๐Ÿ’ Journey of Kujichagulia (Self Determination) ๐ŸŒป

My Happiest Day

Last year when my son was born, unexpectedly I felt that suddenly with a newborn baby and a four-year-old to take care of I “could” finally start living my best life.

I don’t know why it wasn’t when I left my 9-5 a few years ago, I don’t know why it wasn’t when I turned 18, I don’t know why it wasn’t after I finished my education, I don’t know why but it was March, 10th 2019 when I felt like I could begin to write in the book of my life. It was the moment I felt my son’s hair for the first time, the feeling of his thin, silky hair and the feeling I can start my life will always be linked for me. It was the moment I started breathing with my soul and not just my lungs.

Last year I came upon a really interesting blog post, by Lovie Price, about the labels that define us, part of a larger self determination project that was too ambitious for me the first year with my new baby.

For Lovie Price

That was 2019, this is 2020. For me things are so much different, something about the decade changing has really allowed me an emotional and mental refresh. I’m finally washing diapers every other day instead of everyday, which means I only have to do one load of laundry a day, I can now alternate clothes, towels, and bedding.

Life with One Load of Laundry to Do

Last year I was recovering my physical stamina, I was struggling to get a rhythm for meal planning, cooking, feeding two kids, balancing the two kids and myself, adapting school to have different aged children at the same time. It was such a struggle I had to start with just staying on top of dishes, then laundry and dishes, then laundry dishes and taking out trash, then laundry, dishes, taking out trash, and putting most things away.

This year I’m so surprised at how I’ve managed to make clean up, cooking, child care and school routines. Somehow I got the basics of life in order in the middle of chaos more than I had ever done so before. I got most my sh*t together surprisingly. I had more work than ever before, but also more love and acceptance, which allows you to unfold your true potential (I’m searching for the quote that says that better, but the down side of reading so much is it’s hard to retrace the inspirations).

What’s Hard Becomes Easy with Practice

So now about four months after I wanted to do follow this process of self determination, I have taken care of the basics enough to be able to do so in an unhurried and enjoyable manner.

“Whoooo are youuu..?”

(The Traditional Kwanzaa Question to Ask on January 1st)

“[This] is about beginning to define and then re defining yourself.”

How I currently define myself:

  1. I am a dreamer/idealist/upholder of my values. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Responsibility) My values guide my day and emotions.
  2. I am an philosopher/deep thinker/critical thinker. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Intellection) I process reality to know truth.
  3. I am a teacher and open minded life long learner. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Learner) I grow my skills and knowledge.
  4. I am a human being. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Resolver)
  5. I am a writer/blogger. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Input)

(These are thingsย that have formed islands of my personality, that I had trouble seeing until I took the Clifton Strength Finder Test, it took me a year or two after that to understand what they really meant and how the interacted with each other in my life. These are not what I would want as much as they are my natural temperament, these are the parts of me that are effortless rather than the alliances that formed over my life time outside of my control and personality such as marriage, parenthood. I am “a person” who is married, I am not “a wife” in my own mind that does not define me, not because I don’t want it to, just because it never has existed in my mind that way.)

I Needed a Test to Tell Me Who I Am…

Letโ€™s move on:

  • I am extremely optimistic.
  • I am introverted, I love people, but they drain me rather than fill me.
  • I am a warrior in my attitude towards my values and duties.
  • I am deeply peaceful, strengthened by years at a Daoist Temple, but actually starting with a love of nature and visceral connection to nature.
  • I am easily distracted, money, deadlines, staying on track, feeling grounded are constantly a struggle.

[Define how you feel and what drives your reactions to things]

  1. I struggle with social relationships, I find that people don’t appreciate the way my boundaries affect them and I don’t appreciate expectations that I would know without being told what is expected from me in a group setting. The way I communicate seems to create tension where I wouldn’t have tension by myself. It just feels like there is friction between me and almost any kind of social interaction.
  2. I am tend to hyper focus on details and loose sight of the big picture.
  3. I am a recovering perfectionist, I find it hard to not throw the baby out with the bath water, if someone I love is dishonest at all it’s hard to not stop loving them. That is what protected me against an amusingly abusive mother and it’s really hard to drop the habit of wanting to completely dispose of anyone that shows dishonesty no matter how small, even my toddler, which I have a duty to love, therefore that is a tough situation.
  4. I am not friends enough with my own anger, I still mentally invalidate my own emotions by default without even looking at them without judgement or questioning if they may be valid for the situation.
  5. Whatever I do get done isn’t enough by half, even though I succeed and work hard, it’s never nearly enough.

