Judgements

adorable-beautiful-blur-573263I consider my culture to be one of the most judgmental in the world.  Coming to America at the age of 16 blew my mind – I realized, people didn’t tell you in your face how your shoes are uncool, you shouldn’t wear white socks or that you look chubby.  For the most part, everyone was minding their own business, in some ways probably hoping that their own inadequacies were not going the be exposed the same way they weren’t exposing other people’s.

Most people, me included, have fallen for an idea of “I am just telling you the truth” as a smoke screen for telling insulting stuff and being downright judgmental.  It is ok, I find, to tell someone who is asking you if the dress fits well on them to let them know that it does not, but I think it’s awful to walk up to someone and comment that their other dress looked a lot better on them than the one they are wearing.

I once criticized a student movie in my film class thinking I am pointing the obvious.  I will never forget my professor telling me:  “Marija, what do you really think?” and everybody laughing.  So many people were uncomfortable when I was releasing my judgements that this question cut through and gave sort of a comic relief.  I wished I could take it back or at least explain: this is how I was criticized all the time.

My body recorded all of these judgements and responded by slouching, looking down and feeling heaviness in my shoulders, shame in my heart.  I spent, oh God, so many hours undoing what has been done to me through transformation, reiki, sound healing, yoga, meditation, body talk, emotional healing, and alike.  Sometimes I wake up in a morning and I feel how high maintenance I am – I wonder why other people don’t take up so much space, self-analyze like I do and work so hard on staying present and in their power.  But then it’s obvious, those that don’t, live the kind of life I am not committed to living and the rest do the same thing I do, if not more.

A couple of decades ago, this generous man in Florida taught me this: “Live and let live!”  I will always remember this.  Coupled with my Landmark training where I officially had to give up gossiping and got crystal clear that everything I am complaining about is only hurting me, there is a strong sense of judgement is no good.

Boggles my mind how prominent this is in all cultures, not just my native one.  How come?  Why do people get so obsessive with their view of the world and how the fuck do they justify that their view is THE view?  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  What if we have to stop believing that someone else’s judgement of us is about us and not about them.  When we stop judging ourselves, all the mental chatter will clear.

 

 

Curiosity or Being Nosy

I would love to hear from you: what are the most offensive questions people ask you? What are the questions that people ask that leave you feeling annoyed? What are the questions that you have a ready answer for because you know people will interrogate?
I truly believe that how we react to others is about us not about them, but I wonder what is driving nosiness that is closeted as curiosity.  I wonder, because when asked the following questions, I don’t really have an experience that people are interested in me, but rather that they are going through the laundry list of questions that borderline offensive.
Did you lose/gain some weight?
Are you going to go for a girl?
How much money can you make with that?
Why is your husband (fill in the blank)?
Is your son….?
Are you still breastfeeding?
How long do you plan on breastfeeding?
When will your book come out?
How long have you been working on it/that?
The one about having a girl is my favorite. I am a happily married woman with 2 beautiful children (precisely what I wanted for myself) and while I wanted to have a girl, shortly after realizing I wasn’t having a girl, I closed that chapter.  I simply realized that no 2 kids are alike and that having 2 children is what I wanted, that gender preference, while I am sure many had it, is an unfair demand to have.  In fact, I think it’s perfect I am a mom of 2 boys because I have studied relationship and men for quite some time before getting married and in some ways, watching the world through my boys’ eyes is completing this research for me.  I am able to understand men in a way I couldn’t until I was able to picture that every one of the men I know was once a little boy.  That gave me perspective I never thought of.
To ask me if I will “chase a girl” as some would tell me is even rude because I just turned 40 and after my second pregnancy, I was recommended not to get pregnant again.  I didn’t have issues, but I could’ve and that was a scary thought.  To think that my ambition to have a girl could in any way jeopardize my health and leave my 2 already existing children without a mother is a narrow minded proposition at best.  Besides, I have friends who have little girls so when I want to play with one, I can, I don’t have to commit to raising her.
I am not sharing this because I am bitter, I am not.  In fact, I am committed to not being triggered by anything that people ask because when I am, I gave them my power.  But I wanted to share this experience to underline that asking a serious of stupid questions like this is not about intimacy or getting closer to someone but more like interrogation that I don’t think most of us appreciate.  You can be curious without being nosy.
Please share with me what are some of the questions people ask of you that sting you?  And please, share this post with a friend so I can hear from them too.
Love,
Marija

