Why It Is So Hard to Focus in Life

Do you want to know why it’s so hard to focus on your own life and stay on your own zen wavelength? Well, I re-discovered the answer today. Wait for it…

It’s because everyone around you is so DARN LOUD!

The Setting

I am writing this post during a fit of frustration on a plane to what I hope is a rejuvenating vacation. While attempting to enjoy my book, I find myself amidst the cackles of inebriated passengers on a mission to win the who can talk the loudest competition. It is extremely hard to focus on my book.

The Story:


I am all for freedom of friendliness and libations but why do these people have to be so LOUD on this plane? Then again, this is a country that has freedom of speech, so who am I to tell the newfound besties to sacrifice their hyperactivity for my peace. I mentally rummage through the safety manual to see if there is some rule they were breaking. However, there is just information about oxygen masks, life vests, and “in the event of an emergency” situations. There is nothing about being courteous to your neighbors.

But wait, isn’t this an emergency? I am being forced to sacrifice my page-turning enjoyment to listen to the loudest passengers on this plane. Doesn’t that warrant some kind of rescue? With no way to politely ask them to pipe down, I might as well find a lesson in this experience.

I take a deep breath and hope for some annoyed passenger to ask the noisy neighbors to quiet down. More and more frustrated by each screech and shout, I think about the moments in my life when I’ve felt trapped, frustrated, limited, and a victim of other people inserting noise into my life. Right now, I would do anything to turn up the selective attention dial to “I can’t hear you” mode, but nothing is a match for these voices of Godzilla.

The lesson

I had a plan for this plane ride that included me, God, reflection, and a book. It did not include writing a blog post about my frustration with this noise. Typically, I would be oblivious to the loudmouths around me as I drown them out with my music or a movie. However, I forgot my headphones this time!

I keep asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard to focus? Is it really that hard to tune them out?” As I wait for the answer from the universe, I realize a similarity between my ability to focus in life and other people’s voices in my head. These noises are the external opinions and beliefs we allow in our heads that make it hard to focus on our own life and journey.

Some noises are louder than others—fears, other people’s opinions, societal and family expectations, and our internal self-talk. At times, it is so loud, confusing, overwhelming, and tiring to combat.

Today, I have learned a few things:

  1. I understand why people invest in quality noise-canceling headphones
  2. It’s hard to focus in life when our fears, other people’s opinions, and negative self-talk drown out own our inner voice.
  3. It’s necessary to clear your head of the noise in order to find your inner voice.

The good news is that my neighbors are now quietly resting. Maybe now I can get back to focusing on my book and the amazing view in peace and quiet.

Judging People in the Media: Right or Wrong?

It is very easy to forget that other people are also human.

I remember when I was a little teenybopper I subconsciously found slight enjoyment in commenting on other people’s life mistakes/decisions. In a weird way it made me feel more normal, more confident, and more hopeful that — despite not having everything I wanted — I might possibly stand on a higher moral ground than those I chose to judge comment on. I felt the pressure to be perfect, so it was kind of refreshing to know that other people were not. Hooray, someone’s mistakes were bigger than mine!

Back then I would not have considered myself a gossiper, but I certainly had an opinion if asked. In my mind, my opinions were not judgements but rather concerns cloaked in curiosity. Me be mean-spirited and judgmental? No. Never. However oddly enough, the most enjoyable conversations were those about the mistakes of people that acted like they were better than others. “See, that’s why people should never think they are better because life will show us that we are not.” This I would proclaim while thinking myself better than they were. Oh, the irony.

One of the easiest targets I felt entitled to comment on were celebrities and entertainers. There were many I loved, but there were others I thought to be raunchy, slutty, desperate, fake, corny, untalented, ugly, weird, crazy, and/or conceited!  Most of my negativity boiled down to the fact that I didn’t feel they deserved the fame, money, or success they had. I was jealous disturbed that me, my family, my friends, and others in society had to “work so hard to succeed while these celebrities prance around from red carpet to red carpet like the hardest task of life is deciding what makeup, suit, dress, or date they are going to bring that night.” Elite athletes were not exempt from my judgments opinions either: I would say, “you are talented, but you are lame!” Of course I had no idea about the challenges and sacrifices, both physical and emotional, they had to make in order to get to where they were. Yet, I still felt the God-like right to determine what someone else deserved! But you know what? It is very easy to sit back and comment on another person’s life — celebrity, athlete, famous or not —  when we don’t really have to live their life or walk in their shoes.

It might sound like I sat around all day “hating” on other people (which is not really the case), but I do recall the many moments when I projected my insecurities and anxieties onto the easy targets of the world: the famous ones, privileged ones, and the entertainers. They signed up for it, right? It comes with the territory, right? It is the price of fame, right? Well, at least that’s what I told myself in order to justify my judgments opinions. I needed to find something negative in order to explain why my life was less glamorous so I told myself I had more class, purpose, and humility than “those people.” Honestly, deep inside me I really just wished I was rich too! (I still secretly do).

