Lessons from the Big Apple

I recently spent four days in New York City for a fun girls’ trip. It is an incredible city and one that I am more than happy to visit whenever possible. The city that never sleeps also never disappoints. Each time I have played tourist, the streets of NYC provided numerous life analogies and lessons.

Our 2016 trip was full of different opportunities to be self-reflective. I don’t know if you’re like me but I am almost in a constant state of reflection. As I go about my daily life and run into different moments, I often subconsciously am filtering and filing away experiences. I later return to these little snapshots of time and apply some meaning to them. Examples? There were plenty while in the Big Apple!

The first moment of reflection came as we were flying into LaGuardia airport. We were scheduled to arrive at a specific time so when the plane started to make a clear and what seemed to be a slightly rapid decent, I began to get a little nervous. I enjoy flying and especially love taking off. The feeling of the plane’s wheels lifting off the ground is probably one of my most favorite things in life. Landing? Now that’s a slightly different story. I love landing into my home airport of Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) because it is such a smooth ride back into the Lone Star state. This particular approach into New York City was quite the opposite. It came fast and furious. As I said to the pilot as we exited, “That felt like an aircraft carrier landing.” Boom! The bird is out of the sky. As a matter of fact, we landed 13 minutes before our scheduled arrival so a part of me wonders if the traffic controller called us in early and so out of the sky we came in hot.

One minute I was reading a dumb, brainless magazine with a lot of pictures about reality TV stars and the next we were on the ground ready to start our girls’ tour of the city. There was little mental prep time for our arrival. Has this sort of experience ever happened to you? Where life just showed up and you had to adjust quickly? I am sure it has to all of us. It is usually more than just landing quickly but this served as a good moment to reflect on how well do we adjust to ever changing life situations. Some of us can switch gears quicker than others and it can often be a cause of stress for people.

My next moment for reflection came as my friend and I tried to check into our hotel. I had been in charge of this reservation and even though I am 100% sure the computer screen said “two double beds” when I booked it, the confirmation said “double bed.” Singular. Not double. We did not realize this issue with the reservation until we opened the door to our proposed room and saw one bed. Surely they just made a mistake and gave us the wrong room so we schlepped our luggage back downstairs to the lobby. Once back down there they informed us that our reservation said one bed, they were completely sold out, and did not believe the single bed mistake was actually theirs to own. I, on the other hand, felt very strongly that I travel enough and am a perfectionist enough to know that I did not book the wrong room.

This moment provided an immediate reflection of joy and excitement. What? Joy and excitement? Yes! You see, I had not really wanted to stay at that particular hotel and once I saw it in person, I was sure I didn’t want to stay there. This goof allowed me the freedom to say “adios” to the one bed hotel and high-tail it further uptown to the beautiful accommodations that I had stayed at before on a previous visit. Sure, there were issues of billing and getting my refund from the one bed dump, but I was in New York City with my best girlfriend and I wasn’t going to fret over it right then! The need to switch hotels upon our arrival to the city reminded me that sometimes things don’t work out for very good reasons and just going with the flow of life is for our benefit. As I laid my head on my pillow that night and in the hotel I felt very comfortable, I was so happy that the other reservation fell through.

The third moment I want to share with you happened while on the couture floor of Bergdorf Goodman. One of the things I enjoy the most about visiting NYC is the history of the fashion industry that flourishes in the region. I love walking along 5th Avenue and Madison and seeing the beautiful designer stores full of incredibly detailed designs and fabrics. These gorgeous items are way out of my budget and never coming home with me, but I can still get giddy and excited to visit these historical designer houses that have made heavy footprints in women’s fashion and culture.

During this trip, my friend and I walked through the incredible Bergdorf Goodman store. Even though it was painfully apparent by my casual vacation clothing that I was a tourist and not going to be trying on any items, each and every staff member was exceptionally gracious and welcoming. Immediately upon arriving to another designer’s area of the store, I happily announced to the sales person, “just looking around!” I didn’t want to pretend to be something I am not and a couture shopper at Bergdorf Goodman is what I am not. I am happily okay with that too. As I walked from designer to designer, I reflected on the fact that there are often times when we feel out of place in a particular environment and our attitude makes all the difference in our enjoyment level of the experience. Could I have felt sloppy and low-brow while walking around very high-end fashion that I can’t afford? Sure. But what point would there be in degrading myself in my inner dialogue? Instead I accepted myself as I am and enjoyed the beautiful items that will never be mine to own. Were other ladies shopping and taking Bergdorf bags home with them? Yes. Did it bring out jealousy in me? Not at all. I only needed to walk up the street towards Central Park to be reminded that some people are wondering where their next meal is coming from. Unfortunately, in our country you can see people plunking down thousands of dollars in department stores and others do not have any place indoors to sleep at night. Honestly, the spectrum is a little too wide for my taste. As I walked among the couture dresses and watched other women buying, I did not succumb to envy because I know my place in the world and am happy with it. I have the means to book a getaway with a friend but not enough for high fashion. I am okay with my perch on the tree of life.

