My Trip to Europe

My Trip to Europe

I recently travelled to Europe, and if hearing about that sounds like something you’d be interested in, read on. I’ll tell you about the many highs and a handful of lows. If you don’t have time to read but are still interested, check out episode 25 of my podcast, I Think I Can.

Let’s just begin with the fact that I can get on a plane again and go across to Europe is something to celebrate. I began my travels in Italy – Tuscany, to be specific. I am not quite sure why I am so fond of Italy. My father is from the Netherlands, so you might think that I would be in love with Holland, but I actually prefer Italy. I was introduced to Europe at the age of 14 when I travelled with my sister to visit our Dutch cousins. I spent a good part of my summer there and had a wonderful time. Thinking back now, it was incredibly generous of our parents to send us abroad, not just in terms of the financial cost, but also because my sister and I helped out a lot at home. We lived on a farm and had two younger brothers who needed looking after, so, as you can imagine, there was always plenty of work for us to do.

As the daughter of a Dutch immigrant, I grew up surrounded by European culture. We often had relatives visiting from overseas, and thanks to them and my father I was immersed in the Dutch language. I loved hearing my parents’ stories about travelling abroad. And, of course, there were my own trips. I was 18 years old when I had a chance to visit Europe again, this time with my parents and a few siblings. We went to see my eldest brother, John, who was posted in Rome with the Canadian Foreign Service. Then, when I was 22 years old, I had the opportunity to work and live in Brussels, Belgium. Finally, when I was 30, I went to Europe with my husband, visiting Italy, The Netherlands, Hungary, and Poland.

This year, I returned to Europe for the first time in almost 22 years travelling alone. What sparked this journey? In part, it was the fact that COVID restrictions were finally ending, and I had the freedom to fly again. Many restrictions have been loosened, and the only time I needed to wear a mask was while in transit (on a plane, metro, train, metro, or bus) I also wanted to visit my brother. He’s retired from the Foreign Service now and has purchased land in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany. I was one of the few remaining siblings that had not yet seen his place. So, that was a big draw as well.

So why did I chose to travel alone?

There are a few reasons. One is that when you enter the second season of your life, something weird happens to you. You realize that life is passing you by and if you don’t start doing the things you have talked about doing, all those dreams and longings that you’ve been holding onto may not happen. I did consider going to Italy later in the year, when my husband would be able to join me, but after such a horrible winter in Manitoba I just couldn’t wait any longer. As well, something that I have on my radar is that eventually I’d like to be able to winter away from Manitoba. Thus, I need to start some early scoping out of different places that I could call my second home. Tuscany seemed to be a good one to add to that list.

I was also haunted by the idea of challenging myself. I knew my life had become too routine, too easy, and lacking the excitement it had in my youth. I hadn’t travelled alone for at least five years and, honestly, the idea of going to Europe by myself and navigating everything in a foreign language kind of scared me.. But as mentioned, my life was in somewhat in a rut. It was Groundhog Day every day – wash, rinse, repeat. I needed to bust out of the cycle, because I knew from experience that it leads to a dead end. I needed a change. I wanted to become a kid again and walk around gazing in awe at everything around me. And that’s exactly what I did.

I spent almost seven days in Tuscany with my brother and his partner. I was spoiled with beautiful walks, beautiful sunsets, fresh delicious food that awoke my taste buds from the boredom of my usual diet. My alarm clock every morning was birdsong. I heard a nightingale sing; I think for the first time in my life. I also met my brother’s neighbours, who soon became friends, and I was able to see what it would be like to live and work in a small Tuscan town.

“I wanted to become a kid again and walk around gazing in awe at everything around me. And that’s exactly what I did.”

via @luellajonk

After leaving my brother I headed back to Rome to rediscover what the capital of Italy had to offer. I was reminded of how ancient it is and saw what city life is like in Italy. I was able to see the Pope for the second time in my life at St. Peter’s Square (the first time when I was 18 at a Christmas Eve blessing). What I enjoyed the most was a tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, places where I could easily spend a week viewing the art and curiosities. On other days I also visited many other churches, as well as all main attractions in the city centre. I left no stone unturned during my four days in The Eternal City.

During the flight from Rome to Lisbon, I took the time to reflect on my 10 days in Italy. I realized that I’d learned the following about Italian culture: These people love, love, love connection. I often thought how difficult it must have been for them during the Covid 19 restrictions. Their culture is one of connection. Also, they were very kind and helpful in stores, even though many of them did not know the English language very well.

