Discover more from You, Me, + Iced Tea
Embracing change and freedom with a compassionate focus
... and 5 freshly brewed book reviews
I have a funny, odd … perhaps complex relationship with change.
Life is full of change - we all know this. Big changes, small changes, changes that we welcome, and undoubtedly, changes that catch up off-guard.
Up until middle school (or for my folks outside the USA, around age 11), most of the change in my life was small and subtle. I tried numerous sports - track and field, swimming, basketball, and volleyball. I became deeply interested in various subjects and read countless books on those topics before I moved on to another. I took extracurricular art classes because creating with colors helped me feel emotions I didn’t understand.
And then the big changes started coming rapidly. My parents got divorced. My Mum, my older sister, and I moved a state away from my dad for her job. I moved into a house in a neighborhood I’d never walked in before. I started at a new school full of people I didn’t know. I started my period. I got large boobs almost overnight. I felt like a foreigner in my own body and my own life.
I grasped for any sense of control I could possibly have at age 12, and the only thing that I could find was school. I was good at school - great even. Straight As for nearly my entire life. It was a system that I understood. I knew what I needed to input (work) to get the best possible output (grades).
This cycle of seeming stagnation and steady-as-she-goes leading to rapid, large changes has followed me my whole life. Perhaps at this point, it is a cycle that I encourage or even reinforce out of habit.
But change is inevitable of course. No matter how much we try to hold on to what we have - family, friends, location, job, hobbies - it’s all bound to shift and change in some capacity, whether small or large, whether of our own choosing or not.
One of my favorite authors, Yung Pueblo, recently wrote about change and I’ve found myself re-reading his post and nodding along:
In the post, he says,
The ego craves a static existence because it thinks that this is the only path to security, but the greatest security we can cultivate is the release of attachments that come from our total acceptance of change.
I’ve found myself craving something, anything static as of late, yet it is nowhere to be found.
Especially in our world of being perpetually bombarded with information and opinions and advertisements everywhere we go, the idea of finding some calm in that storm seems ever-increasingly difficult.
How do we carve ease or freedom for ourselves?
How do we release our attachment to comfort when that’s all our ego craves?
How do we still connect with what is calm inside of us when everything around us feels in a constant state of change?
My answer to all of this is rather simple: compassion.
When I remind myself that I am not the only person with inner resistance and outer swirls of change, I grow a little bit more compassionate with myself.
We are all doing the best we can at any given moment, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
We’re all battling with this push-and-pull of resistance to change and longing for freedom (however we choose to define it).
In a broad sense, this helps me to be more patient with myself each day.
In a concrete sense, it means that aside from my work that I’m already committed to, and my daily life in taking care of myself (eating, moving, staying hydrated, sleeping … etc.), I always have one additional goal I’m focused on.
Yes, only one.
If my past Self read that, they’d be flabbergasted.
In a world of endless things to pursue, narrowing it down to one goal at a time feels ridiculous, yet this compassionate focus is the best thing I’ve found for my sanity. Here’s what it looks like in practice:
My previous goal was to finish brain-dumping ideas, topics, and snippets of journal entries for my next book. I finished this earlier this week after 2 years of starts and stops.
My current goal is to study for and obtain a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification to expand my options in terms of a steady salary. This will likely be my sole extracurricular focus for the next 3-6 months.
Once I obtain my PMP® certification, I could focus on one of two things: writing the first draft of my book OR getting a Scrum Master certification. I have not chosen which to focus on first. The time will come for that when I’m done with my current goal.
As a person who wants to do all things all the time, focusing has been immensely powerful and also a massive struggle. It’s a whole other type of change to teach myself to focus this way, but it has been entirely worth it.
And if you’re wondering if that means I spend every waking hour I’m not working on my job on my goal instead, that’s absolutely not the case. I am human, after all.
It means that each week, I spend 2-4 hours on my extracurricular goal, usually in the afternoons and a bit more on Saturdays. That can fluctuate based on how much force the rest of my life is exerting on me - a force that I can’t always control.
My younger Self would have exerted as much control as possible and forced me to work on my goal every chance I could get. If you’re wondering, that never went very well.
Life is unpredictable. I did not begin this year expecting that my life personally and professionally would be changing so much in less than 12 months, but it has and it still is.
Having a little bit more compassion for myself - and everyone I interact with - as I navigate these swirling, transformative changes has helped me approach everything with a bit more softness, a bit more patience, and a bit more curiosity.