As my teenage years passed, the celebrity issues I read about were no longer so distant from the realities of regular people. Suddenly I knew/knew of people going through similar experiences: divorces, rumors, cheating, drug and alcohol abuse, hard partying, suicidal episodes, and/or new boyfriends/girlfriends every other week. I started to rethink my heavily misguided judgements about entertainers and got the sense that anything could happen to anyone, famous or not. I started asking myself: Would I be able to endure the pressure? How do I know I wouldn’t do that under the right conditions? Would I really be able to react differently than they do? Would my attitude be different if I went through that? How would I feel if I was in their shoes? Would I be happier? Could I handle the constant spotlight of judgment and expectations of perfection? I wasn’t always sure in each circumstance so I changed my opinionated tuned: “Judge less and never think you are above life’s challenges; just hope, pray, and do whatever you can so the challenges allotted for you won’t be the end of you.”

Now in early adulthood, I feel empathy for celebrities, entertainers, and leaders. Social media has not only changed how the world interacts, but it is also impacting how we view each other. When I started college, MySpace was huge, Facebook was only open to college students with a valid school email address, and there was no Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. Before social media, we had to wait to hear about a celebrity scandal in the local newspaper, on the nightly news, or we just had to speculate about the truth plastered across the front page of the tabloids. Now, everything is front page news on social media and everyone has a comment or judgment that can be posted openly or anonymously for anyone to read at any time. The sad news is that it’s highly likely that one of our friends, family members, or even one of us will be in a position of entertainment, leadership, or fame one day. We/They will have to endure the same public ridicule that we put entertainers and leaders through everyday. There are some people out there that warrant the opinions we have toward them, but those people are far less prevalent than those that don’t deserve it.

When I look at the tabloids, blogs, and entertainment news columns I see stories that could happen to any normal person:

  • Rumored marital problems: If you have ever been in a relationship, then you know that there are ups and downs! Imagine paparazzi and news outlets, proclaiming your relationship or marriage to be over while you’re fighting hard to make it work. Imagine your relationship is totally wonderful, yet every grocery isle claims it’s doomed because your spouse is cheating with someone else in their industry.
  • Breakups and makeups: Now we know that the dating scene can range from very pleasant to pure madness. Can you imagine every dating move you made being stalked and reported by the media? From your one-night stands, to your short-lived relationship, to your quick transition to the next lover, or to the moments you thought you were exclusive but he/she is out dating someone else. Can you imagine finding all that out on social media? Can you imagine being judged for the relationship decisions you willingly chose to make as a grown man/woman by people who probably have less than perfect relationships themselves?
  • Family Drama: Need I say more? Can you really imagine all your family drama being front page news for all your friends, employers, and haters to revel in? How embarrassing!
  • Body Image: Can you imagine feeling like a fashion icon only to later find out that half the world thinks you look hideous? Or even worse, can you imagine those times when you don’t look your best and have to go out in front of the world? Exactly!
  • Hidden Struggles: You may not be an alcoholic or drug abuser, but I am sure if you think hard enough you will be able to identify one person you know that struggles with something similar. But, what’s your vice? How do you mask and hide your insecurities, anxiety, and/or fears? What are the self-defeating behaviors and thoughts you have? How would you feel about having your lowest day chronicled and logged as the most talked about news of the week?
  • Mental Illness or Health Issues: Sometimes we deal with mental and health issues that we don’t necessarily wear on our sleeves. Some are impossible to hide and others we try our hardest to keep private. Can you imagine people taking your private moments for mass entertainment or having cameras and photographers outside every surgery and doctor’s appointment as they dig and hack for your medical history simply for entertainment purposes?

I don’t know why I think about these things but I do. I think about how some celebrities, prominent figures, entertainers, and leaders in our society must feel at night when they lay down to sleep knowing that there are a lot of people out there in the world that would rather tear them down than see them thrive. Too easily we forget that people are human and deserve to be treated like they have a heart. Let’s try harder to support the entertainers we like but NOT pull down those we don’t enjoy as much. Instead of trashing them from our lofty moral seat, let’s just say, “I am not a fan” and keep it moving. The truth is our bashing, hating, disgust, and attacks say more about our internal issues than they do about theirs.

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Photo Credit: Seth Capitulo

Me Too: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of One Sexually Assaulted Girl

When the news first broke about Bill Cosby and the numerous alleged sexual assaults, like most of you, I read different posts and articles yet could not figure out what or even who I believed. At first, I did find it strange that so many women waited so long to speak out against Cosby. Why now? Article upon article questioned the authenticity of the women involved and many others desperately tried to defend one of American’s favorite TV dad’s. I am not sure why I personally questioned why the accusers waited so long because I too have been keeping my silence.

Growing up so many people watched The Cosby Show in the hopes of someday attaining the image of one of America’s successful TV families. If you were an African-American living during the prime of the show, you could not help but support and love it because there were not many successful African-American families displayed on TV. Overall it was an endearing show, so Black, White, Asian, or Latino, you probably also loved it. Therefore, when the allegations started pouring in, many people’s first instinct was to deny the reality that a man so adored and loved could have drugged and sexually assaulted so many women.

