The Upside of Getting it Wrong

Truth Byte #58

 “It’s okay to make mistakes you can learn from.”

 

As a recovered perfectionist, I had a hard time believing it’s okay to make mistakes for decades. I believed, deep inside myself, that mistakes were the result of poor self-control or a lack of planning or some personal weakness finally come to light. I was okay with other people making mistakes, but if I did something wrong, it deeply impacted my self-worth and ignited this caustic self-talk that would burn holes in my sense of personal worth and goodness. I was really determined to be as perfect as I could be in the areas that mattered to me.
What that meant is that I really didn’t take many risks.

 

Because I didn’t want to fail.

 
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Five Ways to Stay Stuck

Truth Byte #57

 “Change and growth are different things.”

 

The one constant in life is change. Kids grow taller, wear and tear impacts our highways, and our bodies age.  Change happens with the passage of time. It’s just Nature’s law.  However, change does not necessarily predict growth, especially when it comes to people.

Let me tell you a little story.  I know someone who tries new things all the time.  She moves from this project to that project and has a lot of fun doing it.  Downside: she is still telling me the same stories about how “life is so hard” that she was telling me fifteen years ago.

Lots of changes, little growth.

Here’s another one. I had a client who had seen over five therapists in the last ten years.  Before he met me, he had tried whatever they taught him, attempting to implement all the homework and self-reflection he could.  Every month he was reading a new book about personal development. Downside: he was still stuck in the same cycle of one failed relationship after another. Lots of change, not much growth.
Why does this happen?
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How Yoga Saved my Baby

Truth Byte #56

 

“It’s better to bend than to break.”

 

I have been learning the last few weeks about flexibility. I get moving in a certain direction, and then I have to pivot, to quickly and effortlessly turn on the spot as Life throws me an unexpected, better opportunity.

 

I know, it’s a good problem to have.

 

And I learned this same lesson many years ago, in a much more painful way: yoga.

 

So let me take you back there, to the halls of my graduate program where we were learning about all things spiritual.  One of the graduation requirements was that we adopt a body discipline.  First year, it was mandatory Aikido. Amazing, loved it, but I wanted to try something new by second year.

 

Enter Course 234: Yoga.
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Befriending that Voice

Truth Byte #53

 

“Even in partnership, you must learn to walk alone.”

 

I have an incredible husband. Despite my drama stories to the contrary, he is the most patient, steady, loveable, and supportive guy I know. He rides with me on the roller-coaster of parenthood, the stormy ship of entrepreneurship, and the oft hum drum boredom of long-term commitment. He is in it for the long haul, says the right thing at the right time and always knows how to make me laugh (or at least roll my eyes while smiling).

 

But even in the midst of a truly rich marriage, I have learned that I am alone.

 

And not in a bad way, just alone.

 

Let me explain.

 

It hit me during the first few months of our marriage.  We had been building up to our big day for months, and had waited until after the wedding to move in together. Our honeymoon was perfect, two weeks of uninterrupted time in a tropical paradise.

 

And then we came home.

 

And we had jobs, and groceries, and car payments, and in-laws, and laundry, and all the other little things that “real life” is composed of.

 

At first, I happily played along in my new role as “wife”. But after a while, I noticed that we had separate lives. We work in completely different fields, so there isn’t really any “shop talk” that happens at home.  The poor guy had to explain his early tech projects to me in fashion metaphors, it was the only way I was going to follow along!  We had different work schedules, so the time that we spent at our home just playing was minimal.  But it worked for a while.

 

Then the babies came, one then another. And that changed everything.  Suddenly, we were tag-teaming as we negotiated who would do what for which kid and how we could be impactful and available parents while still trying to build our careers and run a household. And there were moments when I was nursing a baby or driving a little one to preschool or trying to make friends at some mommy-social that I felt so alone. And not in a good way.

 

Somewhere along my journey of university, career, marriage, and kids, I had to face the fact that I am alone. All alone.  Late at night, when I wake up with a start, it’s just me. Sure, I could reach over and shake him awake, or cuddle up with a kid or two, but what happens in my inner landscape is something only I can experience.

