Month: January 2017

Great Expectations

“All expectation creates disappointment”-Steve Ross, Happy Yoga

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review of the Dickens classic. Honestly, I’ve never read the book. I’ve just watched the glorious 90s movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.But there are some similarities between the theme of that book and today’s blog topic. Each and everyone of us has expectations. There are expectations of ourselves and expectations of others. While there are merits to these expectations and they can be used as a guide to navigate relationships they can also ruin them. Both types of expectations can destroy relationships and can be set so high that they set us up for failure.

First lets talk about expectations of ourselves. From the time we are born expectations are placed on us. Who remembers what your parents expected of you? Were you expected to make all A’s, be in every extra curricular, play musical instruments, excel at a sport or two or three, be the best Christian in your youth group, never say a bad word, “act like a lady” (my favorite), be home by 10 pm, never let people see you struggle, be on top and in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g…you were expected to be the best. Maybe you were expected to be just “OK”. Not quite the over achiever but make decent grades, play one sport, “act like you have class” (another great one!). How about being the brunt of low expectations. You were expected to just get by without getting in trouble or ending up in juvenile detention, or “not being like your dad/mom” (parents have brilliant moments don’t they?).

 

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Where did those expectations come from? Who is responsible for telling us what is expected of us before they understand who we are, what are circumstances are, and where we are in the moment? Unfortunately, most people cannot answer this. Growing up I would ask my parents all the time why they believed in something or why we did certain things (most of the time it pertained to a religious aspect but sometimes it was about why they believed what they did) and all I could get was “that’s just what we do” or “that’s just how it’s always been”. I  never liked that answer. These expectations of “what is becoming of a young woman” (I got that at least 2-3 x/month) , “what love is like”, “only good girls who make all A’s get into college” or whatever else pertained to you growing up shapes how you view the world, view others, and view yourself.

In addition to familial, cultural, and societal expectations placed upon us we begin to generate our own expectations. I’ll share with you one of my expectations. I treat everyone fairly and with kindness (As much as I can I am only human). I expect for people to do the same for me. I’m a firm believer in the golden rule and the whole concept of karma (law of action). We all have expectations and place them on others whether we want to admit it or not. When someone fails my expectations and doesn’t reciprocate kindness for kindness *insert your expectation* I am hurt, disappointed, and angry.  I constantly find myself saying to my husband, “I just don’t understand how people aren’t nice”, “I don’t understand why people can’t be kind”, “I’ve been nothing but nice, considerate, and giving. What do I get in return? Nothing! Not even a thank you note!”.  I recently experienced this first hand. I was very upset that all my  hard and free work, my life, my soul was given to an institution. When it was all said and done, I gave my thank you notes, kinds words and nothing was reciprocated. I immediately lost all control and wanted to drop all contact with the institution and individual. I expected them to see my hard work and give me what I was seeking for-kindness and appreciation.After some long venting sessions with the husband I realized that they didn’t know my expectations. That not everyone shares my same opinions on how to treat people. It isn’t their problem, but mine for projecting and expecting them to be how I want them to be.   These failed expectations also lead us to judgemental behavior, “if only they were raised better they would know that is how you do x-y-z etc…”. And judging gets you no where! No one likes to be judged…

 

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So where do these expectations truly come from? Everything we know and believe is a construct of society.  For example, if you grow up in upper middle class America you are per-dispositioned to one kind of expectations–need I say more? If you are like me and grow up in the South there are plenty of expectations set upon both sexes–that’s a whole different post.  When we dive deep into finding where the construct was originated you again find a muddled mess.I never thought much about constructs and where we get our mindset till I read the book Happy Yoga by Steve Ross. Ross defines social concepts as, “a mental construct unverifiable in the moment by experience. It is a framework of thoughts and beliefs in the mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness” (17). He goes on to say, “Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred and often useless and illusory. Experience is the real thing; it occurs in the present moment. Concepts are labels that keep us thinking about the world”(18).

It is up to us to challenge our expectations and constructs. Explore where they come from and what good do they do us. Upon examining them maybe you will find that they keep you from seeing the best in people and developing relationships with others. That they do more harm than good. They actually don’t guide you but destroy you. Maybe your expectations don’t do that this going within leads you somewhere else. I’d love to know what you find.

 

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Congratulations! You’re a Feminist

Do any of these sound familiar?

