Adios Retail Therapy

Adios Retail Therapy

I have come a long way to be able to say this.  Adios shopping! Who I am now is a complete turnaround from how I was ten years ago. Back then, I was in my banker job.  I was paid well with no financial responsibilities.  All the money went to my own expenses.  I shopped, I dined, I partied.  Whenever I was stressed or unhappy, I would go shopping to make myself feel better.  The relief lasted only for a short while, and the misery set in again.

I used retail therapy to comfort myself.  I was stressed at work and it felt like I was mad at the money I was getting paid with so I spent a lot of it.  I still saved a substantial amount, mind you.  But I bought a lot of crap.  Clothes, shoes, accessories, electronics, bags and jewelry.  You name it, I bought it.  Looking back now, the thrill of the hunt of what to buy was what made me happy.  After I bought the item, the elated feeling goes away. And you’re left with that empty feeling of what to buy next.

At work, we dressed up well and bought designer shoes and bags. I graduated to expensive watches.  It felt like we were trying to keep up with the Joneses, the clients.  Who were kidding?  They were the clients, they had millions of dollars in their savings account.  We were the bankers, it will never be the same.

I kept on buying until I stopped myself around five years ago.   I was on a trip and bought five designer handbags.  My tax refund alone was enough to buy another handbag.  I realized that this wasn’t me.  What was I doing?  I was ashamed of how I had become.  In the last five years I made a conscious effort to curb my inner consumer and buy only what I needed to.  I became more discriminating with where I spent my money on.   There was a time when I felt ashamed to be seen wearing designer items.  I tried to be as low-key as possible.  It was a far cry from how I was before.  But that was an extreme reaction too.

Would my life be better if I used a Chanel bag compared to a no-name bag?  Would I walk better and look better wearing a Christian Louboutin heels compared to heels I bought at Payless Shoe Source.  I have to admit, I do have both which I don’t use as much now.  They’re reminders for me of how I was in the past.  It also helps that I don’t buy as much now since I am dropping sizes in clothes so I didn’t want to buy something that will be too big for me in a month’s time.

I still shop but only for essentials and gifts.  I’m more discerning now of what I buy.  Do I want it or do I need it?  And I don’t do impulse purchases as much.   Maybe it’s age.  I find that I’d rather keep my money rather then buy something that I know I will lose interest in a few days later.

Adios retail therapy! You’ve helped me through my twenties and thirties.  It’s been good knowing you.  We’ve had some fun times together but it’s time to move on.  I am a mature, responsible adult now and I choose to make myself happy in other ways.

Advertisements

Happy vs. Joy

Happy vs. Joy

We live in a society wherein the primary objective is to be happy.  Whenever something happens, you ask yourself whether you are happy about it or not.  Before going to bed, you ask yourself whether it was a happy day or not.  It is this state of being that everyone constantly tries to achieve but it seems like the more we try to be happy, the more miserable we end up being.  Why is that so?

Let me quote my second favorite musical of all time, Wicked, and one of the more unappreciated songs sung by Glinda called, Thank Goodness.

(sung) That’s why I couldn’t be happier
No, I couldn’t be happier
Though it is, I admit
The tiniest bit
Unlike I anticipated
But I couldn’t be happier
Simply couldn’t be happier
(spoken) Well – not “simply”:
(sung) ‘Cause getting your dreams
It’s strange, but it seems
A little – well – complicated
There’s a kind of a sort of : cost
There’s a couple of things get: lost
There are bridges you cross
You didn’t know you crossed
Until you’ve crossed…

And if that joy, that thrill
Doesn’t thrill you like you think it will
Still –
With this perfect finale
The cheers and ballyhoo
Who
Wouldn’t be happier?
So I couldn’t be happier
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true
Well, isn’t it?
Happy is what happens
When your dreams come true!

Without consulting dictionary or Google, happiness comes across to me as a feeling that arises based on external situations. According to the song, happiness happens when all your dreams come true.  Then what?  What happens next?  We become so focused on reaching that goal in order to be happy.  We tell ourselves that we will only be happy once we’ve done this, achieved that, gotten this and surpassed that. And when you do get it, you know you will be happy.  You should be.  But have you ever felt a bit let down even when your dream did come true? And that it wasn’t how you anticipated it to be?