Looking at the Past

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I’ve met a lot of people who were repulsed by self-analysis of any kind and generally disliked looking back or rehashing the past as they would say.

Past is the past, it happened, we can’t change it, why bother…

Well, there is a big reason to look at the past.  In looking back, we get to re-examine if what we think happened is really what happened.  Sometimes merely looking back from the perspective of an adult, we can have a refreshing view on something that our parents did, for example. I remember when I did my first Landmark Forum in 2005, the leader asked those of us whose parents were under 24 when we were born to stand up.  So we did.  Even in merely admitting how young my parents were when I was born, I stopped holding so much resentment towards some of the choices they have made that affected me. Same happened to all the other people in the seminar.

Often, just merely looking back, or talking about what happened, can uncover that some of the things we could swear to be true don’t make any sense at all.  After my father passed 2 months ago now, I remember my mom saying something that I remembered to be true except, my timeline was off.  Literally, in that instant of us talking about something that happened, I got to rewrite my story.

Certain things come with a lesson we may have missed the first time around.  I could never figure out why I was trying to diet so much in my 20s when I looked so beautiful and lean in all my pictures, I realized though, I wasn’t dieting because I didn’t look good when I saw myself in a mirror but as a reaction to a comment someone made to me: “You will be fat like my mom and aunt when you grew up”.  For all I know, he meant it as a joke, but it had me choose dieting and being skinny over life for at least 7 years while I was battling eating disorder and another decade or so of dieting and thinking I would only be accepted if I was skinny enough.

Looking back is not a waste of time, people!  It can prevent us from making the same mistakes again and again.  It can shine the light on things we couldn’t or didn’t understand at the time and offer a much needed relief.  This is actually why therapy works.  While I prefer coaching to therapy as it is focused more on producing results, I definitely see so much value in talking things over and letting myself share the world the way I see it so I can sort out things that I couldn’t sort out when I was younger and question things that I made up.

It’s true that we can’t change the past and that no looking back can ever have what happened be any other way than the way that it is.  What we could change, however, is the stories we told when those things happened because all of us mostly living as a reaction to the story we told about the things that happened to us.  Change your story, change your life.  Looking at the past is an opportunity to directly impact our experience in the present and have a different future.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”              Wayne Dyer 

Love only. Compassion. Gratitude

I feel that in life, we often deal with some things over and over again.  I used to think this was wrong and beat myself up for things that resurface, but over time, I realized, this is just how life rolls.  We always have the same set of issues, but if we work on it, we get to take a deeper cut.  The deeper we go and the more we work on it, the more we expand our foundation, the more is possible for us and, as the consequence, we feel more joy.

Woman comfortable at home while reading a book

My father’s passing almost 2 months ago now, disturbed the calm waters of my life.  I was used to my father not being around, in fact, it is only after 20+ years that we restored our relationship to intimate connection and love that father-daugther relationships are usually made of.  That said, in May of last year, as I travelled to Paris for the first time, and my father happened to drive in to pick up his youngest son and drive him home to Croatia at the same time. I have fallen back into the pattern of expecting things of him like I did when I was a little girl all the way until I got married.  I forgot that the only way to have my father do something for me was to make sure he was aware of how much that mattered to me.  That worked 3 years ago when he drove down to Montenegro and met my younger son.  This time around, I didn’t want to do work to convince him to see me.  I wanted him to want it and do work for it.  And, he didn’t.

