My book of poetry, "Stripping- My fight to find Me" is a story of the triumph of the human spirit. It is a story of our deep need for connection and the infinite power of love to heal.

Hello,
It’s Sunita here.

I am a poet, an author, a wife, a mother, a clinician and a childhood trauma survivor. I healed when I understood that I was broken,
not a victim. I learnt that everything I needed was within me. And that my mental health and my inner life was the essence and driving force of my existence.

I now want to challenge and inspire you to move beyond your old stories so you can embrace possibility and fulfill your potential. So, if that is where you are in your life, I invite you to come visit with me every Friday.

The conversation is honest, the topics are varied, the perspectives are from many angles, but the bottom line is always
Self Love Self Care First. I hope you will join me in a journey of discovery, wonder, growth and a celebration of our truth.

And love

Because what else is there to talk about?

Be well, Do well, Live well,
Warmly,
Sunita

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Self Love Self Care First Instead of Stress and Pressure During the Holiday Season? Yes, it Can be Done. I'll Tell You How


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

As I talk to my friends and patients these days, the conversation usually ends up about the upcoming holidays. Sadly, it seems that most people are already stressed out. But what is worse is that they seem resigned to the unfolding of events to come. Shopping lists, keeping the peace between feuding family members at holiday parties, conflict, obligatory events to attend, cleaning, cooking and millions of other commitments...

With all this preparation, how does one find the time, or frankly the motivation to practice Self Love Self Care First? 

By giving up the notion that we can make every one happy. 

And by curbing the need to be liked by others.

So I have no problem assuming the role of Grinch and pushing for a quieter and gentler on you season. I recommend simplifying, and cutting  down on every possible detail that you can this holiday season. Cross out activities that add nothing to your joy. Eliminate unnecessary gift buying. Shrink your Holiday Card List. Is your Holiday card a source of joy or stress?

Don't super load your social calendar at the busiest time of the year. Tell your friends and family who you don't often see that you will be free to visit them in the New Year. January and February are pretty open for most of us so they are a perfect time to schedule such get together's.

Reserve the end of the year holidays to spend with your special, and close connections. Nurture and celebrate the relationships that sustain and support you over the year at this time. Give yourself a break, and concentrate on putting your heart and efforts into rituals that give meaning to your values, and add value to your season. And make sure not to punish yourself by doing more than you have time, money and energy for.

No one will remember a gift you were hard pressed to buy for them. But they will remember the thoughtfulness of your consideration to spend quality time with them.

Start and end with this mantra- "I don't have to be Perfect. I just need to be Present." 

Planning to do as much as you can in advance will ensure that you don't have to deal with last minute dashes to a store in the brutal holiday traffic. Those trips can greatly reduce your life span by the stress and aggravation they induce.

As I look back at the many holidays I have put together for my family, one stands out as my children's favorite. And actually my husband's and mine as well. It was a year when we practically hid from the world from Christmas eve onward. For dinner, I defrosted a lasagna I had made a few weeks prior and we just sat around in our pajamas that evening listening to Christmas Carols. Appetizers were a simple, but mouthwatering assembly of cheeses, fruits and crackers. We felt deep peace and connection to each other. And because I was relaxed and happy, so was my family. We did not resurface for a good solid few days.

This may not be a realistic possibility for us each year but I'm certain that we can all trim the fat this year and plan to have a holiday of not only love and sharing, but of opportunities of reflection, relaxation and self care as well.

After all, we have the ability to make choices. What will you choose to do?

Wishing you a week of meaningful simplicity,
Love,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst#selflove#holidays#choices#simplicity#relaxation#relationships#planning#holidaycards

Sunday, November 17, 2019

We Must Give Our Boys a License to Be Emotional Because It's a Matter of Life or Death



Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I am the mother of two daughters. So most of my parent time is spent with them and their friends. And a majority of that time is spent talking about feelings, emotions and relationships. That is the world we inhabit. But I have started to  pick up a common thread in the conversations that my friends, family members and patients are having with their sons. Especially those who have teenage boys. What many of these boys are feeling and experiencing is not only deeply concerning, but troubling.

Our culture does not allow boys the opportunity of deeply engaging in openly emotional relationships with each other. There is a strong stereotype of boys being less emotional than girls. That is not true. It is almost impossible for young boys to express tenderness and vulnerability with each other without being labelled gay, girly or weak. This cultural taboo has resulted in a social isolation in boys that persists throughout their life as an edict of what it takes to be a man. 

The results are disastrous.

The American Psychological Association Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men were issued in 2018. A first in the history of the APA.

Drawing on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly...Men commit 90% of homicides in the US and represent 77% of homicide victims. They're the demographic group at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women's. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school- especially boys of color. Source, APA

NPR's Shankar Vedantam and his team bring their observations, questions and invitation for discussions to researchers and lonely men and boys in The Lonely American Man to gain insight into our cultural traditional definition and unspoken rules of masculinity. In this Hidden Brain podcast, they give a voice to the millions of middle aged and older men who suffer so deeply in isolation, at times resorting to desperate measures to combat their loneliness. They note that alcohol abuse, depression and withdrawal from social interactions, distractions like extreme exercise and overworking and a rise in suicide among baby boomers is just the tip of the iceberg of the American male's emotional deprivation. And to understand how things got so bad for these men, they explore what happens to young boys as they reach adolescence.

Dr. Niobe Way at NYU has been listening to boys for the last 3 decades and shares her thoughts and findings in her books and talks. She says, "Boys are amazing human beings of unbelievable emotional and social capacity. And we as a culture, completely try to zip it out of them...American masculinity and masculine norms and expectations make close friendships into a girly, gay thing rather than simply a human thing. So as boys grow older and enter manhood, they begin to be overwhelmed with this expectation that somehow they have to be on their own- they can't depend on others- they have to be fully independent- that somehow the desire for intimacy with other boys is problematic."