As more women started speaking out, I started to think that these allegations were less likely a coincidence or a lie. There were just too many women from too many different walks of life. If someone was “paying them” to do this, that person must be a billionaire because 39 accusers (and rising) amounts to a lot of money that I can’t imagine shelling out just to ruin another person’s reputation. From racial animosity to desperate claims for money, the accusers (for the most part) were vilified in the media by citizens and celebrities alike. Well, on July 6th, major news outlets reported that documents dating back to 2005 revealed Bill Cosby admitting to (1) obtaining drugs with the intent to utilize them on women and (2) that he used these drugs on at least one woman. With the release of his dated admission, every doubter, questioner, and supporter alike probably started to change their minds on the subject.

Although the release of these documents confirm the likelihood of sexual assault against numerous women, one major question still remains– why did the majority of the women wait so long to say something? Was it fear, denial, shock, the belief that no one would believe them anyway, or did some of them just lie to obtain fame? No matter what reasons the women have cited for their lengthy silence, some people will never understand or accept it. I feel even worse for the few women who started speaking out years ago and were silenced. Bill Cosby never assaulted me nor could I ever begin to explain or understand how these particular women felt throughout all their years of silence. However, I think I might be able to shed some light on why they might have waited so long because I too was once sexually assaulted.

This is the first time I am sharing this with more than a few people. None of my siblings know. The majority of my friends have no idea. I finally told my mom a few months ago and my father still has no clue (I think). To be perfectly honest, I hope he never reads or hears about this blog post because I think his heart would break, literally. Hopefully my story will help someone understand the emotional and mental maze that begins to form in the mind of someone that has been sexually assaulted. When the assault is by someone you have known for a while or respected for some time, the mental maze becomes even more complicated.

Before I begin, let me just say a few things. If you are reading this and you personally know me, please refrain from guessing who my assaulter is. Chances are you will be wrong and draw damaging false conclusions in your head. If you have more questions, contact me directly. Secondly and sadly, I have never brought charges against this person, so for that reason I will not include too many details. This post is more about shedding light on the emotional roller coaster that a sexual assault victim may experience. So with that focus, let’s get into the mental maze…

  • Shock: Without getting too deep into the details of who, what, when, where, why, and how (it would be very long and likely blow your mind), I will undoubtedly say that the first emotion I went through was shock. I never in a million years thought that I would be a victim of sexual assault. My assaulter was someone that I respected and interacted with on a daily/weekly basis throughout my high school career. My friends and teammates also highly respected this person and he was very close to some of their families. Never believing this would happen to me is probably one of the reasons my first emotion was shock. I watched movies and shows involving sexual assault and always imagined that I would use some major fight moves to escape such a situation if it ever happened to me. Sadly, my moves failed me.
  • Questioning: “What is he doing? What should I do? How do I get out of here? What did I do to give this person the impression that I wanted this? Were there signs about this person that I missed? What will my parents say? Will my friends– who love this person– believe me? Has this happened to anyone else? What will happen to this person if I tell? And the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, in my case, the biggest question in my head then (and to some extent now) is “what did I ever do to make this man do this to me?” Logically, I know that I absolutely did nothing. All my interactions with this person were always surrounding sports or life, yet this question still baffled me. I can only imagine how this question plagues the minds of other victims of sexual assault.
  • Blaming Yourself: This thought/emotion somewhat follows the many questions. Regardless of the innocence you know you have in the situation, it can be extremely difficult to refrain from second guessing how you handled the situation before, during, and after the act. For me, this person assaulted me numerous times, so I blame myself for not saying something to someone after the first instance. I always considered myself to be a strong person, so I was disappointed that I didn’t speak out after the first instance. Instead I worried more about how all my friend’s lives would change if I said something. This person was a father figure to some of my teammates and others depended on this person’s expertise to open doors for athletic scholarships. If I said something, I might ruin their lives, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I blamed myself for my silence.
  • Guilt of Ruining the Abuser’s Life: This one might be a little hard for you to understand. Since I spent a significant amount of time with this person, I knew a lot about this person’s life. He was not married, had no kids, had very few friends, spent most time working, and spent little time with siblings and family due to distance. Before the incident I often felt very bad for this person. My friends and I even spent time joking about how he should date different older women that we knew or how he needed to go partying with his friends and switch up the routine of work-home-work. I had pity and in a weird way I could understand how someone like this person could become desperate and dysfunctional. So when I was faced with putting this person in prison and destroying the little life he had, I couldn’t do it. In hindsight, I wish I did. No one deserves what I went though and he should have thought more about his life before he chose to assault young women.
  • Letting other people down:  As I contemplated whether I would speak up, I was torn between the right thing to do and the many people that would be devastated by the news. First, my parents. One of my parent’s biggest warnings and concerns was always to be safe at all times. They did everything they could to keep their children out of harm. How was I doing to break this news to them? I was afraid they would never let me go anywhere else throughout high school, and more importantly, that my little sister would never get to go anywhere without my parents panicking. So, I said nothing. Secondly, my friends. How would they take the news that one of their favorite people was a creepy assaulter? I didn’t know if he was assaulting them too. I tried to watch for changes in their behavior, but I couldn’t find any. In my uncertainty, I kept quiet. In the end, I confronted the person about it (it didn’t go well) and used my independence and maturity to navigate my way out of the assaults and away from that person. The sad news is that I couldn’t avoid being around the person on a weekly/daily basis so I pretended to be okay so that my friends would not figure out the truth.
  • Feeling tainted and unwanted: I know. This emotion/thought makes no sense. Because of all the varying ranges of sexual assault we see in the media, I thought that people might view me as scarred. How will my boyfriend (at the time) react if I tell him I was sexually assaulted? Will that image be in his mind forever? Will he still want me? I was a teenager and these were the thoughts running through my teenage mind. Sad, but true.
  • Comparison: Who am I to complain? At least I wasn’t raped in a back alley by some stranger and then strangled to death. At least I wasn’t molested by one of my family members. At least… At least… At least. You know the saying “someone always has it worse than you?” Well, this is probably a sexual assault victim’s worse enemy. Although what happened to me was traumatic, it was not the worse case of sexual assault that I ever heard. I was not drugged, beaten, or killed. Therefore, I kept telling myself to get over it and move on, to stop being sorry for myself and be grateful that something worse didn’t happen. Why ruin this person’s life and make a big deal when it wasn’t “that bad?” Right? It made no sense, but like I said, the emotions are like a roller coaster and the mind like a maze.
  • Alone and Misunderstood: Carrying the burden of silence sucks both emotionally and mentally. You really want to scream at the top of your lungs about the emotional confusion you are going through, but at the same time you know that you can’t bring yourself to say something (for some of the reasons already outlined in this post). Of course, I thought I never changed emotionally and believed that no one would see the pain that I was in. However, I may have been successful on the outside, but was failing miserably on the inside. It manifested in many different ways. I didn’t want to get up for school in the morning and was constantly late; I felt depressed behind my laughs and bubbly personality; I failed classes in school that as an A and B student I never thought I would fail; I overcompensated in other relationships because they felt safe; and I strained my relationship with my mom because she confronted me on different occasions about the “change in attitude” and of course I always replied, “I am fine.” For a long time, I felt alone and misunderstood. I isolated myself from certain people in order to cope and I would keep many people at arm’s length so they wouldn’t indirectly figure out my secret.
  • Depression: It is a great misconception that the only depressed people are those that never get out of bed, eat tubs of ice cream, cry often, isolate, and walk with their head down. Well, sadly, due to my little secret I can say that I struggled with depression from time to time behind my bright smile and all my laughs. This is not to say that my love of laughter was a facade, but it does mean that sometimes my laughter was to keep from crying. It also means that at night when the laughter stopped, I often cried. Yet on the bright side, I can unequivocally say that it means that my laughter and smile saved me.