I reached out to him a few times over the summer and then I stopped trying.  On New Year’s Day, I received a message from him with greetings for the upcoming year.  I wished him the same with the picture of my family.  He wrote: “it is beautiful to see you all.”  A little more than a week later, on my 40th birthday, at 6pm New York time, I learned my father had a stroke.  He never woke up from it.

I am not going to lie to say that I didn’t think I’d be prepared for this.  Our relationship was way less than I think I ever deserved and I worked very hard throughout my life to feel deeply deserving of love, attention and commitment of another man because I never had that from my dad.  It was almost 8 years ago that I wrote an email t my dad in complete desperation to hear words of encouragement.  His response was that he wasn’t a good person to ask and the rest of the email was filled with his joyful sharing of the attention he was giving to his 2 boys from his second marriage.  In that moment, I realized, I would never have a father that I wanted. I stopped expecting things. And, even though I trained myself to not want more from him, I was always happy when he was in touch and he had power to provide me with so much joy with every bit of attention he gave me.

My dad dying shook me.  It was final.  I didn’t even get a chance to tell him I became an American citizen (his life long dream was to come here), because I had my Oath Ceremony just days after his brain was dead.  His heart was beating few days longer as if to buy me some time to get my passport and fly to attend his funeral.

Coming to Zagreb after 30 years was traumatic.  I went straight to the house where I used to visit him and his wife and sons were out visiting friends.  They knew I was coming but I guess it didn’t matter.  Thank God for an amazing friend I have who now lives in Zagreb who hosted me, fed me and offered a shoulder to cry on.  I spent more money on going to my father’s funeral than I remember him ever spending on me (this, of course, triggers the memory of unworthiness because he fought hard, and indirectly, not to pay for child support).

The past few weeks of my life felt like a cosmic joke.  My husband and I were interviewed couple dozen times because we hoping to put our older child in a private school in September.  Of course, we were not stupid, we applied to more than 1o private schools, that many public and numerous charter schools throughout the city.  Applying for financial aid in order to get into private school had me think about money a lot, realizing, I want to be earning way more than I do right now.  I made peace with slowing down with my business to roll with raising my two boys, but when I realized I was done birthing, I was itching to get out there, to impact more people and expand my reach.

I would gain some momentum then kids would get sick or something would happen to have me go back to square one.  At some point I did so many facebook lives but the criticism of it had me back down.  I couldn’t help but be self-conscious.  I understand that what I do is not everyone’s cup of tea but when a few people have a negative response, it’s tough for me to go on.  This isn’t new, my shaky relationship with my own self-esteem has obviously had something to do with it.

I was looking for perfection in everything I did.  I went too far experimenting with my own weight.  Since I became a teenager, I was either on diet or skipping meals until I did a stupid Atkins diet in year 2000 that had me restrict carbs.  I will never forget that on the 13th day of restricting carbs, I lost it.  I was interning for the sound post production company and the kitchen there was filled with all kinds of cookies and junk for the people who spent hours working.  I couldn’t stop eating, which led to me being so full that I had to purge to prevent myself rom bursting.  Before I knew it, this became a pattern.

I was ashamed to ask for help so I struggled for years to come.  I was skinny and miserable.  My eating disorder was a way I punished my body for not obeying, for being too curvy and not allowing me to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.  I worked so hard that this practice allowed me to have a sense of control in the places where us, women, usually don’t have it.  I got a handle on it in 2005 when I did transformational work, Reiki and began to listen to my own inner voice about who I was and what I wanted.  I relapsed for years after that but I was strong enough to always get back on the horse when I fell down from it.  I remember telling my dad about my struggle and him telling me to just stop doing it.  Somehow, I also thought that this was my fault, that I this time of my life was wasted, that I was wasteful and stupid for being sick.