As a survivor of attachment and childhood trauma, I painfully, and clearly recognize this emotional isolation, disconnect, and dead end. I don't view this problem as a gender issue- but rather a human issue. But the reality is that large numbers of boys and men are suffering in silence due to the taboo of them publicly admitting to being lonely. This is because they are not granted the permission or freedom to experience emotions, vulnerability and the need for deep and intimate relationships.

We are wired as human beings to connect with others. When we are denied that connection, we die on the inside. And at times, on the outside as well. Death by suicide has risen among men between the ages of 50-54 by 50% even though the overall rate of suicide has gone down.


There are many reasons for the increasing social isolation of men. Social media use mimics connection, but is not even a faint substitute for the real thing. On the contrary, it can cause depression and heighten social isolation. Shrinking social circles are also a result of our culture's shift from participation in organized clubs and activities to disinterest in joining and ample availability of private entertainment. Robert D. Putnam explores this issue brilliantly, and poignantly in his book Bowling Alone.

Work and family now take up a majority of our time and energy. Many of us are raising our families in areas that are geographically far away from where we grew up. So we lack the built in connection and support that we had. There is also a stigma to being viewed alone or lonely in our society that plays a role in inhibiting men from seeking new friends, and pursuing deeper relationships with each other. Research shows that women in a relationship are the primary arrangers and coordinators of social activity of a family. If divorced, men greatly lose that interaction with friends and family after the event. That leaves them further isolated.

So what can we do about this? What guide can we use as we raise our sons, interact with our brothers, nephews, uncles, fathers and grandfathers, counsel our mentees and advise the young men who come in our path?

Start with this question which has been posed to participants by a study, now in it's second generation at Harvard University.

"Who would you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or afraid?"

If they can't answer this question immediately, with at least a few names, then there is some work to be done by them. Because the Harvard Study data collected since the late 1930's shows that men who had someone to turn to were happier in their lives and their marriage. Also seen were very strong connections of their answer to their physical health. People with warm and closer connections with others lived longer, developed chronic middle age disease less soon and had better health on average than people who did not have close relationships.

Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and psychologist, who is the current Director of the Harvard Study, in a TED talk viewed by almost 30 million people reveals what the study has shown to be the recipe for happiness.

Relationships. Warm Connections. Friendships that allow sharing of our life and our vulnerability. Knowing that you can rely on someone.

Here are some things you can do to be part of the cultural change we must bring about. And some recommendations for you, if you are part of the epidemic of loneliness that we find ourselves in.

  • If you are a parent of a boy/boys, actively encourage, support and foster their friendships with other boys. We must start changing the culture from the ground up.
  • Examine your relationships if you are a man struggling with loneliness. 
  • If you have no close friends, then don't ignore this warning of your shrinking social world. 
  • Reject cultural stereotypes that falsely project self sufficiency and independence as the hallmarks of being a man. Reach out to others. Remember, they are probably feeling lonely too and are looking for connection. Just like you are.
  • Join a club or activity that interests you and make acquaintances. Then make efforts to deepen those surface relationships. Don't be afraid of rejection. You maybe pleasantly surprised at the response you get.
  • If you feel unable or incapable to do this on your own, get professional help. You may have underlying mental health issues that have contributed to your isolation and relationship barriers and failures. In that case, it is imperative that you seek treatment.
  • Reject the cultural taboos and projections of stereotypes of 'manliness'. 
  • Celebrate the sensitivity, creativity, warmth and kindness of the boys and men you know.
  • Stand up and speak out against comments that characterize such qualities and intimate relationships between males as gay or girly. 

They are human attributes of the highest form, and necessary for living a happy life. We must give our boys a license to be emotional because it is a matter of their life or death.

Wishing you a week of connection and vulnerability!
Be well Do well Live well
Love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#relationships#selfcare#mentalhealth#intimacy#warmth#connection#apa#2018apaguidelinesforboysandmen#shankarvedantam#npr#hiddenbrainpodcast#thelonelyamericanman#socialisolation#harvardstudyofadultdevelopement#niobewaynyu#robertdputman#bowlingalone#tedtalkrobertwaldinger




Sunday, November 10, 2019

Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Jello, Love and Childhood Trauma- They're Connected.


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

"Children are much more sensitive to developmental trauma than adults." So said Dr. Bruce D. Perry on 6o Minutes with Oprah on March 11, 2018. Dr. Perry is a leading authority on the subject of the effect and the impact of trauma on children. The key to healing, he shares with Oprah, is through the creation of positive relationships.

Oprah goes on to offer her take on what heals, by singling out love as the ultimate healer. I happen to agree with her 100%. I am a survivor of attachment and childhood trauma. My healing came about through Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, ISTDP. But the bottom line is something much simpler. Love pulled me back from the 'land of the dead' that I inhabited due to my childhood traumas.

Oprah credits her grade 4 teacher Mrs. Duncan to being the person who gave her a sense of value and connection. That led Oprah to feel and believe that she mattered.

I look back and try to understand what happened to my brain as a result of the developmental trauma I suffered. One way to explain the deficient wiring of my brain is by likening it to Jello.

The dissolved gelatin is supposed to set over a couple of hours. For this, one must leave it undisturbed during this setting time. In case of a traumatized young brain, the gelatin never "sets" into jello form. So it is constantly exists as a "liquid". Being in "liquid" form leaves it vulnerable to even the slightest of stimuli. Or even to the perception of any threat. Fight, flight or freeze are the only 3 responses a traumatized child possess to threats.

Going back to the jello analogy, one can compare this response to stress to the unset liquid jello splashing or spilling when the container it's in is disturbed.

An infant/child who grows up in a loving and caring household, with no traumatic history would have a brain that is similar to the "set jello". It has a distinct form and takes the shape of the bowl that it is contained in. It is still soft and vulnerable to being damaged, just like a healthy brain may, after an incident of trauma, but it possess the ability to absorb some of the negative stimulus without "splashing or spilling". This is the same as having resilience as a child or adult. This resilience helps us weather the inevitable storms that come our way, as we journey through life.

