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MommyDiaries: The Power of Giving

A friend of mine asked me, “So how’s motherhood?” All I could think of besides it being oh so tiring and busy, was that it was just so genuinely giving. You just give, give and give. Then when you think you’re done giving, you give some more. You’re a well without an end…always ready to provide. Perhaps because he’s still a newborn, but you really do get nothing in return. Yes, you get the blessing of motherhood; but that’s from God– not from your child. He gives you nothing but cries and packages every two hours with nature’s call. (She calls him…a lot!). He doesn’t yet smile so you feel like you’re at least getting something, and he doesn’t yet talk to acknowledge you. But still, there’s something so beautiful about this new but ancient bond. There’s still something unexplainable when he rests his head on your chest, soothed to sleep by the very heart beat that brought him comfort for 9 months within your womb. There’s something extraordinary when he can’t calm down with anyone but you, as if he’s telling you, “I know who you are, mama. I can smell (not only your milk) but your unconditional love.”

It’s a different type of love. You enter a relationship so you could get something out of it. Whether it be happiness, companionship or love. If you find yourself endlessly giving without getting anything in return, you’re often disappointed and that relationship comes to an end. But this is the beauty of motherhood (and parenthood in general). It’s a relationship that often feels one sided. Because once they outgrow the newborn phase and join the toddler, teenager and then adult club, you’ll still find yourself giving. You’ll always find yourself giving. And the beauty of it all is that you want to keep giving. Even if there’s nothing left to give, you’ll dig in the treasure that is your heart and you’ll find something. Why? Because you’re a parent–a mother…a giver.

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Social media on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

Jason Howie

Everyone’s a celebrity nowadays.

It seems as though half the people on Instagram have at least 15K followers. And what’s interesting to me is, they mostly happen to be “fashionistas.”

All it takes is one photo that goes viral for you to become this social media goddess. People start to idolize you. You start having meet and greets— and for what? For posing with a pretty dress. I’m sorry, but that’s really all it is. And what message does this send out?

It says that as long as you’re “pretty” you can be influential. As long as you’re good with makeup and have nice clothes, you’re powerful and people want to be like you. As long as you have all of these likes, you will be successful in anything you do.

I remember meeting a woman who apparently had over 150K followers on Instagram for her makeup videos. I didn’t know that. She looked at me as if I stabbed a knife through her gut.

“You don’t know who I am?” she said sharply.

“No, sorry.” I said, trying to think of a way to sound less offending. “You do look kind of familiar, though.” I lied.

“I’m Instafamous…I’m sure you follow me.”

But I didn’t follow her. I don’t follow certain profiles for many reasons (but that’s for another rant). Besides, they end up on my “explore” page, whether I like it or not. One of the reasons I do this is to make a statement that I’m not with this omg-I-have-to-follow-her-and-like-every-thing-she-posts-I-wish-I-can-be-like-her idolizing.

You want people to admire you for what you do; not for the way you look. Your “fans” (though I prefer the term “supporters”), shouldn’t start screaming crazily when they see you; they should run to thank you for helping make a difference in their life. When you meet someone you’ve always wanted to meet, do you tell them, “Wow. I love your makeup?” or do you tell them, “Wow. You changed me.”?

Have a following for your mind; not for your body. Let people admire YOU; your skills, your talents; not for your appearance.

“Top most beautiful women on Instagram” are titles of articles I start seeing. Really? I don’t mean to say that these women aren’t beautiful, but is that all they are? (Unfortunately a lot of times, they allow themselves to be just that). But is that what everyone aspires to be? First, it was magazines and commercials that brainwashed our society into thinking what beauty meant and how we should acquire it. Now, in addition to that, we have social media— and due to its sole reliance on photographs, it’s mostly Instagram.

So as I scroll on my Instagram feed, picture after picture, I often come to a stop.

What am I doing? 

Why do my fingers automatically tap the Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter app before I go to bed, as if it were some sort of holy ritual? We’ve come to a point where we literally enjoy watching other people live their lives more than we actually enjoy living it ourselves. We’ve become obsessed. We are creating this celebrity culture and then complain, “What’s wrong with our society? Why does everyone want to dress/be like him/her?” 

If I find myself robotically scrolling on my news feed, on either Instagram or Facebook, I have to remind myself to stop. I don’t want to be used to this. I don’t want to wait for someone to post something interesting about them for me to feel like I quenched my curiosity. I hate the idea of (unconsciously) obsessing over other people’s lives; it makes me feel so vulnerable.

