Life is not a straight line. It's a downpour of gifts, please – hold out your hand

Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tama's Musings: Giving to Yourself is the Best Gift to Give

...such wisdom in these words.

This holiday season, I urge you to, drum roll please, give to yourself. Stay true to your natural desires. Turn off the autopilot mechanism, disable obligation, ditch comparison, and dive into the cool waters of authenticity. Dare to live this season as honestly as you can. Let everyone else "shop till they drop" or stand helplessly at parties. Listen to and love yourself first, and you will set free a light that buoys everyone around you. It's never "selfish" to tend your own magnificent soul.

Years ago, I remember learning a powerful lesson about giving to myself. I'd had a week of working too many hours, and feeling impoverished in every cell. One night, I lashed out in frustration (so much for those self-help books) because I wasn't getting what I wanted. Naturally, I knew a more mature self could have figure skated on the ponds of selflessness and grace. In fact, inner Gandhi hitched up his robes and fled with disdain. Later I talked to my romantic partner, the victim, about my inability to be more loving. I waited for him to say, "Ya think?" But this deep soul said something much more interesting. He said, "Don't worry about giving more love to me. Give more love to yourself." He handed me those lotus flowers. He knew that if I gave love to myself, I'd heal and I'd naturally be more loving towards others. I'll wager it's the same with you.

I recently heard Susan Taylor, former editor in chief of Essence magazine, say these simple and profound words: "hurt people hurt people." Think about that in the context of the holidays. It's a time when people often strain themselves financially, feel frayed by activity and social obligations, and often visit family and walk in the briar patch of mirrors, wounds, and landmines. It's a time when all of us would do well to lather on the self-compassion. This isn't self-indulgence. It's good emotional hygiene. It allows us to mingle without getting mangled. Oh and I just can't resist this line: it will allow you to jingle, without getting jangled.

Imagine doing this season differently. Imagine feeling so good about yourself that your mother can't throw you with an offhand comment, that you don't drink or eat more than you want to because you're bored or frustrated or tired and vulnerable. Imagine feeling so good about yourself that when your uncle or co-worker says something that hurts your feelings, you take care of it then and there and your therapist has a lean January.

Imagine, even beyond that, that you feel so good about yourself that you truly decide you want to be a light unto others. Imagine that you feel so great that you give even more this season, not because you should, but because you can't contain your love, gratitude and enthusiasm for the human race. That's what I wish for you this season.

Here's some ways to practice an attitude of soul-tending even in the midst of hooplah, festivity, frenzy, and all things beautiful and bizarre.

You are not Hurting Someone by Taking Care of Yourself.

Of course we want to brighten the lives of others, but not at the cost of our own. I always have to remember that I am not responsible for someone else's choices, destiny and experience. They have their own path to walk and I trust the integrity of that path. Besides, modeling a vibrant, self-accepting life is the greatest gift of teaching and healing we can offer those we love.

Lydia is a caretaker on her way to martyrdom. "But she needs me," she says of a friend who doesn't have a car. "She's not the only person who needs you," I say quietly as I look into her tired eyes. I know behind that exhausted face, a young, magical, presence lives who wants to work on her pottery and lie on her sofa with a novel. It just doesn't seem right to help someone else and become a dim light in the process. Yes, there are extraordinary circumstances in life that demand exceptions. And I suggest you prepare for them by conserving your strength where you can.

Supersize your Kindness to Yourself.

Do something delicious just for you. Get a hot stone massage, rent a classic movie, or book a retreat that feeds your self-confidence. Load up on soul vitamins. You deserve this kindness. And all kindness is a gift to all people. Stop judging yourself. Make the decision this holiday to walk in a Judgment-Free Zone. Let others have their roses. Accept the flowers in your garden. I love how the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron encourages us to see all the circumstances of our lives as equal. She says, "It doesn't matter what you're given, whether it's physical deformity or enormous wealth or poverty, beauty or ugliness, mental stability or mental instability, life in the middle of a madhouse or life in the middle of a peaceful, silent desert. Whatever you're given can wake you up." You'll probably have many opportunities to practice this one. Maybe you're talking to your cousin who happens to have married the most perfect guy, who also happens to be rich, funny, and surprising her with a new home, a world tour, and a song he's composed just for her. This is not the time to start thinking about how your husband loves the NFL more than he loves you, and thinking he was particularly clever this year, bought you a gift certificate to Walmart. Practice being kind toward yourself. Do not withhold your own love and self-approval.

Take Care of Yourself in Bite-Size Moments.

If you ignore yourself long enough, you will have to take care of yourself exclusively, probably under medical orders. But before that stage, there is a middle ground. Taking care of yourself doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. I encourage you to take some restorative moments to yourself during family gatherings. Go for a walk or go to another room and read a prayer or affirmation. I recently spent Thanksgiving week with my mom. Usually, I do the "good daughter marathon" and stick to her like glue. But this time I begged off early to go to bed. I read. I debriefed. I journaled. I ironed out all the outbursts and puckers within myself. The next day, I woke up with peace of mind and I wanted to be with my mother. I appreciated and savored the time.

Don't stay longer than you want to. Pay attention to what your body and soul needs. Stay conscious and responsive. It's your life and your time. This is a practice of staying juicy and alive. Being polite is not necessarily being giving. We all have enough masks and facades in our lives. Your loved ones deserve the opportunity to be with the real you. You will feel more loved by others when you respect your own needs.***

You have a singular light within you. You have infinite love within you. You have so much to give us all. Love yourself more than you can imagine. Tend your light well. We grow dark without your spark.

Yours in the dance,

Tama©Copyright 2007 Tama J. Kieves. All rights reserved.

Tama J. Kieves is a sought-after speaker and the bestselling author of THIS TIME I DANCE! Creating the Work You Love (How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have it All!). Check out her very inspiring website at

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♥ Julia