I had to grapple with this concept the last few months. In the past, I always thought that being happy was the most important thing in the world.  It was only recently that I realized that I wasn’t really searching for happiness.  I mean yes, who wouldn’t want all their dreams to come true?  I still do.  But I based so much of my self-worth and well-being on external situations and events.  These would be whether I get promoted, get a good bonus, get married and/or have children.  If I achieve it, I’m happy. If not, then I’m not happy.  It’s all very external-based and conditional.  I needed to change my mindset into being happy all the time, whether or not my dreams come true.

I realized there was something that was more important to me than being happy.  And that is joy. Somewhere along the way of trying to achieve my dreams, I seemed to have lost my joie de vivre. I’ve become an automaton. In my search for happiness, I realized that what I was actually looking for was joy. It was what I didn’t know I needed and wanted.  It is that cheerful enjoyment of life that I was looking for.  Whether or not my dreams come true, I will still have that same zest and exuberance for life.  I just want to feel excited to be alive even if it meant doing something new or doing the same thing over and over.  I want to find that sense of joy and wonder again when I was a child.  I want to be amazed at and be in awe of everything. Joy to me is an inner happiness and is unrelated to any external event.  In my mind, that is just how I differentiated between happy and joy.  Joy comes from within whereas happy is derived from the outside.

I still have dreams that I want to achieve.  Whether or not I achieve them, should not affect the unqualified joy I have for living. Sure there will be happiness, sadness, disappointment, contentment and many other emotional states.  What I want to maintain constant is that unwavering vibrancy to life.  Can’t believe it took me a while to realize that.  But I’m still glad I did.

You Have To Get Good With Yourself

You Have To Get Good With Yourself

I’ve heard this line many times from well-meaning friends but it was only recently that I fully understood it. People always said that you need to live the life you want to live or that you need to be the person you want to attract.  Yes. All of it is true.

All these years, I thought I was all good. I mean I was normal, well-adjusted and sociable. I mean everyone had some sort of baggage right? Mine was me seeking approval from my parents, in trying to be the daughter they wanted me to be as against how I really am. Growing up, my sister was always the symbol of a good daughter. Feminine, docile and quiet. Whereas, I was headstrong, stubborn, loud and somewhat of a tomboy. I always wanted to change to the way they wanted me to be. The intent was there but it rarely lasted over an hour because it’s just too darn hard to be someone I’m not.

And that is me being a seeker. Seeking approval, love, and attention because I wasn’t good with myself. And plus, parents always knew better right? They always said that nobody would like me if I was chubby, loud, not feminine and not subservient. Growing up, I always felt that I wasn’t good enough.  So I compensated by getting good grades.  That was my salvation. At least I was good for something.  With that in mind, I just worked at being the “smarter” daughter to distinguish myself for not being girly enough.

The vicious cycle continued and spilled to other areas in my life. I always needed external validation.  I often felt restless and incomplete because I was always seeking something. With relationships, I felt unattractive because I was overweight  and had residual feelings of not being girly enough to attract anyone.  I needed validation from men to feel attractive.  I always felt the least attractive amongst my friends and saw myself as the duff.  At work, I sought to prove myself capable and move up the ranks in order to feel that I was good.  This way, I could still show that I was good for something.

Taking the time off made me realize this destructive behavior I’ve been doing my whole life was my biggest enemy.  How could I be happy when I couldn’t accept myself as I am now? How could I be happy when I placed my happiness in the hands of others? I needed to take back the power I had given to others and keep it for myself.  I needed to love myself as I am now instead of asking others to love me or approve of me.

Granted, it’s not easy completely letting go of decades of practiced behavior.  I know that whenever I think of what my parents, friends, or whoever else think, I just need to remind myself that what matters most is what I think.  And with that, everything else becomes easier because I accept and love myself as I am now. Accepting myself doesn’t mean staying stagnant and being complacent with how I am. I still want to improve and be the best person I can be but on my own terms and not dictated by other people.

I will build a life I love and be happy while I am single instead of waiting for my prince to show up.  I will accept myself and appreciate all the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I will work to heal myself for any issues I may have and not blame others.  I will also not condemn myself for mistakes and know that I’ve learned from them. I will appreciate my inner and outer beauty, compliment myself and accept compliments graciously. I will love and accept myself even if I may sometimes fail at doing all these.