As we maneuver through our daily lives, we should be aware of the different moments that can lead us to a quiet inner dialogue. What life reflection moments have you had recently? I hope you are gentle with yourself during these little spaces in time.

“抑郁”的贫瘠 by Simeiqi He (The Poverty of “Depression”)

抑郁感觉像是个即尴尬又可怕的词,朋友们你们说是吧?好像只要简单的张开嘴吐出这个词 ——“抑郁”,我们就能非常迅速地感觉到一种不明的羞耻和不自在感像电流一样通遍全身。哪怕我们尽量得小声,哪怕我们声音小的连自己都快听不到自己,我们还是无法摆脱那样的感觉。这个可怕的词语“抑郁”就像是拥有一种把我们的世界,乃至我们的人格笼罩在阴影之下的力量。而且要不了多久,我们就被困在了对快要成为,或已经成为了他人和我们自己眼中那个“抑郁患者”的无限恐惧之中无法自拔。

但是为什么?为什么这个词语“抑郁”就能使我们一时间这么尴尬,这么害怕,这么羞耻?为什么这个短短的两个字就能够拥有力量改变我们的现实感,让我们变得不知所措?难道仅仅是因为这个词吗?诚然,这个词看起来确有令人颤栗之感,但是我们不难发现使我们颤栗的远不是两个字那么简单。这两个字可能意味着他人的眼光以及对待我们的方式会从此异样;也可能意味着突然间我们过去所有的成就以及我们曾今所引以为豪的一切,从此刻开始都会灰飞烟灭;还可能意味着一时间我们的凌云壮志和对人生最宏伟的憧憬都迅速地缩小成了一个狭窄且无望的“目标”——“要好起来”;甚至更可怕的是,这两个字还意味着我们可能就这样了,从今以后就将这么“抑郁”下去了,希望渺茫。但是,我的朋友们,真的就是这样的吗?如果抑郁,这难道就是我们无法改变的命运吗?要是真的是这样,那么敢问,真的就应该这样吗?

我记得有人曾经说过:“语言的一个很奇怪的贫瘠之处在于,当天空在一个孩子的生日那天下起雨来,我们用这个词“抑郁”来表达这个孩子的感觉;而当一个人马上就要自杀的前几分钟,我们也同样用这个词“抑郁”来表达他的感受”。 朋友们,是我们贫瘠的语言辜负了我们。是这个贫瘠的词“抑郁”辜负了我们。又或者说,事实上,是我们的社会辜负了我们,因为我们的社会拒绝真诚得正视这两个字——去承认这个词仅仅是两个简单的字,而用这个两个简单的字来定义丰富多彩的生命是多么的滑稽,不过系风捕影而已。我们的社会和我们的文化,因为自身的虚情假意,赋予了这个词“抑郁”太多的太多的力量来肆意评说我们的尊严和人格,使我们变得冷漠,变得残忍,变得孤立无援。朋友们,我拒绝相信这就是我们的命运!

除去“抑郁”这个词被赋予的力量以外,抑郁的经历亦是无比伤痛和真实的。我不会否认抑郁的经历确实是一个苦难的经历。它使我们受伤,使我们心碎,使我们变得脆弱。但是我的朋友们,你们知道在这个世界上还有什么会使我们受伤,使我们心碎,使我们变得脆弱吗?是爱。对生命真挚,深刻的爱从不曾开始于满是欢喜之地,相反,它起源于酸甜苦辣的生活以及刺痛的伤口和痊愈的那些日夜。我的朋友们,你们知道吗?我们痊愈和对生命深刻挚爱的前提,恰是我们对因抑郁而备受痛苦的正视。你们知道吗?我们的正视确是我们勇气的标志,是对一切贬低我们尊严和丰富生命的力量的坚强抗议。抑郁似乎有着孤立我们的能力,但是我们许多人也相信,我们渴望爱的人性本能有着更强大的力量,使我们伸出双手去团结众人,去痊愈,去帮助这个世界同我们一起痊愈。

The Poverty of “Depression” – by Simeiqi He, Graduate Associate

Depression seems like an awkward and scary word, isn’t it? By simply opening our mouth and uttering this word – “depression”, we can very quickly feel the awkwardness, the shame, and the strangeness running through our body. Even when we try to be as quiet as possible, even when we are barely making any sound, the feeling still doesn’t escape us. This scary word “depression” seems to have the power to cast a shadow on our world and, sometimes even worse, on our identities. And before long, we are trapped in the fear of becoming, if not already being, the “depressed person” in the eyes of others and of our own.