I will never forget visiting Monte San Savino, which is near my brother’s house. We parked in a small piazza near the centre of the town, and before you knew it, my brother was trading familiar greetings with what seemed to be a massive number of locals. The local butcher and I are now best buds – he loved telling me all about his cows! All the meat is exceptionally fresh.

And, of course, I love their coffee culture, which, again, is highly associated with connecting with others and enjoying the moment instead of feeling rushed. Whether they are meeting a friend for their morning cappuccino or just chatting with the barista while sipping on a caffè lungo macchiato on a sunny afternoon, it is all so nice.. I did not see ONE Starbucks my whole time in Italy! What a breath of fresh air that was. You would NEVER see anyone walking around with a gigantic coffee cup or a travel mug, the Italians would rather sit and enjoy the pleasure of drinking coffee. Another thing to note is the pricing. It doesn’t matter if you get a coffee or sandwich near the centre square or in the suburbs beside a metro station. It is all priced the same and very reasonable. I am sure some shops do a better job than others making that cappuccino, but they all tasted great to me.

The fact that prices for food, drink and many goods are similar across the country feels like an important observation. It doesn’t matter whether you are shopping at a tiny old store on a hidden street or a big supermarket, it is basically all the same prices for food. This is even true of wine, and a $6 bottle is just as delicious as a $15 bottle. Italians believe everyone deserves fresh food of high quality. There is a huge middle class in Italy, and even if you are on the lower range of this middle class, they prove that it doesn’t take a lot of money to look clean and in vogue. It might not be Prada, but I bet it is still leather and not polyester. Their shoes still shine, and they are well groomed. Put it this way, they don’t leave the house wearing pajama pants and slippers. They have a lot of pride in themselves and in their shops as well. You always see shopkeepers sweeping their floors and steps and shining the counters.

It took me a few days to get used to eating as late as the Italians do. Dinner is typically served sometime between 8 and 8:30 pm. However, after I got into the groove of it, I started to really like this routine. It seemed to make sense to me in some ways. People have time to finish their workday, come home, unwind, cook, talk about the day, and share the beautiful food together. It often starts off with antipasti – ‘anti’ meaning ‘before’ ‘anti’ and ‘pasti’ meaning ‘pasta,’ so “food that comes before the pasta”. I enjoyed this as much as I did the actual meal. It usually consisted of salami, prosciutto, olives, artichokes, sometimes cheese, crusty rustic bread, and lots of olive oil. I haven’t yet mentioned the beautiful wines, but that is not hard to guess. I must admit, I very rarely drink, but when I do it is wine, and I did not deny myself of any on this trip. I will also miss the pizzas found on every street corner and in every restaurant. They were all delicious with their thin crispy crust and dollops of bufala cheese (so light and delicious) and perfectly herbed sauces and meats. I miss it all already {sigh}

There were a few things I could have done without while travelling. One of them was waiting, which is something that I always find challenging (but always worth it). This includes waiting at the airport to board the plane, waiting in traffic (only in large cities), waiting to eat, waiting for the seatbelt sign to be taken off so I can go to the washroom. Speaking of washrooms, mama mia, to be a tourist in Rome and need to use a public washroom is mission impossible. There are very few public washrooms (if any) so if you want to use one while out and about, you likely need to step into a shop and pay £1. Another less than fond memory would be the traffic noises, like garbage trucks early in the morning. There is always garbage around the streets. The trash cans are small and coming upon one is infrequent. I should note that I stayed right in the centre of Rome, so of course the noise would simply be expected in order to have a great location near all the attractions.

Okay now on to Portugal. Lisbon is an exceptionally beautiful modern European city. I am not going to act like a tour guide here, as I am not worldly at all. But I wonder if being the host site for the 1998 World Exposition led to huge improvements in infrastructure. The city streets, bike paths, sidewalks, metro system, and parks were exceptionally well maintained. It is a very artful city, with beautifully painted buildings done so tastefully. It is very different from Rome. Rome is ancient and thus many buildings are still crumbling… but that is also what allows for its charm.

As I said, you cannot really compare the two. The weather was exceptional in Lisbon – beautiful warm days in the high 20’s which they tell me is uncommon. Mid-low 20s is more normal. The people were incredibly friendly and helpful. The food was amazing – especially if you are a fish lover. Had my best tuna tartar ever. I tried the fried sardines and, well, it’s not likely that I’ll ever have that on my plate again. It was not that it tasted awful, it was just very different than tinned sardines – which I love!!