“And so onโ€ฆmany lists . You can even be silly- โ€œI am a salad eaterโ€. You can be fatalistic โ€“ โ€œI am a loserโ€.. whatever you want. Itโ€™s YOUR private list. And if you are truly ready to tackle that baby elephant , you begin here. With brutal honesty. Defining as much of yourself and your psyche as possible. The lists will grow even longer and deeper- like all of the roots and branches of a tree meshing with the vines and weeds. It can become overwhelming- pace yourself. After you have several pages- (yes pages -because we are writing down only labels here, not the whyโ€™s , whatโ€™s and howโ€™s yet) take a breather- you are going to need it. Review the lists for a few days . Embrace the good and the bad and then accept this is where you are at this moment. There is much growth ahead, if you are willing and committed. Peace!”

Quotes Taken From Lovie Price’s Article “Let’s Start with Labels” (the first of a 10 Step Series of Self Determination).

When I made my list I didn’t care about it being private because I feel so typical, I feel like so many other middle aged people in my struggles it feels like no one would bother to hunt me down and lynch me, which is a privileged feeling to have, but I find that it unnecessary to feel guilty about what good I do have knowing that I’ve had a decent amount of challenges, no one who has known me would begrudge me the comforts I have.

I’m not sure if my elephant is that I don’t finish projects vs that I do finish projects but it is never enough, both are true to a large extent. I’ve never finished “the book,” but I’ve never had much time, though there was an author who worked an hour a day at lunch, so I suppose I do have time. I suppose my truth is that I am hardworking, but I have trouble allowing myself to work on something that feels significant to myself vs that would help others. I was trained to help others first and do my hobbies second and the amount of help other people would want from me would turn that into 0 minutes a day. So ethically I wonder is it fair to write for three hours a day while the children play instead of cleaning or making my husband lunch or playing with them? Jerry Jenkins says no, he was a writer, he played with his kids and wrote when they were asleep, he made time for his wife too. I have no idea how he did that. But I find as a father, gone all day, coming home and spending two hours or so with his kids, is different from me waking at 2AM with the baby and not being done with the eldest until 8 or 9PM. I suppose I should also add “I am conflicted about priorities and how much break time to take,” to my list.

A summary of the 2020 model of “me:”

  1. I am a dreamer, philosopher, teacher, human, and writer.
  2. I am very optimistic, introverted, diligent towards my values and duties, deeply peaceful, easily distracted, conflicted about how to distribute my time between my loved ones and myself.
  3. I struggle with social relationships, getting stuck on details, tolerating dishonesty, accepting and validating my own anger, feeling that my best effort is enough, and finding a balance in my home life between time spent making my kids life enjoyable and time spent enjoying my life (since I still don’t enjoy 9/10 parenting tasks).

The first time I did this I covered the more superficial labels as well as separating good vs bad, but this time I was already past the superficial labels, I saw marriage and parenthood as gifts of fate more than who I am, since I never pursued either. I also think the good and bad about who I am may be linked, like the ability I have to get everything that needs to get done goes hand and hand with my impatience, so I can turn it down, but both get turned down, I no longer think of my good and bad qualities as separable after reading this article by Mark Manson about how to overcome your demons I no longer see them as demons at all.

Last year I said:

  • How I currently define myself:
  • I am a writer.
  • I am a teacher, gardener/farmer, martial artist, reader.
  • I am a mother, granddaughter, sister, daughter, etc.
  • I am a roommate & friend.
  • I am an artist and a blogger.
  • I am a minimalist.
  • I am healthy,
  • I am sensitive,
  • I am unconventional,
  • I am introverted,
  • I am connected to the Earth,
  • I am a stoic.
  • I am impatient,
  • I am rude,
  • I am careless with money,
  • I am forgetful about birthdays,
  • I am a frequent leaver of many unfinished projects.

This year, as even more of a stoic, I separate that which I can control and that which I can using the metric “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus

Metamorphosis Between Last Year and This Year:

  • I am a writer (became philosopher).
  • I am a teacher, (gardener/farmer merged with teacher), martial artist (merged with teacher), reader (merged with writer).
  • I am a mother, granddaughter, sister, daughter, etc. (gifts, I could have been an orphan)
  • I am a roommate & friend. (gifts, I may not have had friends)
  • I am an artist and a blogger (became and merged with writer).
  • I am a minimalist (became human).
  • I am healthy, (gifts, I was often ill despite eating well and exercise in the past)
  • I am sensitive, (the gift of being human)
  • I am unconventional, (I was born this way so strongly it’s not a choice)
  • I am introverted, (merged with philosopher)
  • I am connected to the Earth, (merged with human)
  • I am a stoic. (merged with philosopher)
  • I am impatient, (I sometimes am impatient, but not so often I define myself like that)
  • I am rude, (I sometimes am rude, but not so often I define myself like that)
  • I am careless with money, (I’m not money oriented, but I keep better track about it now)
  • I am forgetful about birthdays, (Sometimes, but I remember more than I forget, it’s human to forget sometimes)
  • I am a frequent leaver of many unfinished projects. (merged with human)

Intersection Between Past and Present Identities (Underlined is the Same Across Last Year and This Year)

  • I am a dreamer, philosopher, teacher, human, and writer.
  • I am very optimistic, introverted, diligent towards my values and duties, deeply peaceful, easily distracted, conflicted about how to distribute my time between my loved ones and myself.
  • I struggle with social relationships, getting stuck on details, tolerating dishonesty, accepting and validating my own anger, feeling that my best effort is enough, and finding a balance in my home life between time spent making my kids life enjoyable and time spent enjoying my life (since I still don’t enjoy 9/10 parenting tasks).