But why? Why does this word “depression” have to be so awkward, so scary, and so shameful? Why does this short word – with only ten letters – have the power to paralyze us and alter our sense of reality? Is it just the word? Sure, the word does seem to have terrifying teeth, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there is more to the word. Somehow the word may mean that others will start to look at us differently and treat us differently. The word may mean that suddenly all of our great achievements in life and everything we used to be proud of now surrender to this new condition. The word may mean that suddenly our greatest hopes and greatest visions in life shrink to a narrow focus “to get better.” And even worse, the word may mean that we are it, stamped and owned by “depression” for the rest of our lives. But is it, my friend? Is this really our destiny, our unchanging fate? If it is, then should it be?

Someone once said, “it’s a strange poverty of the English language…that we use this same word, DEPRESSION, to describe how a kid feels when it rains on his birthday, and to describe how somebody feels the minute before they commit suicide.” Friend, our language has failed us. This word “depression” has failed us. Or maybe it is the other way around, our society has failed to look at this word with utmost honesty – to acknowledge the simplicity of the ten letter word and to acknowledge the impossibility of it to overpower the richness of human lives. Our society and our culture, with its own insincerity, have granted this word “depression” too much power to turn us against each other and over our identities and our dignity. And this, my friend, I believe should not be!

It is a painful reality that depression is hurtful, not just the word itself, but the experience of it. I would never deny that the experience of depression is an experience of suffering. It wounds us, breaks us open, and makes us vulnerable. But my friend, do you know there is something else in the world that breaks us open and makes us vulnerable? It is love. A true and deep love of life doesn’t start in places where all is happy, on the contrary, it starts from the messiness, the wounds and the healing. My friend, do you know our acknowledgement of the painful experience of depression and its complexity is indeed a precursor for healing and a deep love of life? Do you know that it is a sign of profound courage and protest against all forces that seek to devalue our dignity and the richness of our lives? Depression seems to have the power to isolate us, but many of us also believe that our human instinct of longing for love has a greater ability to empower us to reach out, to unite with people, to heal, and help the world heal with us.

Call Simeiqi at 817-897-8882 or email
Simeiqi@southlakecounseling.org

Things to Remember When on Empty

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens

Almost three weeks ago I published my first sole-authored book. The lead up to launch day reminds me of this famous quote by Mr. Dickens. It truly has been the best and worst of times. Through each season of life we get to glean a little more wisdom and, sometimes, a little thicker skin. Now that I am a couple weeks out of the post-launch vortex, it seemed like a good time to encapsulate some of what I have noticed while running this intense sprint to complete the book and get it into the hands of readers.

As an entrepreneur, there are times when not only the candle is burning at both ends, but in the middle and just about melted down to a puddle of wax. That basically sums up my energy levels during the book project. It was a slow slide into chronically living on fumes. Many of us can recall times when we would have to muster up enough energy to get through the must needed tasks of adult living, and the fluffy extras just dropped off the cliff into the abyss of not going to happen.

When we are in seasons like this, it is a great time to watch ourselves and the attitude of those around us. For our own self-reflection, we need to be aware that our reactions may be more exaggerated because we are crazy tired. Little life annoyances that would have left us shaking our heads before, may now be dealt in ways that are unusual for us. Example? While driving on a busy street that resembles a slow freeway, I was first off the blocks at a light and apparently I did not gun by car’s engine quite fast enough for the lady behind me so she kept incessantly honking at me. When I jerked my head up to look in the rear-view mirror, I saw that she was wildly waving her arms in the manner as if to shoo me forward and then, she gave me the middle finger salute. Oh no she did not! Oh yes she did!! I would like to say I just shook my head in calm, I-have-my-emotions-under-control disbelief and drove my car normal from that point but, I did not. Remember, I have been living life on empty and right at that moment, rude-lady-driver was the tipping point of my patience. So I very passive-aggressively slowed waaaaaay down and continued to check my rear-view mirror to watch this lady alternate between waving me on, to flipping me off again, to then jerking her mini-van into the lane next to me and zoom past. Did I just keep my eyes on the road and my hands at 10 and 2? No, I did not. I jumped into the cesspool with her and we exchanged “friendly” gestures.

