Overcoming Self-Interest by Choosing to Acquire Acceptance

I was meditating this morning. I had received a text from my Pastor a few weeks ago asking if I had found my “word” for 2021. His text came through at just the right time.

You know there are times in this world where I just feel disconnected from everyone. Maybe it’s the pandemic because I genuinely am disconnected from everyone. Maybe it’s the stress of wondering what will happen, will another person I know get sick or pass, and all the other stressors going on today.

All of it pulls me away from myself, the world, and my inner calm.

That text came at just the right time. I hadn’t realized how far away from myself I had gotten until I read that text and felt relief and gratitude that someone was thinking about me. And it’s not that people, family, friends are not thinking about me. It was that someone took time to reach out from their place of strength and share that with me.

That simple action pulled me back into me and helped me refocus on essential things, and that was finding my word for 2021.

I found it. It’s not going to be what you think it is. My word for 2021 is “self-interest”.

And you might be thinking, “Heard it, been there, done that, on to new territories.” Well, I’m not looking at this as, “What can I do for myself.” That’s our first lesson in counseling, right? Boundaries. And boundaries are a tricky slope. Boundaries are necessary, but they can also be unjust. So, for me, self-interest is not trying to validate my inner value.

No, when I found this word, “self-interest,” it came from within me. As I sat quietly trying to see the world around me, my thoughts got in the way. I was having a lot of thoughts bringing up a level of anger and feelings of unjust. It’s a crazy confusing time with specific unlying themes that have people frustrated.

The problem is, I can’t find a different answer if the only world I see is the world I’ve created in my head. And it’s not that the world I’ve created lacks reality. It is real. But, it is real in a time and place.

Let’s say it is the middle of the night in Lubbock, Texas, and I don’t like the night. So, I’m angry it is dark out. All the frustration in the world is not going to change from night to day. Only time will make that change. In time, the world turns until, at last, you are in front of the sun again.

That is time and place. Time and place are important in Daoism. It’s fundamental to why some monks can be at peace at a time of turmoil.

We live such short lifetimes. In a world that has existed over billions of years, my meager existence of 80 or so years isn’t even a statistical notation. How I think is linear because I can only see a very small piece of the whole. From deductive reasoning to fixing a car, thought follows a linear track. If it doesn’t, I become confused. I can’t focus on repairing the alternator and replacing the head gasket at the same time. I have to do them one at a time.

Within linear time, one thing follows another and produces a result. And that result is the culmination of the cycle of one lifetime. Being that humans are so focused on time, every action leads to an end result – kind of like an ultimatum. There is only one outcome.

Yet, within Daoist thought, time and thought is a circle. It is neverending and is represented by the taiji symbol. Within the taiji symbol, one thing follows another, with each cycle influencing the next cycle’s trajectory. There is not one outcome because there is not an end. My role in this life will change the trajectory of the subsequent cycle.

To learn more about Daoism, check out more of my blog under the Daoism category. To learn more about yin and yang theory, check out my Youtube channel and episodes on the “Power of Yin and Yang.”

Yet, how does the Buddhist monk find that place of perfect balance and acceptance. It is not in meditating to perfect peace. Well, it is, but it isn’t. Taking the time to quiet yourself and find a stillness in your soul allows the world to open up.

That is why “self-interest” is my word for 2021. What stops me from allowing the world to open up to me is my self-interest. My focus on my work, my family, my future…all my focus on those things that have a personal advantage to this life. If I can just step around that for a minute, I can start to see the cycles of life, of the world, and recognize the concept of place and time.

I can start to understand that railing against the night at midnight has no purpose because it is time to be dark and quiet and rest. Yet, darkness will not last forever. A cycle always moves through every phase, and the previous phase influences the next phase.

So, I can start to understand that the daylight is coming and can prepare for the daylight. And just understanding your place in time helps free up the pressure of this one life, this one cycle of time. Everything isn’t accomplished right now. In fact, only a piece of your accomplishments will influence the next cycle. In my book, “Caregivers Survival Guide, how to eliminate stress in 30 minutes and other useful tools” I talk more in-depth about how one cycle sets the foundation for the subsequent cycle.

