn’t keep my job at Boston Chicken, probably because of the immigration status, but also because it didn’t make me nearly enough money to survive. I remember weeks when all I could spend on groceries was about $20. Frank, the Greek owner/manager at the North Way diner is the reason that I didn’t starve. One of my work friends recommended an Indian restaurant in NYC where all the people who worked there were Indian and that they might be sympathetic to my status. The restaurant turned out to be a fine dining establishment in midtown Manhattan within a 20 minute walk of Grand Central Station. The manager there was indeed sympathetic. He did require me to ‘get a social security number.’

Back to my very resourceful colleague and for $100 he got me a social security number and card to match; no questions asked. Now, I went from making $4.50 an hour at Boston Chicken to making $2,25 an hour, but the tips more than made up for the pitiful hourly rate. The hourly rate check became the little bonus I would look forward to, each week. The pay stub showed all the taxes that were being deducted on my behalf. I was grateful every single day for this opportunity to work; to prove that I could live this life on my terms, in my way and without any help from anyone. My parents were a huge presence in my life; and I knew that they were just a phone call away if I ever needed anything. I was determined not to need anything as best I could. My father’s batch mates in New Jersey kept tabs on me ever so often but again, I worked hard not to need anything.

For the next year, I would leave New Rochelle on a bus by 9:00 am, taking it to the very last possible stop; from there I would get on a subway to Grand Central and walk to the restaurant, getting there by 11:00 am, just in time to set up for the lunch rush. After lunch ended at 2:30 pm, we would clean up and then had to ‘kill time’ till the 5 pm evening session. Since I lived as far as I did, going home wasn’t an option, so I would study there, or nap, or occasionally when I wasn’t exhausted from being on my feet, walk around NYC. Dinner shift would end by 11 pm, and by the time we cleaned up and closed up, it would be after midnight. I would walk to Grand Central and take the last Metro North train back to New Rochelle and take a cab home to my place. The restaurant had slate floors and since we were a fine dining place, wearing sneakers was not an option; even though I was only 21, my back hurt every single day for being on my feet as much as I was. I kept up this grueling schedule 6 days a week, going to school one night a week.

But I loved every minute of it. Yes, there were days where I despaired, and days when I really didn’t want to work so hard, but for the most part, I was grateful and mostly disbelieving that I was actually living here in the United States.

My little attic room on the 3rd floor of a single family home within walking distance of my college was furnished with a bed and a desk. I had to climb a staircase through a hatch in the floor to get in and out of my room. I had a window to the outside, sloping walls which I covered up with pictures of my family and Jon Bon Jovi and oh, a wired telephone.

A New Country, A New Life – part 1

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the day that I entered the United States as a 21 year old (yes, go ahead…do the math! I am 46 years old!) bright-eyed, idealistic and excited to create a life of my own. The story is actually quite interesting…that year…1994 I had spent my birthday with my best friend in her hometown of Bhopal. When I returned from that celebration, my parents introduced me to this guy that they had been looking into for me…a potential husband. Arrange marriages are alive and well in India. However in this case, my parents were progressive enough where they were just making the introduction, with zero pressure to actually marry him, or anyone at that particular point. He lived in the US, was a Stanford graduate and was starting to work for Apple. The company was going to do his immigration papers, and his desire was to have an Indian wife (he was Indian) whose papers could be done at the same time as his. Our families knew each other, and apparently there had been talk for months that perhaps we should meet. So mind you – this is pre-email or cell phone, so we resorted to old fashioned letter writing. In my mind this was a NO-WAY-JOSE situation. BUT, he DID live in the US, and I had known from a very young age, that I wanted to live in the US. I just had no idea how to make it happen, or whether my parents would approve. You see, I grew up in a culture where women at the time went straight from parents’ house to husband’s house with not much opportunity to have a life of one’s own. I imagine its different now, but this WAS 25 years ago.

So, I did communicate with this guy, lets call him Samir (not his real name!). I remember thinking that he was a bit arrogant (He probably thought that his just having graduated from a top Ivy League school, and a job at a top company should have impressed me…it didn’t!). That summer, I suggested to my parents that we go visit said potential beau in California. We decided to make a vacation of it, never having been to the west coast of United States. When I let Samir know we were coming to Los Angeles, he offered for me to go stay at his place for a few days in San Francisco. Well, this was perfect, because I knew my parents would NEVER allow me to ‘go off on my own’ and it in fact showed significant disrespect that he hadn’t extended the invite to my parents. So, they didn’t resist too much when I said I didn’t want to meet the guy and that I didn’t think he was for me. Phew, thank goodness that one died in the water.