So to organize my thought-storm, as usual, I ranted via the way I know best— through pen and paper (or rather, mouse and keyboard).

MOST OF THE TIME, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME

Why is it that we need someone to stalk? Why do we care about watching a 45 minute vlog about someone’s honeymoon? (Besides, last I remember, that’s supposed to be a private, intimate time but that’s also for another rant). Why do we need to watch her husband do her makeup with a blindfold on? I’m sorry to say this, but we genuinely are wasting our time. (Besides, he’s got the eyeliner all wrong).

When we don’t want to use our brains, we often look for things that don’t require much brain-work. We just want to switch it off, so we look for anything to just kill time.

We look for endless ways to waste time and then wonder why we don’t have time for anything.

Us humans, we like to know things. We’re nosy about knowing personal information about other people. We care in an overly-obsessive kind of way, which quite frankly, I find a little sad. We want to know how this certain celebrity goes about spending their day. We want to know where she shops, what she buys and what she carries around in her purse. (Omg, I have to get the same brand of tissues she carries around)

Creeping into people’s lives and letting them know that you are, giving them more motivation to let you creep, honestly shows how much you don’t have a life– and that’s a little sad.

So why accept that type of humiliation? Live your own life. Vlog if you want to. Don’t post it; just keep it to yourself. Treasure your own memories. At some point, you’ll find yourself sitting at dinner with a friend, talking about all the adventures you know happened to other people. So make your own adventures. Pick up a book. Learn something new. Write your own story. Yes, we should all get to know one another and read each other’s stories, but you cannot let dust collect on your empty-paged-book because you’re so busy reading about others; there needs to be a balance. Your story matters as much as anyone else’s.

YOU FELL FOR IT; YOU THINK THEIR LIFE IS COOLER

Yup, you fell for it. Don’t you feel a little silly? You think their life is perfect. How could it not be when they’ve got that many followers that adore them, right? Wrong.

Some people actually have hours-long photo shoots just so they have one nice picture to share on Instagram in hope of it going viral. A lot of times it’s such a fake portrayal. There was a video I recently watched of a model who decided to “quit social media” in which she confesses that she once posted a photo of going for a jog, and even after it rained and she cancelled the jog, she kept the post up so it looks like she did it anyway. Wow, she’s so fit and healthy, you’ll think.

I know of a couple who was actually preparing for a divorce after a major fight, yet the wife, still, shared constant pictures of their “happy family” with captions as if their life was flawless. Don’t be fooled. Don’t judge; just be critical. No one’s life is perfect— but no one is going to advertise that. They will let you know when things are going well; but they rarely let you know about the tough times, unless they’re asking for your prayers.

We assume this perfect profile, when in reality, it’s an imperfect portrayal.

People choose what to make you see on their social media. They’re their own gate-keeper. They censor each word– each post. It’s all superficial. They’re going to post smiles, not frowns. And most importantly, they’re often going to post successes, not failures.

YOU’RE GIVING YOUR UNCONSCIOUS SUPPORT

In a way, you are in control. And most of all, they’re going to post what they think YOU want to see/hear/read.  They’re not going to post something if it doesn’t get any likes. They’re not going to keep posting husband-sister-brother-mom-tags if no one watches them. You’re giving your unconscious support.

It’s a never-ending cycle. We cannot point fingers at those who are “Instafamous” or people who have a large following on social media and not look at the followers. We are the followers. We’re the reason it’s so successful.

Our support is the fuel that keeps this phenomenon going.

So is it wrong to follow someone? Absolutely not! We’re all in this together; we need to support each other. But we need to be sure we’re following them for a reason. Don’t just “like” them because everyone else does. Ask yourself why you’re following them. Am I following them because they have something meaningful to say? Do they make me want to become a better person? Do they remind me of what’s important? Or do I just follow them because I like their eye colour and shoes?

YOU’RE TEARING APART NOT ONLY YOUR’S, BUT OTHERS’ ESTEEM

It has such a profound impact on us. We are being affected without realizing. We, all of a sudden, want more things so we have everything they have, start to feel insecure about ourselves and start subconsciously judging everyone else . She’s not as pretty; her lips are too big; her eyes are too small; her nose is not centered. And that is not the way I want to think about anyone and I certainly don’t want anyone thinking that about me.