It’s clear to me, that most of who I am now, was present last year, but my ability to see myself clearly was worse last year, it’s as if I could only see in myself what someone with a superficial relationship with me could see, as if I was just an acquaintance with my own self.

I think about my exercise coach sometimes, he fell in love with dance, was an athlete, made a his fortune as an exercise coach, became a parent, wrote a book and became an author, was always a motivational speaker and writer. People see him and think exercise coach. But if you exercise with him for awhile you notice how different he is from a typical coach, who is fit, but doesn’t care about or mention your feelings or soul, spending a bit of time you discover he is a motivational speaker as well. But if you read his book you find he is a deep thinker, he is a stoic, he is a real author (not just someone interesting who someone can write a biography about). If you know more about him you know he loved dance and only worked in exercise as a coincidence of fate, you know he went out of his way to become a parent. I’m talking about Shaun T by the way author of “T is for Transformation.”

It was interesting that it was easier for me to get to know and understand different layers of Shaun T, than to get to know and understand myself. Because every time I wanted me to be someone I wasn’t it stopped me, every time I realized I don’t like cooking I hit a wall, a wall where I wanted to be a person who wanted to be a super mom, but I am not that person. I wanted to be my grandma who was the funniest, more loving, open, “balls out” kind of person I’ve ever known and also best cook. But I just am not that person. I had to give up the idea of who I wanted to be that went against my strengths I was born with, my personality to accept who and where I was and it made me rethink where I wanted to go. Sure, I can cook a normal meal, but I’m not interested in the flavor profile like a cook would be… I can say a kind word to people I see on the street and check in with family and friends, but I can’t go from call to call to call to party without being totally depleted. I can develop some traits of my grandmother, but I will not be my grandmother even then. I have skills and talents she didn’t and lack skills and talents she had. Even if over time I become more like her, I don’t think it is healthy or helpful to try to be someone else. I give up, I’d rather be a good me, than a horrible impersonation of someone else.

It’s time to be me as I am and celebrate who I am, even though I accept I may improve, I am getting very close to being completely at peace with who and where I am now.

It’s interesting to give up something unhealthy that you love, I can’t describe the feeling of knowing my grandmother was the perfect person to me and at the same time feeling like she was a beautiful maple tree and I’m a beautiful blue berry bush and it’s okay to grow to my potential instead of trying to prune myself into her.

I remember in the movie Heidi, the villain, shouts “I am what I am and don’t ask me to change!”

Even though we all change, everyday, there is I think a large amount of inner peace in accepting who I am and not demanding that change.

The feeling is like watching a wild tiger in the jungle, seeing it as beautiful and scary, then noticing that you are that tiger. It’s a change of perspective (like the end of the movie “Life of Pi” when the tiger represents the cannibal portion of the character leaving or also the end of “Planet of the Apes” when the astronaut finds he has returned to Earth rather than been stranded on another world). If anyone knows the name of that feeling I would be grateful? I can’t quite find the word for it.

Wishing you all a wonderful afternoon and acceptance of yourself as you are! 1/10 steps done, time to take my kids on our afternoon stoic walk.

3 thoughts on “๐Ÿ’ Journey of Kujichagulia (Self Determination) ๐ŸŒป

  1. Lovie Price says:

    ty so much for the link:) i can tell you have been in metamorphosis for awhile and that was totally my point.Surface labels vs. internal labels and evolving the perspectives during the next stages ( after identifying them). “Gifts” is a wonderful perspective and i would have to agree. My labels have also evolved but what i have chosen to do is make sort of a ‘train’ of evolution so i do not lose focus on the external ( which i have a tendency to do sometimes, especially being as isolated as i am right now.) so i will have , for example:
    i am an_______<how i feel about that<several adjectives others would describe it as it<adjectives i would use to describe it< determine future of said label <…etc….

    So, in essence that one initial thought will have a flow of continuity as i assess…

    I love you deep thinking, it gets me thinking also!:)

    Like

  2. Princess Cynthia says:

    Itโ€™s time to be me as I am and celebrate who I am, even though I accept I may improve, I am getting very close to being completely at peace with who and where I am now.cheers!!I benefitted from this post!

    Like

  3. conversations w/ Nomz. says:

    This was so good to read, thank you for sharing. And its such a coincidence that I read this today cause yesterday I was also answering questions such as ‘who am I’ / ‘what do I stand for’ and so on. Thank you for this and may we become better and greater

    Like

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