Funny story about our visit to LA. Never having visited this coast before, and being used to East Coast cities where ‘downtown’ is the place you want to hang out – when the travel agent was booking us, she asked where in LA we wanted to stay, we shrugged our shoulders and said ‘downtown.’ Imagine our surprise when we pulled into our Holiday Inn downtown LA just after dark when everything was deserted and there was no festive activity, no restaurants or culture or really anything to do. This of course is pre-LA Live, pre-Staples Center etc. Downtown was NOT where you hung out after dark, downtown was not where you touristed either. Needless to say my parents never let me out of their sight. Not that I can blame them. We did touristy things like the Beverly Hills celebrity house tour, (the OJ Simpson trial was going on so the tour guide had to take us via the courthouse too!), Universal Studios, Disneyland, Santa Monica (realizing that THIS is where we should have been staying). And then one day decided to go check out Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. So yes, we DROVE to San Francisco, had fish and chips at the Wharf, walked around that area (also so significantly different than it is today!) and DROVE BACK to Los Angeles! All in one day. hahahah! We still laugh about that one.

After our vacation on the West Coast, we made our way to New York. My parents had extended family here; my desire to stay back and convert this vacation to permanent residence was known to my parents and so we settled on this small town of New Rochelle, NY; 20 minutes on the Metro North red line to New Haven from Grand Central Station. They enrolled me in school at Iona College (even though I had a B.Sc in Economics from a college in Bombay, the US system required one more year worth of classes to get an equivalent B.A. in Economics. We rented me a small finished attic room in a home within walking distance of Iona College. They paid for 3-4 months rent, 1-2 semesters tuition and then we said our final goodbyes. For the very first time, in my life at the age of 21, I was truly alone. Yes they were always just a phone call away, but I had NEVER lived alone, never paid a bill, gone out to eat, cooked for myself, run a household or done any adulting. Now I had to figure this all out for myself, in a new country.

More later…stay tuned.

MIA

So I have been missing in action for a while. Not from my life; rather from my very active social media life. I decided to fall off the face of the earth for a month or two and see what would happen. The earth did NOT stop spinning on its axis, the sun still came up in the east and set in the west and lo and behold life continues. Interestingly life continued for me in a more present, more intentional, more connected way than I have felt in a long time. Somehow I don’t feel rushed or busy. I am working hard at a job I love, spending quality time with people I love. and even managing a major remodel project at home with Jason (no kitchen/laundry at home since November 2018…but that’s a story for another time) and I am finding myself with time to spare. Not oodles of it, but I am not living the overwhelmed out of control dizzying speed of life, rather it seems to be a more measured pace, one that is easy to manage, one that has time for conversation, communication and connection, Not just with the people I love, but with myself. This is a foreign notion to be sure. At first, I didn’t know what to do with myself when I found time. So I sat down on my sofa (a novelty too unless it’s to watch TV with the family) and READ a magazine. I didn’t skim it, or flick through the pretty travel pictures, rather I actually read the stories of people traveling to gorgeous places like the Amalfi Coast, Greece and Iceland. You know, I kept feeling like I had to get up and do something. It took force of will to actually keep sitting there. I couldn’t get through one article without looking up from my magazine to see if there was something I should be doing instead.
What is it about us women (yes, gross generalization here, but I think I am not far off point), why is it that we can’t enjoy our own homes? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my home, no matter where we travel, I ALWAYS love coming home. BUT, I have to go away to feel rested, I have to leave my home and town to take a break because a staycation becomes a holiday for everyone in the family but me. For me, I will find hundreds of things to do around the house.
So this summer, since we are still in the midst of construction and can’t really travel anywhere I am bound and determined to make life simpler for myself; simpler like it is when we go away from home for a vacation which is typically where I can let go and relax. My goal is to let go and relax right here, in my own home (yes, in the midst of construction!)

To start this, I had to let go of social media. Why? Well because for me, I had become a little addicted. There, I said it. Hi my name is Niki and I am a social media addict. In the grocery line, at the stop light, in the bathroom, on my way to tuck my kids in to bed, I was finding myself needing to check my feeds oodles of times a day; feeling a sense of ‘obligation’ to those who follow me. Yes, I know, crazy. I found myself distracted around my family and instead of worrying about showing up for those people in my life who truly matter, who love me, and I them and being present to and for them, I was worrying about what inspirational thing I could post for my social media followers (and its not like I am an influencer or inspirational/motivational speaker/guru or anything!). Instead of scheduling time for play with my kids, I was spending time scheduling posts days and weeks out at a time so I wouldn’t let social media land down.