 

Happy Birthday To Me

Happy Birthday To Me

This is it.  The day has come and gone.  I just crossed over to a new decade. Gasp! Do I feel any different?  Not really.  I don’t know why I made such a big deal about turning 40 years old.  Okay fine.  I do know why.  It was because I focused on the lack in my life instead of what I had, the blessings in my life.  Whenever I looked at other people, I saw what they had and what I didn’t.  I did stop to think of my blessings but somehow, it always felt like it wasn’t enough.

I am now a decade older and a decade wiser than my thirty-year old self.  I had a great time celebrating my birthday with friends and family filled with love and good wishes.  Here I am writing a belated birthday wish for myself for the coming year.

Dear B.

On this milestone birthday, I wish myself to always be the best I can be. From now until forever. It is a milestone not because I turned 40, but because I was able to process and let go of notions that weren’t helping me grow.  It is difficult to be uncomfortable, but it is through this that I can know more about myself and accept myself.  This way, I can be the person I really need to be, instead of who I think people want me to be.

I wish for myself to always be humble, grateful and to accept people and situations with an open heart.  My wish is to always face the world with a smile because just one smile changes everything. I also wish to live for today, not tomorrow but TODAY because today is what I have.  And what I am today is good.  I am whole and complete right now. 

Happy birthday to me! 😘

Love B.

Life Begins Now

Life Begins Now

It’s not my birthday yet but I decided to change the name of my blog to LIFE BEGINS NOW.  For the first two months of 2017, I was at a low point.  I felt lost and unsure of what to do.  The enormity of turning 40 while still single haunted me.  You can add in my feelings of un-attractiveness to the mix. I was miserable and felt like an utter failure.   It seemed like I failed myself, my family and mostly myself. I was my own worst enemy, my harshest judge and critic.  I had reached the ripe old age of almost forty with nothing to my name. (I exaggerate. I am healthy and so is my family and for that I am grateful.)  And that was why I named it “Confessions of an Almost 40-year old Single Woman.”  I was sad and that was how I saw myself.  Looking at it now with more positive eyes, it felt like I pitied myself.  There’s nothing wrong with 40 and single.  It was all in my mind.

Starting the blog was a way for me to “release” my thoughts.   If you had started reading the posts chronologically, you can sense the sadness and the emptiness.  But as the days went on, I took charge of my life and what is within my power to change things.  I embarked on a lifelong journey to eat healthy and concentrate on fitness. I started doing  more creating instead of just thinking.  I worked on my lip balm experimentation and my arts stuff.  As I planned my blog entries, I felt this sense of empowerment and fulfillment. I was being productive in reality and not just in my mind.

It has only been a month but the positive effects are evident.  I know that I wanted to change the name but I decided on Life Begins Now because I have this tendency to postpone life and happiness until a certain future event occurs like when I get married, when I have a family, when I get rich, when I get promoted or when I get thinner.  But life doesn’t work that way.  I can’t keep postponing happiness.  It has to begin NOW no matter how perfectly imperfect I am.  I choose to be happy and live in the NOW.

The Art of Living

The Art of Living

Break through all the barriers and feel that you are blessed. This is the one and only step you have to take. The rest will all happen.

-Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Two months ago, I attended a meditation course called The Art of Living. I was hesitant to attend at first but the program director encouraged me to give it a try. I did and I am so thankful to him. I did not know what it was but I knew I needed help in focusing and centering myself. I felt lost, sad, helpless and useless. This momentary lapse was so unlike me. Being part of the course helped me in so many ways. Aside from the breathing exercises, I was able to keep a network of like-minded and supportive group and we have weekly meditation practices that is open to anyone who wants to join.

This morning, the same program director who “nudged” me before sent a short video on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his tips on how to get rid of sadness. It was short but it really packed a punch. I knew I had to share the video because this is what happened to me. I was wallowing in my own self-inflicted misery and feeling sorry for myself. One day, I just woke up and told myself ENOUGH! Enough with this whole woe is me attitude. I have everything I could ever want and need. Fine. Almost everything. Why am I torturing myself with thoughts of what I don’t have or what could’ve been? Looking back, it was an experience I had to go through and I realized I never want to be like that again. Ever.