  •  You didn’t vote for Hillary and you didn’t vote for Trump. You believe that everyone has equal rights and deserves to be treated with respect, lovingkindness-just like how you want to be treated. You didn’t march in any of the Women’s Marches because you feel it doesn’t represent who you are and/or it was too political, and that there are other ways to show solidarity than marching in the rain wearing a pussyhat. You didn’t IG, FB, or use any of the following hastags: #nastywoman, #powertothepussy, #IStandWithHer, #lovetrumpshate, etc..You hate seeing other women and populations being torn down by nasty words. You believe in people choosing how they want to live and conduct their life. Seeing all these “pro-pussy” posts on social media has you down because you they make you feel inferior for not being fired up, angry, a #nastywoman, and less than because you don’t see things like them.
  • You voted for Hillary and despise Trump. You use every outlet you can to forcefully push your beliefs on others and refuse to see other peoples perspectives OR you share your beliefs but  don’t use forceful language and berate people who don’t believe like you. Like the person above you believe that everyone has equal rights, deserves respect, and can choose to live their life the way they want. You marched on Saturday carrying a sign with a vagina sticking a middle finger to the man and wore a pussy-hat.
  • You are a woman who voted for Trump. You feel ostracized by other women because they look down on you for voting for him. They call you names and do not respect your choice though they preach tolerance. While you voted for Trump, like the other women above you too believe in equal rights for all, the right for people live according to their beliefs, and in treating others with respect. You understand that Trump and his position on women do not represent you but you saw something in his policy that resonated with you that Hillary, Bernie, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson policy didn’t.
  • You are not like any of the women outlined above, or you are a variation of the three presented.

 

If you are any of those women outlined then Congratulations!  You are a feminist! Don’t believe me? Then look at the definition of feminism. According to Merriam-Webster feminism is defined as,

  • the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

  • organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

Feminist.com defines feminism like this, “feminism wants you to be whoever you are-but with a political consciousness. And, vice versa: You want to be a feminist because you want to be exactly who you are. That may be a person patriarchal society doesn’t value or allow-from a female cadet at the Citadel to a lesbian mother. Maybe you feel aligned with the self-determination and human rights implicit in feminism, but you also organize your life around race, religion, or class, rather than solely around gender“. See how anyone can be and is a feminist?

 

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Now that we have realized that each and everyone of us is a feminist, let’s take it a step further. How about we put feminism into action? Action is always better then words-we all know people who talk a good game but when we look at their actions and fruit we see otherwise. It is this call to action that will bring about the change people are so desperate for. Action doesn’t always mean marching or walking in protest. Action is anything carried out. As a friend on Facebook mentioned it doesn’t matter how you “protest” or what action you take as long as you do something. So here are some things you can do that are not just feminist in nature but are little gestures that go a long way in treating people like a human being that was, just like you, created by The Divine/God.

  • Words of Encouragement and Affirmation. Who doesn’t love a good word or two of encouragement after a rough day. We all love hearing that we are doing a good job at being a mom, wife, an employee, a friend, teacher, lover, etc…Words are the most powerful tool we have in our arsenal. Words can be used for good and to build each other up, but they are also the most destructive. As James 3:5-6 says, “In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to burn anyone’s life down or burn myself. So what are words of encouragement or affirmation? Some examples are: “I believe in you”, “Thank you for being you”, ” You are a great friend”, “You are such a strong person”, “You can do great things”,  “I’m praying for you”, or “You did a great job doing *insert activity/action* “. These words are so simple, but yet extremely powerful. Think back to a time when you were utterly distraught, forlorn, or depressed. How did it feel when someone noticed this and said something nice to you? Didn’t that pick you up and give you a little extra oomph to get through? For my yogis out there, this is a verbal way to practice Ahimsa (non-violence).

 

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  • Practice Lovingkindness. If you are friends with me on social media or have come to any of my yoga classes, you have heard me talk about Lovingkindness or Metta. Honestly, if you have been to any yoga class or are friends with a devout yogi/yogini you have heard about Metta. Metta is a simple meditation that helps us see others in a positive light and helps us to cultivate compassion. The Lovingkindness Meditation is simple and can be done anywhere. To have the greatest effect recite the meditation a few times daily. You can also recite it when someone is getting on your everlasting nerves to help you calm down and treat that person nicely. I take my version of Metta Meditation after Jack Kornfield. My version is, “May I/you be filled with lovingkindness. May I/you be peaceful and at ease. May I/you be happy. May I/you be free”.  Find your version and begin practicing today! I know lots of people who could use some good vibes and Metta thrown their way.

 

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  • Support Woman Owned/Operated Businesses.  Not only does this support local economy it shows that you believe women are capable of being movers and shakers in the business industry, which is largely dominated by men. I am blessed to know many female entrepreneurs and run successful businesses. They give me inspiration to pursue my dreams and show the value of what hard work, determination, and not taking the word No for an answer can do. They show me and other young women that in order to make a statement, sometimes we have to go out on our own and pave the way to success. Whether a female in your life owns a company, is a freelance artist or teacher, sells essential oils, Plexus, artisan goods on Etsy,buy from her! Show her that you appreciate what she creates. And honestly, who doesn’t like to make money off what they love?