Did our road rage stop there? Nope. It continued light after light after light. After a while I started to worry that perhaps she was headed to the same school pick up that I was and good grief, was this rude-lady-driver a fellow school parent?! Oh, please say it isn’t so. Reality set in of just how ridiculous I had behaved in response to this extremely annoying person. Luckily she kept going when I turned left to head to the school and I really felt stupid by my exhaustion induced actions.

Now, being in a busy season does have some benefits. Maybe not the most patient while driving but living on empty can bring into crystal clear clarity who we want to spend time with and who is a soul drain. When we find ourselves very thin on time and attention, we see which individuals are there to walk along side of us and who is there for their own benefit.

When we have nothing to give, the takers seem to vanish and that’s a good thing.

Often times when we are well-rested we have the energy to make excuses for people’s poor behaviors or attitude towards us. We may fill in the gaps where they failed to do what they were supposed to do and our actions cover up the truth about them. When we have normal energy, we will do the heavy lifting to maybe keep a broken relationship limping along. This can occur among family, friends, or in the workplace. During normal energy times, we may take on more weight than the other person. Now, enter into a season of spinning deadlines or high stress and no way are we expelling time or resources to make a bad situation slightly better. Sweep the issues under the rug? Nope. Have the desire to bounce back again and make something keep going that needs to end? Nope. Going to spend time with people who have shown their true colors?  Nope. Nope. Nope.

Your true friends and your true foes become a lot more clear during and after a season of living on empty.

When you have sorted through who is there for you, these people become like little breaths of air in a stuffy room. They shine like gems of many beautiful colors. They are your people and your appreciation of them runs at an even deeper level. Relationally cleaning house is a good thing and a time of being on empty will help facilitate healing changes.

If you find yourself in a tough, busy season, I hope that you will give yourself the gift of acceptance for where you are right now. Make a plan for when your busyness will end so it doesn’t feel like a never ending dark tunnel.  If you are working on a project (like I was with the book), I hope it is a huge success for you. Trust me when I say that you will learn about yourself, but mostly about how other people relate to you going after your dreams.

Keep dreaming big!
Shannon

Sometimes…

As I looked at this picture on my friend’s phone, I had the thought of “sometimes we need to put on a pink tutu and run through bubbles.”

It got me thinking about some of the other “sometimes” moments that happen.

Sometimes we need more sleep.

Sometimes we need to sit on the couch and watch a marathon of Marvels on Netflix (a Boy Mom thing to do for sure).

Sometimes we need to have a bag of popcorn and glass of wine for dinner.

Sometimes we need to take time away from work.

Sometimes we need to jump in the warm ocean waves.

Sometimes we need to share our opinion on a topic.

Sometimes we need to not take another person’s irritation personally.

Sometimes we need to stop waiting for someone to get emotionally healthy.

Sometimes we need to say “Go away.”

Sometimes we need to not feel guilty for saying “Go away.”

Sometimes we need to trust our gut.

Sometimes we need to welcome new people into our lives.

Sometimes we need to know that everyone has a story.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how far we have come in our personal growth.

Sometimes we need to not care what other people are doing in life.

Sometimes we need to laugh loudly with our friends.

Sometimes we need a couple of friends who love us unconditionally.

Sometimes we need to not be a part of a person’s life just because they invited us in.

Sometimes we need to say “No.”

Sometimes we need to say “Yes.”

Sometimes we need to act silly and not care about our age.

Sometimes we need to take someone’s name and contact information out of our phone.

Sometimes we need to take a nap.

Sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Sometimes we need to tell our story.

Sometimes we need to not sit on the sidelines.

Sometimes we need to stop making an excuse for being mistreated.

Sometimes we need to buy ourselves a bouquet of flowers.

Sometimes we need to buy a plane ticket.

Sometimes we need a new stamp in our passport.

Sometimes we need to know other people love us.

Sometimes we need to face our fears.

Sometimes we need to listen to other people’s viewpoints.

Sometimes we need to fight for a relationship that is important to us.

Sometimes we need to know when to let go.

Sometimes we need to buy a Groupon to something we would never think of trying.

Sometimes we need to realize we are doing better than we think we are.

What are your “sometimes” thoughts?

Keep dreaming big!

Shannon