Self-Generosity

This post was originally published in December 2017.


At this time of year, life can get overwhelming. There are social, familial, and professional obligations that all demand our full attention. While these demands don’t go away, they do seem more urgent at the end of the calendar year.

It is easy to get caught up in these demands and struggle to prioritize them (and sometimes they don’t allow for reasonable prioritization). It leaves a person feeling frazzled, burnt out, and hating the holiday season.

That isn’t the case for everyone, but I am sure we’ve all had moments in life where we would like to skip straight to January 2nd and move on with our lives.

We’ve run into others who feel this way: try going into a mall around this time of year. I’ll just leave it at that.

Piling on top of the usual life demands are calls for generosity from various organizations at the end of the year. Commercials are filled with pathos-based appeals to get the viewer to donate to various causes. Religious leaders ask their people to open up their wallets and give money, toys, or time to those who are less fortunate. Stories of tragic events lead to calls for donations of food, items, and blood. Passive social pressures increase: social media pages are flooded with posts from others announcing their generosity.

It gets extremely overwhelming.

The issue is, that when we think about the term “generosity” we think about it as giving to others. But look at the definition of the word:

Generosity
nounplural generosities.

1. readiness or liberality in giving.
2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.

3. a generous act:
   We thanked him for his many generosities.

4. largeness or fullness; amplitude.

Dictionary.com

Nowhere in the definition does it specifically define generosity as an act we give to others. It is an act of giving and love, but with no defined recipient.

When we get caught up in the minutiae we completely forget about the importance of taking care of ourselves. We are told that we should be generous with our time and care for others, but it’s extremely hard to care about another person if we don’t take care of ourselves.

If we care for our own needs first we can be more effective for others. And when everything becomes too overwhelming, we might be able to see through it with less stress and frustration.

The Importance of Self-Care

I saw this quote posted on a friend’s Facebook wall and it was the foundation for this post. I kept the original formatting:

self care isn’t always lush bath bombs and $20 face masks. sometimes, it’s going to bed at 8pm or letting go of a bad friend. it’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your impossible standards & understanding u are worth it. self care isn’t always luxury, but a mean for survival

Cheerful Nihilism

Self-care quotes, personal revelations about self-care, articles expounding self-care all make the rounds on a fairly frequent basis. Some of them connect with us and others we either ignore or go, “yeah, if only it was that easy.”

All the wisdom in the world about self-care/self-generosity does not mean anything if it doesn’t connect with you. And let’s be blunt about the quotes/revelations/articles: they aren’t saying anything new. It’s all steeped in common sense.

We just need them to remind us every so often.

I am not an expert that can espouse pearls of wisdom of how to better take care of yourself, but I do recommend that you be more generous to yourself. Allow yourself to be more selfish.

But this isn’t the same when we think about being selfish. This is a loving selfishness.

Recognize that you need to take care of yourself before you can care for others. The Mayo Clinic recommends that caregivers take care of themselves first before they take care of others. They acknowledge that a person must be selfish if they are going to be an effective long-term caregiver.

Everyone is a caregiver. For some, it’s for another person; for everyone, it’s themselves. We all must care for ourselves.

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Gratitude for all Things

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


We are at the end of my short journey through things that I am grateful for and I want to thank you for coming along with me. I know that people listing off things they are grateful for can be boring, but hopefully it’s provided some food for thought. Whenever I hear others talk about their gratitude, it gives me a moment to think about those same things in my life and wonder if I’ve expressed my gratitude for them as well.

While I know I missed discussing a lot of important things in my life, I wanted to highlight topics that I rarely discuss on my blog but are deserving of my thoughts. My blog, my parents, my companion animals… all are extremely important to me but don’t get as much love as they deserve here.

