With Christmas around the corner, people are scrambling to find the best gift for their mother, father, daughter, son, husband, or wife. Every year Christmas begins earlier and every year it gets more and more out of hand.
This year, my mother gave the best Christmas gift I've seen yet, the gift of shelter, family, and love. She opened her doors to a family member in need. Sure, many people might say, "I would do that too. I would do anything for family." It's much easier said than done. She has actually walked the walk.
It's also just a coincidence that her generosity has landed right before Christmas because, quite frankly, she is always generous, no matter what she is dealing with. My mother is a breast cancer survivor, she has survived a divorce from 25 long years of marriage, she survived my ungrateful and unpleasant teenage years, all while working in corporate America. She is a survivor and although Life hasn't handed her an easy ride, her heart never ceases to grow over the years.
As cliche as it sounds, physical presents don't mean shit. Yes, I buy gifts for my kids and husband and yes the thought behind gifts can be meaningful but it's the actions and behaviors when Life is pounding down on you, the way you react and interact with people in need that displays your true Self.
My mother opened her doors to family with zero hesitation. This person never had a room to them self, never a closet to place clothes, no home cooked meals, no family time in the living room. She has given all this and more as a gift, straight from her heart, all out of love and kindness. Could I do that? Maybe. It's hard for people to admit that they might hesitate and it's so much easier to say, "I would do that too."
You never really know until someone in need comes knocking at your door.
This year, the greatest gift I've seen given is by my mother. She continues to blow me away even as she grows older. She continues to teach me even though I am already 30 years old.
I hope she realizes the value of her gift but honestly, she isn't thinking about it that way. She is just giving the love she knows best.
The holidays are here and with that comes the joy of magical festivities, the sweet sound of Christmas carols, beautiful lit streets with the wet reflections of bright lights, and...oh yes, I almost forgot...spending time with family.
I'm going to be frank here, because that's what I do best. It isn't always blossoms and butterflies during the holidays especially when you have multitudes of diverse personalities in a cramped room, sipping on egg nog, and attempting to make small talk. Come on folks, they don't make those ridiculous family holiday movies every year for nothing.
Where am I going with this?
My 2017 holiday season didn't started out the way I hoped however I have had some time to think about it and the older I get the more I realize what my very wise Aunt has been trying to teach me since I was young:
(Yoda Aunt Becky, wise she is.)
The most important thing that crossed my mind while experiencing this less than ideal beginning of the holiday season: so many people in the world have way worse situations than me. Although it may not always be blossoms and butterflies, I definitely live a Life full of them. I personally know people who've lost loved ones a week before Thanksgiving so now they're forced to experience their 2017 holiday season never seeing the people they love and care for again.
So in the grand scheme of things, who cares that something didn't work out the way I hoped. I am breathing, living, happy, painting, dancing, and damn excited for a magical Christmas morning.
Happy Holidays and when the holidays get you down, drink some egg nog and sing your heart out to Christmas carols and just remember, there are some people sleeping outdoors with nothing left. (But you can be that person to make them smile.)
Peace and Joy,
So why am I writing this and who is it for?
I am writing this because, as a human, I experience emotions like frustration, anger, devastation, despair, and to put it simply, I get pissed off just like everyone else in the world. Does this make me a bad person or weak? Everyone from Christians to Buddhists, daughters to grandmothers, and even "chillers" experience some degree of these feelings at some point in their life.
This blog is to whoever will listen, to those of you dealing with the same thing, and to those of you who are the cause of such frustration. It's ultimately for anyone to read.
This blog post is a true factual story. One that must be told. You might say that telling such truths about people are stooping to their level: I couldn't disagree more. There are just some actions that are so disturbing, it's not possible to stoop to such levels.
Stories and events must be told. If they never were, history would not have been written and we wouldn't be able to connect with others on such events and grow strong communities to combat them. I am a firm believer in Buddhist concepts such as compassion and forgiveness. I am here to tell you that you can practice compassion and forgiveness and still tell the truth about a situation to bring enlightenment to those dealing with it.
Here is my story:
I met my husband in 2010. I met his family including his 3 year-old son and they welcomed me with open arms. My husband's mother and stepfather were happy to involve me in all family parties and holidays and I was truly grateful.
I also met my stepson's mother, the baby mama. As usual and in most situations, there was and is lots of baggage. I tried to steer clear and respect boundaries.
Something that stuck out to me in my husband's family was the relationship between his 3 year-old and my husband's mother and stepfather (the 3 year-old's grandparents.) Their relationship was solid, strong, and loving; a presence I never had with my grandparents. It amazed me how involved and close my in-laws were with their grandson and it brightened my heart.