The only way a damaged brain can be rewired is through love. That is the way this "gelatin can set".

I leave you with this poem of mine from 'Stripping - My Fight to Find Me. It is the last of the collection of 65 poems in this book and so appropriately, gives the key to how I healed.


Wishing you a week of feeling connected and valued,
Be well Do well Live well
Love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#childhodtrauma#oprah#bruceperry#neurosequentialnetwork#CBS60minutes#love#healing#connection#value#resilience#jello#ISTDP#Davanloo

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Fall Heart Bliss That Serves As a Warm Hug





Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I find Fall to be more of a pause than a transition. It signals 'gather and stop for a moment' to me. As the days become shorter, and the evenings become pronounced, my mind relaxes and I feel like I am in a throwback to the good old days. Time slows down for me and I relish the evenings as opportunities to think, plan and spend more time in my kitchen. And make soup.

Soup in Fall is different from any other time in the year. Autumn soups are rich, earthy, thick, full of flavor, and an occasion to use warm spices. I love to see pumpkins, gourds, parsnips, butternut squash, carrots, beets and all the glorious root vegetables of the season make their appearance in the produce section of my grocery store. There is something so reassuring and comforting about them.

Today, I share the basic recipe for our family's Fall Soup. It serves as a Warm Hug and when we all sit down together to enjoy it. And that is a pure Heart Bliss. 

You can substitute your favorite vegetables for what I've used and it will still be delicious. This recipe does not need 'exact and precise' measurements so play with what I have given you to make your soup reflect your taste.


I start by roasting the whole vegetables in an oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. (Root vegetables are very tough to cut when uncooked and can pose a risk for injuring yourself with your knife.)
I then cut the softened vegetables on a wooden board. Large chunks will do.
I sprinkle 1/4 cup of good quality Olive Oil over them and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
I return them to the oven to roast for another 15-30 minutes, depending on how much time I have that day.
The next step is to saute 2 large, roughly chopped white onions in another 1/4 cup of olive oil. If you intend to add fresh ginger to your soup, then now is the time to add it to the pot. If you are comfortable using a pressure cooker, then that will speed things up for you considerably. Otherwise a regular pot is fine.
Once the onions have become translucent, add all your roasted vegetables to the onions and let them cook together for 5 minutes. Add the dry or fresh herbs that you enjoy.
Remember, this is a soup that should 'feel' good to you so go along with what your family tastes are. I added parsley only.

Don't forget to stop to inhale the amazing aromas that are being released by fall's bounty in your kitchen.

I've been known to call (they tell me I'm "screaming") my kids into the kitchen, just to stand over the pot, close their eyes and smell the soothing whiffs of these gifts of the earth. It's soothing, and connects us to Pachamama and her generosity to us.

Now it's time to add a liquid to your soup makings. I added 4 cups of vegetable broth and 4 cups of 1% low fat milk. You can substitute with water, chicken broth, soy milk, almond milk, regular milk or any other type of broth.Remember, this is your warm hug so you get to choose the flavors and the base of your hug.

I used a pressure cooker at medium heat for 30 minutes to cook the vegetables and liquid together. After turning off the heat, I left the pot on the warm burner and did a few other tasks in the kitchen. That allowed the pressure in the pot to dissipate while the vegetables continued to cook.

Carefully and with a focus on safety, I disengaged the pressure cooker, only after verifying that all the steam had dissipated. I use a KitchenAid Hand Soup Blender to blend the vegetables. My soup is usually thick but this is a good time to add more liquid and adjust the blended mix consistency to your taste. Add more seasoning, salt and pepper if need be.

Serve with warm bread and butter. Or do what I did. Serve with croutons.

Here's how I make croutons at home.

Take whatever bread you enjoy. I had leftovers of a Sourdough- Rosemary loaf and a French Baguette from Whole Foods at home. Cube it and toss it in a large bowl- this is important because you want the bread to soak up the following. For 8 cups of bread cubes, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp dried parsley flakes. Add 3 cloves of crushed fresh garlic. Toss together like you are mixing a salad. Place the unbaked croutons in a single layer on a oven proof baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. They taste delicious, even at this stage, and I can never resist popping a few of them in my mouth as I slide the baking sheet into the oven. Keep them in for 10 minuets at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then take the sheet out and flip them over for another 8 minutes in the oven. I use a broad rubber spatula to flip them and am never very exact about it. If a few don't turn over, don't fret, they will still taste incredible! Use oven mitts whenever handling hot dishes and working with an oven.

https://unsplash.com/@autumnmott

You can make the meal an occasion for remembrance by using special china. I happened to use the teacups that we received from Nathalie on the occasion of her wedding to my nephew Neville. It reminded us all of the caring details they put into designing our experience at their wedding in Scrub Island. It was an amazing one. We were flooded with the love we felt there, and the memories of wonderful time we spent with them and my family. It added an extra dimension to our warm hug that night as we enjoyed our Fall soup and reminisced.



I hope you experience Fall in the most wonderful way and have simple family rituals that bring you together and give you Heart Bliss!
Until next time, Be well, Do well Live well
Love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#heartbliss#fall#soup#warmhug#rituals#family#rootvegetables#kitchen#love#family

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Perils of Lying to Ourselves Include Certain Sabotage of the Practice of Self Love Self Care First.



Hello,
It's Sunita here,

I was in Columbus Ohio last weekend to attend a Sleep Medicine course at the Metz Center. I had been looking forward to this opportunity for the past few months, to not only learn and share, but to get to meet other sleep professionals. I had planned to be there a day before the course started, so I could explore the city and give myself some time to do nothing but think and feel without the interruption of the daily demands of my life. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it. 

Well, Thursday didn't go the way I had planned. Let me explain.

Fridays are the days I post my blog www.selfloveselfcarefirst.com. That usually means that I dedicate time on Thursdays to write it and then share it the next day. I chose Friday because it was suggested as a day when blogs get read most (don't ask me about where these algorithms come from and how). I figured, I don't see patients on most Fridays so this will work perfectly. 

