Today, in my corner of the world, we had a really awesome break from winter. The temperature topped out in the low 70s and broke all the records. Normally, February in New York is cold and snowy and, since I don’t ski or snowmobile or snowshoe, it’s absolutely miserable. The only consolation I take is that February is the shortest month on the calendar.
One of the main ways I’ve learned to cope with my pain and heal it, is to keep my body moving. So, when it’s warm enough, I always take walks or go for a run. Every single day. It helps make me feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. But when the weather gets cold and nasty, I’m forced to stay inside. And everything seems to get a little darker.
But once we get through February. March gives us some hope for nice days. Days when I can get out and move.
That’s why today was such a pleasant surprise. It was a great reminder that spring is almost right around the corner. And a reminder that hope springs eternal.
Back in November I was dreading all the winter days. I do like Thanksgiving and the Holiday season, so November and December weren’t bad. But once January rolls around, all I want to do it fast forward to March.
Over the years, my mom has always told me: “Don’t wish your life away.”
She underscores the saying with the story of the day her mother died. My mom was telling her mom (my grandma) how she couldn’t wait for lent to be over and her mother told her not to wish her life away. A couple hours later, my grandma died unexpectedly. That left a wound inside my mom.
So, yeah, I always feel a little guilty about not embracing the given moment I’m living. Now, with the practice of mindfulness and gratitude, I’m much better about it. But still, let’s be honest, January and February can really stink and make me long for warmth and sunshine.
Sometime in early January I was listening to a Podcast (this one: Let’s Play: The Create Podcast), and the hosts, Natalie and Kristen, were talking about how wintertime should be the time when we sleep more and think more and allow ourselves to just lay low and focus on ourselves. It goes along with the seasons. Spring is the time for rebirth. Summer is the time when everything is in bloom. Fall is the time to harvest and when things begin to go back to the Earth. And winter is when everything is dormant.
This gave me permission to really focus on myself and to take the time to take a good, hard look at my life. Most importantly, it allowed me to ask what I believe is the most important question anyone could ever ask:
Who am I?
Really. For me, the answer isn’t very easy.
Who am I?
Asking that one small 6-lettered question leads to a slew of more specific questions:
What do I like?
What do I want?
What do I need?
How do I want to move through the world?
What’s important to me?
What isn’t important?
How do I want people to remember me?
These are just a few of the questions. Hopefully, you can answer them for yourself. If so, congratulations! If not, you have a lot of company – me included.
But all these questions can only be answered by one person. The person asking. Me.
For so long, I judged who I was by my perception of the perception of other people. I was always looking at myself through 2 distorted lenses – my perception and my perception of other people’s perceptions. I was pretty much living in a house of mirrors. Thinking I was seeing things clearly when in reality I wasn’t.
Only I can decide who I really am and who I want to be every single day.
And once I figured this out, soon afterward I came-up with a very broad definition of what I want to define me.
I thought of 2 pillars of how I want to live.
I want to always:
Lead with love.
Live my truth.
So simple. And yet, there it is. There are my pillars. They are the legs that support the rest of me.
Everyone should know what they hold as more valuable than anything else. So, I encourage you to take the time to think about it right now…
What are your pillars? What are your legs? Maybe you only have one, or maybe you have more than two. But hopefully it’s not a lot more than two.
Because your pillars need to be simple and short enough for you to be able to come back to them quickly and easily whenever you begin to feel your emotions kicking in.
We all have emotions, of course. We feel sad or angry or anxious or excited or dozens of other emotions. Often we judge these emotions too. But we shouldn’t. We have little control over how we feel and at the end of the day, our feelings are just feelings. They can’t directly hurt us or anyone else. It’s how we deal with our emotions that matters. It’s how we react and then the action we take because of the reaction.
This is sometimes referred to as System 1 and System 2.
System 1: The initial reaction. Staying here results in acting based solely on feelings, without taking anything else into account.
System 2: Bringing thought into the equation. Seeing the bigger picture and responding based on all the factors at play.
Most of the time, we want to move to System 2 before actually taking any lasting action. There are times, when it’s good to stay in System 1. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly a car goes out of control and come barreling toward you. The initial reaction – in System 1 – will get you out of the way and save your life. So, of course it’s good. But most of the time, staying in System One will have less desirable outcome.
It’s when my emotions are particularly strong that I have to remember to consider who I want to be. What are my pillars?
Lead with love. Live my truth.
Remembering this helps me to move from System 1 to System 2. And it helps me to react to things based on who I want to be.
So when I get angry or nervous or feel shy or afraid, I remind myself to lead with love and to live my truth.
In the past, I was always pretty good about leading with love. I’ve always been mindful of being caring and compassionate. But living my truth was a tough one, partially because I didn’t really even know what my truth was (and by the way, I’m still figuring it out – my truth – every single day). But now I stand-up to the fear and I try not to shrink away from difficult conversations or potentially embarrassing situations if by doing so would compromise my truth. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m trying. That’s the truth.
And now the temperature outside has dropped throughout the day and is back to February-like weather – 40 degrees. Winter is back. And that’s okay. Because I need a little more time to figure out who I am and who I want to be. I need more time to figure out my truth. Spring is still coming. And with it will come new life. Until then, I will wait with faith and hope and love. And I will choose to be me.