I could go on – but this is already a lengthy post so I will stop. However, if anyone reading this wants to know more in order to plan their own trip to a European destination, I would be more than happy to provide tips and suggestions.

And perhaps… I will be writing to you again within the next 6- 8 months documenting yet my next trip? One needs to follow their dreams…. until then arrivederci!

Who a Woman Is and What She Wants

Who a Woman Is and What She Wants

I have had this energy about me for the last several days surrounding who women are meant to represent, what they thrive off of and what they need, want, and desire.

Ironically, as I typed out the title of this random blog post I also google-searched ‘International Women’s Day 2022’ and found out it is tomorrow!! If that isn’t the universe speaking to me, I don’t know what is…

So one might think that being a therapist and being a woman I would know the answers to all of this, but I didn’t, until I really gave it some thought. Let’s just say ‘age and experience’ has provided me with some hard-acquired wisdom. And quite honestly, I feel that most of us women walk around this world not even knowing what our desires are.

We were raised to be proper, pretty, and prim but, most importantly, to be obedient. How often did we hear things like “good girls don’t do that “? We might be told things like ‘follow that gut instinct” and “nothing is more powerful than a woman’s intuition,” but these run counter to a deeper messaging that’s instilled almost from birth: that we should feel guilty about following our own wishes.

There is some truth in a woman’s intuition indeed. We have levels of emotion – a feelings side of us that is like no other. Our physiology compliments this by providing us with a monthly hormonal cycle that is delicate and plays a large role in providing us with the intuition and guidance within us. Although many women see this as a curse, it should be seen as our strength. If we only had more insight towards these hormonal changes cycling through our veins, I think we would be more forgiving towards ourselves. But, as with so many things about female anatomy, our hormonal cycles are woefully understudied.

A woman is powerful, intellectual, incredibly talented and insightful but also has a massive ability to feel and connect. We are feeling creatures and because of this, we often allow others’ words and behaviours to stop us from doing what our heart long for us to do. The emotive part of ourselves is often what stops us before we start. Over the generations, societal pressures played a strong role in the messaging that girls need only to play with dolls and not be confrontational, whilst hearing “boys will be boys”, and thus let them just be.

What we need instead is to honour our needs and not apologize for having these strong desires. We need to begin to listen to our thoughts and not displace them for ‘when we have the time’. We need to sit with the thoughts of not aligning our needs with what is in front of us – our reality. We need to change our reality to fit our desires – by….changing our thoughts we have about our needs. Define what your needs are and then start telling yourself these desires are available to me, but only if I truly believe they are…and YES they are!

“Define what your needs are and then start telling yourself these desires are available to me, but only if I truly believe they are…and YES they are!”

via @luellajonk

You take the thoughts about your desires and wants, and put emotion and feelings behind the thoughts (as if you are already there). In other words, feel as if your desires are already happening and stay with that energy – vibrate in that energy and pratice staying in that state – and your dreams will come true. Work with me – and you will see this for yourself.

I cannot end this post without telling men what women want out of a relationship. Even though I hear men tell me that women are complicated entities, we are no more complicated than they are. We are at the bare minimum in simplicity. We want true connection. We want you to listen to us from the depths of your intellect – not solve our problems for us (unless we ask you to). We want you to honour our feminine energy and step back when we are distracted and distant and move towards us when we feel strong and desirable. We want to know you have our backs no matter what. We want to know that you support all of our heartfelt desires and needs. We want you to applaud our achievements and give us a hug when we fail. We want you to take the time to understand us. We want you to ask us ‘what do you need from me today’? We don’t necessarily need the compliments and flowers, but we might? We need you to be a dedicated dad and we need you to love yourself and honour your own needs.

If any of this has resonated with you – work with me.

To end, I wanted to share a song with you that my 17 year old son shared with me. He asked me ‘ do you know this song mom?’ I answered ‘yes! An oldie but a goody!’ and was delighted to know that he actually listens to music such as this piece. I hope he is able to say these words to his partner someday – I know it will mean a lot to her, and to me as his mother.

Women – be kind to yourselves today and always. Give yourself the grace to take time for yourselves – journal, walk, meditate and breathe.

Stop Telling Yourself Lies

Stop Telling Yourself Lies

The lie I have been telling myself for a long time is, “I love to cook’. Truth be told…

I HATE COOKING.

There you have it. Black and white, dead honest. I have been seemingly torturing myself for years, trying to convince myself I do like to cook. But gosh, it feels so damn freeing to say I hate cooking. I am sorry if you thought my revelation might be more dramatic than this…but more me – it was profound.