Yet, if I can just lay down the self-interests for a minute and see the world, I can find acceptance of the world with all its warts and blemishes, knowing that my actions will either help the next cycle or hinder the next cycle.

How to Accept People Where They Are

Well, this whole blog didn’t start out here. It started out with the Dolores Claiborne movie and Vera Donovan saying, “…sometimes, you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive. Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang onto…” Environment, right? How our environment shapes and molds us.

I ride dressage, and many dressage riders will purchase a large, nice moving horse even though they can’t ride or manage the horse. They buy these great big horses that are called warmbloods. They are athletic. I’ve seen more than one professional rodeo cowboy walk away from breaking a warmblood. As a rider of these beasts, you gain a level of caution to ensure you survive.

Back in the 90’s, I was riding at a dressage barn in Southern California. One of the trainers was riding a big Belgian cross who was just gorgeous and quite nice under saddle. He had that big, poofy, white mane and tail and was a bit darker than a Belgian. Almost a brown. Well, of course, everyone was enamored with him and wanted to pet and ooh and ahh over him.

Even I wanted to do that. So, I walked up to his stall. He saw me coming to his stall, he bared his teeth, charged the door, and slammed his chest up against the door. Ugh, that was intimidating. So, of course, I didn’t pet him.

He wouldn’t stop. As long as I was in front of his stall, he had his head high, teeth bared, swinging back and forth. I was intimidated and confused. He seemed like such a charming little pistol under saddle who loved people.

The trainer came up to the stall door and started petting him. He immediately stopped. And then she told me what the deal was. This guy was raised by humans and learned human signs instead of horse signs. He learned to smile from humans which is positively threatening on a horse. And humans like running up to things they love and hugging them. Well, at 1300 lbs, charging up to hug me was just as threatening as baring your teeth.

And to find out he was actually trying to get you to come up and pet him by mimicking humans was disturbing. Over the years, as this expression backfired on him, he tried harder.

Environment.

I just found a little kitten. She is so tiny, I thought she was maybe 2 months old. She is hilarious. When she plays she is all in. 100% she is going to complete her task from taking down an imaginary bird to standing her ground. It’s amazing. She’ll jump two feet up in the air to catch something, grab it and hold on tight never thinking of trying to right herself before hitting the ground. She hits the ground with a thump on her side and proceeds to try and rip apart whatever it was she caught. She makes a running dash towards my big Spicy cat who is easily 20 lbs and quite fast with the claws, grabs ahold of his neck, swings around, hits the other side, lets go, and takes off.

She’s fast and she likes the all-out attacks. If she gets one of the cats to engage with her, she immediately spins around and faces them, ears pasted back against her head so flat you can’t see them anymore, back arched and front paws ready for action just taunting them to try and take all two pounds of her. They usually back off.

I explain this because she doesn’t play like the house kitties I’ve raised. There is nothing gentle about her playtime. Although, she is really good about not using her claws with me, and I’m really good about not over-stimulating her because I don’t want her to use her claws. But there is just this fierceness to her that I’ve never seen in a house kitty.

And here was the other thing. She is a well-balanced cat. Emotionally, she is bold, but new things frighten her. If you just stand by her, she figures it out. She isn’t needy. She doesn’t have a grudge to pick or a hierarchy to follow. She is indifferent to other cats and just wants someone to play with. She gets a little jealous at times, but not bad. And, as long as I stay even-tempered with clear boundaries, she is o.k. I’ve commented to my husband since the day she showed up in our backyard what a well-balanced smart kitty she is.

Well, and then she went into heat, and I realized that she was not two months old. She was probably four months old, and she was so small because she had been a wild kitty. I also realized she was such a well-balanced cat because she had grown up as a kitty without human interference. And her fierceness was learning to hunt for food to survive. She had that ruthlessness that you see in the eye of a tiger, but never in your everyday house cat.

Environment.

The thing is, these examples are about meeting someone where they are at. Not where you would like them to be. Because the other thing about the environment, you are not going to change it.

That brings me back to Vera Donovan, who wasn’t really the start of the blog, but her statement came to mind when I was thinking about somebody in my life who was doing similar things. This person, their life is pretty good. They have everything they could ever want except their health. Like Vera, they have slowly barred the world from entry.