The emotions and thoughts outlined above are only those of my story. Also, these are in no way a complete list of the possible emotions. I am sure that other people who have been sexually abused can relate, but I also know that I cannot and do not speak for every situation or every person.  It is sad that society and certain circumstances make it difficult for people to feel that they can speak out against respected and well-known people when they have committed wrongdoings.

In our society, some people are dishonest about sexual assault and try to use it as a means to retaliate against other people. Unfortunately, at first the 39+ women in the Cosby case were probably perceived in this light. Now hearing the truth, I feel sad that they had to carry this burden for so long. The emotional trauma that lingers throughout the life of someone that never had the opportunity to share their hurt and trauma is complex. It undoubtedly affected many areas of their lives that they might never be able to go back and change. They often carried the burden alone and had to figure out different ways to hide their moments of confusion, sadness, and even rage. Hopefully, at some point throughout their silence they were able to find healing. For any woman that sat or sits in silence suffering in the mental maze, I stand in solidarity with you.

Yes, Bill Cosby has done great things for American TV, African-Americans in film, comedy, philanthropy, and education, but he might also be a sexual abuser (Technically in the American justice system he is innocent until proven guilty). If guilty, his successes should not trump the pain he has caused many women. Let’s use this as a lesson and if you are still questioning why these women (if he’s guilty) or any other women of sexual abuse took so long to speak out about their assault, I hope that this blog post has at least shed a little bit of light.

If you know of someone who has been sexually assaulted and has had to keep it a secret (for whatever reason), or if you have been the victim of sexual assault, I hope that one day you will be able to share you story. You are not alone.

#breakthesilence

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Dealing with Crappy and Sh*tty Stuff

I was talking to my cousin the other day about some shitty things that have been happening in my life lately. Well, it’s more like crappy things happening to someone else that in turn affected me. I guess this area of my life has just been somewhat of an adventurous ride recently. Naturally at this point I feel the need to say that by no means is it the end of the world or a life-shattering development, but it still has the slight smell of crap (and what others might call “shit.”) But, I digress. After discussing my anticipated responses to the situation, the therapist in her pointed out that the positivity current moving through my mind was something to be proud of. I was a little surprised by her response because despite seeing myself as a positive person I know there are many people out there more positive than even me. Yes, I made the cardinal mistake of comparing my crappy situation and reaction to other people and I minimized my feelings to the too often heard phrase “someone always has it worse.” Nonetheless, I took the compliment and listened.

