Asking and receiving help

I was terrible at it.

Then when my children were 5 and 1, my marriage ended and it was me and my two kids. I didn’t have money to hire all sorts of help, and that’s when I learned to reach out.

It turned out that people were more much willing than I thought, and they didn’t see me as a big failure for asking. Life got better, not because I was getting help, per se, but because I grew closer to others in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It really does take a community, and going at important (read: the mundane) things together is bonding.

I learned back then that I didn’t have to have friends over and then wait for them to leave to fold laundry and to cook. Even if I didn’t ask them to help, they’d often dig in with me. But this is not an agenda to get others to do things for you. It’s just in the art of living. And in that, it can cultivate genuine friendships, mutual inter-dependence, gifting and gratitude. Life is not just happening at a cafe, out at dinner, or at a show together; in fact these are celebrations. Life is working and being together in the art of living, whether it’s in the home or at work. Asking, offering, receiving, giving, serving each other. It’s what makes the world a better place to live.

What a mistake!

Though I’m Korean, I’ve never really attempted to make Korean food before. But the business I trust to cater the Korean food portion of our Christmas meal every year closed their business. My good friend who joins us for Christmas each year suggested we make the food ourselves.

One of the food items on the menu is the savory Korean Pancake a/k/a Pajun. The first two attempts were nothing to write home about. On the third attempt, we were running very low on batter, so in order to better manage what little remained, I shaped it differently than what the recipe called for and left just enough batter in the 2 quart Pyrex to cover the ingredients that went into it after the first layer of batter settled.

I like to clean as I go. So I started washing things we were done with, and that inadvertently included the Pyrex that the remaining small amount of batter was in. Oh no!

The pancake turned out thin and on the more preferable crispy side. The ingredients came out perfectly seared and showcased on one side of the pancake since it wasn’t covered by an additional layer of batter. It turned out looking and tasting so good.

“What a mistake!” had a tone that rang so differently, and it wasn’t lost on us that we could probably take that exclamation and apply it to any inadvertent errors we make in our lives. We just need to trust in the process and wait for it: the golden gifts of err that come serendipitously.

Finding courage

I’m definitely not fearless, I’m courageous.

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx

My grandmother used to complain about my fearlessness when I was very young (less than 5 years old). She was always worried I’d get hurt.

Now, I experience tons of fear, and the truth is, I’d question myself if I was experiencing no fear when I’m about to do something outside my comfort zone.

We put so much more focus on fear than courage. Fear exists. It takes courage to go out and do something that people don’t always get, and to be totally yourself. So rather than think, “I’m not afraid,” perhaps move yourself into “I have courage!”

It becomes about managing the mind and the ever-consuming self-doubt.

The good news is, lacking courage is just a habit, and it has nothing to do with shyness or being an introvert. We’ve just been made to believe that what we think is who we are.

Our mind is trainable.
Meditation is incredibly effective.
Off the cushion, you’ll want to observe your thoughts and turn them around as soon as you see them on the edge of the downward spiral, and even before then, which you will learn to identify after some honest observation.

There is a difference between willful thinking and disciplined thinking.
In willful thinking, there is a denial of thought (which pushes it further into the subconscious and emotional pain centers) and a desperate attempt to think another way. It freezes and dis-eases us.
In disciplined thinking there is witness to the thought and a reframing. It neutralizes the negativity and tools us.
Like any muscle, the discipline gets stronger the more you work it.
What can make it difficult is the addictive quality of willful thinking. Like any addiction, it requires commitment, and one can expect falling off the wagon from time to time.
Here’s where kindness and pre-forgiveness becomes a wonderful gift to Self, and to know that grace comes with honest effort, we needn’t fret about having taken the two steps back.

Fearlessness is not the point. But to have courage… to be yourself in challenging moments. That’s true success.

You learn who you are in practice not in theory.

–David Epstein

Many of us dwell in our headspace for too long. The danger in that is that our imaginations don’t often know how to see beyond our initial inspiration or idea without some follow-up action. We become discouraged because we don’t realize our experiences are often relative to where we are going. We want to know the answers first, and where it’s going to take us, and that route often isn’t clear (if ever). So we stay in theory because action (practice) doesn’t seem practical when in fact, it is the most practical. It’s in the word, and it’s how we find out what we are truly made of, and what resonates with us.

I find that the more I trust in the process and move, the more effectively I chisel out of my clayed-up ego self and into the trimmed, more shapely version of who I truly am.

Are your tools accessible to you?

Finding notes I’ve jotted down is as delightful to me as finding forgotten money in pockets. They are everywhere: in my Tasks, in Evernotes, Notes, emails to Self, and in actual notebooks. I can argue that this is even better than having them all curated in one place because when I find one, it’s like the past me sending messages to the present me.

Here’s what I found today:

Until something becomes a part of your operating system [os], you won’t know how to use it. Instead of using the tools to manage anger, unless it becomes a part of your os, you are likely to push it away.

Being yourself

Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.

–Alan Watts

Otherwise, we’ve got something to measure up against and our attention goes to where we are falling short.

Being yourself is being in alignment with your essential nature, which, because we may not feel used to being there, can feel really vulnerable. In our minds, to be rejected by showing up as ourselves without the bravado, the shell, the attitude is unfathomable. We reject parts of ourselves first for protection, disconnecting ourselves from ourselves and others and essentially hurting our spirit. We take solace in that no one can hurt us (as much). But it doesn’t protect us from being angry, frustrated, anxious, or depressed. It holds us back from being free.

We’ve built up reactive habits that seem to project “who we are,” and we’ve confused them for our identity. It’s not who we are. It’s just what we’ve been doing. Who we are doesn’t change. We are enough, and that is and always will be true. What we do– that’s a choice once we are aware of it, and we can make different choices.

At the end, the worst kind of rejection is the kind where we do it to ourselves, and if no one ever rejects us, it’s probable that we’ve done exactly that. The true you will not be for everyone, but it will be for you, and it is and always will be the most powerful you. Each of us is meant to have an impact in the world by our mere existence (no one is “extra”), and unlocking it means to let go of who we imagine ourselves to be and just be.