“…sometimes, you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive. Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang onto…”

We do things all the time based on our environment and these things do the exact opposite of what we want. Vera being a bitch. Sammy, the Belgian cross, baring his teeth and charging the door. And then there is George, my girl kitty, who actually grew-up very well balanced and does exactly what she means to do. George grew up in an environment of other caring cats who watched over her and introduced her to the world.

About a week after I let George into my home, I finally saw the mother cat. I knew she had been around. I was waiting to catch her. I came home one day and there was George sitting under the front tree trying to catch birds who were coming to the bird feeders to eat.

She looked exactly like George. Same eyes. Same expression. I couldn’t quite figure out how George had gotten out of the house as she stared at me, unafraid, with that curious look George always has. I told her to wait right there while I put my stuff away, and I’ll bring her in.

She waited until I had gone inside. Then she got up and walked across the street and away. George was inside, and I realized it was the mother cat I had been trying to catch. I ran across the street and asked the neighbors about her. No one knew her.

I spent the next week trying to trap her, but she never came back. I caught the neighbor’s fat cat. Twice. But, I’ve never seen her again. It was almost as if she just wanted to be sure about me, but she didn’t want to be a pet.

Environment.

Funny how accepting who each of them are doesn’t change the desire for a different outcome.

Leading with Compassion

Wow, today was a good day. When I was working for U.S. Corporations, I noticed how flexible co-workers were from other countries. They could pack up and move to another country at the drop of a hat – even without family.

I remember a woman I was working with turned down a promotion to take a lateral move into a European country where her fiance worked. It was interesting how the two of them were navigating the world to be together.

Who does that? The best I did in the U.S. was a comment on how long-distance relationships were difficult and inconvenient.

Yet, today I was chatting with someone who had packed up and immigrated to the U.S. by themselves. For me, just the thought of uprooting myself from family and friends and moving across an ocean is a daunting proposition. It’s not just leaving family and friends, it’s the complete change in social norms when you move to another country. You have to relearn acceptable and expected behavior, and no one is going to tell you that.

Anyways, I commented to them on this flexibility I saw in people from other countries. I noted I was not near that flexible. I always made sure I was coming back to the U.S.

Their response was fascinating and had me looking at my life in the U.S. in a different light. They said it wasn’t flexibility. It was the ability to adapt. They mentioned they had absolutely no regrets about moving to the United States. The country they were from had a lot of corruption. People didn’t support each other, and ethics were not even a side conversation. There was much jealousy between people, and if anyone seemed to be getting ahead, there was a lot of hostility directed towards them.

I thought about that because I had worked with people from their country. I remember myself and my co-workers in the U.S. talked about a few of this country’s workers and what they were doing. In the U.S., their behavior was considered unethical. So, of course, we avoided them because the belief was it was just a timing game when they would have to pay for their sins.

My friend commented right away. My friend had no faith in their fellow citizens from their country of origin. Not only did they expect these citizens would be doing something unethical, this person believed these co-workers would not care as long as they were getting their own.

I thought back on the situation before responding, “Yeah, that’s true.” In the company, everyone knew what they were doing. When these co-workers from this other country realized everyone knew, they decided they no longer needed to hide their actions, like knowledge was consent. I told my friend it wasn’t consent. It was an opportunity for them to do the right thing and avoid all the ugliness.

My friend commented, “Yes, but that is who you are, who the people in the U.S. are. They are caring people and believe in doing the right thing. They work at helping each other and try to support each other.”

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Corporate America, but this person was right. That is precisely who we are in the U.S. And, I remember that you needed to figure out how to be that ethical, caring person to advance in your job. Not that we all start like that. Most of us don’t start like that because ethics and compassion is a response of maturity – the exact opposite of the drive practiced through high school and college. Work could send you through a lot of training and mentoring to help you grow up and find a more compassionate way.

And sure, we are not perfect in the U.S., and I’m not saying we are. But the thing that I loved about this conversation is this person reminded me of the very best in us. They reminded me of who we can be and who we strive to be. They reminded me about why, when I went overseas, the companies wanted to work with me.

It’s been a dark year. For many of us, the turning of Americans on each other has been emotionally devastating. It has been difficult for me to reconcile these actions with my belief in democracy and freedom.