“Not everyone knows how to see their way out of a situation,” she said. She continued to remind me that too often people become overwhelmed by the moment as if given situations are the end of the world. As she spoke I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I too have been in those situations. I recalled all the times when I felt overwhelmed by the ignorance of tomorrow all complicated by the “what the heck am I going to do” thoughts. I also imagined all the moments in the future that I might be guilty of thinking that circumstances are the end of the world. However, as she spoke I realized the reason I was able to change my thinking from overwhelming and paralyzing to hopefully and positive. The answer: I had the privilege of living through enough tough moments to notice that they never actually were the end of the world. Guys, in some way “time” does have a slightly healing quality to it. If we allow ourselves to learn and mature in and from situations, wounds/pain are eased/healed in time, forgiveness is given in time, solutions are found in time, true love is discovered in time, and stability/success is found in time. Inevitably I will continue to have crappy moments in my life, but as I get older I have discovered that I don’t have to let my life become crap because of one crappy moment… or two…or three. Life is too short.

Another perspective I have tried to adopt during crappy times is the thought that maybe God is testing me. I always think that life is trying to see if I have learned anything in the time that I have been alive. Ok, this might be a weird collision of my belief in God and the teacher inside me, but I really do believe that something-someone out there is watching to see how we respond to “situations.” How else might you explain the fact that typically positive people go much further in life than negative thinkers? There is definitely something to be noted about the perseverance and success of people who find the positive in any given situation (even if they have to dig down deep to find it). For me, one word separates the times in which I am more positive from the times in which I am more negative — faith. Most people associate faith with God (which I personally do), but being hopeful doesn’t necessarily have to be that deep. Listen, I still doubt, question, get depressed, and discouraged about crappy situation, but I always try to conclude my personal pity-party with positivity and hope. I figure if this is a life test to see if I am capable of handling more success or more challenging portions of life I had better try to pass it by rolling with the punches, cleaning off the crap, and adjusting for the next move.

I remember reading about this man named Job in the Bible when I was younger. His life was utterly destroyed. Although he was a worthy man, he still experienced the loss of almost everything. Oddly enough the people around him were trying to get him to blame God and denounce his faith. He did end up crying and mourning his loss, but ultimately he never gave up his faith. I don’t know why but that story always stuck with me. Maybe it is because it seems bad things often happen to good people in this world. After hearing this story numerous times, I still had one question. Would denouncing his faith have saved him from having to experience negative things in the future? Personally, I don’t think so; I think he would have had to deal with both the good and the bad at some other point in his life.That’s life.

Ultimately, when I look around me I see both people who believe that life will get better and those that believe life will always SUCK. In the end, crappy things do happen to everyone. Maybe I am delusional but having the belief that there is always some light at the end of the tunnel, even if I can’t see it in the moment, somehow helps me eventually get through crappy times. If I didn’t think this way, I don’t know how I would handle life. I mean really; even watching the news for 3 minutes is enough to make someone transition from happy to crappy to hopeless. The good news is that for most crappy situations I have experienced thus far,  I can definitely say that there has always been a lesson, a blessing, or something greater on the the other side…. in time of course.

So, what tips do you have for getting through crappy times?

Picture Perfect Puzzle Pieces: A Story

“Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but it’s not. It’s all about getting rid of the darkness you’ve accumulated.” – Jo Oz @ozlifeadvice

I posted this quote a few weeks ago, but I had to revisit it because it presents such a different perspective on happiness as we know it. Let me begin by stating that I do believe that things and people have the ability to create happiness, or to at least encourage happiness. We would all be liars if we said this is not somewhat true. My family, friends, my wonderful future husband, and having a few extra bucks in my pocket makes me very happy. And to be perfectly honest, I look forward to and hope for more love and more money. Really, who wouldn’t? But when I look at society and within myself there seems to be this insatiable desire to chase happiness at all cost. We chase and chase even more without ever looking internally to examine the thoughts and areas of our past that may be preventing us from finding or sustaining happiness. Some of us still carry negative thoughts, defensive walls, warped perceptions, shallow vision, and sabotaging behaviors that often cause us to overlook and destroy the happiness right in front of us.

Story time: Imagine with me for a moment that you are sitting on the floor in the middle of a medium-sized room. On the walls around you are bright colorful pieces of art neatly arranged against white walls. Scattered in the spaces among these paintings are large framed quotes of what you later realize are successful people of our time. As you put your hand down to begin standing up you hear a crunching noise and the feeling of something small and sturdy beneath you. Around you are about 100 puzzle pieces randomly piled in all directions. Fascinated by the paintings and quotes, you begin walking across the room with your eye fixed on a frame entitled “Keys to Happiness.” As you get closer you notice the quotation is by [insert the name of a person whose success you admire and dream to have]. Eager to see more, you examine every piece arranged around the room noting every signature on the paintings and each name quoted in a frame. They are all from people you admire. Naturally, you begin examining your life and plot out what you might need to do to achieve the level of happiness expressed through every piece. How did they create such beautiful pieces? How did they create such beautiful lives? As you ponder on each piece, you begin to notice that the puzzle pieces scattered across the floor have a seemingly consistent color scheme. You see the shades of blues, greens, browns, whites, and yellows and realize that they might connect to create a larger image. Confused as to why they are randomly in the middle of the room, you begin looking around for a box or someone to explain the odd occurrence. Across the room you spot an intercom and are about ready to push the button when you notice something strange about one of the paintings. Now less then 12 inches away from it, you discover that the painting is actually made up of tiny puzzle pieces! Astonished, you look toward the floor, drop to your knees, and begin trying to assemble the puzzle. After five minutes of intense focus you pick up a few puzzle pieces and find a note: “If you can assemble this beautiful masterpiece, it is all yours.” Determined to own a piece of art, you painstakingly find each proper piece one at a time. While assembling the pieces, you notice that they do indeed fit together but are damaged thanks to you walking all over them. Nonetheless, you carry on building your masterpiece. Halfway through your impromptu art project you make a startling discovery – you are a part of the puzzle. Somewhat disappointed that you might not be building a “masterpiece” if you are in it, you still continue on curious to see what the entire image will reveal. Finally finished, you take three giant steps back to see an image of you with/in [insert the people, things, or places that you envision as your ultimate image of happiness]. In awe, you realize the beauty in front of you but also all the dents and rips you created as you crushed your own picture in pursuit of everyone else’s in the room. As you look around again, you now notice that every beautiful image and success quote in the room is made up of tiny puzzle pieces. Overwhelmed by the experience, you slowly sit back on the floor. While staring at your partially self-inflicted damaged image of happiness, you realize that your beautiful masterpiece could have been as beautiful as the collection in the room if only you had not been so quick to reach for the keys to happiness in someone else’s dream.