So, I had to rip the band-aid and uninstall social media from my phone. I didn’t go so far as to deactivate my accounts, but I did remove the convenience in order to overcome the addiction. And let me tell you, for the first week, my hands would automatically go to my phone when I had a couple spare minutes, only to realize that it’s going to function as just that…a phone – a communication device. A tool to talk to and connect with the people who have my number and who’s number I have because they’re a friend or family member and not because they’re someone who is a friend of a friend of a friend. I have to tell you – those likes and hearts are addicting too. There is a rush when you see a post you’ve written trending high and hitting dozens and perhaps even hundreds of likes or hearts. I felt like I had developed a false sense of importance when a post that I wrote would receive hundreds of likes and dozens of comments from people I don’t know personally.

So I just quit for a while. I needed to do a hard reset and really evaluate what and who was important to me, and how did I want to communicate with them. What came out of this digital detox is that I am very blessed to have really good friends in my life. Some who live within a 20 minute drive, but others who I adore who live across the country and even the world. These are the friends who I want to stay connected with. Social media wasn’t doing that for me. I had this false sense of being connected, and yet I had no idea what was going on in their lives. This is what I wanted to work on. I wanted to be present for the people that matter. Not to say that those people who follow me or are friends with me on social media don’t matter. They do – but not in the way I wanted to cultivate relationships. I’ve heard it said that an individual can only truly ‘know’ 100 – 150 people. So why did I need to have 2,000+ friends? They weren’t the ones who I would be reaching out to, if I need a shoulder to cry on or if I truly needed help. It would be the handful of people that I can count on the fingers of one hand that I would call. It would be the people who are on my kids emergency contact list, or the ones who I have welcomed into my home and have broken bread with who mattered most, and I did not need social media to stay connected to them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-social media at all. It is a powerful tool to get a message out to a large group of people. I have a lot of appreciation for the moms groups that I belong to, that are my first go to resource when I need to learn about a helicopter flying overhead late at night, or when a wildfire breaks out, or if I need recommendations for shopping, restaurants or anything else that I need an answer for. I am grateful for the community of moms that rallies and watches out for our kids riding bikes, puppies getting out of the house, special deals to know about in town, it’s like the town square. And it’s important. But I don’t want to spend every spare moment in town square, and I don’t need to broadcast my life from there either.

So now I spend my time differently. I reach out to friends I want to talk to; I go meet them, text them, call them or even use Marco Polo or Messenger to chat with them.

I’m thinking of relearning French and taking a dance lesson, now that I have all this time freed up in my life. I’ve been in touch with friends I adore who don’t live in my town and I know what’s going on in their lives. I am on the floor of my son’s room every night where my kids and I do plank, push ups and other body weight bearing exercises together before bed and that time spent with them giggling as we suffer through 1-2 minutes of plank is time I truly cherish!

And yes, now I do in fact feel more rested and relaxed in my own home.

A Life with Soul

The soul that rests in each of us,
Is the angel that rests on clouds.
It lives quietly within us,
claiming no time or space of its own.
It restless comes awake some lives,
from the slumberous sleep of life.
It nudges you to start to seek or question,
and shakes life to draw attention to it.
We may see this as challenge, trauma, grief or loss,
we don’t often connect the dots.
But if we were to listen sooner to the signs from the soul,
pay heed with every breath.
We would find the Universe always in our favor,
and life, a more joy-filled endeavor.
– Niki Richardson

You Are the Designer of Your Life

We often believe that people, circumstances and situations outside of ourselves are responsible for shaping the course of our lives. If we get a certain job…then life will be awesome.

If we marry a certain person…then we’ll be happy.

If…then.

And when we place those conditions on ourselves, we find ourselves constantly harboring the desire, but usually our mind is racing around the negative track instead of the positive one. Usually we’re thinking- “oh, how I want that job, and there’s no way I can get it.”

Or

“I would do anything for her/him to give me the time of day, but s/he’s out of my league. What am I thinking?

So we constantly talk ourselves out of our greatest dreams and desires.

And we wonder why life won’t give us what we truly want.

Our job in this life is to be the designer of our lives. And there are many stories of people who set their mind in a determined fashion and accomplished what they set out to do. Why them? And why not you?