 

So why am I telling you this? What’s the point?

 

I have had many clients over the years that are running from loneliness.  Whether it’s a spouse they yearn for, a child, a pet, or some other kind of companionship or love, so many of us are looking to fill the emptiness inside. And what I have learned, both personally and professionally, is that no matter what the quality of our relationships, if we can’t be comfortable alone, those relationships will never be enough.

 

Let me say that again: if you aren’t okay being alone, no one else’s love will ever be enough.

 

Now I am speaking as an extrovert, and I know there are introverts out there who are probably thinking: "I am TOTALLY fine by myself!" And that may be true for some.

 

But for all of us, no matter what our social leanings, there is that corrosive voice inside that we don’t want to be left alone with.  You know, that voice that tells you that you are a failure, that you are screwing up, that you are a fraud and a fake, and that all your plans will ultimately fail.

 

That voice.

 

When you can learn to be in the presence of that voice and just not believe it, then you have really arrived.

 

Then you have a hope in hell of letting someone love you all the way, and being able to love them back without walls.

 

So this week, I challenge you to face that voice. To look deep inside into the part of you that was planted a long, long time ago, and really hear it. Hear the pain, the hopelessness, and the judgment. And just let it be.  Don’t “technique” it away with all the self-help tools you have collected (journaling, meditation, positive self-talk, etc. etc.), just be with it.

 

See what happens. 

 

See if you can sit in that uncomfortable place of self-attack and find another way, find another truth. Because until you do, you will be looking for someone else to drown out that voice. And no one else really can.

 

Ultimately, the only relationship that matters is the one you have with yourself.

 

And isn’t it time to listen to the most important person in your life: you? Even if you don’t like what s/he has to say?  Of course, there are ways to be supported in this task, and many people seek out counselling to have a reliable and consistent framework as they move through befriending that voice, so if you need that support, get it.

 

And in the meantime, keep looking inward. It’s where all the answers lie.  More at www.talktosaira.com

Sparkly Yet Spiritual

Truth Byte #51

“You can’t move forward with a split mind.”

 

For years, we have wanted things. New houses, cars, fancy clothes, the newest tech gadget, a happy wife, a thriving career, a caring boss, a baby, or the next child, or a pet. Some of us get these things and are thrilled. Some of us get these things and they are not enough to fill the longing.

 

Why is it that some people are satisfied with their lives while others are not? What makes some of us content with very little while others have a lot of stuff and very little happiness?

 

And the reverse is true too. There are those without all they want and need who are miserable and also those who live abundantly and thoroughly enjoy their lives.

Acquisition of things does not equate with happiness.

 

And yet we are wired to want.

 

Some spiritual and psychological traditions encourage us to be critical of this impulse to want, to learn to curb our desires and attachments and teach our selves to want less. People who follow these paths speak plainly and sometimes disdainfully about things and argue that the acquisition of things is our first and foundational problem. These traditions teach that it’s better to have experiences and relationships rather than things, and since we are all going to die anyway, none of this stuff actually matters in the long run.

 

I tried following those paths, and fell flat on my face.

 

Because I like stuff.

 

I like sparkly stuff, fancy stuff, decorative stuff, pretty things - just because they light up my space and bring a beautiful tone to my day. I like big things and small things and new things and plain things and bright things and things that make my life easier or trendier or just more fun.

 

I like stuff.

 

Going to the mall, for me, is like going to a museum. All those beautiful things to look at!

 

So when I stumbled upon the Law of Attraction, I felt like I had finally found a metaphysical system that works with my love of stuff. The Law basically says that whatever you focus on you attract to you. In it’s simplest form, the Law teaches that if you focus on what’s working, you get more of that. If you focus on what’s not working, you get more of that.

 

It even works for little things: if you focus on yellow flowers, you will start to notice them everywhere. Caterpillars? Same thing. Choose any physical object and focus on it, and it will start to appear more frequently and obviously in your life.

 

And of course, you would want more of the good stuff, so the teachings of the Law of Attraction helps us train our body/mind to focus more on the good stuff. Our spirit doesn’t need stuff, but enjoys the process of making thoughts into things, so there is no dichotomy in this system between wanting stuff and being in alignment with our own true spiritual nature.