Yet, to hear from an immigrant, their undying belief in who we are as a country and who we are as individuals almost brought me to tears. It was one of the best Christmas gifts I could have received this year, and just in time for Christmas.

I know the energetics of our country are changing. I know if there is anything to I-Ching and Daoism, this change has been moving forward for some time.

What is this crazy comment about the I-Ching? The I-Ching talks about how energy moves in the world. An example is how spring moves to summer, moves to fall, and changes to winter before moving back to spring. Life in Chinese Medicine is circular with no starting point and no ending point. Yet, life and the energy of life move in predictable patterns. The four seasons always flow in the same manner. We accept that summer follows spring like the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.

These same patterns happen in the body and with our interactions. The obvious one is the movement from a baby to an adult to the elderly. The I-Ching is supposed to help capture the patterns and help the individual make educated guesses on what to do next. So, if summer comes after spring, an educated guess would be to get the shorts out of storage.

Back in July, when I didn’t think I could handle much more, I looked for guidance in Chinese Medicine. I wrote what I found in my blog, “Why 2020 the Year of the Metal Rat is Rife With Unusual Chaos”

I knew the worst of it was going to pass, like the year 2020. But, maybe it’s time to write another blog looking for guidance because next year will not be all roses and sunshine. Our country will become more stable, but many things that have happened will still negatively impact 2021, and it will take us believing we can work together to start to pull out this. It will take all us leading with compassion to turn this boat around.

And here again, I go back to my conversation earlier today with a person who had immigrated to this country. Their undying belief in who we are as a country and people helped lighten my load. They reminded me of my faith in myself and my fellow Americans. Their confidence in us left me humbled. Just that one act of kindness from a person who had no idea how much they were giving me in our brief conversation helped me remain on my path and stay true to myself and lead with compassion.

Judgment says more about the person than the situation

I was thinking about this today because my husband and I found a cute kitten hiding in our woodpile. My husband had noticed the little guy hanging around the house. He had tried to get close to the little guy, but the kitten was having none of it.

Well, the little guy, we’ll call him Smokie, was hungry enough to make it easy to catch him. He was really clean and well behaved, litter box trained with a good sense of boundaries. Whoever raised this kitten did it with love and respect and did a great job. A second similar kitten was found a few blocks from me.

I had wanted to post on our community chat to let the person know that this kitten and one other were safe and well taken care of and to thank them for doing such a great job of raising them. I hesitated because my community chat can be filled with judgment. I didn’t want to see my post overwhelmed with replies of what a jerk the person was and blah, blah, blah. Negativity overload!

So, I didn’t.

Many of you know, I lost my sister two days before her birthday in March of 2018. My mother passed a month later, in April of 2018. And, in June 2018, my horse passed. I was pretty shell-shocked.

Through this, I ran my business and saw clients. I had a new client who was a hairstylist. The only time she could get in was early morning – before my office hours. As a favor, I agreed to see her early.

Around the third appointment, I forgot I had booked her early. I woke up that morning and was overwhelmed with my grief of losing so much. I remember how sad I was. I was lost. I wanted to be alone.

I got ready for work thinking it was a typical day and trying to pull myself out of my funk. It is tough being in healthcare and giving to others when your tank is empty.

When I got to work, I heard the message on my answering machine. My client was upset. She was really upset. I immediately called her and tried to offer free products, taking care of her payments. She was having nothing to do with it. As far as she was concerned, I was unprofessional and had caused her significant injury. She was a very important person, and I had wasted her time(and let’s be real, many of us drop that attitude on others). I had the sneaking suspicion that judgment wasn’t going to be enough. She was going to want payback – vengeance.

Her husband had scheduled to come in that afternoon. I knew he wasn’t going to show up after the morning call with his wife. I expected her husband not to show nor call to cancel. For my small business, this is a big deal because the only thing I sell is my time. So, when a client books a slot, I can’t give it to another person. If they don’t show, I just lose that money and there is less money to pay overhead, employees, student loans, taxes and everything it takes to run a business.

My client’s vengeance would be that I deserved to have what she believed I had done to her – intentionally missed her appointment.

