Category Archives: Mind, Body, Soul

“2012 Taught Me…” – A Lessons Learned Survival Guide for 2013

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s true what they say, “The days are long but the years are short.” In a blink of an eye, another year has passed and here we are at the dawn of 2013, with the promises of new beginnings, the fresh desire to keep resolutions, and a hope for a year filled with better long days than the last. But it’s no secret that before we stood at this very point, the past few weeks may have been filled with moments of reflection on 2012.

Let’s face facts … every year is more or less the same. We come across drastic ups and downs. We test ourselves and our capabilities to their very limits. We fail and we fall down only to stand back up again and achieve. We make plans for days that eventually don’t allow us to follow through with those plans. But most importantly, we learn and learn and learn and learn constantly, with each passing day, lessons we knew we’d one day grasp only by first hand experience.

While thinking about lessons learned in the last days of 2012, I remembered an experiment I did once on Karma a while back, which actually turned out to be incredibly stimulating. With that said, I decided that it was time for another experiment, and what better way to start 2013 than with a bit of collective inspiration? Thus it began … I sent out a message asking people, from close friends to strangers, to complete the following sentence:

2012 taught me…

New year 2013

The response was incredible! Whereas I initially expected I might receive one-word answers, I quickly realized that my respondents were more than willing to provide detailed stories of their deepest challenges or greatest successes. Inspiring stories filled my inbox one after the other after the other. Because of that, I apologize from now for not being able to do those stories justice at all in this one measly post. But it also made me realize what a brilliant idea it is to share lessons learned from 2012 with all who are willing to listen.

From reading the responses, I was able to break them all into five clear categories … five categories I believe we are all constantly shaping and learning from as the years go by.  Listen closely, dear readers, these lessons are gold.

For the lessons we learn on the self, 2012 taught me…

To believe in myself and never doubt myself or what I’m capable of.

How to see myself from the outside, to know my flaws, and to sincerely apologize when I have hurt someone.

That I’m stronger than I thought I was.

To put myself first and realize that it’s ok.

To stop holding myself back from the me I never get to express.

To create space for myself to grow into the real and true “me.”

That it’s ok to be confident enough to believe in yourself.

To manage my adulthood responsibilities without losing my ability to be a child at heart.

That we are defined by how we speak about ourselves not by what others think of us.

That real success only comes when you know YOU can excel. It comes when you realize that you CAN outshine everyone else.

For the lessons we learn on the people around us, 2012 taught me…

No people are closer to you than your own blood; never forsake them for they will never let you down.

To never let anyone decide for you what you’ll do with your life, although they may suffocate you with advice, it’s you who gets to live with the consequences.

That I can love someone else more than I love myself.

How to be strong for my family, especially for my mom.

That there are people out there with similar situations as mine and that I’m not alone in this world

To appreciate and cherish those who are close to me

The true value of having a family. They’re standing by me as I follow my dreams, as I absorb new experiences, and as I become someone they know they’ll have to rediscover.

That I am allowed to pick and choose who is worth my time and who isn’t.

To call my parents more often even though they never ask for it.

Surround yourself with those who share your goals, motivate you to reach them, and support you throughout.

That you can’t change people; you either have to accept them as they are or don’t

That some of the people we meet only exists to make us stronger and teach us lessons and make us believe that we always deserve a better life with better people

That you can’t force someone to show you respect, but you can refuse to be disrespected.

For the lessons we learn on time and making plans, 2012 taught me…

Life’s too short to be angry all the time.

That no matter how hard I try to plan out my life, God already has a plan for me. Plans don’t always work out and that’s okay.

That time is fleeting. Similarly to the metaphor of holding water in the palms of your hands, no matter how tightly you try to hold on, it slips away from you.

That life is just too short to waste on worry and regret. It showed me that we must keep moving forward.

That a new beginning is still ahead of me.

To live now and now.

To live everyday like it’s your last. Life is too precious and short to take any moment for granted.

The past is already where it belongs … in the past.

All could be lost, but it usually means that God is making way for new things in your life.

For the lessons we learn on overcoming the storm, 2012 taught me…

To have no expectations at all.

That nothing will break me anymore and I’ll always be strong enough to beat all those who try.

Not to give up no matter what, for the best is yet to come.

That although there are many things in this world that bring us down, we must pick ourselves back up and move on in order to succeed in life.

Life goes on.

That when the storm is over, the sun rises.

That with a little patience and persistence, you will rise above it all.