 

So what about happiness? Well, many people think that getting the stuff is what will eventually bring happiness. But we can find hundreds of examples of how that is simply untrue.

 

Here’s an alternative approach: If we can learn to be happy first, then the stuff is just a bonus.

 

So what if we applied the Law of Attraction to happiness? That would mean the more happy we were, the more happiness would come to us.

 

And this totally works.

 

I have seen it dozens of times.

 

But only if you don’t have a split mind.

 

A split mind is where one voice in your head says, “Yes! Go for it? You can do it!” and the other voice in your head says, “That’s impossible. That will never work. You suck.”

 

Yes, you have voices in your head. We all do. And many of us believe the second voice because that is the voice that has evolved with us over centuries to keep us safe.

 

And for the masses, safety is the goal.

 

But then there are those of us that want something more than just survival. There are those of us that want richness and texture and complexity to our lives. We want adventure and thriving relationships and deep down joy. Some of us want to live loudly and vibrantly and totally immersed in this human experience. Some of us want to dance when we hear a drum beat and sing at the top of our lungs to our favourite songs on the radio. Some of us need that shiny, eye-catching centerpiece on our kitchen table to remind us that life is meant to be lived fully, not just tolerated. Some of us are willing to forgo order and discipline to be able to feel the cool dew of morning grass on the soles of our feet, or feel the gritty rhythm of live jazz pulse through our chests in a fringe club in the wrong part of town.

 

And we don’t get to live that kind of a life by listening to that second voice.

 

The only way we get a sparkly life is to believe that voice that says we are limitless, timeless, spiritual creators having a physical experience. That this life was meant to be lived to the brim, and that the only thing stopping us is our choice to believe that “life is hard” and “good things take time”. We have to believe that voice that tells us we are worthy, loveable, and unstoppable. And that life is supposed to be easy, fun, and free.

 

When we repair the split and start focusing on only that first voice, life becomes really shiny, really quickly. And while there may be moments of self-doubt, we generally move our “normal” up a few notches, and find ourselves happier. With or without the stuff.

 

Tell me about your Law of Attraction stories! When have you wanted something and it came to you quickly and unexpectedly? Leave a comment below to start the conversation or send me a note at connect@talktosaira.com

Birds of a Feather

Truth Byte #48

 “Some people don’t know how to be happy for you.”

 

People who know me know I am an exclaimer.  When people tell me good news, my voice rises, my face cracks into a wide smile, and I exclaim.  When people tell me bad news, my eyebrows furrow, my jaw slackens, and the concern is all over my face like an “I’m sorry” card from Hallmark.

 

People love telling me good news.  I think if we had had Instagram when I was at university, much of my feed would be other people capturing my delighted, surprised, oh-so-happy face.

 

But let me back up here. I am not trying to say I am always happy.  What I am, consistently, is expressive.

 

Maybe it comes from a long line of adventurous, immigrant women who had a flair for the dramatic. Or maybe it comes from watching Young and the Restless with my grandma when I was way to young to watch it without giggling through the kissing scenes. Or maybe it’s just that I have always secretly wanted to be a stage actor, and these live-out-loud expressions are the closest I can get.

 

Where ever it came from, this expressive trait is here to stay, and sometimes I forget that not everyone is wired like I am.

 

Recently, I shared some really excited and game-changing news with a family member.  I was met with a blank stare.  I assumed he didn’t quite understand, so I explained why this was such a big deal for me.  To which I got a slight nod and a “Good for you” in a “there-there-dear” tone of voice.  As I reflected on it, I realized I was looking for a big reaction.  But this is a person who never gives big reactions.

 

So my expectations weren’t really fair.

 

A few months ago, I told a different family member about a new project I was launching.  And this person is very expressive.  And I care about her opinion (first mistake), so was excited to have her in on it.  What I got was “Why would you want to do that?” When I explained, her next question was, “How much more money will you make it you do that?” After that second question, I got it.  No matter how many “correct” answers I gave her, she was not going to be happy for me. 