But the reality is that I am usually scheduled to do non patient related things at work and find it very difficult to carve out the time that I need to write. And because of that, when I have been sitting down to write, it had begun to feel more like an obligation, than a passion to share and help others. 

I had downplayed this unease and even went so far as to be self critical. My inner voice had the audacity to tell me "If you had used your time better during the week, you would not have this mad, last minute panic."

So Thursday in Columbus was spent in my hotel room, frantically writing and posting, instead of exploring the city and chilling. 

It's at that point that I decided to STOP DECEIVING MYSELF and look at the reality of my situation.

Friday was not working out as the best day for me to post my blog. Something had to change.

An act of love and sharing became an event of stress and distress for me. The total opposite of Self Love Self Care First. I did not want to admit that, even to myself. And admitting it here took a lot of courage. But I hope it illuminates the point I'm making this week. 

The perils of lying to ourselves lead us to harm. 
When we don't pay attention to how we feel, we derail our commitment to live honestly and free. 
Self Love Self Care First demands absolute honesty from us. 
We feel bad when we aren't because it is a betrayal of ourselves, and in that we lose our essence, agency and authenticity. 
That essence and agency is our power. 
To fuel it we must practice Self Love Self Care First.
Looking at what causes us distress requires us to be flexible and ready to change our beliefs, convictions and mind about things. 
It's okay to give ourselves the permission to do so. 
Fluidity is health. 
It is protective of us and guides us to take care of ourselves in ways that we can be our best and give our best.

So from now on, I look forward to visit you at www:selfloveselfcarefirst.com on Sundays.

I hope you will reflect on any thing that you want to do differently so you may enjoy and relish the experience as well.

Wishing you a week of flexibility,
Be well Do well Live well,
With love,
Sunita 

#selfloveselfcarefirst#blogging#flexibility#fluidity#mentalhealth#selfcare#selfcompassion#honesty

Photo Credit- Nina Singh Carlsen, The Dovre National Park in Norway

Friday, October 18, 2019

Use Mindfulness to Prioritize, Plan and Practice Self Love Self Care First- Nicholas Galanin's White Noise, American Prayer Rug Inspires


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Nicholas Galanin's White Noise, American Prayer Rug is a piece of art that has
recently been instrumental in advancing the conversation about many long standing social injustices. It had hung in the Whitney Museum as part of their Biennial Exhibition until he decided to pull his work out of the collection being shown. He explains his reasons for participating and subsequently withdrawing 'White Noise, American Prayer Rug' with great clarity and eloquence in ARTnews.

Nicholas talks about many serious issues in this piece, that I believe, deserve careful consideration, and thoughtful reflection from all of us. However, today I want to focus on these words of his about 'White Noise, The American Prayer Rug' because they connect us to the distance we face between our lives, and ourselves. This distance creates awareness barriers to practicing Self Love Self Care First. The lack of SLSCF further creates a disconnect inside us, leading to great physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain.

" This is the American prayer rug, a reflection of an image accompanying a droning sound to distract us from our own suffering from love, from land, from water, from connection; there is no space for prayer, only noise."

If you are looking to reconnect with your true self and take care of him/her, start with these simple questions.

What sounds are droning out your voice?
If it's the voices of others- Who?
If they infiltrate your mind and your decisions- Why?
How do you spend your time?
Do you believe you have control over your time or do you just go along with whatever is demanding your attention at a given moment?
Do you plan your day?
What gets you stressed out or causes you pain and suffering?
Is there are recurring pattern of cause and effect that you have noticed when it comes to your emotions?

Becoming Aware of your inner world or Mindfulness is the first step of practicing Self Love Self Care First. For that you have to shut out the White Noise in your life to be able to listen to yourself.
Determining your needs is the second step.
Prioritizing your needs is the third step.
Planning to take care of your needs is the fourth step.
Doing what you planned to do is the final step. (This is usually the hardest step, because if you have any deep seated resistances to loving yourself, they will come up in full force here to sabotage your efforts to take care of yourself. Help from a mental health professional may be warranted to reach those resistances and work through them.)

When you repeat this sequence with consistency, Self Love Self Care First becomes a practice. Your brain now recognizes the pathways you have developed, as you repeatedly act with self compassion and self love, doing things that light up your brain's pleasure zones. A calmness and confidence comes about that is from within.

This week, a friend of mine takes the prize for being 'Most Prepared for Self Love Self Care First'. Here's how she snagged that award.

She shared with me that she suspected that she might be pregnant. She intuitively felt it, this being her second time around. She is a very self aware person and admits to even possibly be being 'border line neurotic' about just about everything. Her body and her mind are part of that 'everything'. Even though she was not yet sure if she was pregnant, she told me that she had already mapped out what she would do differently because of what she experienced when she gave birth to her daughter, who is now 4 1/2 years old.

She shared with me that when she had her daughter, it had been a very difficult postpartum period, filled with loneliness, self doubt, anxiety and depression. The only thing that ended up helping her, much to her amazement, was joining a local breast feeding support group. She felt connected to the other mothers and started to feel less alone. She remembers 'dragging' her tiny baby with her to all the meetings because she would feel better every time she went.

So my friend now, based on her previous experience, has a plan for her possible second pregnancy. Here it is

- 'Reach Out' proactively, all through the pregnancy and after because I felt better when I feel connected to others.
- Cut down on work commitments and continuously re-frame my expectations of myself based on what I truly value and enjoy most (Despite being, and identifying herself as a driven, ambitious, successful, engaged and very bright professional, she discovered that motherhood, spending time with her daughter and her husband and seeing her daughter grow into a spectacular little person was what gave her true joy)
- Feel more and Do less

I think she hit all the points of how to practice SLSCF that I listed above. And knowing how determined and self aware she is, I have no doubt that when the time comes, she will execute her plan of SelfLoveSelfCareFirst flawlessly.

