Roles We Play and Dreams We Set Aside

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I audited an advanced acting class last night here in New York City.  The class was highly recommended by a friend I trusted and so I went to check it out with no expectations.  But little did I know, my mind was flooded by memories.

The moment I decided, I was not going to be an actress was a moment my grandpa said: “you will be an actress like your mom.” I didn’t think he was a fan of my mom at the time, so I figured: I’d rather be liked.  The thing about decisions like these, that we make in childhood, are that they dictate what is possible for us but we are mostly unaware of them unless we deliberately look at why we are stuck where we are stuck.

Fast forward to school days, I was in drama and loved it.  I even played a daughter to a now accomplished actress.  We were both rewarded for it.  I loved being on stage, but even then, I knew I had to find something that would have higher approval ratings.  Naturally, I started college as Pre-Med.  I never really knew what I wanted to become.  I think I was searching for titles that sounded good more than I was searching within for what would have me come alive.  A year or so into it, I was sitting with a friend in front of the school realizing: I really don’t want to be a doctor.  The next day I switched to Film Production / Media Studies Major.  Luckily, I already did all the hard requirements so I spent the rest of the college years invested in a subject that was of interest.

While still acting in numerous student projects, and fully enjoying it, I couldn’t admit that I liked it.  Flashback to a moment my uncle told me I was someone who constantly asked for attention.  Needless to say, I tried to tame that part of myself with all my might. I succeeded, in part, because I really stepped into the “behing the camera” personna and enjoyed it.  Even when I worked on 2 film projects after college, I closely worked with actors and was often asked to go in and be in the scene.

Hitting a dead end, in a way, shortly after college and graduate school when I was completely out of money, near expiration to my student visa and in absolute solitude, invested more in my eating disorder than anything happening around me, I took my first transformational class.  It made sense as I was already exploring yoga before that, but sitting in a weekend class with 100 other New Yorkers, I really got to see: I made everything up.  Things are not at all the way I see them.  People in my life maybe judged me, but that still wasn’t enough of a reason for me to react to that judgement and live my life to please them.  Little by little, I started reflecting on my whole life and numerous decisions I made as a child or young adult which prevented me from living my life fully self expressed, passionate and present.

Thanks to this work and my consistent expansion, I have created such a beautiful life: family I adore, business I am proud of and space for myself to heal all the broken pieces I felt I carried inside.  All along life was happening and I felt like an actress playing her part.  In fact, all that film and acting training I got in college came in handy with the transformational personal development work I was doing.

And then, out of the blue, as I was judging bad acting on one of the TV shows I was watching, the voice inside of me was nudging me to explore why I can be such a judgemental bitch at times.  Reflecting back, speaking to my husband who is likewise a coach, I realized, I may have given something up a time long ago afraid that I would never succeed.  This hit me as a ton of bricks because, honestly, I am already pretty busy, I don’t just raise my children, coach people and write, I also sing, draw and do yoga to name just a few favorite things…and yet, I could no longer do nothing about it.

That’s the thing with transformation, you reach insights that don’t even seem like a good idea. As someone who does her best to walk her talk, I at least have to lean into these insights and give it a shot. And that is how I ended up in an advanced acting class, feeling so humbled, shy, really dealing with the knowing that I don’t really know.  Sometimes, regardless of how masterful we feel we are in one area of our lives, it is when we explore the unknown that we learn the depths of what we are really made of.

Sharing this to see and ask if there are dreams you put on hold or set aside? Are you willing to maybe take a class or explore leaning into it even a tiny bit to see what you learn about yourself?

As always,

with gratitude for reading,

Marija

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10 Tips on Traveling with Small Kids Gracefully and on a Budget

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My family lived between Montreal, New York, and a few cities in Florida before we settled back in New York so, we travelled by plane quite a bit.  My kids are 6 and 3 and they have almost visited as many countries as my husband and I.  In a process, I realized a few things that made a huge difference in our travels overseas and I wanted to share it with parents who plan to travel.