Are they smarter? No

Are they prettier? No

Do they have more luck? No

Do they live a charmed life where everything goes their way? Yes

Why?

Because they dream of their desires with dogged determination.

An elite athlete doesn’t take no for an answer; doesn’t see weakness in his/her body. They just train and train and train both body and mind to accomplish their dreams.

A performer, a musician, a tech mogul, a billionaire– none of them started that way. They all have the same things in common with us; they’re human and wear their pants one leg at a time just like you and I.

So what sets them apart?

Single-minded focus.

The inability to see their dream fail.

For them, there’s no question, beyond a shadow of any doubt that they will get where they’re going

So what’s the common denominator?

Harnessing the power of the mind to accomplish your goals.

Most of us live our present from our past. We are shaped by, and molded in the life of our past.

What if we lived our lives from our future?

What if we intentionally shaped and molded ourselves into the life we desire?

What if, instead of lamenting our past, we celebrate our future like it’s already here?

I’m talking about the future that we want to create. Not the one that is a natural extension of our past.

Life is a gift. As far as we know it, it’s the only one we have. We owe it to ourselves to live it in the best way we know how.

So the next time you find yourself using memory lane to blame your present circumstances; take a hard 180° turn and walk into your future.

A simple mind hack to get this started is to take one deep desire/want; and start to imagine it done. Not the HOW. But simply living in a future where it is a reality. If you can train your mind to spend 5-10 minutes a day in your future state, providence will start to provide the HOW.

You don’t have to worry about the HOW.

You only have to focus on the WHAT.

We don’t have to have the correct circumstances to make our dreams a reality.

We only need to have a very vivid dream.

So go ahead- dream in high definition technicolor.

Mold, Coffee and Self Love

So we discovered a leak under our kitchen sink earlier this month. Sadly we hadn’t discovered it soon enough to prevent mold. Not wanting to expose the little ones to any potential mold exposure we moved into a hotel. Luckily for us, we checked in the day before the Hill and Woolsey Fire broke out. One more day and we’d have found no hotel room. Given that we were likely here for a little of a long haul, we were very lucky to have found a two bedroom two bath suite at the local Residence Inn complete with daily breakfast included. Needless to say the kids were ecstatic.

Staycation!

So while on vacation I usually will indulge in drinking caffeinated coffee. You see my hubby is an amazing brewer of coffee. And well, let’s face it. Illy Italian coffee is the real deal.

So for the first 3-4 days we both woke up and enjoyed an absolutely delicious cup of coffee.

On day 5, I started to notice that I was hypersensitive to sounds. Everything was irritating me. I didn’t sleep very well that night either. Never fell into a deep sleep. I felt every toss and turn that Jason made (he obviously wasn’t sleeping well either). He was breathing too loudly, tossing too much, tugging at the sheets when he did…you get the picture- everything annoyed me.

And yet- what he was doing wasn’t new behavior. He was a super light sleeper, prone to waking up at o’dark hundred and then tossing and turning, or reading till he put himself back to sleep.

What was different was my response to it.

My response was different because I had introduced something into my chemistry that I usually never consume.

Heavily caffeinated coffee.

No noticeable difference the first couple days.

But then, the caffeine started to build up.

And started to alter my chemistry.

Which manifest in new behaviors.

Which if unchecked could have (and definitely has in the past) been unhealthy to our relationship. Staying in close quarters for an extended period of time, and going to work and continuing business as usual. It could have been disastrous!

The next day when he asked if I wanted coffee, I declined. And told him why.

Interestingly I observed that it had affected him too. Even though he DOES have caffeinated coffee daily. Just one cup of good espresso made into a short latte.

He was impatient about practically everything.

Because I had acknowledged my own irritation and recognized it early on.

Because I had checked it.

Because I had shared it with him.

I was now able to remove my emotions from the conversation and gently remind him that he too was experiencing symptoms as a result of the coffee.

His knee jerk response was ‘it’s not the coffee.’ But he knew better.

And I knew he knew.

So let’s just speculate how this would have gone down, had we NOT addressed this early on.

  • I would have woken up that first day of being irritable with very poor sleep and snapped at him for every toss and turn. I would have admonished him to be more sensitive to me. That if he couldn’t sleep, the least he could do is let ME sleep.
  • Lack of sleep would have led me to have less bandwidth to be gentle and compassionate with his impatience.
  • So when he snapped at me for the slightest, I would have snapped right back.
  • We would have likely blamed each other for whatever inconsequential thing was causing us to be irritated with each other.
  • And pretty soon, full blown war of the roses!
  • And unchecked this would have continued.
  • And in the close quarters that we are, our kids would have been fully exposed to behaviors and words from us that would have been potentially damaging.