When you constantly look at these “made up” images , you’re not going to want to leave the house without at least a little bit of concealer; even if you don’t need it. You’re going to start asking people why they look “sick,” just because they don’t have the amount of makeup everyone on Instagram has.

Am I saying we should quit social media? No; social media has immense benefits and that’s not what this post is about. We should, however, quit obsessively stalking other people.

It’s obviously O.K. to have followers and to be followers. But it’s not O.K. to idolize someone just because they woke up one day and found their profile flooded with likes and comments.

FYI: If you had a lens that blurs out the background, your pictures would look that much cooler too. If you posed next to a tree with your outfit with some makeup and possibly a filter, and it gets picked up by an account with a large following, you could probably get that many likes too. But that’s not the point.

The issue is that we hand out fame based on beauty, and unfortunately, a lot of times it’s artificial. It’s the difficult truth no one likes to discuss. We cannot let social media define beauty. We cannot let Instagram decide who’s the fairest of them all.

 

How not to be a robot; balancing work and life

Wash, lather, rinse, repeat.

Wake up, go to work, go to sleep, repeat.

Sounds like a robot, doesn’t it? Anyone in the working life can attest to that. You do the same thing, every day. You can’t tell the days apart from how similar they’ve become.

You see, work has taken over our lives. You’re at the dinner table, and all of a sudden, the table starts shaking. No, it’s not an earthquake; it’s your phone. Or rather, it’s your boss. You thought the day was over, but here’s an email explaining that something urgent came up and that you must address it immediately. There goes the quality time with family you thought you were having tonight.

Then, the next day, you’re doing the night shift. You glance at your spouse for a mere, blurry second as they leave early for work (you’re in bed trying to get as much sleep as possible to stay awake at work) and you get home after midnight when they’re sound asleep. I’m not going to wake him, you think to yourself. Besides, he’s so— zzzand you crash.

For those of you in the beginning of your careers, know that you’re probably going to be working a part of your anatomy off for a while. But the fear is that it will never end.  A lot of people say, “Oh, it’s just the beginning.” But then why, 30 years down the road, do I still see people doing nothing but work?

For a lot of people, work is their way of contributing to society. It’s their way of making a difference. But for a lot of other people, work is just a way of paying the bills that results in no other time for 1). things they really want to do and 2). being human. As a result of our usually praised workaholic society, we are risking our relationships, health and overall happiness. So it’s not about “dreading” going to work or not wanting to; it’s about having that balance, as we should in every aspect of our lives.

One of the top 5 regrets of dying people was: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. So how do we not live life like robots?

I’m a complete rookie to the work life. But from what I’ve seen thus far, this is what I think will help me stay passionate about my work without sacrificing every other element in my life.

Here are 5 ways to live and and work efficiently ever after:

1). When you’re at work, be at work

If you treat your however many hours you’re required to work with perfection, you will get your work done and will have less “homework” to do at home. The key is to try to be efficient and to eliminate distractions. If you have a lunch break, don’t go beyond the time allocated for it. Don’t waste time at work. You want to excel at your job. Do the best you can and once you’ve done that, try even harder. Some days you’re going to have work more than others, and that’s O.K. as long as you’re aware when and how often it’s happening. (Not so you can be paid overtime but for your own assessment)

2). Schedule everything in

I  mean it— everything. That doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous, but that means you’ve prioritized what’s important to you and you’ve actually allocated time for it. Make use of every minute of every day. According to a TIME article, research shows that the happiest people are busy — but don’t feel rushed.

Use a weekly schedule and decide what you want to do daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. That can include -but is obviously not limited to- yoga, visiting family, catching up with friends, volunteering, spiritual gatherings— anything you want to do or any hobby you want to continue taking part in. You may not get to do everything every week, but you’re going to try. And if you miss it, a small part of you will feel guilty so you’ll try not to miss it twice in a row. Efficient people have planned schedules but aren’t afraid to break away from them when necessary (remember that).

3). Where’s that bucket list?

Remember the list of things you’ve always wanted to do before you turned 30? (And now that you’ve turned 30, it’s now up to 40…) Get to it! Going skydiving or starting on that novel you’ve always wanted to write (or whatever it is you really want to do)— do it now. It’ll make you less resentful. Even though you’re working long hours, you’ll feel satisfied knowing that you’re accomplishing the things you’ve always wanted to accomplish. It’ll make you feel less like a robot…more free-spirited. You’ll feel like you’re in control. You’ll feel excited and if anything, you’ll be excited to go to work and brag about what you’ve done over the weekend.