  1. Always pack light: Travelling light saves us money as most airlines now charge for checked bag or heavy carry on.  Besides that, when we travel light, it’s easy to opt for public transportation that often gives us an experience of someone who lives in a city and saves us money (Ubers though often beat the price of regular car service or taxi so if you have an application, my advice is to check and compare).   We should absolutely bring all the necessities but eliminate the extras because it’s also nice to be able to buy something you really love and bring it home and people who pack tight usually end up having to buy and check extra bags.  If you travel on a budget, this will be both stressful and costly.
  2. Invest in direct flights: When I travelled alone, having a connecting flight or a lay over was never a problem.  Most adults can have a glass of wine, read or kill a few hours before getting on a next flight and have flexibility to reset if there is a flight change.  When you are with small kids, this is a huge inconvenience and I think it’s worth the expense when buying a ticket and avoiding having any chance of possibly missing the next flight.  What we love to do instead is to stay in the city we would normally have a lay-over in and give ourselves a day or so to do a proper visit.  Our time is far more valuable than extra cost of flying directly.
  3. Travel late at night: We made the mistake once to fly early in the evening thinking kids would sleep.  If the flight is under 10 hours, consider that it would take kids a little bit of time to get settled and fall asleep.  What was far more effective for us was to arrive at the airport early for a late-night flight.  We would have dinner at the airport, take time getting through security, let kids run around and get tired and then settle them to sleep even before we board the flight.  It worked.
  4. Perks of traveling with kids every parent should know about: When you travel with kids, you are allowed to bring in more liquid than 100ml due to children’s special needs, milk, formula etc.  What you must do, however, is present it to the security and allow more time for them to check it.  For those of you who travel with a baby under 2 years old, not only that you can avoid paying ticket by choosing to buy “infant in a lap” option but you can call the airline for overseas flights and request a free bassinet so baby can sleep.
  5. Pick a hotel/airbnb that offers free breakfast: The best stays we ever had were those that offered free coffee and breakfast in a morning. It’s not just about saving money, which is a nice, it’s that knowing you can have a breakfast first thing in the morning and offer choices to your kids allows you to wake up at peace and have some peaceful morning time before the day begins, you go on to explore or travel further.  We are a family of 4 so sometimes we even go to breakfast separately so we can each have more peace starting our day.
  6. Find the nearest grocery:  We always look for places with kitchenette or at least small fridge as that allows us to avoid restaurants with small kids.  But even in places that didn’t have a way to store food, we would always find the nearest grocery store and stock up on snacks, water, juice, wine if you wish, and fruits to avoid having to purchase things on the go.  Being prepared saves us money but also reduces potential stress of having to find things in areas where that is not likely.
  7. Check out all the FREE things in that city and be sure to see if they are kids friendly.  We get to see the best of the city when we walk around, use public transportation, or even better walk from place to place.  You will really get to see how people live and get to play with the natives in a way you cannot when you go from hotel to event to restaurant and back to hotel
  8. Be willing to change things last minute:  Parenting is not always easy but some things are best to be flexible with.  That said, we always have things in our calendar that are “sacred” and we don’t consider missing out on those.  What helps for motivation often is buying tickets in advance and allowing plenty of time before and after so you don’t feel like you have a packed schedule while on vacation.
  9. Always purchase travel insurance – may you never need it.  Contrary to what I expected, insurance is relatively inexpensive and it gives you freedom to let your kids be and not freak out around the smallest things or mishaps that could happen while away.
  10. Take lots of pictures:  Time goes fast and it’s always powerful to reflect back on things that you may have not been truly present to because you were accountable for making sure kids were ok.  So go out of the way to snap pictures because they will remind you of the good times and be a memory you can cherish for years to come.

Hope that this is helpful.  Traveling with kids is not always easy but I find it’s worth it and while I sometimes even complain or wish I can change the duration of my travels or the way we did it, I never ever regret actually doing it.  Bon voyage to all!

Why Apology Doesn’t Always Make Things Better and Yet It Can

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Triggered by seeing a Good Morning America host make fun of 6 year old Prince George, mind you, an heir to the throne of the long standing British Monarchy, I have found myself worried that people will see my comments on social media and disregard it as yet another troll fest.

Here is what happened:  An anchor Lara Spencer reported last week that Prince George has a very busy schedule in Fall taking all kinds of classes, among which is ballet.  She made a remark that he had to give up playdough and laughed about his interest in ballet, adding that she wonders how long this interest of his will last.

Here is why I requested of the ABC station, and chairman of it Rober Iger that she be suspended and taken off air:

  • she normalizes making fun of a child who is just 6 years old
  • she makes fun of boys being interested in ballet which sounds sexist at best
  • she gives herself permission to comment on children of another culture
  • she is disrespectful of the title and position this particular child
  • she goes on to apologize about it by saying everybody should do whatever they want, as if that is her place to do, we don’t ask her for negative feedback but also she is not qualified to give us initial motivation
  • lastly, she goes on air to say she was stupid thinking that will gain her sympathy and continues to tell us what she did this week as a response to what happened, which is really great but it makes no difference in the lives of all of us offended.