That no matter how bad things may seem at one point or another, it isn’t the end of the world. It always gets better, we always adapt, figure it out, or get over it.

Endurance. Life will constantly throw things at you from every angle. It’s up to you to find the strength to keep moving past it all.

Never wait for appreciation first hand. Rest assured the reward will eventually come.

For the lessons we learn on shaping our mentalities, 2012 taught me…

Never give up my dignity for anything or anyone.

How to love the simplicity of pure joy.

We have the capability to make a difference in the world we live in.

To let loose with silly dances like Gangnam style!

Its not about getting what you want, its about knowing how to keep what you’ve always wanted once you get it.

To pour my whole heart into all that I do and hope for the best.

To be thankful for all that I have and in turn, be the best I can be towards all those around me.

That second chances are possible.

To give more, love more, be as kind as my mom has shown me.

To appreciate learning something new everyday.

That each year is simply a number. If you haven’t achieved a least one significant thing in it then it will be a year forgotten, held against you.

To never lose hope because anything is possible when you try and thing positively.

Do what your heart yearns to do, be who you would like, love who you choose and thank God every second for what He has given you.

To have strength, perseverance and to always be humble.

With so many lessons brought about by the last year, I am happy to report that the majority of my respondents were ready, despite the lurking hardships and potential surprises, to face 2013 and all it had in store for them. So be ready my loves, 2013 is here, with a lesson embedded in each passing day. But if 2012 has taught us anything, it’s that we have survived so much thus far…plus a Mayan Apocalypse! Nothing can stop us from keep on keeping on now.

Happy New Year!

: : : Yes I was burned but I called it a lesson learned. Mistake overturned, so I call it a lesson learned. My soul has returned to I call it a lesson learned. Another lesson learned : : :

— Lesson Learned, Alicia Keys ft. John Mayer —

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Things My Mother Says: Love Yourself

If there’s anything I love most about my mother, it’s that she’s a giver. With her ability to so seamlessly give her love and kindness without ever wanting anything back makes her a true gift to the world around her. I grew up watching her do it … give pieces of her heart out over and over again, believing that with each little piece, she could make a difference in all who’s lives she touched. So it comes as no surprise to me when I see how much she is loved and respected in return.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be JUST like that. And now, more than ever, as a married woman with my life literally in my own hands to mold as I pleased, I wanted to shape it as a life of giving … just as she had.

Growing up, she had told me that I really was a giver; and I felt proud that I was finally following in her footsteps. It became my own personal mantra to believe that everyone deserved a bit of affection and kindness, and I wanted to be the one to grant it to them. But any giver would know as well as I do, how quickly the selfless joy of giving, once exhausted, becomes a fight to protect what little you have left.

The problem isn’t about appreciation or wanting anything in return. The problem is that suddenly you’re expected to give all the time. And expectations leave you feeling like you are constantly falling short … constantly disappointing.

So amidst my struggle to keep up with expectations, I ran to my mother—which, even when you’re married you never grow out of—for some kind of guidance. She had been doing it all of these years after all.

She said,

If you really want to be a giver, you must first give to yourself. You must first love yourself. When you love yourself, you strive for success and happiness in all that you do. But that doesn’t only include you. It includes the success and happiness in your every relationship, in your every behavior with others, and in your every course of life. You love yourself first so that you have the ability to love others too.
Love Yourself

Via The Ballerina Project

I always thought that “love yourself” was just another way to say that it was ok be selfish. But when my mother pointed out that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t only affect me, it all began to make better sense.

The only person I was falling short with was myself. I was so concerned in giving others what I felt they needed that I forgot about me. I put aside what I wanted; I constantly questioned if I was doing enough; and worst of all, I allowed the growing expectations to take priority over what was really important to me. Where did that get me? Bitterly hiding behind a defensive wall of “leave me alone.”

My dear givers, listen closely. I realized that not everybody gives the way we may give. So I began to give back to myself. I began to love myself. And in return, I finally filled the empty hole I dug from giving too much. Now, I’m slowly going back to being Karma’s good elf again, happily spreading the bit of love and kindness I still believe everyone deserves. But first and foremost, I’m giving that bit of love and kindness to me, and turns out, that’s what I’ve need all along.

: : : Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world : : :

— Eleanor Roosevelt —

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Quote of the Moment

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa

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What Comes After “Happily Ever After”

There are so many moments in our lives where we find ourselves standing at the edge of a cliff, a leap of faith calling out to us, and the lingering question of whether or not to take it agonizingly tossing and turning in our minds until we finally make our decisions. For anyone who knows me, or anyone who reads this blog, I don’t need to remind you of my stance on the topic. But just in case … I am and have always been a true advocate for leaps of faith and following in your dreams.