The moral of the story: Find happiness in the small puzzle pieces life has given you, because from them will come your image of true happiness. Borrowing pieces from someone else’s puzzle will never quite fit yours perfectly. However, what you can take from their puzzles are (1) the steps they took to learn how to love the puzzle pieces they were given and (2) how they used the small piece to create a beautiful personal masterpiece.

Jo Oz’s quote reminds me to not overlook the light that is inside of me. We have the potential to create the same bright happiness we see in others, but we have filled ourselves with so much “darkness” that we believe that our light is not bright enough to create anything similar. If we were to get rid of some of the “darkness,” I am almost positive that we would see the happiness in the small things, in the people around us, in the present situation, and in ourselves. We would move from chasing happiness to becoming happiness; having become happier, we will attract more happiness; and as we attract more happiness, we will look up one day and see that we are overwhelmed with happiness only to then realize that we never had to chase something that we already had. It gives new meaning to the phrase “I AM happy.”

15 Ways to Not Let a Breakup Ruin Your Life

Breakups are horrible. The heartbreak, the grieving of what once was, having to embrace a new chapter of life, and the constant reminders all feel overwhelming and never-ending when you’re in the middle of it. Well, I’m here to tell you that you do not have to let a breakup ruin your life. You will get through this.

The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. The feelings are painful and those of us that have experienced heartbreak can relate. It’s true that time heals all wounds (or at least reduces the sensitivity), so your first goal is to take it day by day, start the healing process, and let time work its healing power. 

So many of us have had our experiences with breakups. I can vividly remember those times in my life when I called my friends hysterically crying, barely able to form a full sentence, and gasping for air because my relationship just ended. In most cases, it felt like the end, like life would never be the same without that person.

Despite friends telling me “you will get over this,” it was very hard to envision the days when my heart would not hurt anymore in those moments. The truth is I always got over the pain, and eventually, I stopped crying. The breakup did not ruin my life.

The biggest thing that helped me move on was telling myself that I could not allow one unfavorable moment, experience, or chapter to overshadow the rest of my life. I had to live, get better, and move on. I believed it was crucial to my healing and to allow the next wonderful person to come into my life.

Every day I see people, both young and old, living life paralyzed and emotionally stuck because of a breakup. Some people recover and other people remain emotionally stuck in that pain, which hinders them from having new fulfilling relationships. Your better self needs you to heal.

You probably found this post because you are dealing with a breakup or its aftermath. You probably feel like this breakup is going to ruin your life. Whatever the case may be, just know that this breakup may bend you in all sorts of shapes but it does not have to break you.

Here are some thoughts to help you get over a breakup without losing your mind:

  • Keep building up your self-confidence. You are a beautiful person inside and in due time you will not have trouble finding someone else. If you are unhappy with aspects of yourself or your personality, know that this is a good time to refocus and work on yourself for YOU.
  • You can love them and move on. Understand and accept that loving someone does not mean you are always supposed to be in or stay in a relationship with that person. You can always have a love for them, but want a better relationship for yourself. And, that’s OK.

  • Be grateful for the lesson now. Start accepting the fact that things may not have worked out in the long run. There’s no point in holding on to something that will eventually fail. It will hurt more later, so think “better now than later.”

  • Surrender and trust in time. It’s possible that the relationship may work out someday if both parties have space to grow and mature. Or, this might be the end and it’s time to move on. Time may not heal all wounds, but it sure gives them a new perspective. All you have to do is get there. You may not understand everything about the breakup, but in time it will not hurt as much. So, get some rest (literally and figuratively) and believe that eventually one morning you will be at peace with it.

  • Good chemistry does not equal soulmates. Accept that having “chemistry” with someone does not mean that person is “the one.” Yes, the person who is the one will have good chemistry with you, but everyone you have chemistry with is not the one.

  • Feel it, then release it. Give yourself permission to feel the hurt, but don’t let it consume or paralyze you. Tell yourself you are releasing the pain, even if you have to tell yourself that every single day.

  • Accept non-closure. Don’t obsess about finding a reason why it didn’t work out. You may never know. If you are searching for closure, replace it with a search for the lessons this breakup is trying to teach you.