I don’t personally care about this anchor in particular and I am not on purpose holding a grudge.  I am merely pointing out why she offended so many of us and shining light on what she would need to repair.

Any apology, to be effective, doesn’t just need to be sincere.  It is also not enough when a person feels bad, on contrary, them putting their emotions in the space makes the person offended deal with other people’s emotions and not their own.

For the apology to work, the following should be true:

  • The apology has to be genuine, done because one can see the things from the other person’s perspective and not just because they don’t like that they mess up
  • The person who offends us, ideally, needs to get the full scope of what they did, because if they don’t get that, then they are not addressing the impact
  • They have to be humbled, they have to be willing to accept that they broke our trust or what the promised, or the safety of how we once used to listen to them
  • They have to give us space to digest what happened, along with their apology and then patiently wait for the dust to settle
  • Lastly, they can take action to repair the relationship they have with us rather than build the case for why they made the mistake, said in other words, the apology is about the victim not the offender and it has to be honored as such

This is just a basic mechanics of the apology.  The other day when I was riding a train, the person across from me was opening a bottle of soda that went all over the train and onto my espadrilles.  While I certainly don’t want to hold a grudge and know this was an accident, I was blown away but how much they insisted they were sorry, not allowing me the process to have my own feelings, one of which was: it really sucks to have my feet wet.

People often apologize in a very ego fashion, they can’t stand that anyone can think less of them so they show their remorse.  As children, we were often rewarded for feeling bad for our mistakes so it’s the conditioning that has been passed on us from past generations.  Regardless, the only thing that really works is not being sincere (this is all about being a good boy/good girl) but being powerful and willing to withstand that our actions have impacted another in a negative way.  When we can allow space for that, we allow space for something to be and in the space when something can be, we can actually feel peace, freedom and ultimately, resolution.

So next time you offend someone, instead of apologizing profusely and repeating your “I’m sorry’s” on a loop, say it once and ask how you can repair the damage caused.  You may or may not be able, or be committed, to doing reparing work, but at least this will allow you to be straight about it and then let the other person heal on their own terms.  At the end, that’s the least you can do for people you offended.

Please share with me how it felt to be on both ends of messing up and how you dealt with it in both situations as well as: did you feel good and powerful in the end?

Grateful for your comments and shares

Marija

You Are Exactly Where You Need to Be

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Ever catch yourself being  hard on yourself?  Expecting you have done more, better, different?  Feeling like you “should” be elsewhere instead of where you are right now?

I think it’s a common thing for people because despite my knowing better, I still experience it in my life. And with that knowing that we are exactly where we need to be, my mindset shifts and has been shifting lately in discovering the body of work I have done in my life time.  And trust me, it is a body of work, I am not  being pretentious.

You see, before I became a US citizen last year, and a legal resident in 2011, I have been struggling to belong living in New York and doing  all kinds things to make my way through college, graduate school, leadership programs, spiritual work: Reiki Master program, Vipassana mediation retreats,  Sivananda Yoga… I have been continuing my education just so that I can live here and have been told by so many kind older people that there was a light in me I often failed to see myself.  Somehow not having my green card in my hands, money in my account or anything published except for my Master Thesis, made me feel that none of the work I’ve done mattered.

Unlike today where we can zip everything into a digital file and have virtual instead of physical clutter, I carried some of my drawings, video tapes, keyboard and art supplies wherever I went.   At some point, in my anger around things not working the way I wanted them to work, I even  burned all my journals I have been writing since I was 8.  Also, the pictures from Disneyland from when I first came to USA as an exchange student where I was 30-40 pounds heavier than now (and heavier than when I was pregnant with either of my children), were lit on fire, because I didn’t want to remember myself in that way.  In short, I stripped all the fat from what I was doing so that I can be free to live and move and make sense of who I was and what I was doing next.

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I look at people who are influencers nowdays, and ,without calling any names because I believe it is their  right to do as they  please, I  wonder, why  is so much of what I see created today  lacking real substance and real content.  We didn’t have access to internet and technology that allows you to make  a movie  on your  actual  cellphone, so even praciting our  craft was far more expensive than it is today.  Which meant, we were often silent unless there was  something important we wanted to say.

That said, I do think there is a beauty in the way we grew up.  I think that my generation and those who came  before us are here to preserve the soul of humanity.  As much as  everything  is moving to this work on a  fly and embracing  our imperfections,  I think people  are having a  harder time creating a real connection and anxiety is running rampant.  You have to be able to create connection in reality and be at peace with yourself before you can  ever do that online.  Nothing will ever come ahead of human touch,  ability to be with  another, enjoying the nature and experiencing real peace.