So often in our relationships that falter we fail to be able to see our role early on to nip it in the bud. It’s so easy to assign blame to someone else or somewhere outside ourselves. Especially when life throws a curveball and we are hoisted from our comfort and regularity of actions. One of my mentors used to say ‘you can’t see your own eyebrows.’ Meaning you need others to point out certain things to you about yourself. You can’t see it for yourself.

So how do you become self-aware so that you can catch yourself in the act of being an a$$?

  1. Meditation helps you to center and ground yourself. It also helps you to not take yourself too seriously.
  1. Developing self-discipline helps you to develop body and mind awareness. This simply means having small daily actions that you do for yourself NO MATTER WHAT.
  2. Having an attitude of gratitude for the small things. Whisper thanks the next time you get a sweet parking spot. When coincidences happen, or when mold causes you to have to leave home for an extended period of time, say thank you that you caught it early enough for it to be just 3 weeks out of the house instead of 3 months. You get the idea. There’s ALWAYS a silver lining if we look for it.
  • Let’s face it we all make well intentioned resolutions for ourselves at the start of a new year. Most often these fall off before January 15. What we don’t realize is that when we allow ourselves off the hook that way (and we usually have the best of reasons) we are sending a subliminal message to ourselves that says we’re not worth it. That work, family obligations or even new volunteer efforts are more important that maintaining a commitment to ourselves. And if you think about it, that’s probably not the first time you have allowed yourself to be put on the back burner.
  • How can that be good for self esteem?

    If we’re a parent, what message are we sending our kids?

    If we’re in a partnership/marriage/relationship…how can we expect our significant other to respect us, if we don’t respect ourselves enough to follow through on our word?

    We teach people how to treat us by the way we behave.

    What are you teaching people?

    To love and respect you and acknowledge your contribution with gratitude.

    Or

    To think of you as SO dependable that you’ll do anything for them, even at the cost of your own health and sanity.

    Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It’s self love. Self love is good for you. And it’s particularly good for the people you love, the community you serve and the world you are changing.

    Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven

    aquatic bloom blooming blossom

    You may remember that in August this year, I did the Ventura Storytellers Project, where I shared my story with a room full of strangers who somehow through those moments of sharing vulnerability, joy, struggle and victory became friends. One of the other storytellers was a man who shared the horribly poignant details of a terrible childhood, and yet he went on to get married, have kids and be a productive member of society. He talked about this:

    Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven.

    It’s a really strong statement and one that truly gave me pause. Intellectually I could see how that was true. Forgiving someone for something that they had done to you, no matter how horrible could truly help assuage age-old, long-buried emotions, and truly help you move on.

    But, I didn’t understand it in my heart.

    Until today!

    I came across someone from my past who, for whatever reason decided that she needed to come clean to me about how she had treated me over a decade ago. This was someone I had the deepest respect and admiration for. Someone I could say was like a role model and mentor to me. She was a tough one, never shied away from doling out tough love to help me learn lessons of life. She had changed her perspective about me and therefore had changed the way she treated me through what I had perceived was no fault of mine. Or at least, none that I was aware of. She had made our relationship tenuous, but I never knew what had caused that to happen. Things got so tough, that I just had to cut her out of my life because it was affecting my health and my life. I had a little toddler at home, and couldn’t afford to be stressed out and miserable all the time. Since I couldn’t get a straight story out of her about why our relationship changed. I eventually moved on. I resented her for quite a number of years thereafter. I wondered what I had done to deserve this. I didn’t have the skills then to ask the right questions to get the story out of her, or to understand things from her perspective.

    She went on to tell me about a couple of other women in our circle. People I considered friends. Women I would have done anything for. They had colored her judgment of me by feeding her blatant lies (her words, not mine) about me. They had been literally building a case against me to drive a wedge between the two of us. And it worked like a charm. So, this woman, this second mother figure, decided that she was going to take their words as truth, and not give me a chance to tell my side of the story. Although till today I don’t know what story I would be telling. She wouldn’t tell me why they decided to do this.

    I had hairs rise on the back of my neck as I flashed back a decade and thought of these two women; both of whom I considered close friends. I had shared so many moments of vulnerability and weakness with them, I had let me guard down with them.