Almost a decade later, and after spending over $30K on fixing my teeth, I feel like I am still blaming that little 20 year old Marija for being so stupid to numb her feelings with food, for spending so much time being sick and not asking for proper support and guidance.  In fact, as I decided to fix the aesthetics of my front teeth so that every time I smile I don’t think how thin my front teeth are and feel shame of it all over again, all of this came to the surface.  Restricting food (with all the dental work, I am pretty much on the soup and soft food diet) is likewise triggering in me the desire to give in, to give up, to relapse, to loose myself again in the binge so that I can numb the overwhelming emotions that are resurfacing.

What saddens me the most right now as I am writing this is how uncomfortable I am with appearing weak, with vulnerably sharing my struggle and needing support.  I think this is a problem with our society, people move on, they forget to ask, we are all expected that old troubles don’t bother us anymore.  Slowly, everyone is forgetting to ask if I am still grieving my dad.  Surely, many people that knew about my eating disorder probably just assume that I don’t think about it anymore just because I don’t purge or go on binges.    But, this is all not people’s fault.  It is us, me, who don’t ask for help when we need it.  Being criticized is one of my biggest triggers which is why, in the past, I always opted to restrict the information I give.  I worry about what other people think and say, so in the process, I mold myself to fit in.  It’s an old pattern that every now and then I fall back into.  This is why I am writing this.  I am not complaining, I am not even sharing it to get points, I am sharing the process.  Working with people in the past decade had me see that nobody is immune to this.  We all have things come up and then those of us who are committed to having great lives clear it and those that are not, ignore it.  Either way, things come up and every time they do, they come up faster and stronger at us, which makes sense, because we are stronger too.

In a face of everything new I want to create, my insecurity will come up to bite me in the ass.  I will then remember that my father did the best he knew to do and will allow to feel his energy all around me supporting whatever it is I am up to.  And regardless of how much I feel that my dental work is punishment for my eating disorder, I will find compassion for doing the best I could at the time to numb the overwhelming emotions that took me years to be able to feel, claim, allow and make right.  I will remember my mom’s words: “teeth can be fixed,” and I will go on to fixing what I can for as long as I live.  Expansion is only possible when are moving through it, when we are playing games that are big enough that we can see everything that isn’t a match for who we need to be to win them.  Love only.  Compassion.  Gratitude.

 

 

 

Breaking the Silence

My father passed away last month.  I couldn’t get myself to write about anything else and the wound was fresh, the emotions bubbling up.  I always stand for authentic communication and was wondering how do I do that when it involves other people.  How do I write the truth about myself without mentioning people in my life who are part of my story?  I wonder this a lot because I am committed to living in the truth.

In my younger years, I learned that “rising above” was a better way to be about things in life.  I learned a few years back that being kind and keeping my mouth shut, protecting people from their own poor behavior was only shooting myself in a foot.  More often than not, people believe the story they are told.  They are not invested in finding out what everyone else’s perspective is on the subject and I find that unfair.  I no longer think that being silent or stepping out of the equation is good in and of itself.  On contrary, I believe I am responsible to tell my side of the story.

Years ago, and I think through this blog, I shared a story about my dad.  I sent him a link, thinking, it was appropriate that he knows about it.  I was proud of the way I’ve written it, I thought there was no shame and blame just simply my perspective on life as I lived it.  I remember him telling me that his younger son, my step brother, already told him about it and that when he asked if I was harsh with words, his son answered: “so-so.”  I was a bit wounded.  People walk around blaming other people for their lives, here I was, reframing my dad’s absence into a story of my becoming the person I was and it was still not good enough.  I was wondering, can anyone ever saying something personal without it meaning something bad about someone else.

We are all connected.  While this sounds like a total cliche, it actually isn’t.  We really are in this together.  People in our lives are merely mirrors for what we need to discover about ourselves and move through, evolve.  Perhaps all those fingers pointing at me for sharing my stories are making me stronger because in absence of approval, it is that much harder to stand for something we believe in.  And I, I simply believe in truth, in writing, in art, in being with one another.  We all make mistakes, we all mess up, but owning it allows us to transcend it, to stay present, to learn from it.  And there, I broke my silence and my concerns about writing.  I have a voice to use it. And so do you… woman

 

 

 

PROMISES

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Last week of the year, this space between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is one of the most sensitive times of the year for most people.   We cannot help but reflect back on the year, what is done or isn’t done, which promises will sneak into the next year because we know there is no chance in hell we can pull it off in the next couple of days.  I have one of those, it’s called my Online Program.  Some time in late October, I stopped even playing that game, I realized, with everything on my plate, I can’t do it in a way that works so I wasn’t going to do it just for the sake of doing it.