And while I look through all my work that has survived my moves, decluttering frenzies, self-criticism and just mere convenience, I am certainly reminded that I carry a message for people who are still able to appreciate the work I do with each person individually.  I think there is a lot for us to learn and I am a fan of  technology but I definitely believe that we need to continually work on our relationship with ourselves and connection with others.

Proud Mama of a School Boy

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Later this morning, my son will have a ceremony to complete his Kindergarten and  officially become a 1st grader.  My emotions are running wild.  His  year was an adjustment for me and if I was to do it all again (which I will with my younger boy) I will definitely do my best to surrender more often.

Parenting can push our buttons in the most expansive of ways.  This year, it has pushed mine.  However, it also allowed me  to heal and appreciate not just the  work my son has done, but the work that I have done when I was his age as well as now  as his mom.  It helped me heal my inner child and do work to embrace my own past and see things from a different point of view.

Because all of us parents do what we think works, I insisted that my son complete his homework as soon as he came home from school, washed his hands and changed into comfortable clothing.  He had to read a book per day for school, and he read at least three.  His spelling tests were on Monday, he  mispelled a word  once the entire year and it was a silly mistake he often makes when he writes B instead of D.  We dealt with every issue that came our way with compassion and honest communication with him and his teachers.  We were, hands down, among the most involved parents.  The result of it is: his scores are all exceeding expectations, and he can easily do second grade reading and math, among other things.

All of this would be in vein if my son didn’t do his part.  “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.”  This year, I have had my butt kicked so many times to learn this lesson and understand that smart and independent kids will not just obey.  They need to understand why something is the way it is and what is expected of them, and they will remember, compare and challenge integrity of things and people because they are inheritely wired to be honest humans.

In some ways, I don’t know why I am crying except, possibly, to release the tension, the intention and attention that has been 100% tuned in to my son’s success without compromising everything else that happens in life. I can appreciate summer break in a whole new way because I think our bodies do need to stop, refresh and reset before they create a new project or see another mountain to climb.

All in all, I am sitting  here in the dark of the night and  quiet of a household with a husband and 2 boys sound asleep to just allow my emotions to settle, to pour my heart onto these pages and remind myself to appreciate every moment.  In our world  where things can happen with a push of a button, I think we often forget that things are not built over night, but rather take consistency of time and effort.  It feels beyond awesome that I know we gave our all but also see the wonderful result of a job well done.

Thank you to God/Universe for giving me this gift of being a mother, for partnership of my husband and everyone that supports us on this journey, my mom probably the most but also our family, friends, teachers, doctors and even random strangers.  Thank you for the beautiiful  and kind boys and the opportunity to raise them.  Thank you for the opportunity to  celebrate our hard work this year and acknowledgement for all the work nobody even sees that we do, but that we relentlessy do every day of the year.

 

 

Don’t Wait for Signs, Choose Your Life

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I reached out to one of my former coaches in desperation to figure out how to go from where I was.  Namely, in the past, I always had strong ambition and there was always a very clear goal in my mind:  

  • finish school,
  • become a leader, reiki Master, practice yoga, meditation etc
  • find love, keep love, get married
  • become a mom, have another child
  • Get my residence, citizenship 
  • Move to Montreal, move to the beach, move back to New York
  • Build my own business, create my own course 

Those are big goals… Achieving them had me feel like my life hit a plateau.  Here I am, I have all of this, and now what? 

In a meantime, I turned 40.  Birthing children isn’t in an of itself a goal, it’s a gift that keeps on giving (and demeaning my energy and attention, as well as mental power).

Becoming a citizen made everything easier, but most people where I live were already born citizens so having invested my time and energy in becoming one doesn’t actually put me in advantage. That’s a privilege many were born into.

Getting married didn’t have me now hold hands with my husband all the time, it’s merely a decision to be in the same sand box of life and work through things without storming out and calling it quits every time it gets hard.  It’s a challenge to never stop growing but to keep inspiring another person to grow with you and not apart.  It’s not a destination, it’s only a beginning.

All of this lead me to the question I was wondering lately that had me reach out to so many people I thought could help me figure it out:  what do I do now?  How do I combine all my talents in one thing I can always do, knowing I am in the right place at the right time? Who can I be now that I am all these things newly, a wife, a mom, a business owner and someone with big desire to create works of art? 