I hope you do the same for yourself.
Because you are worth it!

Until next time,
Be well Do well Live well!
With love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#Nicholasgalanin#whitenoiseamericanprayerrug#mindfulness#selfcare#selfcompassion#selflove#prioritize#plan#practice






Friday, October 11, 2019

Self Love Self Care FIRST- Not Just when Convenient- Why it Must be our Top Commitment and #1 Priority


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Our mind lies to us.

It tricks us to pay attention to what we have, at some point unconsciously set our priorities to be. It creates a sense of urgency about events that may not deserve that attention. As I said, our mind lies to us- often, and without us noticing. Unless we consciously define our priorities and make a plan to commit to them. Even under tough circumstances and trying conditions.

I was visiting with a close friend this week. As usual, we quickly got down to the nitty- gritty of our lives. As I listened to her, I felt sad to hear about the pressure she had been under. One of her teenage son's suffers from a chronic and debilitating illness that has a wide range of unexplained symptoms. She is constantly visiting various doctors, nutritionists, holistic healers and massage therapists with him, as they seek relief and answers. I was getting exhausted just hearing about her day to day schedule. This is all on top of her having a full time career, family and social commitments. My heart wanted to be able to just stop the pain for her. But I knew that was not possible for me to do.

I could see that my friends focus was entirely on her child's needs. That makes sense. That's what our motherly instincts are pushing us to do, and nature had a good reason to have designed us that way. It has ensured our survival over the centuries. But nature never instructed us to ignore ourselves.

What my friend seemed unable to see was how run down she had become. In her quest to find relief for her son, she had totally neglected to take care of herself. The result was a state of utter physical and mental exhaustion, fogginess of thought process, irritability and weight gain. She, despite wanting the best for her son, was now constantly fighting with him. There was discord and tension creeping into their relationship. He thought she was being overbearing. She thought he was unappreciative of her.

I gently asked her if she was taking any time out for herself in this storm. Here's what she told me. And I must say, as I listened to her, she immediately reminded me of someone I knew. Myself...

"Its hard- he needs me more right now."
"I don't have any time to spare. I barely get through the day as it is with all that I have to do."
"My other kids need me when I have any extra time."
"Work is busy right now."
"I'll start taking care of myself soon, when things settle down a bit."
"I can't."

I used to say, and believe all of these 'reasons' for not prioritizing myself FIRST. It felt wrong. I felt guilty to put myself above others, especially my family. But deep down, there was a dark, hidden message that I had absorbed that I never wanted to examine. Because it was so painful to admit.

I didn't believe I was worth it.

My reasons for absorbing this message were complicated and complex, and a result of trauma. But it is a message that has been downloaded by many of us, even in the absence of the experience of any trauma. It is a social message that is perpetuated every time 'selfless love' is celebrated.

I have discovered something entirely different as I healed, and continue to heal.

"I am sacred. I am important. I am divine. I have been created to be of service to my family and my community. But I have also been created to experience joy and to manifest the highest form of my being. So I must take care of myself with reverence. So, I must practice Self Love Self Care First. Before, my day of responsibilities and duties begins. Despite, my many obligations. Especially, when the demands on my mind, body and soul are high. More so, when my family and my community need me. Only then, can I take care of them to the best of my abilities, and in accordance to the love and devotion I have for them."

Self Love Self Care First
I am worth it. I deserve it. I am entitled to it.

The next few blogs will be on how to create a practice of Self Love Self Care First. But in the meantime, I share a picture of one of the activities that makes me happy and relieves stress for me. Baking. 

The process of making the 'Pear Bread' shown at the top of this blog gave me such pleasure. Every step was a SLSCF exercise for me. From picking the pears at the grocery store, to the actual process of baking, and then packaging the mini loaves to gift to friends. And, of course, the ultimate SLSCF act was to finally sit down with my husband Tim, and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee at the end of a busy day, with a slice of this sweet, nutmeg infused, heavenly fall delight. 

Coffee, dessert and an intimate connection with my partner. For me, this is SLSCF in the most joyous of ways.

Here's to a week of SLSC FIRST,
Be well Do well Live well
With my love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#selfcare#trauma#baking#joy

Friday, October 4, 2019

If You Are Feeling Defeated then This Blog is Definitely For You


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Many a times, we all get taken in by the brash light of success that is personified by those who achieve and succeed.

What we don't see is the journey of how they got there. Today is about the path littered with 'defeat'.

"Describe the defeated ones," said a merchant, when he saw that the Copt had finished speaking. And he answered:
Defeated are those who never failed. Defeat means that we lose a particular battle or war. Failure does not allow us to go on fighting.
Defeat comes when we fail to get something we very much want. Failure does not allow us to dream. It's motto is "Expect Nothing and you won't be disappointed".

Defeat ends when we launch into another battle.
Failure has no end : It is a lifetime choice.

These are Paulo Coelho's words from his book Manuscript Found in Accra.

Are you going to give up your dream because of a setback? Or a few setbacks?
Or perhaps many setbacks in succession?

I hope not. Because these setbacks are merely defeats- not failures. They are meant to be in our path so we may fall down, hurt and find the determination and strength to get up again. In that act, we grow. The scars that we bear after every defeat are our badges of honor and a map to our journey. There is honor in these scars- not shame. Shame would be ours if we gave up on what we have determined gives our life meaning.

Defeats, I have discovered, are lessons that we must learn to become the people we are destined to be. So we must re frame our understanding of defeat and being down and out in our mind. It is only a temporary place that we inhabit while we regroup to rethink our strategy and sharpen our minds for the journey ahead.

And in defeat, despite how hurt and paralyzed we may feel, our dream is manifesting itself. Even though it may not feel that way at that time.

But one day, you will be triumphant in the form that you were dreaming of. And you will realize that every defeat was a little triumph along the way to your Promised Land.