    You see, when I first moved to this area, I had no women friends at all. I had moved from New York to get my MBA at Pepperdine, where I had hoped to form close friendships but didn’t. I was a commuter student like most of my classmates, so while we did do things together socially, I somehow didn’t get to form much wanted long-lasting college buddy friendships. From college, I started working for a very small organization where all the other people were nearly twice my age. No opportunity to form friendships there either. So when these women started entering my life, I was ecstatic. Women friends have always been important to me as an adult, perhaps just because I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends growing up. Needless to say, I was shattered when my friend had so abruptly turned on me without any indications why.

    Now here she was; she said she had carried the hurt of this in her heart for all these years and she just needed me to know. She said she has watched me from afar, and is proud of the life I have built and the relationships I have nurtured over the years. She hopes that I would forgive her.

    Ahhhhhhh I get it now. Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven.

    Yes, of course I forgave her. I had forgiven her years ago. I had made my peace. I knew that if I ever saw her again, I wouldn’t hate her, I wouldn’t wonder why, I would just embrace her as if none of that had happened.

    But she had lived with this for over a decade.

    She hadn’t forgiven herself.

    I had moved on.

    She hadn’t.

    Her heart still hurt from the role she had played in sabotaging our friendship.

    The ripple effect in my life of moving away from that relationship had been astounding.

    To say that my life flourished thereafter would be an understatement.

    I learned so much about myself through that whole process, and I also learned my boundaries.

    I learned that people will treat you the way you allow them to.

    We have to train people the way we want them to treat us.

    I learned so much about what goes into a good relationship.

    I learned about being a good friend and not being a pushover friend.

    I learned it was okay to say NO.

    I learned to say YES to myself always.

    But most of all, I learned that my gut has never let me down.

    And that in the noise of the outer voices of people’s opinions about me, I had drowned out the whisper of my inner voice; And the latter is the only one that mattered.

    So, as is always the case, the toughest critics, the biggest backstabbers, the most challenging situations are always the people, places and issues where we have the biggest breakthroughs in our lives.

    So the next time someone challenges you, irritates you, upsets you or plain annoys the heck out of you.

    Say thank you to them silently.

    Then go sit with yourself and ask yourself…

    What am I to learn from them?

    If you’re quiet enough for long enough, you’ll get an answer.

    I promise.

     

     

    Your Kids Are Watching Put On A Good Show

    So both my kids are swimming now. My 11yo is on the local swim team and swims 3x a week for 45min and my 7yo is still going through the levels classes for stroke development etc. Needless to say, their swim times DO NOT overlap and so yes, I either get to spend 3 hours at the pool or do two visits to the pool. I choose the latter. Luckily the pool is 8 minutes from home.

    My 7yo has 3 more levels to go before he can try out for swim team, and then the times should overlaps and my time spent at the pool will drop drastically.

    So last week was the end of level 3 and we waited eagerly to see if he graduated to level 4. I was sitting poolside reading (The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama— highly recommend btw!) and I observed a couple sitting a couple seats over from me. He was immersed in his phone, she– absolutely gorgeous with beautiful poker straight long hair looked practically angry. Her little 6yo adorable girl was in the same class as my 7yo.

    Class ended and I asked if he graduated. He didn’t know yet. I quickly toweled him off, and he and I both skipped our way to the coach to get the verdict. “He’s really close!” She said somewhat apologetically. “Yay babe, did you hear that, you’re almost there!” Was my response. “We need to re do level 3 one more time. It’ll be done in no time!”

    We walk back to our things, I start to change him. Gorgeous long haired girl has report in hand for her 6yo and I’m dying to ask her whether she moved up. But something holds me back from being my usual social self. It’s that look.

    She still hasn’t softened her look. Uh oh, the 6yo mustn’t have graduated either. She still looks mad! Husband is still immersed in his phone.

    So after changing, we go to the entrance to register for another round of level 3. I had already registered him for level 4 in anticipation of him moving up, so I just have to move him back down to 3. Gorgeous lady is in front of me. She lets the front desk people know that she wants to register her daughter for level 4, as she has just graduated.

    WHAT??

    Your daughter moved up, but you haven’t smiled once?

    Yes i know I’m being judgy here — I don’t know what’s going on in their lives and I ought not to make assumptions.

    I practically high-fived my boy for a job well done.

    He has come SO FAR!

    He was so intimidated by the pool. And now he’s doing dives and jumps off the diving board and even attempted the big curly slide. Something he would have NEVER done ordinarily.