 

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  • Support Causes that Resonate with You. This is where we can generate support and show solidarity for others on a grander scale. I don’t care who you are there is something out there that moves you. There is a disease/sickness, social injustice, or mission, that resonates deep within your soul. Take a moment and think to yourself, what are you passionate about? Are you a female artist who wants to support other female artists to get work shown or become a director of a ballet company (which is a mans world though there are more females in ballet then men)? Have you been touched by the effects of cancer? Maybe it’s bringing awareness to the horrible practice of female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, homelessness, LGBTQ support, overseas missionaries, children’s hunger, making care packages for those undergoing chemo…ANYTHING!  For me, I am passionate about Eating Disorder & Addiction Recovery, Mental Illness, and  Domestic Violence because those have been me. I have lived many years in a self-harm state of anorexia, exercise addiction, and been emotionally abused. I share my story, educate young girls, write this blog, participate in the Red Flag Campaign and Take Back the Night, I do what I can-sometimes even if it’s just a prayer or sending of good vibes out. It’s something.

 

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  • Mentor Young Girls and Teach Young Men. This is probably the biggest thing we can do. It is up to us to reach out the younger generation and teach them about the power they have within them. It is up to us to teach young girls how to be strong women. We are to teach them that they can not only be whatever they want to be, but how to reclaim their bodies. Their bodies aren’t just for making babies and to be objectified. It is up to us to teach young men how to respect these young girls and what is/isn’t appropriate. We are to teach both sexes tthat they have worth and value that isn’t related to how many likes/followers/shares on social media, the clothes they wear, where they come from, or what other hindrances are in their lives. They have value and worth because they are divine, they were made in God’s image. Each and everyone of them are unique, beautiful snowflakes,with special talents that make the world a better place. When we raise this next generation, they can be the change that we hope to see in the world.

 

So, are you ready to take one or more of these actions and make a difference? Are you ready to claim your title as a feminist? Are you ready to start a revolution-whether it is just within your soul or in your community? If so, then good for you. If you aren’t, then guess what, that’s ok too! Just know that no matter your choice, I’m here for you. Just remember,  “You is kind. You is smart.You is important” (The Help).  for more female empowerment check out my article, When You Don’t Know What to Say Let Maya Angelou do the Speaking.

 

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Not Forgotten, Just Lost

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written, hell, even looked at this blog. It’s not that I haven’t forgotten it. In fact it is the opposite, I kept meaning to stop by and pick it back up, but I didn’t. I was lost. I lost track of the time-the days, months, minutes, hours. I lost track of me-who I am, who I was, where I’m going. I was as lost as your first road trip back in the early 2000s when there wasn’t Google Maps, just Mapquest or the McNally Map. If you are like me it is ridiculously easy to get lost with those (who am I kidding, I still get lost with Google Maps!).  My time away from imageoftheheart was just like those road trips. I lost my map. I had no internet service to connect to Google Maps. I drive a smart car but it didn’t make me smart, no desire, no passion to get from point A to point B. So how did I find my way back here with no maps,internet, or sense of direction?

There really wasn’t one clear way that I got back here. In fact, it was many things and events that tied themselves together in a pretty present tied with a glittery bow. The past few months I was consumed with busyness. I had my yoga classes, dance classes, I started a new blog AUM in the Arts, I was choreographing, performing, rehearsing, working two other jobs. All of these stops were taking me further and further away from my center, what I had worked so hard on all these years on and off the yoga mat.

I felt like I was on a country back road that turns into a gravel road where you think you are never going to reach your destination. You begin to focus so much on not getting lost and hoping you don’t hear banjos that you forget to focus on the things around you. Eventually you end up where busyness takes you, to the holler of self-destruction. For me it was unparalleled anxiety, performance deprecating panic attacks, anger, sub par work, dropping the ball on things that I had once been on top of. I was not Leslie, I was someone else. Leslie had gotten lost on this road trip…too many wrong turns.

 

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Once I hit the end of the road, with a flat tire and a hunger for a GF/Vegan/Raw smoothie, I had to find my way back home. I had to give up what was wearing me down. I looked at all that was in my luggage and got rid of what wasn’t pertinent. First, I stopped the glorification of busy. Busy gets you no where contrary to what that mindset makes you believe. I was so busy being busy that “I like to be busy” became my mantra. I remember in therapy that I discovered that extreme busyness is a way to avoid things that make us uncomfortable or, in my case, it is used as a coping mechanism. Secondly, I made a list of what wasn’t fueling me and got rid of it. All that work I was doing for free-no more. That job that caused me pain and panic attacks-no more. Giving my art away for free-no more. Thirdly, I shed some pounds and not in the ED manner. I gave clothes away to the young girls at the dance studio. I purged “momentos” out of my drawers and made my pack light (as I write that sentence I think of the Bag Lady from Labyrinth). I also said goodbye to relationships that were weighing me down. Lastly, I revisited my 12 Steps and took steps back to where I began. Ready to begin 2017 anew.

I’m heading back to where I intended to finish 2016. That is the beauty of new years, new days, new months. We get the opportunity to start over. 2017 is another road trip. Where are you going? I know where I’m going and I’m not getting lost again.