There are, however, promises that sneak up on us, those we promise to ourselves but don’t say out loud, like: I will do yoga every day, do a long walk outside rain or shine and stop eating processed foods.  How is that one working for me? Not so well.  You see, the problem with promises we make to ourselves is, they are safe from scrutiny, criticism and accountability but they don’t make us feel any less shitty when we don’t do them.  And this is because our promise to OURSELVES, has far more weight than any promise we make to someone out loud.

The promises we make to others, we do with much more ease, because if we don’t, we look bad and people will do just about anything to look good. It’s one of the strongest forces that gets us to do things (that and belonging).  And promising things to others, or having people hold us to account is powerful, because we will get things done, but keeping our promise to ourselves is even more important.  It isn’t easy, but it matters because when we relate to ourselves like we are not our word, or we don’t matter, it is that much harder to complete things in life.  We are always having to overcome an already established story about ourselves: we don’t do what we say we would do.

So think about those things that you already promised to yourself.  Write them all out, check off what you kept, cross off those that are irrelevant, acknowledging that you didn’t do them and re-promise the rest.  As you do, you will be giving yourself another chance to do it right.  Will you succeed? That’s up to you, but at least, you have a way bigger change at it than if you just swept it under the rug.  Because things swept under the rug are still in the room, we just can’t see them.  And often, we don’t even forget they are there.

Give yourself a gift of clean slate this holiday season.  Keep your list.  Even if you mess it up, at least you know how to reset it.  Wishing you the best.

Happy Holidays to all,

Love,

 

Marija

It’s never too late …

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”   George Eliot

I went to see a healer a few weeks back, it was a friend’s recommendation and a treat, so I couldn’t refuse.  I can’t say much about it because some of it was fairly confusing and I’d rather let it sit, but he did say something to me that keeps replaying in my mind over and over again.  He said (or rather channeled), that I will become even more successful when I acknowledge and appreciate all the successes I already have in my life.

I’m not a pessimist by nature, at all, but if you listen to me talk sometimes, you would think I could be, because I would often point my gaze in the direction of things that aren’t working yet, rather than look at all the miraculous things that do.  I often do this simply because I want to be acknowledged once and for all for everything I do.  This was missing in my childhood; it is a father who opens the door for a daughter’s success and breaks her away from mother’s nurturing and in my case, he wasn’t around.  This deep wound had followed me like a shadow always whispering softly: “you are not enough.”  While I am among the rare aware ones that can acknowledge it and get passed it, the wound is really there and sure as heck it had an impact.

marija w make up art.

If you are in late 30’s, about to hit 40 like me, or already in your 40s or even 50s, you must deal with some version of: “it’s beginning to be too late for me to do some things.”  I swear, when I was pregnant, both with my first one at the age of 35 and the second one at the age of 37, I felt that my body would never be the same, that I would never be able to move it as quickly and as gracefully as I could before.  I felt that my breast would forever stay huge and I’d never fit any of my silky tops that I always liked to wear.  In fact, I gave most of them away.  I am not kidding when I say that when my younger one was at the hospital at birth and I listened to lactation consultant (instead of my own motherly instinct) to pump every three hours, and at some point my breasts were a size of watermelon.  I felt so strongly like stabbing them with something to release an enormous pressure of breasts too full with milk.  Thankfully, I’ve already done this once at that point so I knew all the tricks, pain killers, cabbage wraps and hot water hand expressing.  (It’s ok, you probably only get this if you were a breastfeeding mamma.)