And compassionate focus on one goal - one goal that I can (mostly) control my progress on - gives me a sense of groundedness amongst all the changes.
As Yung Pueblo says,
The acceptance of change not only opens the door to inner peace, but it also welcomes you into the deeper insights that ultimately lead to liberation. To be liberated, from the stress and tension that comes with attachment, is a challenging and long path, but one that is worth walking. As you take steps along the path, the truth of change will not only elevate your ability to love, it will also make it easier to deepen your connection with yourself and others. Change will implore you to develop a dynamic identity, one where you allow yourself to let go of old parts of you so you can evolve.
📚 Refreshing Books Worth Sipping 📚
Leave a comment + let me know if you’ve read any of these books 🤓
You don’t have to buy a house - you can happily rent. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to be rich - you could work a stable nine-to-five that you absolutely love. And not every purchase you make has to be provide a positive return on investment - you can just buy something because you want it!
Ramit’s seminal book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich (an intentionally gaudy title), changed my financial life entirely. I had tried so many methods (including particularly restrictive ones) to pay off my debts and actually be able to enjoy life, but nothing worked. Having used the insights from Ramit for the last 2 years, I’m in a healthier financial place than I’ve ever been and I can actually enjoy the money I make. I thought it was impossible. Recently, he released a journal to accompany his book and I jumped at the chance to try it out. I bought a physical copy (I know, gasp!) and it’s filled with my handwriting scribbles from cover to cover. If you’ve ever wanted to take an honest look at your spending (and/or what you’d actually like to spend your money on), this journal is worth the money and your time!
What appears to be the same can be very different in millions of not so obvious ways. Here, diversity is deep, if subtle.
I’ve never read a better sentence that captures the culture of Japan. Having read numerous books on Japan - with many more to come - I found this book to have many wonderful tidbits that you just don’t find elsewhere. It’s an enlightening summary of the Japanese people and culture, written by someone who was born into it and lives it. If you’ve ever wanted to know just a bit more about Japan without reading stacks and stacks of books, start with this one.
For Americans, Japan’s cultural norms can seem not only alien, but virtually opposite to our own. The Japanese value restraint, conformity, and consent. We prize self-assertion, individuality, and iconoclasm. They tend to be meticulous and obsessed with perfecting the minute; we produce blockbusters and build Hummers. Japan is an archipelago of confined spaces, and its strict social formalities have evolved to help millions survive in them. America has big skies, vast plains, easy smiles, and hearty pats on the back.
Still, on the topic of Japan, I was a bit hesitant to read this book based on some of the reviews I read, but I’m glad I did. While it focuses monthly on anime and manga (since those are key pop culture topics from Japan), it provides diverse perspectives on the mash-up of Japanese and American cultures over the last decades. Published in 2006, what may be even more assuming is comparing how Japanese culture was perceived at the time versus how it is now, almost two decades later. Spoiler: in some ways, it’s changed drastically, and in others, it hasn’t changed at all.
People no longer know who or what to trust. We sow hatred of others fueled by what we think is true, or what we want to be true, without regard to what is true. Cultural and political factions battle for the souls of communities and of nations. We’ve lost all sight of what distinguishes facts from opinions. We’re quick with acts of aggression and slow with acts of kindness.
I’ve never read a Neil deGrasse Tyson book that I didn’t like, and this one continues that trend. I have such a deep appreciation for his social and scientific perspective on broad concepts that many of us ignore. If you’d like to add a bit more intelligence to your day-to-day decisions and conversations, this book is the one for you.
Leaving something behind isn’t just about having a child who will roam the earth after you’ve gone. A legacy is made up of everything you’ve ever done. It’s everything you leave behind. It’s every choice you make. It’s every person you meet. It’s every feeling you’ve passed on. It’s every story you tell.
Much like Neil, I haven’t read an Emma Gannon book that I didn’t like, and this one continues that trend too. This is her first fiction book and I give her massive props for moving from writing nonfiction to fiction - that idea of that as a writer spooks me to my core. But she did it! As you might have guessed, the main character is a childfree by choice character, which I naturally appreciated. I think she tackles the topic with honest grace. I read the book in less than 48 hours because I found it hard to put down, so that’s saying something, especially with fiction. If for nothing else, I encourage you to read the book to see the types of struggles that childfree people encounter, in small and large ways, over and over and over. It may help you better understand someone in your life and your relationship with them.
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