If we pay attention, we can identify those small moments that indicate great change. These moments are easy to pass by, to discount as “not important enough,” but they clearly show us that there has been a monumental shift in how we see the world and ourselves within it.
In September, it will be two years since I took myself on a timeout to a small town on the Oregon Coast. I booked a hotel room steps from the beach, took myself out to dinner, and wandered around the shops that were already closed up for the season. As the sun set and with no way to avoid myself, I sat down on the emerald green carpet in my room, legs crossed and tears running down my face. I felt raw and stripped away and broken down. Deeply, profoundly afraid.
I had always thought that being alone would be the worst thing. Abandoned and abused by people who were supposed to love me most, I spent my adult years clinging to whatever love – or what I believed was love – I could find. I accepted all kinds of behavior that I did not deserve, at the sacrifice of myself. Sacrificing my worth, my feelings, my value, my voice.
But in that moment, I loved myself enough to embrace my brokenness and face my deepest fear. On that emerald green carpet, with the ocean waves ebbing and crashing outside my window, I sobbed and faced Being Alone and knew that – no matter what – I would be okay. That moment was how I knew I loved myself, beyond a doubt, even when I didn’t know what that meant.
That moment changed everything, including the kinds of love I choose to give and receive. During the last couple of weeks, I had this moment of clarity, a moment of decision, a chance to love myself again. I had a conflict with a good friend of mine, and I thought, “If my feelings and words do not have value in this friendship, then that isn’t love that I deserve. I deserve better.”
I didn’t know what would happen when I said that out loud, but I did. There is no time to waste. We deserve love, especially from ourselves. We are worthy of love, especially from ourselves. No more sacrificing our worth or value for less.
I was left wondering, how did I get here? To this place where loving and respecting myself is more important than love from others?
I remembered that I had made a list of the habits and behaviors and practices I have cultivated over the last few years that have led to this place in my soul and heart and life. The list is surprisingly long and girthy (that’s what she said) and comprehensive, so I had to split the list into two parts – here’s the second entry!
#23. Meditate. If you’re like me, use an app on your phone for guided meditation. Stop, Breathe and Think is a good one, and there are many more out there that can help us take a break and reconnect.
#24. Practice naked time. Seriously. After a year of consistent naked time, I am convinced that there is no better confidence builder. If you can, be alone in your home and do your regular stuff, just be naked. Be careful cooking, though.
#25. Let your mind wander. I’m all for mindfulness and observing and noting feelings and thoughts. Also, I mindfully give myself permission to let it all go and allow my mind to wander where it will.
#26. Find your people. If you’re a writer, find your fellow writers. A comedian? Find more comedians. A parent of young children? Find your cohorts. Whatever stage of life you’re in or whatever your interest, there are people out there like you.
#27. Ask for help. This makes #26 make more sense, no? When you find your people, you make a community, and members can ask each other for help in whatever forms that may take.
#28. Find your fun. Follow it. It is surprisingly and disturbingly easy to forget to have fun. What do you do for fun? If you have forgotten or what used to be fun simply isn’t anymore, it’s time to do some exploring.
#29. Welcome feelings. Learn how to be with them and process them and express them in healthy ways. Make friends with them. And then get a good therapist, because the process of learning how to do this…you’re gonna need some help.
#30. Practice healthy conflict. This goes well with #29. Conflict is inevitable, and avoiding conflict creates future problems. Knowing what you feel and what is important to you and why can short-circuit the whole “avoiding conflict” habit in a peaceful way.
#31. Apologize. Conflict is inevitable, and sometimes we hurt people.
#32. Invest in relationships. I used to be all about achieving things – recognition, good grades, approval, validation. None of that matters. Once you have your people, nothing beats investments in those relationships.
#33. Cultivate gratitude. More than that platitude, “There’s always something to be grateful for,” gratitude is not a guilt trip or an automatic invalidator. Gratitude is an acknowledgement that more than one thing can be true at a time.
#34. Learn something new. Figure out what is fun and exciting and go do that thing.
#35. Be Open. Give up control. You will feel twitchy and itchy and uncomfortable for awhile, and then you’ll realize that the world did not, in fact, fall apart without you controlling every single thing. There’s a lot of freedom and happiness in that realization and practice.
#36. Say what you need to say. Be honest. Especially with yourself.
#37. Rest. Clear your calendar. Stare into space. We don’t get bored enough, and that’s where inspiration and creativity live.
#38. Take a nap. Take many, many naps. Be known for how well you nap, whether it’s ten minutes or two hours.
#39. Watch TV. Don’t know what to watch? Join us, we got you.
#40. Read. Don’t know what to read? We’ve got you covered here, too.
#41. Say no when you need to. Without apology or explanation. It’s very freeing.
#42. Figure out what you need and make requests. I first learned this principle as, “Ask for what you need.” I rarely ask. I make polite requests.
<SC choose road>
#43. Do what works. Change your mind, change the plan, change direction.
#44. Little things are the big things. Clearly from this two-part list, one important conclusion I have made is that it’s not the big things in life that change us. The real life-changers are the little things – the ordinary decisions and words and actions – that we do every day.
These are the decisions and words and actions that will change our lives. And one day, in a moment or series of moments, we will realize that we are different. And that we really, really like it.