 

She had dug in her heels into her life’s own unhappiness, and was just not willing to let anyone else be happy in her presence.

 

If you talk to this person, she will tell you she loves her life.  She has a successful career and close relationships. She has hobbies that are meaningful and travels often. And yet, there is this air of unhappiness about her.  All the time.

 

For many years, I thought I could change that.  I thought if I continued to be bubbly and loving and optimistic around her, she would soften. I now know that when someone is steeped in bitterness, the road back to the sweet life is slow and deliberate, and that first step has to be taken by them, not me.  It’s their road to walk, not mine.

 

I have walked this hard road.

 

I have lots of good, reasonable, justifiable reasons for being miserable. In less than four decades, I have battled depression, obesity, sexual and physical assault, relationship betrayal, and all kinds of other physical and emotional barriers to my well-being. When I finally got my own inner house in order and reached out to help others, I had to face the glum reality that nobody around me was really thriving either.  Some of the people closest to me were struggling with drug addiction, divorce, death, potential incarceration, and all forms and flavours of trauma.

 

Plus, I had chosen a career in which people spent their time with me talking about their problems.

 

At some point, I had to make a decision about who I was going to choose to be. Was I going to be a feather in the wind, tossed around by the events that Life was throwing at me, or was I going to be the bird, choosing my own path? Being a bird took grit and perseverance.  It also required that I do something that no one else in my world was doing at the time: taking accountability for every part of my life. 

 

I had to examine my wings, and recognize that they were made up feathers. I had to come to the understanding that the events in my life had impacted me, sure, but I could choose whether or not to let them define me.

 

I call this learning how to fly.

 

I had to start re-framing those past events as character-building exercises, and journalled until my hands were raw about the lessons I could look for in them. I had to stop blaming the people and situations that had wronged me, and begin letting the past truly go.

 

I took a course in forgiveness.

 

At the Master’s level, for credit.

 

With one of the world’s leading-edge experts on the topics.

 

Cuz’ if I was going to learn this stuff, may as well throw my whole self into it, and learn from the best. (He has written some great books by the way, if you are interested. His basic intro and the one that changed my perspective on Life pain is "Forgive for Good" by Dr. Fred Luskin.)

 

And I had to make choices in all arenas of my life that would bring me closer to being that intentional bird rather than the victimized feather.

 

So yes, I am expressive. And I get in trouble now because when I sense someone is about to tell me their sob-story, they can tell within seconds that I am going to re-frame it with them. I am not going to sit around and let my friends and family members talk badly about themselves, their partners, their lives, or their choices.

 

I am going to call them out. 

 

Every graduation/closing session I have with a client, we talk about flying. I tell them, through guided images and a simple completion ceremony the following truth:

 

“You don’t need me, or any other therapist. You have recognized that you are not a feather. You now know what’s in your wings, and you have been getting stronger. And now you know how to fly.  You can’t un-learn that. All you need now is to remember who you are, and set a course for where you are going.”

 

And every decision has it’s consequences. One of my consequences is that I have stopped hanging out with feather-like people. Another is that I have found a flock that knows how to be happy for themselves and for me, and shares my flair for expressiveness.

 

And while it’s scary at times to be up here, soaring above the bitterness, it just feels so much better.

 

Want to join me, and learn to fly too? My good friend Jena and I are starting a Get Happy Club. Email me at connect@talktosaira.com for details on how to join!

Confessing My Love in 2017

Truth Byte #47

 

“It’s time to say I love you.”

 

I have been looking at myself in the mirror ever since I was a child.  When I was little, I would admire my sparkly dress or new shoes or the way my hair caught a beam of sunlight and changed from flat black to shimmery, coppery brown.  I would look at my eyes, one open, the other open, both open, both closed but squinting, peeking at myself through the slits.  I would turn this way and that way, and most importantly (because it was the most fun!), I would stand in front of my parent’s full-length mirrored closet and twirl and twirl and watch the fabric of my skirts and dresses float magically and elegantly in to the air.

 

In my mind, I was a real, live princess/beauty queen/superstar, and I loved what I saw shining back at me.