  • Learn the lessons. Identify those things you ignored or put up with that you should not have and learn from them. All relationships reveal something about you too.

  • Prepare for Second-Guessing. One moment you might feel like you’ve moved on and then boom, you start questioning everything again. Once you’re in that place, all it takes is a random text or call to get you right back in that relationship you probably should not be in. I’m not telling you not to get back into a relationship if both parties have learned and addressed the things that caused the relationship to deteriorate. You get to decide if you want to rekindle the relationship. However, if the reasons were MAJOR, keep it moving forward, not backward. (Sidenote: Also, blaming yourself for playing a major role in the breakup does not mean you have to go back and “make it right” or give it another chance. You live and you learn. Move on).

  • Refocus your life. If there was anything or anyone you neglected while you were with that person, go focus on that. Another option is to focus on something you always wanted to accomplish or a new goal. Whatever you do, try not to just sit around ruminating on what went wrong. An idle mind will find something to occupy it. You can’t get over them if you just sit around thinking about them all day.

  • Ask for help. Depression is a real thing. Some of the pain or broken-heartedness can lead to depression, which is common and induced by chemicals in your body. If you feel that you cannot handle the emotions or are having self-harming thoughts, please reach out for help. Talk to someone you trust or go see a therapist.

  • Envision YOUR new life. Sometimes the hardest thing is imagining the other person being with someone else. Truth is, you may not even want to be with that person anymore, but the thought of them being with someone else makes you feel strange and uneasy. So, instead of thinking about how you can’t imagine them with someone else, start envisioning yourself with someone else. Think about all the lovely memories and experiences you will have someday with that new and amazing partner.

  • Take your time. Don’t be so quick to give away your forever. Sometimes people are in poor relationships that repeatedly end in breakups because they are too eager to date, settle down, and get married. I understand that no one wants to be alone, but the rest of your life is a long time (hopefully). Take your time. Grow. Let your life unfold in the timing meant for your life.

  • Create new memories to replace the old ones. Go to new places and do new things with the people you love. In due time, you will see that your life doesn’t end when you go through a breakup. More importantly, you will start to see that your purpose in life is much more than one relationship with one person.

Remember, you are not alone. Many people have felt like a breakup was going to ruin their life and keep them on an emotional rollercoaster. If you have gone through a breakup or are going through one now, what are some other thoughts that help(ed) you get through it?

A Short Guide to Becoming Whole: An Essential Part of Success

Sometimes life can feel like it’s a glass filled with holes where happiness, faith, and hope slowly dissolve faster than we can really embrace them. If you live long enough, you will have times when life can leave you feeling incomplete, empty, and lost making it even harder to believe that becoming whole is a reality for you.

So, let’s first start with this: You are capable of experiencing wholeness. Period. And, you don’t need another person to start experiencing it. It’s within you and it is possible for you.

Why should you care about nurturing your wholeness?

Whether you are pursuing a goal, trying to become a better version of yourself, or working to improve your life and relationships, you will quickly discover that it takes physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual capital. You can get ahead in life as a broken, stressed, depleted version of yourself, but you will not get too far before wholeness starts calling for more attention.

Wholeness simply means to be in unity and harmony within yourself. It’s not about being perfect, having everything you need, and/or having it all figured out. It’s about knowing that you have (and can have) harmony within yourself.

Take a moment now and check-in with yourself: Do you feel a sense of wholeness within you? Have aspects of your life started eating away at your inner peace and balance? Are you in harmony with yourself? If you answered “yes,” then take note of what you are doing to maintain that sense of wholeness and protect it at all costs. If you said “no,” then you have some work to do to start creating space for wholeness within you.

But how? After spending countless hours of my early years assuming that I was incomplete because I didn’t have certain people, relationships, or material things, I started to realize that the journey to wholeness happens internally. It’s really just a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and healing. Once I started to realize that my wholeness already exist within me, I was able to start doing the work to accept it and ultimately accept myself.

Ten Ways You Can Start Finding Wholeness Now

To get you started on your journey, I’ve compiled a list of ten ways you can start entering into harmony with yourself. I hope this saves you some time and emotions. You deserve wholeness; your success in life depends on it. 

  1. Acknowledge areas in your life that leave you feeling incomplete and inadequate.

    This may take some digging and transparency, but it is an important step. Admission and acknowledge is the first step to recover and healing. Being honest about these areas helps us identify where we need to focus more attention to help us move forward.

    Remember, you can lie to everyone around you, but you can’t really lie to yourself. Even if we deny the truth about where we are, we know deep down inside what parts of us are calling for balance and better harmony. Take the time to listen to your soul; it’s always speaking.

  2. Consider the experiences that create feelings of incompleteness in your life.

    Once you acknowledge the areas that need work, go a little deeper and see if you can start the process of understanding where those feelings are coming from. This might surface some painful memories or negative experiences, but you need to do the healing work in order to move forward. Why? So you can take back that piece of yourself and your power that comes from wholeness.

  3. Identify negative behaviors or coping mechanisms that keep you from becoming whole.

    Sometimes we do not notice that we are not whole and need to nurture ourselves because we are so good at telling ourselves that we are fine. It is in the process of true examination that our behaviors can reveal where we are in misalignment.