Until the Winter of 2011: My husband's baby-mama had an affair with his stepdad (with grandpa.) This is still happening today, July 7 2017. (Think about it for a moment and let it sink in. You might need to draw a diagram or a family tree.)
Have I stooped to that level by writing this? I think not.
The affects this disturbing behavior is having on now my 10 year old step-son are astronomical. Not to mention all the in between conniving and manipulative behavior these disturbing parties have had the audacity to demonstrate.
It's only getting worse and the affair has been a 6 year catastrophic event/relationship. If anyone can think of a reason this type of behavior would ever be morally okay, I would love to know. What I do know: all the people affected by this disgusting situation were not even close to deserving it.
Affairs are very common. Affairs that happen within a family unit are troubling, almost sinister.
All of you who are dealing with similar challenges are familiar with the list of horrible events that unfold:
This is not an exaggeration. Yes, there are always two sides to a story but...mommy and grandpa together. I don't think I would care to hear that side and I know the reasons would never suffice.
Maybe they are deeply in love, Romeo and Juliet style?
Nope. There are facts and details that prove this wrong and sadly it all affects the one person that shouldn't have to deal with such adult dramas: the child.
So Now What?
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
When people hear this they ask:
Have you tried explaining to the disturbing parties the affects on the kid?
Maybe explain how it's wrong?
Tell the court!
And on, and on.
None of it has worked and it's utterly pointless in the end. All of you dealing with similar situations know what I mean. When joint custody is involved, it's simply not your business or jurisdiction when the child is with the other "parent."
So the "now" is to continue to live with this hardship. Continue to maintain a true strong family unit, continue to learn from such behaviors and teach our children how hurtful and wrong they are, continue to build a foundation of trust and love, to combat this disturbance with love, to acknowledge it as a test against faith, compassion, love, and forgiveness, and above all to continue to bring to light that such events are plain and simply wrong and build stronger communities of people who are forced to deal with such evil.
This is a true story. I am living it and have been for 6 years and by the looks of things many more to come. If you are dealing with similar disturbing and intolerable human behavior, you are not alone. There are ways to find peace, there are ways to forgive, but it's okay to feel the frustration. Now that is a normal feeling and behavior.
Reach out to discuss and bring these events to light: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Sterp
Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/eye-shading-head-girl-eyebrows-716008/
Like all relationships, my Mother-In-Law and I cannot say that ours has always been perfect. I have learned over the years that all relationships take commitment and compromise in order to be called successful. I have also learned that any type of relationship can become successful if it means something dear to you.
The Mother-in-Law Daughter-in-Law relationship has always been a point of discussion and sometimes can be quite a challenge. I am fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law who adores me as I do her. Have we butted heads over things? Of course but I have realized at the end of it all it is all because of one thing: we are both extremely passionate about our families and our love is so strong that sometimes in can get overwhelming.
My mother-in-law is one of the few people who has really helped me in learning to understand others’ perspectives and to have compassion even if I would rather be stubborn. A “perfect” relationship with her would have never taught me some of the core values I stand by today. This might sound cliche, but our relationship is stronger than ever after 7 years of mostly positive and a few challenging situations. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
To those of you who have mother-in-laws and are having a challenging time, here are some ways to transform your situation into a more positive one:
1. Always Remember, It’s All Out of Love
I cannot stress this enough. The few hurdles my mother-in-law and I had, I needed to step back and remind myself how much she loves our family and me. Again, I am fortunate enough to know she truly does love me and I do her so this reassurance can be extremely helpful in sensitive situations. Once you remind yourself of this, then her perspective begins to make sense and you can move to Tip 2: Be Compassionate.
2. Put Yourself in Her Shoes (Be Compassionate)
Sometimes it is totally okay to stand your ground on an issue however there are more than plenty of times when compassion and compromise can go a long way. Most conflicts are not going to be the end of the world and God Forbid you make a compromise! Stepping back, removing your ego, and being compassionate, will allow you to feel and do things you never thought possible. Put yourself in her shoes and think about how she feels in the situation. For example, in my case, my mother-in-law has a total of 3 children. My husband is the only one at the moment who has given her grandchildren so we are the only ones who have created a solid family structure for now. This is what she absolutely lives for and I am learning this about grandparents. It is okay to compromise for grandparents because they give their entire being to their grandchildren.