 

When I turned fourteen, and the girls around me started shaving and waxing and plucking and tweezing and adding and subtracting to make their bodies look different, I started looking at myself in a whole new way in the mirror.  As a Canadian girl of Indian heritage, my wavy brown-black hair didn’t fall straight or sit in a ponytail the way the “other” girls’ hair did.  I had frizz and strays everywhere. And there was hair in so many other places that I had never noticed before, like my legs, my arms, my cheeks, my eyebrows, my underarms, my upper lip…even my chin!  My teens were a full-time battle against the hair erupting on every surface. As quickly as I removed it, more would grow.  And this is what I used the mirror for now: to check for hair and pimples, and notice how I didn’t measure up to the slight, svelte, petite, hairless beauties around me.

 

Most of the time when I was around other girls, I felt like a clumsy, hairy, oily giant.

 

I knew I was smart, but that never showed up in the mirror, no matter how had I looked, or how trendy my glasses were.

 

And my twenties were an extension of that. I looked at myself in pieces: okay, nice enough eyes, exotic maybe? Chin, nothing special, remember to tweeze. Legs? Could be more toned. Arms? To skinny. Stomach? Too squishy. And I broke myself up into little parts that I would coax into shape through toning and training and waxing and threading and eating or not eating or push-ups and spandex undergarments all promising me the body that curved in all the right places.

 

I never saw myself as whole, and the parts I did notice were all just slightly not quite acceptable.

 

Fast forward a decade, and up until this summer, I was fighting the same battle. I would look in the mirror and shudder at the imperfections.  All while I was coaching others on self-love, positivity and loving kindness.

 

 I felt like a fraud.

 

This summer I confided my body image stories to a friend who didn’t see me as parts.  She never said, “Your hair looks good today,” or “Your legs look good in that,” or “I can see you finally shaped those nasty eyebrows,” or “Wow! You have gained/lost ten pounds!”  These are some of the many things other women in my life have said to me over the years, mostly out of love and sometimes out of spite or competition, but even the positive comments just made me feel more self-conscious and unattractive.

 

The problem was not really what they were saying, but what I was hearing.  I was hearing: “What matters to me is how you look, so that’s what we are going to talk about.”

 

What was missing was my own capacity to see myself as a worthwhile whole person.

 

When I told this friend “my issues”, she looked at me with raised eyebrows and a huge grin and said, “But Saira, you already have curves in all the right places!” And we laughed.

 

And laughed.

 

And each time I have felt unattractive or ill-fitted since then, I remember that moment. 

 

Because what touched me in that moment was not her comment (she could have said anything, really), but rather her love and acceptance of me pouring through.  She didn’t stop, scrutinize, and give me workout or diet advice.  She basically said to me:

 

“No matter what you think about you, I love you just the way you are.  And I trust you to get there too, in your own time.”

 

Today, she invited me to her wedding.  And not for a second did I consider my outfit or how I would look in it.  All I could think about was how I could support her in making this the day of her dreams, and what I can do over the next few months to lighten her to-do list.  And we had a sweet moment this afternoon where I knew and she knew how indispensable we have become to each other.  I have met a woman who refuses to compete with me, and is learning, like me, to say “I love you” to herself in big and small ways. A sister who sees me as whole and loveable, no matter what my dress size or state of my un-waxed legs.

 

And it’s not that I have never met anyone like this before.  I have.  I was just too insecure and self-conscious to see these women as my equals.

 

I kept comparing. 

 

I kept feeling like the fat/geeky/un-stylish/non-athletic/un-cultured/poor (fill in any other comparison) friend.  I was too afraid of leaping in to utter vulnerability and finding out that my worst fears were true: my love for them was one-sided.

 

So what I learned today, I bring in to this new year, and I invite you, my lady-readers (men, please pass this on!), to consider it for yourselves as you set your own goals and intentions for 2017. When we can truly say “I love you” to that woman in the mirror, with all her curves and lumps and hair and flavour, we can truly and authentically start saying “I love you” to other women in our lives. So girls, let’s do this together.  We can truly open our arms to the sisterhood that many of us have been craving since we were girls playing dress up with our mother’s things, spinning in front of those mirrors years ago.