  4. Consider your self-image.

    In order to become whole, or accept the fact that we are whole beings outside of the validation of others, we must first believe that we are capable and strong enough to become whole. Do you believe that you are worth of wholeness? What lies about yourself do you need to let go? We all have imperfections, but they do not mean we are inadequate; they mean we are human.

  5. Accept your uniqueness.

    It is so important to accept and find inner peace and beauty in the fact that we are created to be different. It’s not worth spending all of your time comparing yourself to other people since your life’s path is uniquely designed for you. Relying on other people to complete us is like trying to complete a puzzle with the wrong puzzle pieces. In the end, you will waste valuable time. The more you come into alignment with yourself is the more equipped you are to walk your unique path. Your journey to wholeness is connected to your success.

  6. Understand your reasons for wanting that relationship.

    I cannot write a post about wholeness and not address the fact that many people think that the only way to truly become whole is to have a significant other that makes them whole. Being whole is important to having healthy and strong relationships with other people, especially relationships with our significant others; however, you are responsible for your personal growth and development.

    Relying on another person to complete you usually results in stress in the relationship. Either someone ends up disappointed or one person gets lost in the other. Relationship math should not be 1/2 a person plus 1/2 a person equals 2 whole people. It should be 1 whole person plus 1 whole person equals a 2 person dynamic duo. This is not the Jerry Maguire “you complete me” goal; it is the “you help me see places where I’m incomplete and support me in becoming better” goal.

  7. Understand that people’s thoughts and actions are not always in your best interest.

    Most of our feelings of inadequacy are a result of what other people have said and/or done to us. Here is what usually happens: someone does or says something, we blame ourselves or internalize it as truth, and then we rehearse that narrative. If we are going go to become whole, we need to challenge and refine our inner dialogue.

  8. Don’t let society make you feel incomplete.

    Now this is a hard one. The images and norms that bombard us everyday can make it difficult to not feel empty or inadequate. I don’t know about you, but some of what other people possess is quite attractive. We have to be careful not to judge ourselves against other people’s standards. Trying not to internalize every thought and image that it is shoved into your face is one important step to entering harmony with ourselves. Whether you have the things you desire or not, wholeness is still within you. 

  9. Maintain your wholeness.

    Arriving at a place where you feel whole does not mean you will feel that way forever. It takes work to maintain harmony and balance. In a house, areas that go untouched accumulate dust and debris. If we don’t make time to check-in with ourselves and do the maintenance work, we will eventually find ourselves in discord with ourselves. Be willing and committed to investing in YOU.

  10. Protect your wholeness.

    This one is short, simple, and probably the hardest step. Protecting your wholeness requires work, energy, attention, and intention. You will be shaken and you will have times when people and things threaten your journey to becoming whole. Persist and fight through it anyway. If you don’t protect your inner harmony, no one else will. Keep the journey sacred and know that it will take you far. 

Hopefully, you found something in this post that will help you take a few strong steps toward becoming whole. When you start finding a sense of inner alignment and completeness, go out and encourage someone else to do the inner work to get there too.

Be patient with yourself and others; we are all looking for a sense of wholeness.

11 Questions to Help Clear Your Vision

Sometimes our vision can become cloudy without us even realizing it. Most days I wear contact lenses, but over the weekend I wanted to give my eyes a rest, so I threw my eyeglasses on. After about five hours of moving around my house, I noticed some dust particles starting to stick to the lenses on my glasses. Honestly, the only reason I noticed the specks was because the glasses almost fell off my nose as I bent over to set up my television for my Breaking Bad marathon. The dust wasn’t really bothering me, but I knew cleaning them was the right thing to do, so cleaning it was.

After mounting them back onto my nose with certain clearer vision, it dawned on me how important it must be to deliberately clear our vision in life as well. I started to wonder how clouded our vision must becomes over time from experience, people, emotional debris, and secondhand mental pollution. Vision = what we desire, what we believe, what we accept, and what we seek to reproduce. For the most part, what we believe, think, and desire are partially results of what we see, with hearing being the other culprit sense. The real danger lies in the fact that we might not be aware of how clouded our personal vision has become. Certainly it was not until I cleaned my glasses and noticed the marked difference in clarity that I became more aware of my blurred sight.

As we move forward in life and this year, do not forget to take the time to periodically clear your vision, whether daily, weekly, or monthly. One general way to evaluate clarity is by checking your life. Most times, our thoughts and intentions are reflected through our lives, through the people we choose to surround ourselves with, and by our overall productivity. Vision may not be completely adjusted overnight, but checking, evaluating, and realigning it (if necessary) usually does not hurt.

Questions to Help Clear Your Vision:

1. Are your relationships healthy?

2. Are you happy with how you spend most of your time?

3. Who are you listening to?

4. In what ways are you allowing society and those around you to influence your actions and life?

5. On an average day, are you thinking more positive thoughts than negative ones?

6. Do you know what you believe and are you confident in what you believe?

7. Are you as confident in yourself as you should be?

8. Do you have an idea of your next steps in life, whether small or large?

9. What is holding you back or weigh you down?

10. Are you healed from past negative experiences?

11. Are you happy?