4). Me, me, me

(I know, if you’re a mother reading this, you probably want to shoot me right now. ME TIME? IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!) But really. Have some time for your own sanity. Turn off your phone and write in a journal; go for a jog; sit under a tree; read a book; or just sit and do nothing. Reflect. Assess how you feel. Don’t ignore that little voice in your head that asks you every day, “are you happy?” “are you becoming a better person?” They’re trivial questions that may need some time to be answered.

5). Urgent vs. important

Simply put, decide what you need to do now and what can wait until later. Often times, you’ll realize it’s not really the end of the world and time is on your side— for once.

The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

At the end of the day, you really should love what you do. But it’s important to realize that work isn’t the only identifier that speaks to who you are. You work so you can have a life, you don’t have a life just so you can work. We’re not machines, but without the proper balance, we can eventually breakdown.

It’s not about the wedding; it’s about the marriage

Funny FYI: this photo, although in our wedding outfits was not taken on our wedding day...it was taken on the 11th day of our marriage.

Funny FYI: this photo, although in our wedding outfits was not taken on our wedding day; it was taken over a week later.

I was obsessed.

The flowers have to be champaign pink with a hint of cherry, the bridesmaids have to be wearing flowy lilac gowns and my dress has to be the only one ever created— even if it costs me the car I could’ve bought.

The idea of a perfect wedding was a hazy picture that slowly came to focus as I started to open this new chapter of my life. Now that I was actually with the man I’m about to spend my entire life with, the 200mm wedding zoom lens instantly switched to a 10mm marriage wide lens. All I saw before was an extremely zoomed image of a wedding. Then, as I switched lenses and saw the bigger picture, there was so much more to see in my viewfinder. So much, much more.

I saw us holding the key to our new house after finally being able to save up for a down payment. I saw a home filled with children and weekend family gatherings. I saw being there for him when times got hard. I saw him picking me right up when I came tumbling down. I saw both good times and bad times. I saw life; I saw marriage.

At that moment, I realized that way too often, we confuse marriages with weddings. A marriage isn’t about flowers and matching dresses. It’s not about extravagant favors, limos or fireworks as you dance. Marriage is work— very hard work. But that feeling of peace and tranquility you get as you lay your head on the pillow each night, knowing you both are giving it all that you can, makes it all worth it. Is it the easiest thing to do? Absolutely not. But is it doable? Absolutely, yes. It’s not going to be rainbows and sunshine everyday; but it doesn’t have to be a thunderstorm either.

I’m not going to say I stopped caring about our wedding. I still wanted a beautiful celebration with my friends and family to celebrate what’s supposed to be the most magical day of my life. And did I get that? By the grace of God, yes. I had a BLAST at our wedding. Though I always imagined my wedding and my dress to be the most extravagant (as I pinned all that I’d like to see at my wedding on Pinterest like we all do…ehem…), I don’t regret not spending our entire life savings on a 5 hour party (that is what it is, right?). And besides, I’ve seen much humbler weddings. I’ve seen no weddings at all, actually.

It’s sad that some people think that the amount of money you spend on your wedding directly correlates with the amount of love you have for each other. (Or even worse, correlates with how successful your marriage will be).

When I got a compliment about our wedding, I was obviously ecstatic to hear it, but I had nothing to do with it. It was everyone’s presence that made it so memorable. It had nothing to do with my bouquet, the lighting or the half chocolate, half vanilla cake (okay, maybe the cake had something to do with it…). The details you spend weeks and months finalizing often go unnoticed. People are not there to see how much you spent; they’re there to join you in celebration.

If we spend the same amount of time perfecting and exploring the details of our relationships as we do for our weddings, imagine how low we can drag the divorce rate.

Instead of worrying about the perfect centrepiece, perfect the central piece of your marriage— love and respect. 

A lot of us want to be married, but we just don’t seem to think beyond the ring. We need to open our eyes and see beyond the weddingdespite that shiny diamond getting in the way, often blinding our judgment.

Slowly, I came to a realization that a wedding is about being a princess for one night, but a marriage is about being a queen forever— and I’ d much rather the latter.

Weddings are given this holy sense of perfection. You must look the best you’ve ever looked (even if you look nothing like yourself); and it must be the most magical day of your life (even if you won a nobel prize). Like we all do, by God’s will, I hope to live a great life. I plan on having adventures and accomplishing great things. So was it the “most special and magical day of my life?” I certainly hope not.

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