My advice has always been to take it. Calculate all you want, assess the pros and cons even, but for the love of God just jump. I guess it’s because I’ve always believed that there must be a reason as to why we found ourselves standing at that cliff in the first place. Really, the outcome can only go two ways: we either make it, which in that case would be a risk worth taking, or we don’t, which would be a potentially hurtful yet forcefully strengthening lesson learned.  But at that point, it all comes down to the question of what do we have to lose? Or better yet, what do we have to gain?

Via Flickr: Compact.Girl

For as far back as stories on leaps of faith go, we’ve all heard as well as told the tales of the struggles we’ve faced when our hopes to reach a greener side fell a little short. But what about those of us who actually made it? What happens next?  Even a Disney lover like myself knows there is far more to a story than “happily ever after.”

So three months ago, I took my leap of faith, got married, moved half way across the world, and found my happily ever after (which actually does kind of resemble the ending of a Romantic Comedy that leaves you with that warm, fuzzy feeling inside). And that warm, fuzzy feeling of “I did it, I actually made it, I’m finally where I want to be,” is one you’ll absolutely love dwelling in for as long as you can.

But that’s just it. When you’re standing up there on that cliff, in the moment you imagine the glorious place you want to be, do you actually know what that place even is? Whether it is getting married to the man of your dreams, landing your perfect job after college, finally moving to the city you wanted to moved to when you finished one phase of your life or other, it’s easy—and actually encouraged—to paint an ideal mental image, set a goal and work toward it with all we have in us. But aside from a set of ideals, do any of us really know what it looks like on the other side of a leap of faith?

When the “I did it” cloud eventually clears, you will suddenly find yourself staring right into a new beginning. You will realize that a leap of faith is not only a happily ever after, but a whole new story, and that can be just as scary as the decision to jump in the first place.

So when I first arrived in my new life, I expected to know exactly what to do and when to do it. I thought that after this success, I would once again ease into a rampage of achieving all of my goals and magically reaching all of my dreams, as I had been doing before I leapt. But it’s not that easy. It’s not supposed to be that easy.

In all of my honesty in revealing the other side of Happily Ever After, I’m afraid I may be scaring off those of you who are standing at the cliff as you read this. But, by all means, don’t stop! Jumping into the arms of a dream you’ve always hoped to follow is the most wonderful experience you may ever come across in your life. And when you finally feel the overwhelming bliss of accomplishment, the struggle of every step along the way becomes so worth it.

Don’t stop, not for a second. But once you land, remember …

Remember who you are despite the unfamiliar norms and expectations that will hover around you.

Remember that it’s ok to stop for a minute, take a step back, and let your new surrounding sink in before you hit the ground running.

Remember to take the time to learn. And in a foreign atmosphere where you’re beginning all over again, you are bound to learn something new everyday.

Remember that despite your potential craving for a bit of empathy, no one will understand the transformations you are undergoing better than yourself, nor should you expect them to.

Remember that just because you left behind the people, places or things that made up your comfort zone, you are not alone. You are never alone.

Remember to enjoy it – every minute, every new encounter, every one of your “firsts” in this new experience. It keeps the warm, fuzzy feeling always lingering in the air.

Most of all, remember that you cannot expect yourself to begin where you left off before taking a leap of faith, because that strong, passionate, brave decision to jump in the first place only proves your ability to bring yourself up again and again and again.  And what better time to bring yourself up than right now … as a beginning to your Happily Ever After.

: : : You can take everything I have. You can break everything I am like I’m made of glass; like I’m made of paper. Go on and try to tear my down. I will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper : : :

— Skyscraper, Demi Lovato —

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Our Greatest Fear and the Quarter Life Crisis

A little over a year ago, I graduated from university in a major I loved and a hunger to find my place in the real world. I felt like all the clichés of graduation symbolizing new beginnings were true and a door of endless possibilities was finally opened in front of me. But despite this romanticized view of such a pinnacle in my life, I ended up moving back home after eight years of living alone.

I will admit openly that my greatest fear—after checking off every goal on my mental university bucket list—was that I’d end up back home. Here, I was convinced my passions would be forcefully stalled until I was able to find a way out. And because of that fear, I felt like my life was at a standstill.