I also found that reflecting on the positive impact my MS has had in my life has helped reaffirm my perspective. I cannot change my diagnosis and the impact it has in my life, but I can change my attitude and how much I allow that impact to be negative. By turning towards the positive elements of my illness (perspective change, refocusing of priorities, etc.) I no longer feel the bitterness I once did, nor do my symptom heavy days keep me down like they once did.

The Advantages of Gratitude

In my more successful meditative practices, I get my grounding faster when expressing gratitude to even the more mundane parts of my life. It feels weird being thankful for a house, car, or the privilege to take a few moments to meditate. For me, expressing internal gratitude for these items allows me to recognize where I would be if I did not have them. I feel like it motivates me to do more when confronted with others who don’t have as many privileges as I do.

I also find that when I am grateful for what I have, I have less stress in my life. There is an element of recognizing what I don’t have (and might wish that was different), but as long as I don’t focus on that part as much, I am fine. It goes back to how I approach my illness: don’t focus on the negative or the lack, but on the positive and what I can achieve.

Moving into December

Spending time reflecting on how important gratitude is in my life and how important it is to be grateful for what I do have makes a smooth transition into December when I spend a little more time about the prospect of giving and compassion.

It makes a lot of sense for one seasonal idea to follow the other: after recognizing what we have we can take the steps to help others in many different but meaningful ways.

What have you to be grateful for at the end of this month? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton


Gratitude for my Parents

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


I talk about my parents occasionally on the blog, but their presence is in every post. It shines through the help my parents provide to make each post possible. My mother is especially supportive, she provides many of the pictures seen on the blog and the time watching Jai so I can write.

So for today, I wanted to express my gratitude for my parents who are huge cornerstones in my life. I find writing posts such as these to be extremely difficult because it’s hard to encompass all that I love and appreciate about my parents in a succinct way. The English language is flawed in many ways because there aren’t proper words to express the depth and breadth of my appreciation.

I will try my best despite this shortcoming.

My Mother

My mother is my biggest fan. She’ll be the first to tell you that. Which I think tends to be the case for a lot of mothers. I know that I am a fan of Jai and when he starts doing cooperative group activities, or activities in general, I will be one of his greatest fans.

Her mantra for me growing up was that I could do whatever I wanted to do, so do what I love. I stumbled along the way, my diagnosis catching me off guard and I took a couple of detours, but I am finally doing what I love: writing on a near-daily basis for an audience.

The only reason why I am able to do this is my wonderful and supportive mother. Jai is a handful now that he’s a toddler and sitting down during my peak energy hours to do my writing is near impossible because it coincides with his most active play time. She makes the journey several times a week to watch Jai for a few hours while I write, do extra work, or clean without worrying about him getting underfoot.

Some days just having her with me helps keep me from feeling lonely or depressed, so her presence is soothing to me even as an adult.

But that’s not the only thing I appreciate about her – without her, I do not believe I would be successful in my health journey. She is my running and accountability buddy. On the days she is unable to make it out to meet me for a run, I am not motivated enough to go by myself. I know I need to work on that, but I really enjoy meeting up with her in the mornings to chat about all sorts of things. I find that I look forward to these runs, even if we’re doing the really long one for the week.

She’s always been my inspiration for a variety of things in my life: she went to college while I was a teenager, so I was inspired to go; she started running many years ago to get healthy, so I decided I could do it myself; she’s showing what it takes to be an awesome grandparent to Jai, so I hope I can follow in her footsteps if he starts his own family someday.

My Father

My dad and I are alike – we look similar, we have very similar personalities, and we have the same sense of humor. Because of this, we have that unique connection that comes from parents with children who are little clones of themselves. I understand him and he, for the most part, understands me.

Growing up I have a lot of fond memories of time spent with my father. We would go to to a local lake and stick our feet in the water for fish to nibble our toes. When he had a motorcycle, I remember him taking me on mini-day trips around the state where it was just the two of us.

He encouraged me to climb the trees in our yard, helping me get started on one particularly difficult tree and the two of us spending time up in it chatting away. We would wait until my mom would come out and check on us and then play pranks on her while she was on the ground. She did not appreciate it, but the two of us giggled until the tree shook.

