The Things I have Learned in 2011
Last night I had a dream. I was walking along an empty highway, the highway of my dreams. Along the way money was falling from the sky, so I stopped to pick it up. Trees were lining the street and I saw Rob calling me in the distance. Then the trees faded to memories, memories from my life. I bent to pick up more money then the money disappeared. I looked up and I could see the road for miles. I was surrounded by clouds.
Then I woke up.
I always dream in Technicolor. My dreams are vivid and clear. Sometimes they are joyous and sometimes they are nightmares. Lately, I have been having a lot of beautiful dreams. These dreams, like this one, only serve to remind me that I’m on the right path.
This year has been a very challenging year, but not challenging without rewards.
Here are just a few things I have learned:
1. Learning to Breathe
I was born a preemie. Somehow I had wrapped myself around my mother’s umbilical cord and twisted myself completely around.
They recommended a c-section and my mother was carted off to surgery.
She said when she saw me in the incubator (three days later because she was knocked out on a morphine drip) she knew it was me when she saw my ears. “They were your fathers,” she says. She said she also knew it was me because I was the only one breathing with a loud wheezing noise.
You see, my vocal chords were not fully formed. They told my parents that they would form on their own, but in the meantime they would just have to settle for a baby that sounded like a tea kettle blowing off steam.
Ever since those first few days on earth I have been learning how to breathe.
When I was young I would hold my breath for long periods of time, particularly when I was scared or anxious. When my parents slept I would mimic their breathing so that we could all align.
But it took so many years of doing this mimicking and holding my breath before I finally realized that this was a terrible thing to do.
Oxygen is life.
Wow what a few deep breaths can do for you.
In the past I didn’t even use to notice when I was doing it. But thanks to the wonderful practice of yoga I have learned to calm myself through breathing.
Whenever you feel stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, stop yourself and take a deep breath in (hold it for 4 counts, hold it for 2 counts, and breathe it out for 6 counts). It works wonders.
Nowadays I’m finally breathing on my own.
And it feels great.
2. I Am a Princess
“I am a pioneer naive enough to believe this.
I am a princess on the way to my throne,
Destined to seek, destined to know.”
When I was a child my father told me I was a princess. No, not as a term of endearment. He told me I was an actual princess.
He said that our family came from a small place named Kashmir on the mountains between India and Pakistan (this much is true). And he said my grandfather was the king of Kashmir. “That would make you the princess,” he said. “One day you will inherit the throne.”
So of course I was overjoyed by this news. I went around the school telling everyone I knew that I was a princess. None of them believed me but I was on top of the world. Prancing around with tiaras, concocting imaginary palaces awaiting me in my homeland, I really did get in over my head.
I think a year or so went by before my mother sat me down and told me that I wasn’t actually a princess. I felt like I had just been pushed off cloud 9. Why would he tell me that?
But now all these years later, I’m wondering: what’s so wrong with being a princess? Even if it is an imaginary one?
I think we are all princes and princesses in our own right. We don’t have to be Princess Diana, or wear a tiara, or rule the country, but we can walk the walk.
There are so many things we can learn from princesses:
- Respecting and Helping Others
- Carrying Yourself with Dignity
- Seeking and Finding Your Prince (Or Princess) Charming
- Self Worth
And so, this year as I watched Prince William saying “I do” to his blushing bride Princess Katherine, I couldn’t help but think of all the princes and princesses out there that were waiting to take his or her own thrones.
Don’t ever think of yourself as anything less.
3. There Will Be Light Through the Darkness
On Christmas morning last year we were walking in our pajamas in the snow to Rob’s grandmother’s house. We had been kicked out of his father’s house. Yes, on Christmas morning. It was a very dark morning for both of us.
There were no Christmas presents, no singing by the tree, no joyful, merry, merry.
No. There was darkness.
We spent most of the day sleeping. When we woke up I cried for about an hour. Then we had some food, watched TV, and went back to bed.
Regardless of the reasons why we were in the place that we were, this darkness gave us one true light: each other.
In those moments- those days, weeks and months that we were without a home and relying on family, we clung onto each other. It brought us closer than ever.
And although there were times that I felt like giving up, I never stopped believing in my dreams: my goals of having a place of our own, or getting married even though we didn’t have the money.