If you are feeling defeated, here is some practical advice for you,

  1. Understand your journey that you believe you are meant to be on (you have decided to be a 'writer/entrepreneur/social worker/etc., etc.____' and are starting out.)
  2. Have support and guidance around you- emotional, financial, spiritual...(The more defeats you suffer does not get you 'bonus points'. Let's be real- defeat hurts like hell! so it's prudent to minimize it. And loving support helps us lick our wounds, regain our confidence and move forward faster and with less damage to our spirit.)
  3. Give yourself time to think as you go about the business of being on your journey. (if not, then you will constantly miss out on  the contemplation necessary to discover the hidden gifts of your defeats. Solitude and reflection are necessary for us to become wiser) 
I leave you with a few lines from my poem 'Shutters' in my book Stripping : My Fight to Find Me. I hope they inspire you to move from defeat to the next battle of your fight!


From 'Shutters"

I’m in love with my cruel story
I’m in awe of my ugly scars

They’re mine they’re mine they’re mine
For me to proudly show

The carnage is my teacher
The darkness is my guide


Wishing you a week of wisdom and strength,
Until next time,
Be well Do well Live well
With love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#paulocoelho#defeat#victory#persistence#wisdom#scars#pride#determination





Friday, September 27, 2019

Twyla Tharp's Wise and Inspiring Words are Perfect for Making Self Love Self Care First a Ritual


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Self Love Self Care First sounds simple enough to do. But this simplicity of concept is deceptive. It's the hardest thing to do, for a variety of reasons. There are many barriers that we all have to truly loving ourselves. So how can one start on the journey of loving ourselves?

Establish a ritual that leads to the practice of Self Love Self Care First.

But how?

Right now, one of the books that I am reading is Twyla Tharp's 'The Creative Habit'. Well reading is not exactly what I am doing. I'm reading, underlining, re-reading, highlighting, absorbing, re-reading... You get the picture.

For anyone who is creative (that means everyone) and wants to maximize their gift and talents, Twyla Tharp's book is an absolute must. She lays down a plan for those who believe that creativity is temperamental and fleeting. And think that we must bow down to it's ebbs and flow. Twyla disputes that and generously gives simple, bit by bit instructions on how to design a life style of habits that promote and enhance your creative output.

Chapter 2 of 'The Creative Habit- Learn It And Use It for Life' is titled Rituals of Preparation. Twyla writes,

 "I begin each day of my life with a ritual...
It's a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it- makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about....
First steps are hard...
It's vital to establish some rituals- automatic but decisive patterns of behavior- at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up,or going the wrong way.
...Thinking of it as a ritual has a transforming effect on the activity. Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question. Why am I doing this? ...
The ritual erases the question of whether or not I like it. It is also a friendly reminder that I'm doing the right thing." 


     I've done it before. It was good. I'll do it again.

I ask that you imagine creativity to be Self Love Self Care First. Think of all the barriers that come between you and regularly practicing SLSCF. It maybe mental illness, depression, a busy schedule, a need to do for others before caring for yourself, being in an abusive relationship, etc., etc. The list is endless and topics for many future discussions but for today, we will not delve deep into the challenges of putting ourselves first.

Today is about establishing rituals. 

What can you do to start your day on a note of self love and self care? What ritual can you establish to prevent talking yourself out of taking care of yourself first, and prioritizing your well being?

A couple of suggestions,
  1. Put on your exercise clothes and sneakers as soon as you wake up. A cue to your brain to work out.
  2. Open your journal. A cue to write.
  3. Set your alarm to get up an hour before the rest of your family. A cue to have that time reserved for you to devote exclusively to you and your interests.
  4. Light a candle. A cue to meditate and reflect.
There are no limits to what you can conjure up as your ritual. It will be unique and intuitive to your definition of self love self care first. The ritual will be your gateway to taking care of yourself first- before you offer your energy and efforts to others. 

As Twyla wisely said,

First Steps Are Hard


Make a ritual a habit. That habit will become a practice. That practice will eventually become a way of life.

Try it. It works. I know it does and Twyla knows it does. Her magnificent career and life is evidence of it. She is creative, productive and brilliant. I am inspired by her spirit and dedicate this blog to her.

Wishing you discovery of your unique ritual of SLSCF,
Be well Do well Live well
Love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst#twylatharp#thecreativehabit#rituals#selflove#selfcare#habit#practice#inspiration


Friday, September 20, 2019

A Narcissist's Love is Not Love- So Why Do You Stay?


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

CRAZY HUNGRY LOVE

You're good.
You're damn good.
I'll give you that.

I thought you knew me
Better than I knew myself,
So, 
I let you paint my portrait 
In all the strokes and colors
You chose,
Only to have a lost woman
Stare wildly back at me.

I didn't know any better.
I was hungry for love.
I was lonesome,
So,
You had me believing
That I was the crazy one.


You can read the rest of my poem in my book Stripping : My Fight to Find Me
and also hear my dear friend Paulette S. make it her own on YouTube.

How many of us allow others, and may even invite them to tell us who we are. The problem with that is that they get to choose which filter they will use to assign us an identity. 

When we are in a relationship that is dysfunctional, many a times, we are unable to see that from a close distance. 

Our friends and family can warn us all they want about the perils of such a damaging relationship, but it is only when we wake up to this reality that things can change.

How can we take control of who we are? 

By going inwards and finding our strength. Courage leads us to our truth. Dealing with all parts of us- the good, the bad and the ugly, reconciling with them and accepting them is the only way that we can gain agency of ourselves.

It is a supremely difficult, and often times, very painful process. That is why we avoid it. But it is worth it in the end because we find out who we are- not, who someone else sees us to be, through the filter of their skewed lens. No longer do we then need to find validation in other people's selfish and narcissistic love.

When we are stuck in a cycle of crazy, hungry love, the question we must ask ourselves is- How did I get myself into this position? Even more importantly, Why did I get myself in a relationship where I must disguise who I am to keep the peace? What do I constantly do to appease, calm and mollify this person at work/home/play? What happens when I express my opinions, my wants and my desires? Is there even room for two in this relationship?