On a subconscious level, I want to enjoy cooking. Afterall, I often proclaim ‘food is medicine’. Wholesome food that comes from the earth is so nurturing and I truly believe it can heal a person completely.

But I hate cooking.

The idea of spending two hours of my Sunday doing meal prep sounds as appealing as trying to nail Jell-O to a wall, and just like cooking, the idea of cleaning up the damn Jell-O after attempting the act is even more repulsive. It is not so much the act of cleaning, because I love to clean…it is more of the idea of spending countless hours in the kitchen with little reward. At most I get other family members eating and then running away, sometimes with a thanks, quite often not, and more often with an attitude of, “What is this, Mom?”. Or, ‘Why do you keep making this stuff Mom?’ Okay, maybe the lentil/kale/butternut/quinoa casserole with the crispy tofu and vegan alfredo sauce was a bit of a stretch … but I try so hard! I get on a mission to come up with new recipes because perhaps, in my mind, I will finally find the best recipe: one that is super easy, super tasty, probably hitting all colours of the rainbow (got to get those phytonutrients, nutrient dense, super foods in there) and so on.

“The more we get curious about ourselves with unconditional love, the happier we get.”

via @luellajonk

So, it seems then, there are parts of us that we admire and perhaps proud of, and then there are other parts that we do not particularly care for… Have you ever wondered why? Why don’t you like this characteristic about yourself? After all, there is no one description of the ideal human being, is there? I don’t know who that person would be…do you? Sure, we could all likely describe that ideal person in our mind – but that is YOUR perception of the ideal person and similarly, a perspective of how the world and your environment SHOULD be. This reminds me of what one might be searching for in a soulmate, and I am quite sure that your version is different from mine. So who is right and who is wrong?

The answer is neither because that is just our perspective, our culture and grooming of the mind. That is our belief. I want you to start challenging these beliefs more. Are these truths or lies that you have been telling yourself? If you like this about yourself, then continue to believe it and celebrate and reward yourself. If you don’t, then start being honest and behaving differently to feel differently. A feeling that may bring you more joy in life.

Now, back to the question of why you might not like these character traits? The most likely reason is that your experiences shaped you in believing not to celebrate that trait, characteristic or behaviour. Research in child development has demonstrated self-programming (thoughts, habits and beliefs) are established prior to the age of 7. This is why the Jesuits say, “give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Realize as well, this trait CAN be very culturally based.

That Jesuit quote is the formula/program/protocol for how we think, feel, and behave throughout our lives. Some of it is genetic, but most of it is through learned behaviour. The behaviour was either modelled to us or taught to us in another form, perhaps from the words we heard spoken around us. If I was raised by a tribe of Ugandans, I doubt that I would have an obsession for peanut butter sandwiches, which happened to be a staple in my elementary school lunches. I would also have completely different religious beliefs, fears, needs and desires. My habit formation would be like those of other Ugandans. According to the current society I live in, my behaviours (tendencies and habits) would be viewed as good, bad or neutral.

I’ve tried meal kits. You would think I might embrace them, right? When that box first arrived on my doorstep, I already felt a sense of dread about what might be lurking inside that box (even though I chose the meals – likely in haste). I needed to push myself to open it and when I did, what I found stressed me out even more: colorful recipe cards that described how to make each meal step by step, along with a suggested time frame to complete. This stressed me out even more. What if I didn’t complete it in this time frame, would that count as a failed attempt? What if I wanted to do step 3 before step 1 – then what? I was tempted to bury the box in the backyard to hide all evidence of it, but the food waste guilt would be too much for me. I’m the kind of person who will still eat the leftovers off my children’s plates rather than throwing it in the bin when cleaning up after a meal.

My husband has a completely different relationship to cooking. It baffles me to hear him whistling in the kitchen while preparing a meal. What, I think to myself, are you actually enjoying yourself? How is this possible?

I am always trying to analyze my behaviour – one of the drawbacks of being a therapist, I might add – so I wondered ‘what is it about the act of cooking that I dislike?’ Besides the lack of gratification from my children that is.

I came to realize it might be that I am not a big rule follower, so the whole idea of precise measurement and ‘steps’ does not bode well with my psyche. I discovered this about myself in first year psychology class at university. When the professor spoke of different theories of development or behaviour formation, I always thought to myself, “Just because this old dude from way back suggested this theory doesn’t mean we have to still believe in it, come on people!”. I love a good thought challenge. I also got C+ in that class, which was my lowest mark in post-secondary studies ever. Ha ha!!