Throughout this time, the person I probably complained to most was my little sister. She always knew what to say to make me feel better. One day, as we were lying on the bottom bunk of our childhood bunk beds, she said:

“I just had an epiphany! Think of it this way…before, you were a caterpillar and now you’re in a cocoon and soon you’ll be a beautiful butterfly!”

Before I go any further, please don’t mistaken this for any REAL wisdom my 17-year-old sister would give—she actually is quite wise! (We actually laughed at this ridiculous idea for ages, and saved it in a note on my phone titled “Funny conversations with Noor”). So, no, I never took the silly cocoon idea seriously.

With time, I picked up a great training opportunity with a Fortune 500 company, fell into a comfortable routine, and I’ve always loved living with my family. So home wasn’t so bad after all. But was I making dreams come true? Moving mountains? Awakening the greatness within? Not really.

But then, a year of living at home had passed and only a few months were left before I’d leave again. I started to question what if Noor was right? What if, since I’ve been home I entered into a cocoon that kept me sheltered and gave me an excuse to hide away from the world? What if my passions were meant to stay pending for what seemed to be the right time? What if, after I finally found comfort, love and support here, I wasn’t ready to leave?

In the midst of my inability to answer my own questions, I realized something very important: I was definitely in a quarter life crisis.

Search this term online and you’ll find hundreds of articles trying to explain this psychological trap us 20-somethings fall in. They try to give reasons as to why we become aimless graduates. They criticize us for our inability to choose or follow a path when we reach a fork in the road. In fact, we apparently are so knee-deep in this sudden panic of trying to figure out what comes next that we aren’t even sure if we want to choose from the options in front of us. And the sad part is that the majority of us reach a point where we truly do fall under one category or other that defines the symptoms of a quarter life crisis.

But despite all the research and the strangely accurate explanations that make you feel like a walking cliché, I came to the realization that it’s not just about the fear of what comes next. It’s about the fear of living up to expectations. And possibly the hardest expectations to overcome are your own.

Who doesn’t have ambitions, aspirations, passions, or a flat out bucket list they hope to fulfill? We all do. We all know exactly what we want…or at least have a pretty good idea of it. But the problem is that we have a tendency to shy away from really pursuing it when the moment finally presents itself. We don’t fear what comes next. We don’t fear falling into society’s norms. We fear chasing our dreams and failing to achieve them. We fear listing the things we truly want in case we fall short of acquiring them. We fear disappointing ourselves.

And so the excuses begin. Life is unfair. We don’t know what we want. We can’t do it. And no, we’re just never ready.

Looking back at my year at home, I now realize how psychotic it was to try and convince myself that I was in a cocoon that sheltered me from exposing my passions. I feared I wasn’t ready to move on after finding my place back home. I feared being able to make it like I once did before. But if I were to stick to that ridiculous metaphor, then a cocoon’s real purpose is to allow transformation to grow within it; to foster strength, beauty and prepare the being within for something much bigger.

My time here has been anything but a standstill. It has been a tornado of lessons learned, some of which I’m still learning; and a storm of tests, some of which I’ve failed. And my greatest privilege is to have experienced every step of it with my family, who not only supported me, but also taught me and tested me. In all my eight years of living alone, I did not experience struggle, then smooth sailing; discouragement, then encouragement; ultimate lows, then ultimate highs like I did in one year living at home.

The quarter life crisis warns that us 20-somethings have a tendency to stumble into a race we may not want to be part of just to escape ending up in our old childhood bedrooms. But home gave me a moment to slow down, remember my dreams, and look for the path that would allow me to follow them. Home stopped me from rashly falling into just any race and reminded me to run my own.

I believe that we create our own expectations because we are the only ones who are completely aware of our capabilities. We are the only ones who are completely aware of the extent of our reach. And I wish I could promise you that nothing will stand in your way but something will. Life always will. All I know is that in a little over a month, life is going to break me out of that cocoon whether I’m ready or not. I can choose either to fly, or fear. And I’m done with fear for now.

: : : Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us : : :

– – A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson – –

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The Soul Mate Search: Blame the Greeks

So this is why we have so much trouble finding our “other halves.” Oh, those Greeks! Did they always have to provoke the Gods to inflict some sort of punishment on us? Still, it’s a sad yet mystical tale about how the search for soul mates all began, with a bit of beauty and hope for a happily ever after. Just the kind of thing the hopeless romantic in me likes.