    So much progress!

    I don’t care that he will redo level 3.

    It just means that he’ll excel when he gets to the next level and the next after that.

    But honestly lady!

    Smile at your kid.

    At least when you’re interacting with her.

    And definitely when she just graduated to the higher level of swim.

    This really got the wheels turning for me.

    Our kids are hyper-observant about what we do and say.

    It’s not do as I say, it’s do as I do.

    So what do you do?

    • Are they seeing/hearing you bicker a lot?
    • Do they hear you talk abruptly or rudely frequently?
    • Do you talk to your friends around them as if they aren’t there?
    • Do you complain a lot?
    • Do you cut people off or flip them off or rant in traffic?
    • How do you treat service staff?
    • Do you open doors?
    • Help little old ladies?
    • Ignore the homeless person who’s panhandling? Or use it as a point of conversation to teach them a life lesson?
    • How much do they see you on your phone? I think of this a lot– if they see me on my phone constantly- then when they do get their own phones – how can I ask them to minimize time on theirs?
    • Do they see you smile or frown a lot?

    You get the picture?

    Nature vs. Nurture here right? And in this case a little bit of both.

    If you are constantly a certain way- especially if it’s habitual – how can you expect your kids to be different?

    Kindness, smiling, managing our emotions, making good choices are all traits that can be learned. Leadership starts with leading ourselves.

    These are hard to focus on when we’re constantly tired, when we’re working long hours, when work deadlines are piling up.

    It’s easy to zone out and do what comes easiest- which is to possibly be short fused or snap or be irritable when they’re annoying you.

    But it’s in those moments in particular that we need to push past the pain of discipline and become super aware of our thoughts, words, actions and beliefs.

    After all we aren’t raising kids.

    We are raising our next generation political leaders, business owners, community advocates and professionals.

    But most of all, hopefully we are raising kind, compassionate and gentle men and women with a heart for their community and a commitment to do good in the world.

    Your kids are watching more than you know.

    Put on a good show.

    Be A Magnet

    On Thursday evening, I came home from work and kids activities feeling nauseous and barely able to lift my head for fear of throwing up. I thought it was food poisoning. I thought i would be back on my feet in 12 hours. But– i had no ‘ejections’ of any kind. Hmmm.

    Friday- I stayed home and after I got the family off to school and work, I fell back into a deep sleep for nearly 5 hours.

    My body was craving rest.

    It’s been a hectic few months– between fundraisers I have to attend, kids activities, work, business, family, it’s been nonstop.

    My 45 year old body needs attention too. Running, spinning, boot camp, yoga, dance. (More on the dance later.)

    Nutrition and hydration are always top of mind.

    I’ve been sleeping ‘fairly’ early — averaging about 6hrs 45min a night. Ok so that’s on the low side. I do make up for it by sleeping nearly 9 hours on Saturday/Sunday. Not ideal I know. Our bodies are creatures of habit and consistent good sleep is way better than inconsistent good sleep.

    So– what was this knock-me-off-my-feet episode all about?

    You see, when something like this happens to me, it’s always an opportunity to go deep and see why.

    It’s never the thing you think it is.

    It wasn’t food poisoning.

    Or even the 24 hour stomach bug that it turned out to be, complete with fever and achy body.

    It’s something more.

    It’s a message to me.

    From me.

    From my Inner Guidance System.

    It’s a message to slow down.

    Not just the outer body shell that executes all the instructions of the mind.

    Slow down the mind.

    I have meditated off and on for over 15 years now.

    But lately, the meditations were few and far between.

    The only time I was truly meditating was during the twice a week 5am walk.

    And while moving meditations are powerful.

    Your conscious mind is still activated and keeping you safe from the 21st century versions of saber tooth tigers and wooly mammoths. That is; fight or flight is still activated.

    It is only when sitting in what your conscious mind can consider to be a completely safe environment that it can even remotely attempt to quiet down, and allow your subconscious mind to be accessed.

    So today- after I sent my family off to their various activities.

    I sat.

    I primed my body with a powerful breathing technique by Dr. Joe Dispenza and then I meditated.

    And through my meditation this is what I received:

    Be A Magnet

    Keep your vibration high

    Keep your vision clear

    Keep your intention focused

    Keep your body nourished

    And your soul satisfied

    with the love you share

    the company you keep

    the gratitude you emanate

    Be a magnet for the best and limitless possibilities of all time.