Well, that’s what happened. Her husband just didn’t show. I left her a message apologizing again. I never heard from her or her husband again.

I learned two things from that experience. First, that was the last time I made special arrangements for a client because if something went wrong, would we be grown enough to work through the problem?

The second was judgment says more about the person than the situation. She had made a judgment about what happened to her and acted on her judgment of the situation. You can either respond to situations based on your history or show a healthy curiosity about why I might have missed the appointment.

Even though the past no longer exists, it plays over and over in your head making you believe that every situation is the same situation from your past. It creates your playbook. That playbook judges what is happening and responds. I have a series on “Why does my Stomach Hurt?” which is starting production end of November 2020. It goes into this phenomenon from a Chinese Medical perspective.

Anyways, these types of playbooks create that kneejerk reaction to a situation and allow you to wonder, “Why does this always happen to me?” These kneejerk judgments and reactions that you can’t stop are an example of your past driving your future. My blog “Taking Back Your Power! How to Start Letting go of the Past and Moving On” talks to this. And when the story from your past is something that left you feeling hurt or powerless, the response is vengeance. You want to be able to tell the world you are no longer powerless.

Crazy, but I understood who she was because I grew up in a situation where I felt powerless and unsupported at times. Even today, experiences from my past lurk in my shadows.

The feeling of being powerless is the worse feeling. When confronted with a situation where I feel powerless, I feel that the need for vengeance.

Chinese Medicine is all about balance and two sides of the same coin. Being powerless is also being vulnerable…the out of balance side of vulnerable. In Chinese Medicine, everything has a point of perfect balance. Vulnerability in perfect balance is love. Vulnerability out of balance is powerlessness. And, when someone has experienced the out of balance side of vulnerability for too long, the ability to experience unconditional love can be foreign along with compassion.

So, judgment says more about the person than the situation. Everyone will experience judgment differently. Not everyone gets to experience the situation I experienced, in Chinese Medicine you experience life based on the law of attraction. The world brings a mirror into your life every day. Each day is an opportunity to find another piece of yourself through your interactions with others. She was my opportunity to see myself. It could have happened at a less traumatic time in my life. But hey, life doesn’t wait for you. I have another blog post, “Learn to Remember What You Want in Life to Live a Happier Life” which starts to touch on how to change attraction.

Yet, I started this story about an abandoned kitten. I want to end with an abandoned kitten.

I had a friend back about thirty years ago when we were still teenagers. His cat had kittens, and they were the adorable mixed siamese kitties with fluffy hair. They were all buff with blue eyes. His parents told him they couldn’t keep all the kittens.

He wasn’t about to take them to a shelter because who knows what horror would happen to them there. He could have given them to a feral cat adoption group, but he couldn’t be sure who would get his kittens. He could advertise them, but who knows who was going to show up?

What did he do? He took his cute, clean, healthy, fluffy kittens and put pink bows around their neck. He got three picnic baskets and put a baby blanket in each basket. He put one kitten in each basket.

He picked people he saw in his communities that he thought were good people. These were people he didn’t know but would have liked to know and put the picnic basket with the kitten on their doorstep. His kittens ended up safe and well-loved.

Even back then, he was a great salesperson and understood presentation is half the battle. And judgment, you never know why someone does something or what it means unless you ask. Judgment is more about your past, your beliefs, and your value of yourself than the situation.

The Afternoon When Quarantine Fatigue Hit and How it’s Challenging Your Identity

Have you reached it? I have. Early afternoon about two weeks ago, I was sitting in my house looking around. I looked at my husband and said, “I just hit quarantine fatigue.”

You can look through my blogs and my Youtube channel and see I’ve been fighting the good fight. But the pandemic has been going on for a long time, and there is no end in sight.

I grew up in a world where self-medicating, and one pill cures are the expectation. Everything has been instantaneous, and I have never been in a situation where I had to be uncomfortable for a long time. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to deal with myself and find solace in being alone with myself.

I had to go into the city this morning. I’ve been in quarantine mode for so long it was uncomfortable being in a city again. It was weird watching people walk by in their clothes. Weren’t clothes one of our most significant, useless consumer items purchased pre-pandemic – stacks and stacks of clothes? And shoes! Everyone had on shoes that expressed who they wanted to be.