3. Have a Face-to-Face Discussion
Rather than hashing it out over text or the phone, meet and discuss your challenges in person. This is the best thing you can do and do it alone with just the two of you. There’s not much more to elaborate on with this one. Just step it up and be brave.
4. An Act of Kindness
Put your ego aside and take her to dinner or buy her flowers. Might sound petty but it isn’t. This will make her feel better and it will even make you feel good. Why would you want some long drawn out battle when this is your family? I know conflicts can get ugly and contain lots of tiny details but this isn't the point. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. An act of kindness can really mend a relationship and can become the beginning of a successful one.
Relationships are very complex and the history of one can be sensitive. I don’t know everyone’s situation. I do know some people have truly bad relationships with in-laws that come from a place of hate but I promise you these 4 tips can even help with those. I am grateful that the 7 years with my mother-in-law has be 90% great and 10% challenge. Think about all your relationships with people who you truly love…have you ever had a conflict with them? I am laughing out loud just asking that question. I have had conflicts with every person in my life that I love and it’s because at the end of the day we have a deep affection for each other and sometimes we just get too passionate. Be thankful for the imperfections because they will teach you values that would otherwise not exist.
Written by Sterp
The unfortunate truth: I was underpaid, overworked, and was expected to put my baby aside. My family and friends would say I am a perfectionist. I have always loved school and graduated from UC Santa Cruz with honors. I have always been dedicated to any job I have and willing to learn new skills at home to be the best at what I do. I love working. I love to have large amounts of responsibility and I am damn good at managing them.
The best part about teaching was seeing the impact I had on my students and their families. Any passionate teacher will tell you the same thing. I loved seeing my students’ personalities and academics progress through the year. At the end of each year I felt so accomplished just as they did. As a teacher, the work never ends at school. It is done at home between dinner with the family until the late hours of the night. The only hobby I had left was sleeping. People always like to point out that teachers get the summer off. We do. It wasn’t enough and did not suffice as adequate work-life balance. Then I had a baby. My very own student. The most important student that I will ever have.
I went back to teaching once maternity leave ended. I am a nursing mother so the challenges quickly presented themselves. I stayed strong but noticed my usual dedication and perfectionism were taking a hit. I started to ask myself: If I can’t do quality work here, why am I staying? Besides this, I literally could not afford to live off the money I was making anymore. I was expected to work at home in this situation. I decided I needed to do what was best for my family.
As a Buddhist, it was an internal struggle and battle when deciding to leave. I truly believe I obtained some bad karma for leaving my students at the end of the year. I thought about how selfish it was for me to want to leave but then I thought about how selfless I am now that I’m a mother. The reason I stopped doing the hours of work at home was because I could not live with myself if I knew I pushed my baby aside to do work at home instead. I chose her.
I learned this from my students. The students I have had that struggled most in school were those that had parents who were too busy for them. The parents would tell me this and so would their child. I asked myself if I wanted to be this type of parent. I chose my baby.
I would never take back the three years I taught first grade. To all you teachers out there: my hat goes off to you because you are doing it and I couldn’t. All teachers have a special place in my heart. Will I live to see the day when school systems are redesigned for the benefit of teachers and students? I do hope so.
Written by Stephanie Briggs
How can you forgive someone if they never apologize for hurting you?
The great news is that it is possible! I have learned how to do this through Buddhist practices. A book that I have studied and constantly return to is one written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: “How to be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World.” This is a quick read and easy to reference when needed.
Here are some steps that help me reach forgiveness.
1. Everyone deserves happiness
It can be tough to think about this when someone has hurt you. I step back and imagine them in an objective way. I remind myself that they are a human being just like me and at one time they were even a baby who needed to be cared for. Imagining them as a baby helps me to think objectively. Then I tell myself that they also want a happy and meaningful life just as I do. In his book “How to be Compassionate,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “We all want happiness and do not want suffering…” This is definitely one way I can relate to everyone in the world. Often times people who hurt you do so because they are not happy and they are suffering. Some people are not strong enough to deal with that internally so they act externally against others. Once I understand this about someone I am able to take an analytical approach to a situation and be on my way to the path of forgiveness.
2. Think about them while meditating
I am a firm believer in the benefits that meditation has on our bodies and most importantly on our mental attitudes. Meditation has been proven to strengthen logical thinking and emotional intelligence. It can be intimidating at first but there are great resources online to help you get started. The first time I ever meditated about someone who hurt me, I searched for guidance and found a meditation instructor Tara Brach. She has a website with free guided meditations. I listened to a 25 minute meditation with my eyes closed and did this for weeks. My years of harbored anger vanished! It just takes some dedicated time and a quiet space.