To get to the point, so many things in my life seemed like they just timed out.  I could write a longer list of things no longer possible than anything creative to counteract it.  In fact, I often visit that space even now and it’s hard to be in it.  I just know to allow my emotions to teach me instead of stepping on it and pretending that all is well.  In fact, I have spent over $20K learning about ways in which it is safe to express emotion as a woman so I can be free, so I can use it to fuel my creativity and increase my light and not dim it down.  In fact, I became a better human being altogether after, because the more I let myself be me, the less I am really concerned by what the others are doing.

And no offense, I still don’t fully enjoy or directly benefit from ton of photoshopped (and sometimes real) pictures of women expressing their freedom by being almost naked right there on the screen, wearing ton of make-up, coloring their eyebrows like they are using sharpies and reporting on every single thing they do in their day as if us, real people, really care.  I get annoyed and surprised daily that the Kim Kardashians of this world have millions of followers and I cannot get over 600 unless I literally post at least 2 times a day.  I feel deep anger when I bump into social media accounts, from FB, IG to youtube where young girls and Millennials are asking the audience what they should post about.  Really?  You want me to give you the content so that you can keep on telling me how to live my life.  I find this contradictory at best.  I almost never watch it to the end, I can’t, it provokes the part of me that is pissed off for having worked really hard for what I now have, for actually thinking things through and posting things that make a real difference for me and at least a few people who I know will read or see it.

But that anger and frustration brings me nothing good.  Sometimes I feel that having 2 small children is a perfect distraction for being sucked into the reality show world and garbage that I feel is bombarding us every day.  And while I judge all this and claim it is not really worth my time, I am also facing the reality of getting older, of having grown up without internet, cell phone, and being gifted my first computer when I was already in college.  It is hard to know this reality and not feel like it may no longer be my time, that perhaps, my posts will never attract a wider audience and my writings will never really be read by more than a few loyal readers who probably also personally know me.  Some will even feel bad for me, think that I am sharing too much, revealing things that are best kept under the radar, but that would, in my view, take me even further behind than I already feel I am.

So what can we do? what am I doing about all this? How am I fighting this reality?  I am actually not fighting it at all.  I am allowing things that come my way, that I read or am bombarded by via social media, and I allow myself to feel what I feel.  I let the anger come up, the annoyance, the sadness even.  I let it all come up so I can fully acknowledge its presence.  I grant it space, I allow it to be.  Then, I look for mirrors, for lessons, for the buttons that got pushed on me because the truth is, not one of those media posts was ever created only to annoy me personally.  And then I break it down, until I can feel the emotion release its grip on me, until I see something about myself, often not a very pretty insight, that resonates.  It is usually one of these flavors:

I am envious that someone else is doing it successfully and I am not.  I am comparing myself to them and think that I deserve better.  I feel like I have so much to say but I don’t want to be humble to acknowledge and ask for attention.  I am still living inside of the fear of what would the others say.  I don’t want to be judged.  I hate it that most of them don’t care and I do.  I don’t want to look amateur.  It’s hard to let myself be a beginner at this age… etc

Here is where I start feeling some release and even some creative energy flowing.  You see, the platforms are there and available to all of us.  What we want and who we want to be can be created now easier than ever before.  And even if one doesn’t use social media and all the things that we have at our finger tips, go do that something you always wanted to do: take a course of French, learn how to drive, take a painting lesson, go to a choir, travel to that place you always wanted to see.  Write a long list of things that you want and see which one excites you the most and go for that one.

Perhaps it’s easier said than done, but you are either playing the game of life or sitting in the stands.  I have been in both places and I know that I come alive when I am in the game.  Sure, as soon as I come back to the stands I hear all the criticism of what I just did, but so what.  For when we are in a game, nothing else matters, we are fully alive.  There is no day like today, there is no time like now.  You can be what you always dreamt of being even if you haven’t yet gathered the social proof for it.  If you do it long enough, though, I am sure you will.

With love,

Marija