The answers to these questions are usually very complex and unavailable to us without  deep work. And it is not advisable to go about looking for the answers on our own. 

A trained mental health professional who has experience in their field, and a compassionate bend of personality is the best bet for effective help here. 

In the meantime, there are many resources that can start you on the path of illumination of your past. 

The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists by Eleanor D. Payson, MSW is an excellent start to learning more about your truth in a one way relationship. If after reading this book, you recognize patterns of dysfunction that apply to your relationships, get help.

Do the work. Break free.

You're worth it!

Wishing you a week of illumination,
Until next time,
Sunita
Be well, Do well, Live well

#selfloveselfcarefirst#relationships#mentalhealth#narcissism#therapy#livingfree#boundaries#eleanordpayson#wizardofoz





















Friday, September 13, 2019

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge in Sea Wall / A Life- An Opportunity to Deepen our Relationships


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

We sometimes fail to realize that others don't think, feel or experience life the way we do. So their opinions and reflections may come as a surprise to us. Such occasions are ripe with the possibility to get to know them better, and more intimately if we just follow our curiosity to learn about their perspective.

I was presented with such an opportunity this week.

My daughter Nina and I saw the play Sea Wall/ A Life at the Hudson Theatre in Manhattan. There are plenty of reviews that you can read about the play and the performances. That's not what this story is about. It is about how two generations experienced it so differently, based on what their life experiences have been.

The play tells two stories of love, loss and grieving, through two monologues, separated by an intermission.

The first story is by Simon Stephens and is narrated by Tom Sturridge. It starts out charmingly enough as Tom chronicles his idyllic life that includes a wife who he is insanely and completely in love with, a gruff father- in-law that he has created a deep bond with, and a young daughter who has him wrapped around her little finger. They visit his father in law every year in a little town by the sea in France.

Tragedy strikes at one of these visits in a most unfortunate manner. Tom's young daughter, under the care of her doting grandfather, during a brief unsupervised moment falls off a cliff. This happens as Tom watches this unfold as he swims in the the water, ironically, taking in the perfection of the day. Her untimely demise causing gut wrenching agony and grief for her family. The monologue is descriptive of the complexity of Tom's sorrow and grief and the mixed emotions that Tom has for his father-in-law, whose momentary inattention resulted in the accident. His nuanced performance creates a space in the theater, leaving Nina and I both deeply immersed in the story.




The second story is by Nick Payne. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a character called Abe who bumbles through the birth of his first child, a daughter, and the death of his father. The transition between these two story lines is razor thin at times, leading the audience to sometimes miss the appropriate emotion as Jake moves from one scene to the next. However, his internal conflict of the huge variation of his emotional investment in his father's deterioration and ultimate death and his daughter's impending birth and her arrival is obvious. Even during moments when he is rapturously engaged with his new born, and is looking at her with wonder and awe, he remains with his focused and preoccupied with grief over his father's passing. This adds an element of guilt to the cauldron of his pain.

After the play ended, Jake invited interested audience members to share their feelings and thoughts about their experience of the play. Nina wanted to do that so I did too. That is when I discovered how different our evening's experience had been.

Nina had been most affected by the story of the slow deterioration and death of Abe's father. She realized that she had not yet suffered the loss of a close relative and her mind kept going to thoughts of her losing me and her father. I, on the other hand was much more affected by the first story and imagined the despair I would feel if my children died before me.

We both went to a dark place but for different reasons.

Being curious and genuinely interested in each others perspective brought our conversation to a level of intimacy and understanding that did not exist before that evening. And that is the magic of conversations. They create a bridge to connect with others. Feeling connected to those who me love gives us a sense of well being and belonging.

The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our life.

So tending to our relationships are an act of Self Love Self Care First for sure.

I leave you with 3 things you can do to practice this essential form of SLSCF.

  1. Write down a list of the 5-10 people who mean the most to you.
  2. Reach out to them (phone call/note/card) and express how you feel about them, and what their presence in your life means to you. 
  3. Plan to do this on a regular basis. And by plan, I mean make a plan and write it down. Then stick to it.
You will quickly see how these simple steps make you feel happy. In addition to making the recipients feel loved and appreciated. It's a win-win!

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge did a terrific job of taking us to a space where we felt the stories they were telling. And both stories were about relationships, love and loss. Bravo to them both! Nina and I left Hudson Theater not only having enjoyed a wonderful, through provoking play, but also more connected to each other.

Wishing you a week of great conversations,
Love,
Sunita
Be well Do well Live well

#selfloveselfcarefirst#SeaWall/ALife#JakeGyllenhaal#TomSturridge#NickPayne#SimonStephens#HudsonTheatre#relationships#wellbeing#love#grief#loss#family#intimacy#theater



Friday, August 30, 2019

Seneca, The Shortness of Life and Your Sundown GPS


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I sat by the edge of the lake last week surrounded by the pleasant chatter of families gathered there to see the sun set. As I enjoyed the exquisite show in the sky put on by nature, I was immersed in my own thoughts of what the sundown meant to me.

The departure of the sun was ceremonious and marked the end of a day that would never be experienced by me again. I was reminded of the words of the  philosopher Seneca.

" Even if all the bright intellects who ever lived were to agree to ponder the one theme, they would never sufficiently express their surprise at this fog in the human mind.
Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is any dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives- why, they themselves even invite in those who take over their lives.
You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! People are frugal in guarding their personal property: but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy."

Our lives have a flow to them that is constantly being influenced by external factors. The motives, needs, desires and sense of urgency of others can become a driving force of our day.

One day leads to another and before we know it, we are at a stage of our life where we question what we accomplished. What did we spend our time on? Was it meaningful to us? Was it our deep work? Did it bring us joy? Was it just what others wanted us to do or was it driven by our passions and purpose?

How did we spend our time?