Writing down my thoughts helped me along the way. This blog helped me along the way.
My mother always used to say that if you write down your hopes and prayers, you can turn them from an idea into a reality.
Today my yoga instructor told us that every day we have over 60,000 thoughts. She explained how important it is to “quiet the noise” and concentrate on just one thing at a time.
When you want something, and you want it bad enough, you need to make it your ONLY thought. You need to visualize it, to focus on it, meditate on it, and (most of all) write it DOWN.
So living at his parent’s house and then at his grandmother’s house made me realize something my deep desire for a place of our own.
I didn’t just want a place of my own, I longed for it. I dreamed of putting up curtains and decorating. I dreamed of eating at our own dining room table and sleeping in the comfort of our own bed. I thought about our soup spoons and bowls collecting dust in our storage unit. And of our Christmas tree collecting dust.
And then, in my mind, I visualized our own home. I wrote it down in a book and put a circle around it. I meditated on the idea of home.
I knew Rob didn’t have a job, but when push came to shove I realized we had to just make the leap. And now here we are three months later in an apartment of our own. It really is the apartment of my dreams and I couldn’t have asked for more.
And the best thing of all? It is full of light.
And so we got out of the darkness.
4. It’s Not About “Want, Want”
This year, above all years, I have learned to be humble. So many of my days I have been consumed with the capital “I.” As my father says, “want, want.”
He says “want, want” when I get into my “want, want” mode. This mode usually involves a credit card, vast shopping malls, and buyers remorse.
But honestly I get into “want, want” mode when I am trying to fill a void.
But the void never gets filled. And instead I am just consumed by greed, one of the deadly sins.
Another sin, which is not on the list of the 7 but should be, is narcissism.
We are living in a narcissistic society. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter encourage us to share our “want, wants” with others. Facebook asks us, “What are YOU doing?” And we respond with “I, I, I, Me, Me, ME, ME.” And THEN we get mad when people don’t instantly respond to us. “Why is no one commenting on MY photo? Why doesn’t anyone care about ME?”
But it’s not all about you. It’s not all about the want.
This want, this narcissism, is a desire we all have to release. Instead we should ask, “how are you?” Or “What can I do to help?”
This year has taught me to be humble. Put your nose to the ground, do hard work, and someday (some unexpected day) you will receive that magical phone call, or get that great promotion, or accomplish your ultimate dream.
It has also taught me the importance of letting go of “stuff” – the emotional kind and the physical kind. Moving so many times encourages you to look at all the things you have accumulated in your life.
But guess what? You can’t take these things to the next life. Even if you are buried with them are they really yours? Do you need them?
Get rid of the junk! Get rid of the “want, want” mode!
6. We are All Spiritual Gurus
Sitting next to people on a plane is the most fascinating thing for me.
I think I have learned more – spiritually, intellectually, emotionally – from passengers on a plane than I have from any books.
It’s that strange moment when we are forced to sit next to someone for several hours. And something magical happens (not always but every once in a while), you realize that this person next to you was meant to be in that very seat. And you were meant to be right there next to them.
So you get to talking, and the next thing you know you have been talking about life, and joys and sorrows, and travels, and life experiences.
This year I sat next to a lady that said, “Never give up on your children’s book. Never give up on your dreams. You have so much potential.”
Wow. I needed that.
And another time I sat next to a man who said to me, “I’ve never had a more enlightening conversation on a plane. Thank you. I have a lot to think about.”
You see, we are all spiritual gurus. We all have stories and messages to share. You never know the difference you can make in someone’s life unless you try. And sometimes people talking to you can be better than any $100 an hour therapist could ever be.
We learn from each other.
And remember, as my mother says, “If you bump into a stranger three times they have a message for you. Or you have a message for them.”
Don’t be afraid to start the conversation.
7. I Like Being Alone
I never thought I would say that! But this year I have found the pleasure in taking time on my own. I don’t need to be surrounded by people. I don’t need to rely on others for emotional support all the time.
I am content in ME.
I am content in my skin.
I am loving discovering the person I really am.
And although I may not be my ideal weight, or ideal height, my skin may not be as clear as I want it to be, I may be a silly goof at time, I have found that I’m finally happy with me..the real Sookton.
What a great year! I’m excited by the possibilities of 2012.