I know, because I was a bit excited about getting to go into the city. My love is sweaters, and Europe knows they have the corner on the excellent sweater market. I had purchased the majority of my sweaters from Europe. I love the fact that they are all wool, super well-made, and comfy!

I swooned through my sweaters this morning, almost hyperventilating that I was going to get to wear one of them. It was cold out this morning, so I had some great options. I could go for a layered look wrapped with a jacket or use one of my jacket sweaters with a turtleneck or blow the whole sweater thing and go for one of my jackets layered over a turtleneck. The options were breathtaking.

I mean, that is part of the fatigue, isn’t it? The inability to express yourself to the world. Hey world, look at me! This is who I am!

I even spent time choosing my shoes, waffling back and forth between the perfect match or comfort. Comfort won out, but to be real, it was comfort with style.

I was in the city looking at the diversity of expression. Shoes were winning out, and boots seemed to be the big winner. Expressive boots that had seen little or no wear. Boots with heels, elevated boots, rounded toes with memory foam, boots with laces, boots were all over the place.

People walked and walked, showing off their shoes. Yet, there was confusion. I felt the confusion. I was confused. We were doing what we had always done. However, it didn’t make sense anymore. The masks certainly detracted from the look. And every one of us had a mask on. On the streets, in the parking lots, in the buildings, everyone had a cover on.

It brought back the eerie reality of today. The excitement over finally getting to wear my favorite clothes again out in public dissipated. Once again, I was faced with the critical points of self-discovery this pandemic continues to dump in my lap. This time, it was consumerism.

You know, I’ve wanted to buy another sweater, but this pandemic has me putting the breaks on things. I’m actually asking myself, “Do I need another sweater?” No, I don’t. I have too many sweaters right now. Too many, and there won’t be enough time in my lifetime to wear them all down to nothing.

Most of us are spending time in the grocery store. That is our outing for the week, the month, or whatever. I use to get whatever I wanted and throw it in the grocery cart. Later, when I found I had forgotten to eat it, I threw it away.

I really wanted to get a pastry this morning on my way back from the city. I stopped myself because I have a bundt cake at home and a few pounds of frozen berries I need to make into a fantastic dessert.

Pre-pandemic, I would have bought the pastries and tossed the bundt cake.

How I looked at purchases and the value I placed on purchases changed when I spent a month looking for toilet paper and eight months looking for a can of Lysol.

Everything is regaining value. The value is no longer the empty promises and mass hysteria of pathological consumerism. Instead, I began purchasing the things I needed. Because I wasn’t buying everything, I had time to enjoy the things I did buy.

The separation from people has helped me put my head on again. Much of my consumerism was created by my interaction with the media and others. All that interaction has gone away.

It’s crazy. It’s like that frantic search for validation that focuses on consumerism has had to find a different outlet. Without an outlet, could all the energy be a part of the rampant hostility expressed today?

I’m talking to my friends. It’s incredible how much we use to buy. You may think this lack of purchasing decreased their quality of life. That’s not what is happening. Their life hasn’t become less. It’s actually become more.

My quality of life wasn’t harmed because I didn’t buy that pastry or that sweater. It was hurt when I was purchasing all that stuff. When I was on a tear of consumerism, I wasn’t enjoying what I bought. Because I was spending so much, I felt the need to chase the dollar to have more dollars to spend on stuff I didn’t need.

With winter coming in, it appears we have a long ways to go before this pandemic has found its end. That means the world will give us a lot more time to sit alone with our thoughts. All this time, I’m thinking I will get back to that time when I was seven, laying in the grass watching the monarch butterflies lightly dance through the air. I wasn’t worried about my next purchase. I was just enjoying the here and now.

So, I find myself sitting here on a sunny fall morning, typing this blog, eating my warmed bundt cake topped with butter and a large cup of flower tea. I didn’t do this before the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the house’s goal was to find a respite from the world and a place of peace. It never did because I never had time. I do now partly because I didn’t distract myself on my way home, looking for the perfect pastry. You know, the weirdest thing is the slice of warmed bundt cake topped with butter coupled with a fragrant cup of tea was more perfect than any pastry could have been.