In my long winded letter to my former coach, where I just let it all hang, I expressed all my past fears, current limitations and palpable desires for the future.  I was pretty ashamed of sending that email at the end, but she was gracious enough to respond.  And this is what she said:

It sounds like you are having trouble making decisions, afraid that you will make a wrong one.  This must be impacting your life greatly and I think, given you want to  be free, you would want to resolve it

This happened weeks ago.  Despite knowing better, I always take things  personally at first. It’s my automatic, so often when I react to something strongly, I give it time.  As a personal coach myself, I was wondering, how in the world did she see that in what I wrote.  She was right and yet, I had no idea which part of what I wrote to her in that long saga triggered her to write what she’s written.

And then, suddenly, it hit me:  Everything we do in life is a choice, conscious or not.  If there is something we don’t like, we get to choose to change it, otherwise, whether consciously or not, we have chosen to tolerate it.  There is no truth about what each of us should or shouldn’t do with their lives.  Sure, some people are clearly talented for music, for example, so it is logical for them to invest most of their time and energy in that, but most of us other mortals, what we do and how we spend our time is really our willingness to do one and not another.  There is no innate truth in each choice, every one of the choices we can make has pros and cons, so trying to decide from the perspective of what is easier or better is really not the best way to use our mental capacity.  

Instead, we get to choose.  We get to declare: I am going to take on X and Y and not Z for the duration of time and I am going to give it all I got.  The moment we choose, and declare, giving it all is not a matter of our feelings anymore, but our integrity.  And yes, there will be ups and downs but if we have given our word to something, then that is where we play.  

I thought about this and then “OMG”ed myself realizing I was waiting for something outside me to give me signs, to show me the way, to approve of one thing I do against another, or to give me a perfect cocktail of coaching and art and healing things that I do so I can be satisfied and proud. I realized, there is nobody coming, nobody will save me, nobody knows it better than me and even better: I don’t know it either.  It isn’t about knowing, it is about  what I am willing.  

I hope this makes sense and a difference for you.  Perhaps take a pen and paper and write down your bucket list, write your desires out, put black on white what it is you want to accomplish and then pick the one you are willing to put effort in and keep on keeping on until you are satisfied and ready to choose something else.  Don’t wait for signs, choose right now!!!

With love and light

Marija

My Body, My Right

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I was blessed to have been pregnant twice in my life and to have had both of my pregnancies result in healthy boys I am now raising.  Some women were far luckier than me being able to carry full term, to enjoy their pregnancy and feel good throughout it.  My children were both born before their due date, my second even stayed in NICU for 2 weeks before coming home (it’s a story for another day).

Some women, on another hand,  are not so lucky. They miscarried many times, couldn’t get pregnant at all,  had to deal with IVFs or adopt to fulfill on their desire to be moms.  Others were clear they didn’t want the responsibility of raising humans,  or the timing or whatever it would take for them to remain pregnant.  They should have their desires fulfilled just the same.

As someone who was pregnant twice, here is whatI can tell you:  no matter how much we intend,  how healthy we eat and exercise, and how much we want to be on our best behavior,  we really don’t have control over how our pregnancy will go.  It’s a very humbling process and it helps to do our best, but it is, otherwise, completely out of our control.  Pregnancy and motherhood are the ultimate exercise in surrender.  To dictate what another woman does with her body, to tell her and punish her for what she should or shouldn’t do absolutely violates her human rights.

My first pregnancy was far harder than the second and in large, it was because how I related to the whole process, everything being new and me being unprepared.  I had to get naked and open my legs to be looked at so many times, it was a lot to handle.  In fact, the first time I had my ultrasound done, and heard the heart beat, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, my life was beginning to be more about this new life I was carrying and for which I now had to sacrifice.  I felt so much shame for having to be looked it so closely that. when the doctor left the room, I just leaned on my husband and cried.

My second pregnancy was far easier, I have done this transformational program for women which allowed me to appreciate women’s body so much more.   Over the course of weeks and months in #sisterhood, I was able to shake off my old relationship to myself and my body and build a new one, the one of adoration and respect.  It was million times easier to have exams as I no longer cared who could see me naked.  However, this way of seeing it took a lot of work on my part.

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I think the whole culture of mothering, as being a sacrifice, comes from taking women’s voice from them, judging us for the essence of who we are and wanting to control us.  A turned on woman is a whore; an independent woman is too much, and a shy one doesn’t get what she wants, to mention just a few labels.

While every pregnancy, whether it results in child birth, miscarriage or abortion, completely impacts our lives and the system at large, especially when unacknowledged, women are not factories and should not be treated as such.  No women should be forced to carry pregnancy she doesn’t want, whatever her reasons.  In meantime, for those inspired to save childrens’ lives, do something to end shootings in American schools and about men who harrass and rape women with little or no punishment.