    I came out of meditation with this profound sense of gratitude and love. I didn’t realize it but tears were streaming down my face. I had envisioned a wonderful world and it felt so real.

    Peace

    Bliss

    Joy

    Abundance

    Love

    So much love.

    Isn’t this what John Lennon said when he asked us to Imagine?

    Be A Magnet for all that is wonderful and good in the world.

    Take a stand for love.

    Love is truly magical.

    Why Are You on Social Media?

    apps blur button close up

    So last week, during my meditation, I had this sense that I was supposed to do a digital detox. A week of no social media, no Facebook, no Instagram, no LinkedIn etc.

    Interestingly, the first day or so was hard, just like weaning oneself off an addiction. I had distract myself so that I wouldn’t go to the apps that were second nature to check on a daily, sometimes 7-10 times a day. YIKES!

    Imagine if you did anything 7-10 times a day.
    7-10 glasses of alcohol
    7-10 cups of coffee
    7-10…well you get the picture.

    So this was really a way for me to see if I could do it.

    Cold Turkey!

    And, I have to say – I didn’t last all week.

    Now mind you, I do have to check social media for my job, as the fundraiser for a regional performing arts center, I do manage our infant social media accounts. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

    So, when I would log on to check for work, I would surreptitiously check notifications but was good about NOT checking the feeds or getting lost in a the black hole of an endless, mind-numbing thumb scroll. You know what I mean! Where we just scroll after scroll after scroll to see if anything catches our eye – and then we settle on a cute cat or baby video, or worse on a rant from someone we barely know. And in that moment, because our vibration is so low, our energy is practically at an all time low, we are attracted to things/posts/videos/comments that have a low vibration themselves. Because after all, like attracts like.

    I tried to be hyper vigilant about my limited time on social media this week. What did I really miss if at all?

    And what it came down to was this:

    I missed my Facebook group, The Breathing Space – this group of like-minded souls who are committed to putting the oxygen mask on themselves first so that they can better support the people they love, the community they serve and the world they seek to change.

    • I missed my friend Donna’s uplifting quotes on Facebook. (they never cease to make me say to myself YES!! that’s exactly what I am talking about!)
    • I missed my friend Anna’s exercise and gym videos on Instagram (she inspires me so much!)
    • I missed my friend Susan’s posts who’s passion around creating and capturing memories is infectious!
    • And my friend Vickie who never ceases to make me laugh…and there were others too that make me smile on FB.

    You get the picture. I missed the personal connections and updates. The real updates. The ones that tell me what is truly going on in the lives of my friends across the country and the world.

    And THIS is why I miss and mostly want to spend time on Facebook.

    BUT!

    Think about it, if those friends were close by, and some of them are…we wouldn’t/don’t text, talk or visit 7-10 times a day.

    So what about social media makes us do that, and most of the time without even thinking?

    Lately, with my kids’ swim schedules I spend nearly 2 hours each day at the local swimming pool. It would be so easy to get lost in the black scroll…2 hours a day! 4 days a week.

    That’s 8 hours a week!

    That’s enough time for a very productive side hustle endeavor
    Or write a book
    Or study for a new degree
    Or take an online course
    Or walk/run/ride around the facility
    Or read a book that helps with personal or professional development

    But, the thumb scroll usually wins out when we are waiting somewhere. Because it’s easier. Because we are programmed that way. Because it’s the 21st century equivalent of 4am infomercials when we can’t sleep at night.

    So, the next time you find yourself in line somewhere, or waiting while your child is participating in their after school activity (an activity you signed them up for, to better themselves), don’t check into Facebook to see what others are doing.

    Spend that time identifying what YOU can do for YOURSELF that will better yourself.

    • Keep your sneakers in the trunk so you can walk the perimeter of the facility or field.
    • Keep a book with you at all times.
    • Find a grassy surface and do some push ups, planks or simply march in place. (yes people might think you’re nuts…or you might start a new parent club!)
    • Meditate. Yes, even in the midst of noise and bustle, you can take yourself off from the main activity, or go back to your car, and just spend 5 minutes doing some intentional breathing.
    • Plan the family’s meals for the following week and get your grocery list in order. You will be much more time and cost efficient if you do it this way.

    Make intentional times to check into Facebook and your other social media platforms so that you get your ‘fix for the day,’ but don’t let it rule your life.

    Take control back and use social media to your advantage, instead of giving the marketers, advertisers, vote-tainters exactly what they want.

    You at your lowest energy point.

    Take your energy back!