It also may be because I don’t like doing acts or behaviours that ‘create disarray’. Just as Gretchen Rubin proclaims, ‘Outer order, inner calm’, so too is my motto. So, organizing, cleaning, tidying, etc. is my jam. Oh, I don’t make jam either, by the way, as you will have likely guessed. I don’t can garden produce and you will never see some sourdough ‘starter’ or something ‘sprouting’ in the corner of my kitchen. I prefer to buy it instead or, if it’s too expensive, do without. Everything I do in the kitchen needs to be very basic, quick, and simple.

The more we get curious about ourselves with unconditional love, the happier we get. However, it is equally important to look at our weaknesses (e.g., cooking) and figure out a solution. Lacking a love for cooking is a weakness, despite what I said about societal pressure. Why? Because cooking food at home is a skill that you do need to teach your children if you want them to succeed in health and wealth. Going out to eat is both costly and unhealthy. Restaurant food will always be loaded with more sugar, salt, fat, and processed seed oils because they need to make a profit and they aren’t going to do it with olive oil and pure maple syrup.

So how do I deal with these conflicting realities? My solution is to first admit this to my family and myself (with no apologies!). I am not going to pretend I am Wonder Woman in the kitchen when I am not. Secondly, I need to compromise. This may include me desperately bargaining/begging my husband and seeing what duties we can swap out. Need me to clean toilets? No problem, happy to do so! Also – when I do cook, I stick to the basics, which means I cook like my mom did. Stop attempting recipes you find in those NYT cooking videos or on the YouTube channel of some social media food goddess.

(That is the other ironic thing, I frick’n love watching cooking videos … what is up with that? Maybe it is me being fascinated with the well-organized and beautiful meals. I feel like a 5-year-old walking into the Magical Kingdom for the first time. Seriously, I feel like Peter Pan in Never-Never land – because to me – this act of cooking is truly Never-Never land.)

What is my idea of a great Sunday? Writing, finding a way to be in nature, cleaning, organizing, learning (usually through podcasts), perhaps grabbing a coffee, perhaps a bit of shopping, spending time with friends, family, etc. You’ll notice cooking isn’t on that list, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for that.. It is NOT me – and that is okay. I realize that the idea of loving to cook it is so culturally fixed in women’s psyche. It is at these times that I think of my own mother and say ‘Wow, how did you do it with 9 kids mom?’ Momentarily I feel incredibly guilty… but then I stop that thought habit and challenge it.

I remind myself that those were different times with different expectations, and honestly, I think my mom feels she is more fortunate than I because that life was a lot less complicated then. I think June Cleaver would agree. It is okay because my life is/was not her life, or any other woman’s life. Yes, culturally we are taught that we as women should embrace cooking food for our families. God knows I admire those women. But I am not one of them. And that is okay.

Intuitively, you may have noticed this post is a continuation of last week’s post on how to bring more joy in your life. I started to write to gain awareness of my thoughts. I realized that the before and after thoughts of preparing a meal put me in a place of dis-ease. I realized that after watching cooking videos, I felt guilty, bad, and useless. All these clues came through by allowing myself to slow down and gather my thoughts. I hope you can do the same this week.

Steps to Bring More Joy in Your Life

Steps to Bring More Joy in Your Life

The formula to bring more joy in your life is super simple. Here it is.

Move away from things that cause you distaste and do more things that bring you joy.

How is that for some mind-blowing insight? As you can see, you don’t need a PhD to figure this out.

So why do we find ourselves lacking joy? My guess is that we are not honest enough with ourselves. What are our likes and dislikes? Again, I ask you … What brings you joy? Sit with that question for a while and then begin writing. The act of writing should bring you closer to authenticity. It certainly has helped me and has helped many of my clients. As a therapist this is one of the biggest pitfalls my clients fall into. Often we find ourselves faking being someone we are not. Perhaps these are the do-it-all women that fake happy marriages or the executives that seemingly have it all together leading their team but end the day with a bottle of booze. What a horrible way to go through life. Honestly, I can’t think of something much worse than this.

Think about it. When we behave in a certain way that causes a pulling away from ourselves, rather than a pushing towards, we are not being our authentic self. This is what I meant by ‘causing a distaste’. You may not even realize how much of a pulling away this is for you. Later on, next week, I am going to tell you how I discovered something about myself that caused me a lot of ‘pulling away’, and I ignored it for years. I was trying to ignore it and push through it, rather than be authentic and face the truth.