Her website is: https://www.tarabrach.com
3. It is not personal
It is difficult not to take something personal when it seems so personal especially when someone directly hurts you and your loved ones. My first instinct is to take it personal but I then go back to practices one and two. I think objectively about the person. I think about how that person is suffering and is just yearning for happiness and meaning in their life. I think of this compassionately. Be careful! It can be easy to find joy in thinking of the suffering of others especially those who have hurt you but this is the opposite of compassion. In his book “How to be Compassionate,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “When someone is trying to take advantage of you, first you must clearly understand that this other person is a human being, and has a right to be happy.”
4. Harboring hate and anger leads to more suffering
It may feel satisfying when you have negative thoughts about someone who has hurt you but more often than not that person doesn’t care and is continuing to live their life. When we obsess over the hurtful things people have done to us then our minds become full of hatred, anger, and jealousy. We do become what we think about. If we are not able to forgive someone it just leads us to a life of suffering and unhappiness. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives some insight, “If you nurse hatred, you will never be happy, even in the lap of luxury…Although anger may lead to temporary satisfaction for a brief period, ultimately anger will cause further difficulties.” Rather than allowing someone to strip you of your intelligence, why not use them as an opportunity to gain patience and wisdom?
Through dedicated practice I have learned how to achieve forgiveness. It is never easy and it takes continuous practice and sometimes many meditation sessions to finally reach forgiveness. Some words that resonate with me during any challenging situation are these, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
“Try to imagine that your enemies are purposefully making trouble in order to help you accumulate positive forces for shaping the future…We need enemies to strengthen our practice, and from this spiritual viewpoint we can even be grateful to them.”
The next time you are presented with a hurtful situation I encourage you to try these steps. Do you want someone else to be in control of your happiness? I know I don’t.
Written by Stephanie Briggs
“How to Be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Guided meditations by Tara Brach: https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/
Often times we are presented with challenges that create turmoil in our life. These moments are most important in helping us build inner strength, patience, and compassion. As a stepmother I have had to deal with difficult circumstances and it is through Buddhist practices that I have learned to live a peaceful life amongst the turmoil.
1. Remember it’s not personal
This one is probably one of the hardest concepts to practice. Usually everybody is looking for one thing: happiness. They want and deserve happiness just like you. When someone seems to be attacking your character, it’s truly not personal. They are dealing with their own issues about something and due to their unhappiness they are taking it out on you. Just remind yourself it is not personal.
2. Don’t argue
Would you try to rationalize with someone under the influence? People who are set in their ways aren’t going to change their minds about you or a situation. This does not mean you are giving up the right to have an opinion but rather than wasting your time trying to rationalize just be as calm and compassionate as possible. I find that less is more. The less you engage, the more you are likely to not become reactive when you feel attacked.
3. Be compassionate
This relates to number one. A key concept in Buddhism is to practice compassion towards others. This might be mistaken for allowing people to walk all over you. You might also think that you need to outwardly show the person. You can show compassion inwardly and think about this person as you meditate. The person does not always need to know. So how do we do this? When you sit to meditate you can think about bringing a bright light to that person. You can imagine being out in a beautiful field with them giving them loving-kindness. If you know about their past you can remind yourself about their hardships. Most importantly, always remembering they deserve happiness like you is at the core of this concept.
Meditation has been around for so long but only recently we are beginning to understand the neurological benefits of it. Meditation increases the grey matter in our brain which is associated with learning and memory. Meditation has also been proven to decrease stress and anxiety and improve self-awareness and the ability to be compassionate. There are many different forms of meditation. You can choose a simple approach and start with a short 5 minute meditation. You can also learn a mantra (a repeated sound or word) and reflect on the meaning of the mantra. Any form will have extraordinary benefits to your health.
You do not need to be religious to practice the concepts of Buddhism. These methods have transformed my life and way of thinking. I have also learned to not be so hard on myself. We are human and will react at times in ways we will later regret and that is okay. You cannot obtain wisdom if you never make mistakes. What positive methods do you practice when faced with difficult people?
Written by Stephanie Briggs
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My Mantra: Strive to be the best me and improve a little every day. Be compassionate, especially to those who may not practice it. Continue to learn and love. Take a moment multiple times each day to breathe. Forgive myself and forgive others. Read books. Live what I preach. Accept others. And above all, laugh every single day. (P.S. I have an infatuation for horror and disturbing and dark true stories.)