 

Want to join in person me for more stories and join our newly-forming brother-and-sisterhood? January 19 is the Kick-Off Party for our Get Happy Club in Surrey B.C.!  Email me at connect@talktosaira.com for information and details.

Retiring Thirty Years Early

Truth Byte #45

 

 “Pushing yourself makes things harder.”

 

This month, my parents visited.  They live in a different city, so having them in town is a huge treat.  Whenever they arrive, there is laughter and joking and a whole lot of crazy-indulgent gifts for the kids.  Nani and Grampa come for a week or two, and I get to relax.   All those big plans of what I would do when I had unlimited babysitting hours get pushed aside as I catch up on my fair quota of sleep, meals prepared by someone else, and long, late night conversations.  They remind me that it’s okay to just be, without a screen, or a book, or a task to complete.

 

And without any guilt.

 

I remember when I was a kid, and my mom and stepdad were just as busy as I am now.  They flitted and fluttered around at their jobs and our activities and their full social and religious calendars.  I remember my mom dropping onto the couch exhausted after dinner every night, and falling asleep before our family sitcom had reached the first commercial.  I remember my stepdad filling our weekends and school-breaks with adventures to the mountains, and watched him as he brought his files along to squeeze in a little bit of work where he could.

 

Every year, my grandma would visit us.  We called her Nanimaa.  She would mostly just sit on her favourite spot on the couch, and hum sweetly under her breath while she clinked her prayer beads.  And every single weekday at four o’clock, my non-English-speaking grandma would ask us to turn on the TV for her so she could watch The Young and the Restless.  Nanimaa moved slowly, and smiled deeply.  Her hand-skin was wrinkled like a soft, paper-thin elephant and she told the most intricate yet humorous stories about her childhood.

 

Nanimaa showed me, as my parents are showing my kids now, that life doesn’t have to be so busy and serious all the time, and that home could be a place to just be.  She did not push herself, and she did not force herself or us in any way, at any time.

 

My parents, now grandparents, are living that life now.  Even though my step-dad still runs his accounting practice, his approach to work is so much more relaxed.  He doesn’t take on the high-demand clients anymore.  He has learned to take regular holidays, and doesn’t bring work to the dinner table or on vacation.  My mom has relaxed too.  She has gone back to school in a completely different field for the pure love of learning, and is acing her classes alongside people younger than her children.

 

I always looked forward to old(er) age, because I thought that was when I would finally get to retire. Or at least relax.  But in the last few months, I have had an epiphany.  I don’t have to wait another thirty or forty years to stop pushing myself!

 

I could just stop pushing now. 

 

At first, that created panic in me.  I thought if I stopped pushing, my business would fall apart, my house would be in chaos, and my family would be eating microwave popcorn for dinner every night.

 

What I have found to be true is actually the exact opposite. 

 

When I stopped pushing, I stared allowing.  Opportunities that I would never have noticed started to drop into my lap.  Things that seemed hard either fell away or suddenly became manageable because I was brave enough to ask for help without thinking it meant I had failed in some way. I was happier and more connected, and so my friendships deepened and grew.  People I would have walked by before, now became fascinating co-collaborators and mentors.  And like my grandma, there was one daily thing I became totally serious about and dedicated to.  For her it was her soap opera (and through it, learning English), and for me, it’s dancing (and through it, releasing those endorphins I need to maintain positive mental health).

 

I have learned, in a very short time, the power of relaxing.  I have learned the importance of my home as a sanctuary.  I have learned that pushing creates illness and tension and rifts between people.

 

And I wanted to tell you that so you could test it out for yourself.

 

This week, I challenge you to stop pushing.  I challenge you to allow Life’s river to pull you along to the next restful moment instead of always pushing against the current.  If something is hard, maybe it can wait till later, until you have the energy and enthusiasm to do it, or until help arrives.  You may be really surprised how it really can all work itself out when you stop trying to control it all.

 

Watch our YouTube Show, Today is Your Day to start crafting the life you have always wanted, free from the heaviness of pushing too hard, and let me know if you live in the Vancouver are want to join our Get Happy Club!