Seneca, in The Shortness of Life offers an absolute must read for anyone who is looking to create a life of meaning in today's world of distractions and illusions of urgency and importance. There is no reason for any of us to be overwhelmed by the shortness of life as the fact as Seneca succinctly articulates is that Life is long, if you know how to use it.

At sundown, I ask myself these 5 questions every day.
This practice keeps me focused on my priorities and helps me stay in my lane without veering into the millions of other lanes that are going in directions and to places that I have no interest in. They also save me from taking turns that lead me down the wrong path.

Sundown GPS.

  1. Did I invest in myself- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?
  2. Did I move my life plan forward in any way- big or small?
  3. Did I do for those whom I love and are responsible for?
  4. Did I give my time away to people, activities, meetings, projects and matters that play no role in my life and it's mission?
  5. Did I love?
We all have the power to choose and how we choose to spend our time determines the outcome of our life. My Sundown GPS has changed the way I look at each day and I think it can do that for you too! It is never too early to understand how short life is and we must stop waiting for a specific age or stage of our life to truly start living our truth! 

It's Today. Right Now. This Very Minute.

Wishing you a week of good use of your time,
Be well Do well Live well

Love,
Sunita.
#selfloveselfcarefirst#seneca#shortnessoflife#greatideas#sunset#sundown#sundowngps#time

Friday, August 23, 2019

It's Okay to Take Shelter Under a Bridge on a Rainy Day


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I was driving back from visiting a friend last week when it started to rain. I slowed down a bit but otherwise, the weather had no impact on my trip. However as I drove under a bridge, I noticed a group of motorcyclists who had stopped there to avoid driving in the rain. It certainly made sense to me as I passed by. If I were driving a bike, I would not want to venture out in the pouring rain and would have done exactly what they were doing. Taking shelter under the bridge until things cleared up on the road.

So why is it so hard for us to do that when we feel blue or under the weather? Where does the belief that we must forge ahead at all costs come from? Many a times, dragging our battered selves to 'show up' is punishing ourselves for the simple crime of needing some 'under the bridge' time. Life is not a straight line and sometimes, we feel less than capable of tackling the big and small of our journey. I believe those times are hints for us to take it easy so we can regroup, recover and regain our vitality.

I now understand that the rain is only going to be for a short time and as soon as the clouds clear up, I will get on my bike and get back on the highway. While I retreat, I use that time to pamper myself with stillness, consideration and compassion. I allow the blues to stay with me as my friends for a short period of time- listening to the messages that they may bring with them. I don't judge myself for taking a short break but instead, am proud that I know when I should be taking shelter 'under the bridge'.

Self Love Self Care First is not only a practice, but an art of being able to listen deeply to ourselves and to be able to respond appropriately, effectively and in a timely fashion to what we understand our needs to be. Self love is about successfully replacing our narrative of self criticism and judgment with self congratulations on being in tune with our body and mind. And soul.

It's okay to feel the need to be cocooned and the desire to withdraw from the hustle of daily life. Actually, it is a necessity. That's why we have days when it's almost impossible to get up and go. They are signs. On those days, do what you must, but otherwise, go easy on yourself and make it a point to take shelter 'under the bridge'. I promise, you will feel invigorated and energized once you do and will continue on your journey with vigor and enthusiasm as soon as the rain stops.

Wishing you a wonderful week!
Be well Do well Live well.
Love,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst#underthebridge#shelter#cocoon#motorcycle#blues#selfcompassion



Friday, August 16, 2019

Where to Start to Be Kind


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

"Be kind". I see this sign every day. It hangs between my writing sanctuary and my work space. I spotted it a few months ago while browsing at a store that sells cute stuff. And inspirational sayings, in all forms. Pillows, signs, wall hangings, stationary, mugs and sundries.

What does it mean to be kind.  Kind is an adjective. The definition of kind is
1 a : of a sympathetic or helpful nature (was helped by a kind neighbor)
   b : of a forbearing nature : Gentle (kind treatment of animals)
   c : arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance ( a kind act)
2    : of a kind to give pleasure or relief (cooled by a kind breeze)
3   Chiefly dialectal : Affectionate, loving
Source: Merriam Webster dictionary

We are taught to be kind to others from an early age. It feels great when we are the recipient of kindness from another person. But now, looking through my lens of Self Love Self Care First, I note how I was never encouraged to be kind to myself. By anyone. Not by my parents, not by my teachers, not by my friends. I always thought of kindness as something that I was supposed to offer to others.

I am down with that. I love being kind. I feel awful about myself when I am not. But being kind has always been in relationship to others. Never has kindness been about being kind to myself.

Until recently.




Now, having the understanding that I do, I practice self love first. Such a basic concept has changed my life. And that of everyone around me. Because I am a much better person when I treat myself with love, consideration and kindness.


When I see the sign Be Kind as I move about my work space, I am instantly reminded to be kind to myself. Instead of getting frustrated and down on myself when I don't succeed at something, I consciously decide to appreciate my determination to get it right. I give myself kudos for having the motivation to overcome the barriers to accomplishing what I want to. 

That instantly relieves the pressure of judgment and disapproval. And it gives me patience to work through what I have to, without resorting to being miserable to be around. 

It has simply changed the game for me.

I stuck this note on my door so that every time I enter my room, I read it. My brain registers the message of self love first and I am reminded to be kind to me. That leads me to a state of calm, optimism and creativity which spreads to my environment. And makes me want to be more kind to others.


It now makes no sense to me to offer kindness to others while I viciously tear myself down. When I suffered from the ravages of the effects of trauma, I routinely neglected myself in ways that were invisible. Not offering myself kindness was one of the more commonly used methods of self punishment.

So to answer the question- Where to start to Be Kind?

With yourself! 

If you need to put up reminders to show compassion and love for yourself, do it. Eventually, you will become a pro at Self Love and will know when you are out of sync with yourself and be able to find a way to get back into a Self Love Self Care First mode.

Good luck :)

Wishing you a week full of kindness,
With love,
Sunita
#selfloveselcarefirst#kindness#selflove#selfcompassion