As adults, we aren’t climbing trees anymore, but I enjoy the days where we sit on the back porch and sip Scotch while grilling or having a fire in the firepit. In those moments we can talk about everything and anything – and I enjoy hearing how much he loves spending time with Jai when the topic comes up.

I appreciate how seriously he takes being a grandfather to Jai. I knew he would love being a grandfather, but it’s a lot of fun seeing how he plays with Jai. I have very similar memories of play with my father when I was younger, so it’s like watching the past. Jai adores my father and always asks to see him when he’s gone more than a week without seeing his Grampy.

 

I recognize how lucky I am to have both of my parents in my life, especially now that I am getting older. I know that having one or both parents is a luxury at my age and I try to not take that for granted, especially considering how supportive they are in my life. It’s hard for me to demonstratively express my gratitude and appreciation for them, as I feel embarrassed sometimes over such things, but I am trying to be more active so they are aware of my appreciation and Jai learns that showing gratitude for those closest to us is important.

Because of how things worked out this year, I will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my parents and I hope to express the gratitude shared in this post with them over supper.

How have your parents helped you grow as a person that you are grateful for? What would you say to them if given a chance? Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash


Illness as a Positive

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


Having a chronic illness is no fun.

I know that’s a bit of a shocker for anyone reading this, especially if you have a chronic illness/disability. That said, having a chronic illness did bring about a positive change in my life: I think it forced me to rethink my life and my health and make important changes.

I am not about to turn this post into inspiration porn (don’t worry, that link is safe for work), but I do want to express gratitude for the wake-up call my MS gave me. I call it my “rock bottom” because it forced me to make some decisions about the direction I wanted to take physically, mentally, and emotionally. I do, however, wish it hadn’t taken a chronic illness diagnosis to make these changes

I would be more than happy to give back my illness and keep all the healthy changes if given a chance. 

Prior to the Diagnosis

To understand why I am grateful for my current health, it’s best to compare it to where I was physically prior to my diagnosis.

I’ve hinted at my state in previous posts throughout the blog, but I never fully discussed my mental and physical state. Partially because it was never necessary to the post, but mostly because I was ashamed of where I was at in life.

I was delusional about my physical health. It’s easy to see that on the other side, but living in the middle of it I thought I was healthy. I would eat vegan, run, do yoga, try to meditate when the time would allow, but essentially go through the motions of what I thought was healthy living.

And then I would wonder why I wasn’t losing weight. I justified it by saying this to myself repeatedly:

Ah, that’s just muscle being put on. Muscle weighs more than fat.

I am just stressed out right now, so once I get beyond this period, I will be fine. I need to eat like this because it’s how I am coping with my stress.

Apparently, my 5’3″ body is meant to be 160 pounds. Since I can’t lose the weight, that must be my natural set point.

I also didn’t feel better, I was just grumpier for waking up earlier and sweating a bunch with little to no payoff.

Let me be clear and say that weight is not the absolute indicator of health: athletes can be considered overweight and be at peak physical fitness. A person can be a normal weight and be coping with an illness of sorts. Weight can be a symptom of a bigger problem and it can also cause other issues, but looking at weight for whether a person is healthy or not shouldn’t be the only factor. It is just one of the factors.

Through most of my adult life, I was carrying around an additional 20-30 pounds. This extra weight played a negative role in my overall activity level, my mood, my energy levels, and my depression. I firmly believe that these factors exacerbated my MS symptoms. There were days where I would come home after teaching and fall asleep for hours until Ash got home, wherein he’d have to make or order us dinner.

It was always a slog to get any important work done for school and professionally speaking.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had very little motivation to make any positive changes in my life. I would do it in spurts, but those would fade out when I didn’t see immediate results. I had nothing truly motivating me beyond “this is what our culture tells me to do.” It wasn’t enough and therefore I couldn’t stay motivated to continue.