Image via Rosie Hardy

Once upon a time, there were gods in the heavens and humans down on earth. But we humans did not look the way we look today. Instead, we each had two heads and four legs and four arms—a perfect melding, in other words, of two people joined together, seamlessly united into one being. Since we each had the perfect partner sewn into the very fabric of our being, we were all happy. Thus, all of us double-headed, eight-limbed, perfectly contended creatures moved across the earth much the same way that planets travel through the heavens—dreamily, orderly, smoothly. We lacked for nothing; we had no unmet needs; we wanted nobody. There was no strife and no chaos. We were whole.

But in our wholeness, we became overly proud. In our pride, we neglected to worship the gods. The might Zeus punished us for our neglect by cutting all the double-headed, eight-limbed, perfectly contended humans in half, thereby creating a world of cruelly severed one-headed, two-armed, two-legged miserable creatures. In this moment of mass amputation, Zeus inflicted on mankind that most painful of human conditions: the dull and constant sense that we are not quite whole.

For the rest of time, humans would be born sensing that there was some missing part—a lost half, which we love almost more than we love ourselves—and that this missing part was out there someplace spinning through the universe in the form of another person. We would also be born believing that if only we searched relentlessly enough, we might someday find the vanished half, that other soul. Through union with the other, we would recomplete our original form, never to experience loneliness again.

This is the singular fantasy of human intimacy: that one plus one will somehow, someday, equal one.

As told by the Greek playwright Aristophanes
Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, “Committed: A Love Story”, pg. 97-98.

: : : You may be king, you may possess the world and it’s gold, but gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old. As sure as the stars shine above; you’re nobody ’til somebody loves you. So find yourself somebody to love : : :

— Somebody to Love, Michael Buble —

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Patience is a Virtue … or a Torture Method

"Inner Strength" by Rosie Hardy

Yup, I’ve finally confirmed it. It’s not just me. It seems a big concept on everyone’s minds these days is patience.

Ah, patience, patience, patience. I have contemplated writing about this topic for ages now. But, I’m pretty sure the post would have been an extreme vent session on my new found and deep-set frustration with patience. And ending a post with “I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU,” doesn’t exactly scream motivational. So obviously, in a quest to embrace the optimist in me, I decided against it.

But here I am again, patience on my mind, and the constant “be patient” references on my friends’ Facebook statuses are prodding at me, basically nagging me to write this post. So, I’m giving in. Gather around my patience weary friends. Let’s tackle this subject once and for all.

I’ve always considered myself an extremely patient person. And by definition, my favorite reference was Dr. Seuss’ description of the “Waiting Place,” from one of my all-time favorite children’s books, “Oh! The Places You’ll Go.”

The Waiting Place … for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

I love Dr. Seuss. And I don’t mean to rain on his description but anyone who’s ever come face to face in a headstrong battle against patience knows that it’s about much more than just waiting.

For all of you in this battle, I think you deserve to know what you’re up against.

It’s about persistence. It’s about tolerance. It’s about being thrust into a dark tunnel with empty promises of finding the light at the end of it when it’s nowhere to be seen. It’s about a brutal game of tug-of-war that forces you to dig your heels deeper and deeper into slippery mud and leaves your hands bruised with lashes of rope burn.

It’s about keeping yourself up when you’re being pushed down. And that, my friends, is not an easy battle.

Now, I know I just turned this concept into a war zone, but it’s true what they say: you have to pick your battles, and I guarantee that one with patience is almost always worth taking. I truly believe that despite our frustrations with patience, it really is a love hate relationship. You struggle with it, but you have to trust it, because it teaches you about strength through exposing your weaknesses; it reminds you of what you want; and it doesn’t allow you to settle for less than you deserve. It reminds you that good things come to those who wait; those who endure. And it graces you with a world of happiness when you finally overcome its exhausting trials.

There’s a reason why I gave in so quickly and decided to write this post now. Because I, too was in a battle against patience, and I finally won. I finally did it. And as banged up and bruised as I may have been, I will admit boldly that I would do it over and over again if I knew it would lead me to be where I am now. Nothing feels better than that new found strength that builds itself onto your spine; or the shower of kisses you get on your rope-burned hands; or the battle wounds that no longer ache you or repulse you, but remind you of the fight you put up…and won.

So yes, be patient. Battle with it. Learn from it. And welcome the prizes that await you with open arms when you finally succeed.

: : : Just because I’m hurting doesn’t mean I’m hurt. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved. No better and no worse. I just got lost. Every river that I tried to cross. Every door I ever tried was locked. Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off : : :

— Lost, Coldplay —

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