According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in order to get rid of sadness you have to:

  1. You have to DO IT YOURSELF. Wake up and take responsibility for yourself. It is only in your own mind that you create your sadness. There is nobody who gives misery to others if they don’t take it.
  2. We have too much ambition. And we want too much. It is excessive desires that make you sad. You need to think of desires like a soccer ball. Kick the ball and say, “I DON’T CARE.” Drop the desires and sadness goes away.
  3. Invoke the valor in you. Be strong. Be brave. Be courageous. Face the sadness and confront it.
  4. Offer it to God or the Divine.

It has been two months since I finished the program. I will have to admit that I end up meditating only once a week but it is still very helpful and I try to join group sadhana on weekends once a month. I was also inspired to do more SEVA which is service. According to his book, seva is our own inner joy pouring forth into action.  When you are happy, you want to share that happiness in whatever form it takes.  I have since taken back control of my life from sadness and it has given me boundless happiness, hope and energy. I know I am not perfect. Life may not be perfect but I can handle it. Sri Sri said, Make room for imperfection. Think of it as the area in your house where you keep your garbage. You need that area to keep your entire house nice and clean, right?

Feel the Fear and Just Do It OK?

Feel the Fear and Just Do It OK?

“Remember that underlying our fears is lack of trust in ourselves.”
Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®: Dynamic techniques for turning Fear, Indecision and Anger into Power, Action and Love

I’ve never been much of a self-help book fan. Who needs to read those books anyway? I mean, I want to help myself so I will just do that. No need for a book to tell me what to do right? Wrong. I’ve only ever read The Rules and He’s Just Not That Into You. I don’t know if I’d consider them self-help but I was curious.

Two years ago, a friend recommended this book. I was a bit wary at first.   In my mind, only “losers” needed to read self-help books. Why would I need a book to instruct me how to live my life? It’s not as if I needed special skills like computer programming, playing an instrument or baking a cake. Everyone knew how to do it and I sure as heck don’t need a book. But I was in a bit of a pickle in my personal life and the book title said it all. What have I got to lose? I’m in!

I’m first to admit that I’ve had a cushy life. I’ve never really had to work too hard for anything. As a student, I had good grades with minimal effort. At work, I had a good job. I made friends easily. Even with other talents, I’m somewhat good at it. I wasn’t great at it, but I’m good with minimal effort. The only thing I admit to being a total ignorant of would be in electric stuff. I could never understand why plugging a 220V to a 110V outlet would destroy the appliance. Or it could be the other way around. Anyway, you see my point. I was comfortable in life. Which is good. That also meant I was in my comfort zone and every time I tried to step out of that zone, I’d be so fearful and afraid. It was like stepping into the great unknown. I didn’t have control and I was afraid of all the negative things that could happen.

Reading the book made me realize that I tried to exercise control in order to resist being uncomfortable. And that was why I wanted to be in control of situations in most areas of my life (personal, professional, emotional, etc.). I would almost always try “rigging” it to my favor or avoiding dealing with it altogether.   I was deathly afraid of failing. I was afraid of being pitied on and laughed at. I was my own harshest critic. Self-confidence comes from knowing that you can handle things that are thrown your away. I guess I wasn’t. Confident, that is.

I had to change my mindset with regards to “failing.” There was some sort of narcissistic element in thinking that I can do no wrong. I wasn’t perfect. Why should I keep on beating myself up over every mistake? I did come out of every situation knowing what not to do next time. Over time, I’ve gotten used to minimizing the volume of the fearful voice. Not full on mute, but enough to get out of analysis paralysis. I try to prepare myself as much as I could by anticipating what could happen. Even then, all I can do was adopt a “CAN DO” attitude. If I never did it, how would I know I could? I had to ask myself what would I fear more. The fact that I didn’t do something, or that I tried but the outcome may or may not have been what I had originally intended. The answer was pretty obvious.

Every time I feel the fear and come close to succumbing to it, I have to keep on reminding myself what the author, Susan Jeffers, wrote. “Shift from being afraid of making a mistake to being afraid of not making a mistake. If you are not making any mistakes, you are not learning or growing.” And I do want to learn and grow. Whatever gets thrown my way, I WILL HANDLE IT!