I was having a conversation with a potential guest for my podcast (sort of an interview before the recorded interview) and he noted the same. He said that for years… he felt somewhat ashamed for being optimistic. (Can you imagine? Being ashamed that you are positive in nature?) The guest tends to always see ‘the bright side of life’. What some others view as ‘toxic positivity’. Then, one day he woke up and realized ‘I don’t need to apologize for this anymore!’ This is who he is – and no one has the right to call him down for it. It is a strength of his, yet there must have been a belief that had been instilled in him that told him it is not normal or natural or right to always be happy. This could have been caused by a parent who is highly irritable and angry at life, or it could be a ‘friend’ or ‘partner ‘who constantly made him believe it is wrong to feel what you feel. I use quotations because anyone telling you not to be authentic is neither a friend nor partner in life.

Move away from things that cause you distaste and do more things that bring you joy.

via @luellajonk

So, it seems then, there are parts of us that we admire and perhaps proud of, and then there are other parts that we do not particularly care for… Have you ever wondered why? Why don’t you like this characteristic about yourself? After all, there is no one description of the ideal human being, is there? I don’t know who that person would be…do you? Sure, we could all likely describe that ideal person in our mind – but that is YOUR perception of the ideal person and similarly, a perspective of how the world and your environment SHOULD be. This reminds me of what one might be searching for in a soulmate, and I am quite sure that your version is different from mine. So who is right and who is wrong?

The answer is neither because that is just our perspective, our culture and grooming of the mind. That is our belief. I want you to start challenging these beliefs more. Are these truths or lies that you have been telling yourself? If you like this about yourself, then continue to believe it and celebrate and reward yourself. If you don’t, then start being honest and behaving differently to feel differently. A feeling that may bring you more joy in life.

Now, back to the question of why you might not like these character traits? The most likely reason is that your experiences shaped you in believing not to celebrate that trait, characteristic or behaviour. Research in child development has demonstrated self-programming (thoughts, habits and beliefs) are established prior to the age of 7. This is why the Jesuits say, “give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Realize as well, this trait CAN be very culturally based.

That Jesuit quote is the formula/program/protocol for how we think, feel, and behave throughout our lives. Some of it is genetic, but most of it is through learned behaviour. The behaviour was either modelled to us or taught to us in another form, perhaps from the words we heard spoken around us. If I was raised by a tribe of Ugandans, I doubt that I would have an obsession for peanut butter sandwiches, which happened to be a staple in my elementary school lunches. I would also have completely different religious beliefs, fears, needs and desires. My habit formation would be like those of other Ugandans. According to the current society I live in, my behaviours (tendencies and habits) would be viewed as good, bad or neutral.

James Clear, the writer of Atomic Habits, also states similar propositions in his book. He suggests if we really want to study our habits, we should write out our routines and behaviours and then rate good, bad, or neutral. The point being that if we want to get rid of the bad, we need to dissect what reward we are getting by doing a behaviour which is considered bad. He provides all different suggestions as to how to minimize or undo the patterning that was established attached to the behaviour we once felt rewarding (but now somewhat despise). The easiest example that comes to mind is smoking. I haven’t met one smoker who loves the idea of identifying themselves as a smoker, but despite this, continue to smoke. Thus smoking is a great example of a behavior once viewed as desirable and a somewhat sexy behaviour, to now very undesirable due to societal influences. 

There are many many other more subtle examples of what society or your culture (friend culture, family culture, religious or work culture) is telling you what is right and what is wrong, and if we follow someone’s else’s beliefs  we often feel a lack of joy and deserving of punishment. Smoking is a clear example of how societal pressure plus scientific research shifted our way of viewing this behaviour. The use of seatbelts and bicycle helmets are other examples of how society shifted our beliefs towards a behaviour. 

However, there are other practices that we do daily which make us feel unhappy which are not based in science, but we do it largely from cultural and societal pressure. Deep down inside ourselves, we feel pulled to do it – or not do it, but the push against it is so strong. Yet we ignore it. We ignore the fact it will bring us more joy because our experiences have groomed us to believe otherwise. This is what I mean about challenging yourself and STOP doing the behaviours that you believe you SHOULD  be doing – while still being law-abiding citizens. 

I will give you a personal example  regarding my own thoughts – it was a thought that kept pulling me away from my authenticity. It is a thought I need to stop believing and seek forgiveness towards myself for thinking this crazy notion, that is highly culturally based. It came to me in a gobsmacking sort of way. This is the realization I made…

Yes, a cliff-hanger indeed. ☺ Meet you here next week.