I figured I could never get into peak physical and emotional condition because I just couldn’t. No other reason other than that: I just was not able to be healthy.

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The Big & the Little Things

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


It always feels weird “counting one’s riches” because it seems like bragging, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the objects I have to make my life easier.

A lot of gratitude exercises focus on the internal and intangible, which to be fair are things that should hold deeper meaning in our lives, but something could be said for the objects we possess. The trap is when someone focuses on what they have, they can also see what they lack which can cause frustration and undermine the whole exercise.

Avoiding that trap, I want to focus my gratefulness for my basic possessions. I think it’s important to look at what I have and where I am in life because every person is one or two decisions/disasters away from losing these objects.

Living Arrangements

I am lucky enough to live in a house, though if you’ve ever had a conversation with me you know how much I hate the house itself. I can spend a half-hour ranting about all the things wrong with it, but deep down I acknowledge that I could be in a situation without a living arrangement.

Owning a house is important from a social perspective, though people of my generation are buying less and opting to rent more, it also means that it is ours with little opportunity to lose it beyond a disaster. There is a security that comes from our current living arrangement.

As the days grow shorter and the nights much colder, I recognize how fortunate we are to have a warm house to sleep in, especially for Jai. Living insecurity is a real concern even in America for children, so knowing that he has a safe, warm, and secure place for Jai to sleep at night takes a load of worry off of my mind.

Transportation

We live in a major metropolitan area that has its own transportation system, though massively flawed. When I first moved down ten years ago from New England, I depended on this form of transportation because I didn’t have a vehicle. While it was imperfect, I remember being grateful to have it available to get to my various jobs around the city.

I grew up in an area that didn’t even have regional transportation and what little transportation it did have it was reserved for people with disabilities and not for the general public. Going from nothing to something was opening up the world for me and I loved it. It might take me two hours to get somewhere, but I could get there.

Several years after the move down I got my car back (I previously had no means to park it which is why it stayed behind) and going from public transportation to having a vehicle was even more freeing. I made sure to give rides to people who needed them to return the favors I accumulated over the years without a car. While I could now cut trip times down by half, I never forgot my time on public transportation.

Anytime I can go somewhere and use public transportation, I take the chance even with Jai. I want him to learn and appreciate the transportation system we have in place. I am a huge defender of our transportation system, though I will heavily qualify it as problematic and needing fixing, I do want to see the changes.

That said, I am grateful I have a vehicle and when I go an extended period of time without my car, even with a rental, I recognize how important it is in my life.

Food

During the same period ten years ago when I didn’t have my car I also went through an extremely lean period regarding my ability to eat. I was struggling to make ends meet and chose to pay for my bills and rent over buying food for myself. I started dating Ash around this time, but I didn’t admit to him how little I could afford to eat. Rather, I would offer to make him dinner which was cheaper, provided he pay for the ingredients.

I lost a lot of weight during that time between not being able to eat and walking everywhere with public transportation. I was grateful for that silver lining (I had plenty of weight to lose at that point).

While I figured I would eventually see the end of this lean eating period, I knew I had it better than others. I was able to eat at least one quality meal a day, but I know there are plenty of others who can go days without food or quality food options.

I honestly found this period of my life to be the most enlightening, food uncertainty did help shape my personal perspective going forward: I would always donate and help out in any way I could for others who had no way of knowing when their period of lean eating would come to an end.

When Jai gets older, I want to bring him to opportunities to help others who are dealing with food uncertainty. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, a major charity in our city opens up its facilities for people to donate their time and energy to make meals for the poor. I have always wanted to donate my time there, but haven’t had the ability. I think when he’s 7 he’ll be ready to help and appreciate what he is doing for others.

What are some of the more tangible things you are grateful for in your life? What brings about an appreciation for these things? Comment with your thoughts below.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton